Aschenputtel – the Brothers Grimm Cinderella

The Brothers Grimm version of Cinderella is quite different from the one with the fairy godmother and the glass slipper. The story we are most familiar with is by Charles Perrault, the same guy who wrote the version of Sleeping Beauty that we know the best. The Grimm version is also probably the most adult version of the story, mostly because of its goriness. But I’ll be chasing down all the other Cinderella legends, just to be sure.

Goriness? Did you say goriness?

In this version, the girl’s mother was buried in the back garden, and she wept over her grave every day. The father remarried, and the stepsisters were beautiful. However, their hearts were “black and ugly” and they treated Aschenputtel very poorly, and they called her Aschenputtel because she was always dusty and dirty.

And all throughout this, Aschenputtel’s father was still alive. Yes, alive, the jerk! One day he was going to the fair and asked all the girls what he should bring for them, just like the father in Beauty and the Beast. And, as in Beauty and the Beast, the stepsisters asked for finery and riches, and Aschenputtel asked for a random piece of nature. What did she ask for? The first twig that struck his hat on the way home. It happened to be a hazel twig, so he gave it to Cinderella and she planted it on her mother’s grave, and thenceforth she watered it with her tears.

Angsty, huh?

A tree grew from the hazel twig and the tears, and two white birds took up residence in the tree. Somehow, Cinderella figured out that the birds would grant her wishes–whatever she wanted. (I’m not sure why she didn’t wish for better circumstances for herself. Giant plot hole!)

Anyway, there came news of a festival given by the prince, which was to last three days. There was to be a ball every night. And only the beautiful girls were invited. The stepsisters won the beauty contest and prepared to go by having Aschenputtel do everything for them. Aschenputtel asked if she could go, but the stepmother put her off by having her pick lintels out of the ashes. Lintels that the stepmother threw there of course. (They do such things to new recruits in the military.)

However, Ashenputtel called the birds to pluck the beans out of the ashes and she presented them triumphantly. The stepmother only threw more beans in the fireplace and why Ashchenputtel didn’t order the birds to pluck out her eyes is beyond me.

Finally, they left for the ball and Ashchenputtel was alone. She went to her magic tree and wished for gold and silver to cover her, and this vague wish was granted with gown and slippers of silver and gold. So she got dressed and went to the ball. She ran away from the ball early, just as in Perrault’s Cinderella, although the good Brothers don’t give us any reason for her precipitous departure. The prince followed her home and demanded that her father fetch her, but dear old Dad doesn’t believe that the prince is talking about Aschenputtel. So after much searching (which included chopping down the tree where she supposedly hid), the prince gave up while overlooking the girl sitting in the ashes.

At this point, it appears that the lazy Brothers copied and pasted the text to cover the next day at the ball; the only difference is that she had a finer dress, and another tree was felled. At length, on the last night of the ball, she ran away again, but the prince had covered her escape route with pitch (ew!) in order to entrap her. Because, yanno, we all secretly long for a guy who’s going to entrap us. He ended up with her shoe.

So the prince went to her house, shoe in hand, and vowed to marry the girl whose foot it fit. The stepmother told one of the stepsisters to cut off her big toe so that she shoe will fit, and low and behold: it does! The idiot prince was at first taken in by this deception until the birds in Aschenputtel’s magic tree unmasked her with a tell-all rhyme.

Cut and paste with the second stepsister, except she cut off her heel.

After discarding the second stepsister, prince came back one last time and asked the father if he had another daughter, and he actually said no! “only my dead wife left behind her a little stunted Cinderella; it is impossible that she can be the bride.” The bastard. The prince insisted, Cinderella appeared, the bloody slipper fit, and thank God it’s over.

In the end, Cinderella lived happily ever after, the lame stepsisters got their eyes plucked out, and we don’t know what became of the horrible father and stepmother. Maybe they get punished with each other.

If you feel like braving the ponderous prose, the full story is here. Here is an artist’s illustration of the lopped toe and heel.

There is apparently another version of Cinderella, one that originated in China, and I’ll investigate that one next.

As you can tell, I’m not fond of this version of Cinderella. I much prefer the glass slippers. However, I do use a ghost of this story in the prequel to my Cinderella story.

What do you think of this version? Do you have any particular favorite? I still like the Rogers and Hammerstein Cinderella the best, and my favorite production is the one with Julie Andrews.

 

22 thoughts on “Aschenputtel – the Brothers Grimm Cinderella

  1. The Muppet’s `Hey Cinderella’ is my favorite film version (which tells you something about my sense of humor.) I also adore Gail Carson Levine’s `Ella Enchanted’. I didn’t even realize it was a Cinderella retelling, the first time I read it, until I got to the end with the slipper. :)

      • I’ve browsed the book version of Ella Enchanted, and I seem to remember an intricate plot with a lot of twists that make for separate episodes within the longer story. I don’t see any way to include most of those in a movie. The time constraints are just too tight. {Smile}

        Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  2. I’m a fan of “The Slipper and the Rose.” I love the added complication of the political alliance that threatens to come between Cinderella and the Prince, Cinderella trying to be noble about it, and then the cute way it gets resolved. Plus it has some fun songs.

  3. There’s also a Korean Cinderella. Like the Chinese, they aren’t the same as their western counterparts, just closer. {Smile}

    I like the original Perrault version. There, the slippers were green, not glass. Apparently an early translator messed up, so we’re stuck with footwear which is hard to wear and impossible to dance in, instead of pretty and possibly comfortable. {Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

    • Thank you for reminding me about the green slipper! You have to admit, the glass slipper adds a bit of interest to the story, simply because it is so impractical and so unusual. Cinderella would have to weigh almost nothing.

      I chose to make the slippers of leaded crystal, figuring it would be stronger.

      • Even if the slipper doesn’t break under the stresses, you can’t dance in the thing. The dances at a ball require being able to pivot without turning an ankle. For that, you really need a leather or cloth sole. Thankfully, we’ve lived with the glass slipper long enough, most have made peace with the thing, and the rest like to nit-pick it. {wink, Smile}

        Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  4. The Brothers Grimm version is the one I grew up with. I still don’t like the fairy godmother and much prefer Cinderella praying at her mother’s grave.

    The irreverence of your synopsis made me grin. :D

  5. I do like Cinderella praying at the grave, but the rest of it? You can probably tell from my synopsis.

    Savannah, I just find it interesting how different cultures come up with the same story. Even Aladdin is a Cinderella story in reverse.

  6. There are a lot of picture book Cindrella retellings. One I remember is THE GOLDEN SANDAL, a Middle Eastern Cinderella. The “fairy godmother” in that one is a magic fish. :D

    (Actually, if you find this book on Amazon, there are a bunch of Cinderellas in the “Also Bought” items, including a Caribbean Cinderella and an Egyptian Cinderella).

    Once we got a picture book called GLASS SLIPPER, GOLDEN SANDAL from the library that retold the fairy tale by piecing together details from Cinderella stories across the world.

  7. Being German I also grew up with the Brothers Grimm version (who, besides collecting old folk tales also were linguists and started the most important dictionary of the German language) and I got introduced to Cinderella through the Disney movie, so I just assumed that for the American (movie) market it had to be watered down and sugar coated… Interesting that there is a written version that seems to preced the animation film.

  8. well…i’ve read the 1812 version of that tale and believe me…it was so different in the later editions…Cinderella went to only 2 balls(the first one she only watched from the pigeon roost)AND the equipage and the midnight curfew IS present…might be of Perrault’s influence…

  9. You know, the Ballet where I live is performing it’s version of Cinderella & they are sticking closer to the Grimm version. Not knowing exactly what that entailed I looked it up to see how the versions are different.
    After years of Disney, I find – as a grown up- that I actually prefer the Aschenputtel version over Cinderella.
    Though, I feel compelled to mention – since I’m drawing comparisons – that The Grimm Brothers’ Aschenputtel reminds me an awful lot of their story Iron Hans.

    The parallel between the young prince who is shamed by his golden hair and the young woman who is redeemed by her golden shoe is so obvious to me.

    • I’m not familiar with Iron Hans. I’ll have to investigate. The ballet based on this version of Cinderella does sound like it would be wonderful. Very suitably tragic.

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