Cinderella Grimm: The darker more empowered version of Cinderella
Oh the glory of old fairy tales!
We have a soft spot for fairy tales in our home. I have never shied away from reading Little Red Riding Hood, or Three Little Pigs, despite the appearance of the Big Bad Wolf. My children have grown up on, and somehow love the darkness of old folk stories.
Recently, though, I stumbled across ASMR readings of old folk stories. I thought this was a very clever way to put otherwise wiggling children to sleep. A whispering lady, reading long and convoluted stories, with endless twists and descriptions… what could go wrong?
When said whispering lady started to read the Grimm brothers’ Cinderella, I opened my eyes with a ping. What was this horror?
The otherwise dainty Cinderella was in fact a sorceress. The absent father was not absent – he was there, and implicit in the awful treatment of the daughter from his first marriage. The step sisters weren’t ugly. But they were horrible. The prince was indeed handsome, but hardly charming, considering he was intent on cutting Cinderella out of the tree, or smashing down the pigeon coop where she hid. He also had an evil plan to paint the ballroom step with pitch in an attempt to trap his wanted bride. And the ill-fitting shoe? Well, the horrible but beautiful step sisters, under the instruction of their mother, chopped off toes and heels to fit the shoe, and had it not been for Cinderella’s allies, the pigeons, pointing out the blood in the shoe, the slightly evil prince would not have noticed.
In the Grimm’s retelling of this story, Cinderella is far from the waif like maiden, whose wishes are instantly and inexplicably granted by a fairy godmother. Cinderella grows her own luck in the form of a hazel branch she plants in her mother’s grave, and waters with tears of grief. The tree is home to her soldier-like pigeons. It is the tree that bears the golden dress and shoes she wears to the ball.
The ball isn’t a single night, where the prince and Cinderella almost magically fall in love. The ball is a three day festivity, so there is an opportunity for the prince and Cinderella to build a relationship of sorts.
And Cinderella doesn’t flee because of the stroke of midnight. She stealths and disappears into trees and pigeon coops, not wanting to be found, and returns to lie in the ashes by the fire, where she is meant to be working.
One of the only Grimm threads that carries through to the Disney story is the core message; that the pious and good will win the day, and the horrible will be punished.
Left out of the Disney retelling is the punishment. Not only did the nasty step sisters lose a toe, or bit of heel respectively, they also lost their eyes, which were plucked out by Cinderella’s birds.
Despite the horror of Grimm’s retelling of Cinderella, my children found it funny and loved every moment. They were meant to be sleeping, but were laughing. And the next day, asked to hear it again.
Maybe I shouldn’t have prepped them for the harsh realities of life by reading them fairy tales, uncensored…
Do you have a favourite fairy tale?