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  Cinderella Stories Around the World (Doll Article)

(January 29, 2007 by SilverLily22 Send DollMail Send Email )
Inspired by the articles on various fairy tales Jessica has been putting up. I have nothing against her versions but she left out some things in her Cinderella one. I've done my best to expand on what she wrote.
Everyone knows the story of Cinderella, the beautiful girl who is forced to become a servant by her wicked stepfamily and goes to the ball with the help of her fairy godmother. The prince falls madly in love with her but she runs away at midnight, leaving behind a dainty glass slipper, which the prince uses to find her and carry her off to his palace to live happily ever after. In between Cinderella is helped by a bunch of talking mice, singing birds, and some other animals and she sings sweet songs, never complaining about how much her life stinks.

At least, that's the way it goes in the Disney version. However, Walt Disney's version of the classic fairy tale is only one of hundreds! There are over 700 versions of the Cinderella story in the world today, including the Disney version. The Brothers Grimm wrote one and so did Charles Perrault, a French fairy tale writer. The Grimms version was, well, grim. It didn't have a fairy godmother but a magical tree and nice birds who help out the Cinderella character. Her shoes were made of gold, not glass, and her father was alive but never really did anything to help her out against her stepfamily. (I think he was kind of a wimp but that's just my opinion.) In the end the stepsisters mutilate their feet to try and fit them into the golden slipper and then get their eyes pecked out by Cinderella's bird friends because of their wickedness.

The Perrault version is much nicer and--except for the little birds--much closer to the version Walt Disney used for his film version of the story. Perrault is the one who came up with the fairy godmother and the pumpkin carriage and all that. He did not, however, create the glass slippers. That was actually an accident which occured when someone was translating the story from French to English. Instead of the word "vair", which means "fur" in French, he thought the word describing the slippers was "verre", meaning glass. Originally Cinderella's slippers were made of fur, which sounds a lot more comfortable than glass, don't you think?

Other versions of the fairy tale come from all around the world. The most ancient version is from China. The magical helper in that story is a talking fish, who is eaten by the stepfamily but whose bones provide the pretty clothes and shoes for the Cinderella character to wear. In an African version of the tale, the clothes are provided by frogs!

There are also versions of the story that are slightly different. In the system of fairy tale classifications (which I don't quite understand so I won't explain it...) they are types A and B. The type A is the Disney kind of Cinderella, with the fairy godmother and the lost shoe. The type B are stories about princesses who are forced to leave home and take places as servants in the neighboring kingdom. They usually have three beautiful dresses that they wear to dances at the palace, where the prince falls madly in love with them. In most versions of that story, the prince gives the girl a ring and she slips it into a bowl of soup she gives him so he figures out that she's the servant girl.

In recent years there have been some modern retellings of the fairy tale. My three favorites are the books Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine and Just Ella by Margaret Peter Haddix (I think) and the movie Ever After with Drew Barrymore. Ella Enchanted was made into a movie a year or two ago but the book is much better. Gail Carson Levine wrote the book to answer the question: why was Cinderella so obedient? Her answer is that Ella is under a curse so that she always has to obey orders. The book mainly revolves around Ella trying to break the curse, while falling for the wonderful Prince Char and being forced to serve her stepmother and stepsisters. I won't tell you the ending because you really should read the book for yourself.

Just Ella takes place after the ending of the fairy tale. Ella has been taken to the palace and is learning to be a princess. However, she starts to figure out that Prince Charming isn't so...charming. Her history tutor on the other hand is...Well, I won't spoil the story for you. It's really good though and Ella has a lot more personality than the sweet, obedient girl in the original fairy tale.

Finally, Ever After is the story of Danielle de Barbarac, a smart, strong-willed girl who lost her father when she was just a little girl. Since then she has worked for her stepfamily, trying hard to keep her father's household together. She is very outspoken and very proud so when she meets Prince Henry of France, who is also very proud, they sort of bang heads. Well, actually she throws an apple at him but that's beside the point. Anyways, despite the fact that they don't like each other much at first, Danielle and Henry fall in love. Unfortunately, her stepmother is--what else--evil and so she tries her very hardest to stop Danielle from getting Henry. There is no fairy godmother in this story. Instead, Leonardo da Vinci helps Danielle out, which is pretty cool. It's one of my favorite movies of all time and presents a heroine who is smart, strong, and confident.

So what makes a Cinderella story? What are the elements that make a fairy tale a Cinderella story and not something else, like Snow White? There are a few basic ones. All Cinderella stories have a heroine (Cinderella), her stepfamily (stepmother and one or two stepsisters, usually), a helper who may or may not have magic) fairy godmother, talking animal, magic tree, Leonardo da Vinci, etc.), a prince, and an item that the heroine loses at some point. That item is the key to the prince finding her. It could be anything, from a shoe to a ring to her cell phone number if you were writing a modern version of the story.

If you decide to retell this fairy tale, you need to use those basic elements but you also need to give it your own personal twist. You need to expand on Cinderella's personality, as well as the personalities of the other characters, so that you can give the story some depth. Think about why they act the way they do. Did the stepmother have a bad childhood experience that causes her to be jealous of Cinderella? Maybe she was supposed to marry a prince but someone else got him instead. Did Cinderella have an overprotective mother or father who made her afraid to do anything unknown? Or maybe her stepmother has been bullying her so long that she's afraid to disobey. What about the prince? Does he really fall in love with Cinderella in one night, or have they known each other for longer than that? Is he intelligent? Does he love her just because of her looks or something more? Answer these questions and come up with your own to help you create a well-developed Cinderella retelling.

I love Cinderella. It's one of my favorite fairy tales, and apparently it's one of the favorites of a lot of other people too. There is a Cinderella version from just about every culture. I've only mentioned a few here. Do some research online and find some more for yourself. They're really interesting!

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Zionsville, IN
Posted On: February 11, 2007
All right. Thanks for doing that. I didn't count it as a Cinderella retelling since it was so bad.
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Zionsville, IN
Posted On: February 6, 2007
Thanks to everyone who's commented. It sounds like a lot of you love Ella Enchanted. I agree that the movie wasn't quite as good, but I like Anne Hathaway. :-)

Now to doggiestar2, who said that I forgot Hillary Duff's A Cinderella Story, you're right. I did forget to mention it. Probably because when I saw it I was not at all impressed. Forgive me for saying this if you like Hillary Duff or that movie, but I really, really didn't like it.

And to those who mentioned Fairest, I've heard of it and I'm anxious to read it but I have to either convince my sister to let me borrow her copy or go and check it out of the library.

Thanks again for all your comments!!! I really appreciate them.

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Montevallo, AL
Posted On: February 3, 2007
ella enchanted is good!
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United Kingdom
Posted On: February 3, 2007
I have read 'Ella Enchanted', and it's a wonerful book. To be honest the movie wasn't quite as good, but that's not the point. I have also read the sort of sequel to Ella Enchanted called 'Fairest' that Knewgirl mentioned. It is also really great. I love Drew Barrymore in 'Ever After'. Acuelly I love it all. I've heard of Just Ella, but never read. i think I will go pick up a copy today. Anyway great article and great research!

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South Park Villa, WA
Posted On: February 3, 2007
I've read Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix (and her shadow children series but is off topic ).I think about those questions too!Well some of them come to mind...Anywho,thanks for the info!!!
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New Zealand
Posted On: February 2, 2007
cool i love Ella Enachanted and did you know that Gail Carson Levine has writen another book called Fairest its about ellas best friends older sister^_^ and the Ella Enachanted movie is a bit disapointing but still good and ever after is awsome^_^ oh well good article
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De Leon Springs, FL
Posted On: February 2, 2007
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