Photo by Maria Orlova on

Variations of the timeless tale of Cinderella is told in many cultures. As a teacher, students researched a number of them in class. The earliest version of Cinderella traces back to 6th century BC. It is the story of Rhodopis, a Greek courtesan who married the king of Egypt.

In fact, there is a nonfiction account of a young Chinese girl considered the Chinese Cinderella published in 1999. It has been added to some school curriculums to incorporate more multicultural literature into the schools. Study guides and book summaries are abundant online to help instruction.

Here is a list I found that explores a number of different cultures and their renditions of the Cinderella tale.Abadeha:  The Philippine Cinderella Golden Sandals: A Middle Eastern Cinderella Tale,The Golden Slipper: A Vietnamese Cinderella Tale. Chinese Cinderella Tales, The Korean CinderellaKongi and Potgi: A Cinderella Tale from Korea, Kao and the Golden Fish: A Cinderella tale from Thailand, and The Gift of the Crocodile: A Cinderella Tale from Indonesia.

Of course the main tale of Cinderella the most of us know was popularized by Walt Disney and has been remade into various animated and live accounts since his 1950 production.

All other movie productions follow the pattern of mice friends, pumpkins carriages, and a fairy godmother to help her arrive at the ball. Here the movie /stage/TV productions I found. 

  • Cinderella (silent film) 1911
  • Disney Animated Cinderella 1950 (above)
  • Cinderella (starring Julie Andrews) 1957
  • Cinderella (starring Lesley Ann Warren) 1965. This is my favorite one as a child.
  • Cinderella (starring Brandy & Whitney Houston) 1997
  • Ever After – A Cinderella Story (starring Drew Barrymore) 1998
  • A Cinderella Story (set in modern times) 2004
  • Another Cinderella Story (sequel to the 2004 movie) 2008
  • Cinderella (starring Camila Cabello) 2021

These are only the most widely viewed productions. For another look at Cinderella movies,   you may want to check I Ranked The Best And Worst “Cinderella” Adaptations. Buzzfeed lists 15 that they rank in this article.

Julie Andrews versus Camila Cabello

German Cinderella to Disney Cinderella

Of course neither Disney or other film producers created the tale of Cinderella. Disney’s version and others are adaptations of the fairy tale were found in the collection of tales from the brother’s Grimm. Wilhelm and Jacob gathered many regional folktales in their collection and I will address more in future blogs but today I’d like to explain some of the major differences between the German story of Cinderella and the one so popular here in America. First, my dad always told me that the story was called Ashenputtel. As a kid, I thought he was saying ashen-poodle though. In the German tale, Ashenputtel’s father is still alive but he does not protect her from her stepmother or step sisters. She is still treated like a maid in her own home but when the sisters want to keep her from attending the ball, they do not ruin her dress, they throw lentils into the ashes where she is not permitted to leave until they are all picked up.

In the German version, there is not fairy godmother to help her. She has bird friends who help her pick up all the lentils. There is also a magic tree she planted at her mother’s grave where she is granted wishes for a pretty dress and things she needs for the ball.

The ball takes place for three nights in the original and the first two nights she runs away so he will not find out who she is but on the third night the prince slathers pitch on the steps to keep her from running away. Instead of glass slippers, she wears golden slippers and that is what gets left behind on the pitchy stairs.

German sketch and 2015 Disney Cinderella

When the prince makes his rounds looking for the right foot to fit in the golden slipper, he finally makes it to Cinderella’s (Ashenputtel’s) step sisters. The first one cannot get her big toe in so her mother tells her to cut it off. She starts to leave with the prince but they pass her mother’s grave where the birds tattle on her with “the shoe is not right” since blood is dripping out and the prince takes her back home. The second sister cuts off her heel to make her foot fit but is caught by the same birds in the same way. Finally, Cinderella slips on the perfect fitting slipper and the birds claim “this bride is right”. Rather than ending with the happily ever after salutation we most commonly receive at the end of a fairy tale, the German tale is more daunting. The step sisters try to capitalize on Cinderella’s good fortune so the pigeons poke out their eyes. The final lines left for the children are “And thus for their wickedness and falsehood, they were punished with blindness as long as they lived.” 5 Disney fairytales and their CRUEL GERMAN ORIGINALS | German Girl in America

Next blog I will address some characteristics of Snow White you may not know from the original. Let me know if you have any Cinderella memories to share.

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