Cinderella Summary

Grimm Brothers


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Cinderella Summary

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Cinderella is a folk talk that has been told and retold many times throughout history, but the German Grimm brothers Jacob and Wilhel, wrote the 1812 version entitled Aschenputtel, one of the more dark and disturbing versions of the story. Cinderella has become an archetypal character of the persecuted heroine, or one who receives unexpected success after a period of obscurity or neglect.

A plague rips through a village, and a wealthy gentleman’s wife is moments from death. With her last breath she tells her daughter to remain good and kind, and God will protect her. The child visits her mother’s grave every day for a year, then her father remarries another woman. The stepmother has two daughters who are beautiful but cruel and wicked. The stepsisters steal the girl’s nice clothes and jewellery, making her wear rags. They make her do all the chores in the kitchen, naming her Aschenputtel, or Ashfool. She works every day from dawn to dusk, while the other girls mock her constantly, and make more messes for her to clean. Despite this, the girl stays good and kind, returning to her mother’s grave to cry and pray.

One day, the gentleman goes to visit a fair, promising to bring back lovely gifts. The eldest asks for dresses, the younger for pearls and diamonds. Aschenputtel only asks for the first twig to knock his hat off on the way. He leaves and returns, giving the gifts to the girls. Aschenputtel plants the twig over her mother’s grave, and waters it three times a day. It grows into a hazel tree, and she prays under it three times a day. A white bird begins to visit her, listening to her prayers, and passing down whatever she asks for.

The king is planning a three-day festival, and invites all the maidens of the land so the prince may choose one of them for his wife. The two stepsisters are invited, but Aschenputtel, despite begging them to let her come with them, is not allowed because she has no nice clothes to wear. The girl asks again, and the stepmother throws a dish of lentils in the ashes. She says if the girl can pick up the lentils in less than two hours, she can go. The girl sings a chant, and a flock of doves fly down to help her accomplish this task in less than an hour. The stepmother then throws down twice as many lentils, but the girl cleans these up as well. The stepmother decides she cannot spoil her own daughters’ chances, and leads her husband and daughters away, leaving Aschenputtel behind, crying.

Aschenputtel asks the hazel tree for clothes of silver and gold, and the bird drops down a gold and silver dress and silk shoes. She goes to the feast, and the prince dances with her most of all. Sunset arrives, and Aschenputtel asks to leave. The prince escorts her home, but she escapes into a pigeon coop, hiding. The father is already home, and the prince asks him to chop down the pigeon coop, but the girl has already escaped.

On the second day of the festival, Aschenputtel appears even lovelier than before, and the prince dances with her the whole day. This time, she escapes by climbing a pear tree. The father is called to chop down the tree and begins to wonder if it is his daughter, but again she is gone. The third day arrives, and the girl is grander than ever, with slippers of gold. The prince smears the entire stairway in an attempt to keep the girl, but Aschenputtel runs away, only a golden slipper sticking in the pitch. The prince announces he will marry the woman whose foot fits that slipper.

The prince arrives at the gentleman’s home, and tries the slipper on the eldest stepsister, who cuts off her toes in order to force her foot to fit. The prince and eldest stepsister ride off, but two doves tell the prince that her foot is dripping with blood. He is horrified, and returns to try the shoe on the other stepsister. She has cut off part of her heel, and again the prince is fooled. The doves tell the prince again of the blood, and the prince returns again to ask about any other girl. The gentleman says there is a kitchenmaid, but does not mention she is his own daughter. Aschenputtel is called, washes herself, and the slipper fits. The prince recognises her as the stranger, and the two are married.

During the wedding, the two stepsisters are Aschenputtel’s bridesmaids, trying to win back her favour. Doves fly down again, however, and gouge out both stepsisters’ eyes as a punishment they will endure for the rest of this life.

It is important to note the ambiguous relationship the girl has with her father, including why he did not prevent the girl’s abuse. In some versions, the father has died, but in Grimm’s story, he distances himself, calling Aschenputtel his first wife’s child, not his own.