Cinderella’s fairy-tale is one of the great literary classics of the global oral tradition. It finds its origin in Ancient Egypt of 2,600 years ago. The name of the girl destined to become Queen is Rodopi, a slave from the Pharaoh Amasis II Dinasty in the VI century BC.

Historically the pharaoh married for real a courtesan named Rodopi turning her into a Queen; the story got all the way to us from Aesop, who knew the the woman personally. During the opening period of Egypt towards Greece, the fairy-tale was transformed compared to the original story, and became exceptionally popular, reaching storytellers throughout the whole world.

The pedagogical function of the fairy-tale in almost all its versions, is kept within the moral of the sacrifice, through which the highest reward can be achieved. In this specific story represented by the social status of princess.

Cinderella by the Brothers Grimm – 1822

The Brothers Grimm version, similarly to what happened to the tales of Pied Piper of Hamelin and Snow white, was heavily modified to be turned into an acceptable product for the big audience. In the Original history the father is not dead but alive, living with the stepmother, who is the means through whom the stepsisters control Cinderella. In the story the girl cultivates a hazelnut tree, representation of the dead mother.

The dead mother dresses up the daughter for the 3 days long ball and the doves (magical helpers) reveal to the prince the scam of the stepsisters who had tried to put on the glass slipper. The two did not give up on their big size of foot, therefore one chops off the fingers and the other cuts the heel in order to fit in the shoe. The blood coming from the shoe reveals the sisters intentions who then will be blinded by the doves during the wedding between Cinderella and the Prince.

In the oral German version, the two sisters were condemned to dance with the red-hot shoes up until their death for exhaustion. Similar procedure was reserved to Cinderella’s mother

Cinderella in the C.Perrault version

The Perrault’s version is the closest one to the famous one created by Dysney in 1950. In this tale the facts are heavily softened compared to the modern and ancient oral tradition and the fairy as well as her helpers (mice and lizards) are in broad terms the ones portrayed in the Hollywood production. This version was made to please the court of the King of France, where in that royal environment slaughters and gore would have not matched the atmosphere very well.

Cinderella in Italy – The Cat Cinderella by Giambattista Basile – 1634

In Italy Cinderella was not benevolent like in the other nations, since she is here a killer. In the version of the Neapolitan writer, the girl was guided by a diabolical stepmother who first of all commissions the murder of her father’s second wife then she starts torturing  her along with her other six daughters, all kept hidden until the wedding. Even the father of Zezolla (name of the girl in this tale), is not any better and in fact he forgets the daughter after marring his third wife.

Only the fairies will save the young girl who, obviously, will never be accused for the murder of her stepmother

Cinderella in China

The Chinese version of the fairy-tale starts off by explaining the bigamy the father of Yeh-Shen, name of the girl in this tale. The natural mother dies leaving the daughter with her father and a stepmother. The only friend of Yeh-Shen is a fish, which the stepmother kills and serves for dinner. The fishbone becomes the magical helper of the girl, who loses the glass slipper at the village feast. The shoe was so small that no other woman in China would have been able to wear it, apart from her, who will go to the display case where it was kept and gets found by the King.

The stepmother and her jealous daughters will die inside their cave, killed by a rockslide

In the Chinese version it is easy to notice the practice of the “Foot Binding” as shown in the picture above, which expected girls of a high rank to tightly bind their feet in order to make them grow in a different, smaller size. This tradition was one of the worst types of mutilations ever committed with continuity in ancient times and many Chinese women were turned disable since their childhood.

Other versions of the fairy-tale


Many are the versions of Cinderella and especially in Russia. In general there, the girl had fallen into disgrace but then she gets saved by a magical helper which allows her to fulfill unimaginable challenges, way beyond her capability.

The magical helper is often an animal which came to the rescue of Cinderella but it dies, so she buries its bones

In the whole literary production about the young girl destined to become princess it is visible the pedagogical goal like in the “Grimm’s fairy-tales” book aiming at educating the children even through raw-images of references of the real world.

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Matteo Rubboli

I am a publisher specialised in the digital distribution of culture and founder of the portal Vanilla Magazine. I don't wear a tie or branded clothes, I keep my hair short so I don't have to comb it. That's not my fault but just the way I've been drawn as...

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