Now without further wait, here is the synopsis of Cinderella by the Brother's Grimm:
The wife of a rich man falls ill. On her deathbed, she calls for her daughter and tells her to be good and pious so that God will protect her. She also mentions that she will always be looking down upon her from heaven and always be with her. She then dies. The daughter goes to her mother's tombstone to weep every day, and she does, indeed, try to be good and pious at all times.
By the next spring, the father chooses a new wife for himself. This new wife comes with two daughters of her own. They are very beautiful but black of heart. They greatly mistreat their stepfather's daughter. They fire the cook and force the daughter into plain clothing and wooden shoes so that she has to do the work instead. As an added insult, they take some of the food and toss it into the ashes of a fireplace so that the daughter has to pick them out. Because of how much time she is forced to sit in front of the fireplace, the two evil step-sisters nickname her Cinderella.
One day, the father is leaving to visit a fair. He asks his daughters what he should bring back to then.
Evil Step-Daughter 1: "Beautiful Dresses!"
Evil Step-Daughter 2: "Pearls and jewels!"
Cinderella: "Father, break off for me the first branch which knocks against your hat on your way home."
So the father leaves and returns with the dresses and jewels for his step-daughters. For Cinderella, he gives a hazel twig which brushes against him and knocks off his hat during the journey. She plants the branch directly on her mother's grave and weeps upon it. Her weeping waters it, and it springs up into a tree. Three times a day, Cinderella comes to this tree to weep and pray. A bird always sits on this tree, and if she wishes for something, the bird drops down the thing that she wishes for.
The king appoints a festival that would last 3 days with the intention that he would find a wife for his son, the prince. All the beautiful women would be invited, naturally. The step-sisters order Cinderella to help them get ready, but when she expresses an interest in going to the festival, the step-mother mocks the idea as ludicrous. However, the step-mother empties a dish of lentils into the ashes and says that if Cinderella can pick them out in 2 hours, she can go with them. It is an impossible task.
Cinderella goes out into the garden and calls,
"You tame pigeons, you turtle-doves,
and all you birds beneath the sky,
come and help me to pick
The good into the pot,
The bad into the crop."
A slue of birds fly into the house and picks through the ashes in Cinderella's stead. They accomplish the task in less than an hour. When Cinderella goes to show her step-mother, the older woman still denies Cinderella the chance to go because she has no clothing and cannot dance. After Cinderella begs some more, the step-mother offers the same lentil-picking task but with only an hours limit this time.
Once again, Cinderella calls for the birds in the same way, and they come to her aid. Cinderella, once again, offers the lentils to her step-mother, but the older woman refuses again simply on the grounds that she would put them to shame. She leaves with her daughters for the festival, leaving Cinderella behind.
Returning to her mother's grave, Cinderella says,
"Shiver and quiver, little tree,
Silver and gold throw down over me."
The bird in the tree tosses down a dress for her to wear. She puts it on and goes to the festival. The prince sees her and chooses her to dance with him. Although the step-sisters are present, they think that this beautiful woman is some foreigner. After the dance, Cinderella runs out despite the prince's best efforts to hold onto her. She jumps into the royal pigeon-house. When the prince tells the king of this odd event, the king has the pigeon-house axed to bits. She was not inside. Cinderella had escaped out of the back without anyone seeing her.
On the next day of the festival, Cinderalla once more calls out to the tree at her mother's grave. The bird tosses down and even more beautiful dress, and she puts it on returning to the festival. Once again, the prince is enamored by her beauty and they dance. After the dance, she escapes him again and climbs up into a tree in the royal garden. When the prince informs the king of it, the king has the tree cut down, but she was not in it. Cinderella had jumped off the other side when no one was looking.
Day of the festival number 3: she calls to the tree, once again, and a bird tosses down an extremely beautiful dress--better than all others in the world. Cinderella is also given a pair of golden shoes to wear. Again, the prince chooses her to dance with, and again, she escapes. But the prince had been tricky this time around. Before the dance, he had smeared the steps to the palace with pitch. This caused Cinderella to lose a shoe on the way out. When the prince picks up the golden shoe, he proclaims, "No one shall be my wife but she whose foot this golden slipper fits."
The eldest of the step-sister asks to try on the shoe in private. She attempts to get her foot into it, but her big toe gets in the way. Her mother then gives her a knife and orders her to cut off the big toe for, "When thou art queen, thou wilt have no more need to go on foot." So the maiden cuts off her big toe, swallows the pain, and slipped her foot into the shoe with little effort. Once presented to the prince, he takes her onto his horse and they ride away to the castle so that she will be his bride.
On the way to the castle, they pass by the hazel-tree where a bird is heard singing,
"Turn and peep, turn and peep,
There's blood within the shoe,
The shoe it is too small for her,
The true bride waits for you."
The prince immediately takes off the shoe and sees blood streaming from where her toe had been. Discouraged, the prince returns the maiden home and the second step-sister is given a chance to try it on in private. However, her heel is too big for it. The mother gives her a knife and orders her to cut some of her heel off for the same reasons as before. The daughter does so and manages to fit into the shoe easily. As the prince takes her away to be married, a bird gives out the same warning. Once again, the prince removes the shoe to see a torrent of blood coming from the maiden's foot.
After returning the second step-sister, he asks the father if he had another daughter. The father claims, "There is still a little stunted kitchen-wench which my late wife left behind her, but she cannot possibly be the bride."
The king asks for her to be sent up, but the step-mother objects. Nevertheless, Cinderella cleans herself up a bit and comes up to see the prince. She tries on the shoe and it fits. As the prince takes her past the hazel-tree, a bird proclaims,
"Turn and peep, turn and peep,
No blood is in the shoe,
The shoe is not too small for her,
The true bride rides with you."
Two birds then come and rest upon both of Cinderella's shoulders during the ride home. The couple is then wed at a church. Before and after the ceremony, the two birds that came with Cinderella peck out the eyes of the two step-sisters as they were there to attend the wedding. The last line of the story reads, "And thus, for their wickedness and falsehood, they were punished with blindness as long as they lived."
And now for some commentary.
Breaking off from the traditional plot point of having a daughter who is to be wed to her own father, we still feel a certain betrayal happening by way of this girl's father. Cinderella's father seems to dismiss her once he remarries. It is almost worse than what happened in Donkey-Skin. Even towards the end of this story, he seems to not see her as very important if you look at how he refers to her to the prince. (A little stunted kitchen-wench which my late wife left behind her.) Yes, he may not have wanted to marry her, but he entirely dismisses her as his daughter. There is little to no bond at all.
Similar to the maiden in Allerleirauh, she seems to possess a certain degree of magical aptitude and guile. This is suggested when she asks her father for a twig which she uses to plant the tree. This may have also been a way to summon the spirit of her mother from the grave. Hazel trees are often used to symbolize wisdom and inspiration. This story is full of strange archaic magic and necromancy.
Once again, we have three dresses, which should be another clue that this story came from those old Donkey-Skin tales. The dresses are uses to enhance the beauty Cinderella already has. Princes tend to be more shallow then their fathers, and so this was a good tactic. She knew exactly what she was doing.
Were you surprised when the prince has laid that pitch trap to capture her shoe? More modern interpretations of the story have the shoe come off by accident (or fate). This is another aspect which links Cinderella with the Donkey-Skin tales. Many of them have the prince one-upping her scheme with his own intervention.
Although Grimm's Allerleirauh omitted the self-mutilation scenes, they made it exceptionally worse with their adaptation of Cinderella. I think the synopsis covered it pretty well. Once again, this is obviously used to demonstrate the lengths people will go for in the name of greed. Grimm also punishes the step-sisters by blinding them. This is actually pretty common in Grimm stories. The heroes must live happily ever after, and the villains who tries to thwart the hero must be punished severely if not killed outright.
So what do you think? Were all these characters human? Were some of them something else? What about the mother? Was she a demon or a witch? Was the daughter something not-quite-human herself? It's obvious that some pretty strange things were happening here. And that tree. You know... the one growing out of the grave of her mother that gave her nice things. What was going on here? I challenge you, in the comment section, to give me your interpretation of the events. What was really going on when this story actually happened? I look forward to reading what you have to say.
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