8 Things You May Not Know About Cinderella

Before I wrote my own version of Cinderella, I researched the “original” versions of it. Surprisingly, there are several, and this story I thought I knew so well actually goes back further than I ever dreamed.

I took several of the elements I liked the most from the old tales, added quite a few elements of my very own and, in the end, mixed them up and simply wrote the story I wanted to write. A Wish Made of Glass is not a strict retelling of Cinderella by any means. Still, it was fun to discover some of the unknown-to-me details of this apparently rather ancient story, not to mention some fun facts about items or things that happen within the tale. Here are a few you might find rather intriguing:

  1. The story of Rhodopis is considered to be the earliest version of the Cinderella story (published 7 BC). It’s about a Greek slave girl who marries the king of Egypt.
  2. Ye Xian is a ninth century Chinese version of the Cinderella story. In it, the poor stepsisters and stepmother arerhodopis punished by being crushed to death by stones in a cave.
  3. It was common for servants and scullions to be soiled with ash in the days of the first Cinderella versions, partly because of the natural dirtiness of their work, and partly because they lived in cold conditions and had to draw very close to the fire to get warm.
  4. According to mechanical engineers, it would have taken specially-made glass, or what we call “safety glass” today, for Cinderella’s slippers to have withstood the strain of her walking and dancing, not to mention running from the ball at the stroke of midnight . . . Of course, we know that the slippers were made from magic, so of course there was never any real danger they’d break – right?
  5. One of the earlier versions of Cinderella was Charles Perrault’s rendition (Cindrillon, 1697), in which the famous slippers were made of glass. However, in the Brothers Grimm version (1812), the glass slippers are not glass at all, but “pure gold.”
  6. In Perrault’s version, Cinderella forgives her stepsisters. In the Brothers Grimm version, however, the stepsisters undergo cruel punishment in the form of blindness. If you think that’s bad, the first German version is worst of all, in which the stepsisters are condemned to dance with metal red-hot shoes until they are dead.
  7. Giambattista Basile’s Italian version of Cinderella (Cenerentola) includes fairies (yay!).
  8. Perrault put his own touch on the Cinderella story by choosing lizards to become the footmen. In his time, it was a known and laughed-at fact that footmen were lazy. The image of a lizard lying motionless in the sun apparently brought to Perrault’s mind the idea of a lazy footman. Perrault is also the one credited with adding the pumpkin and the fairy godmother to the original tale. What would the Cinderella story be without those classic touches?!

Do you know any details, ancient or modern, of the Cinderella tale that are little known or simply extremely interesting? What are they?





10 thoughts on “8 Things You May Not Know About Cinderella

  1. Cool! Glass shoes always seem pretty in concept, but then clear shoes are never quite as elegant seeming once they’re on… gold doesn’t sound comfortable, though.

    Neat list!

    A lot of the older stories also feature a tree of some kind and small birds (one version I read last year had Cinderella nursing an injured bird back to life and it became or contacted the fairy godmother… I don’t remember which… but I found that theme running through several of the versions when I was researching for my own retelling).


  2. I thought I had heard that one of the earlier versions (possibly even Perrault’s? I don’t remember…) actually had the slippers be of “fur”, but it got translated incorrectly into “glass”. XD (Don’t quote me on that; I don’t remember where I read it so I could have it wrong, but I thought it was hilarious! The glass slipper is the most classic part of it and yet it may have been a mistranslation. :P)


  3. There are Cinderella variants where he recongizes her in her rags. Indeed my own favorite is “Tattercoats” where he falls in love with her in her rags.

    And there are at least as many variants where her father is the problem, and she runs away and becomes a scullery maid before the balls, as there are ones where it’s her stepsisters. Not to mention the ones where there is no mother figure at all and she’s just oppressed by her own sisters.


  4. The “classics” always surprise; so many differences and similarities!
    Thanks for the list; I may use it one day. 😉

    I have this ginormous anthology of children’s literature (yay Goodwill!), and there’s one by Walter de la Mare called Cindrella and the Glass Slipper. In the end, one stepsister cut off a big toe in an attempt to fit her foot into the slipper, and the other one cut off her heel.
    Later in life, “…their neighbors, laughing at their folly, called them the Two Old Stump-stumps.”
    Poetic justice, because they had called the fairy godmother (whom they knew of because she was there at Cinderella’s christening) “Old Stump-Stump.” 😛
    Also, my favorite aspect of the story was the setting. There are fantasy mentions (“…there was a singing Mermaid; a Giant, with a dwarf on his hat-brim…”), and the winter time really set it up for a magical feel. And her outfit!
    I don’t want to give the description, because half of the tension up to that point is a knowing reader thinking, “What will she wear?!?!” 😀


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