Freaky Fairytales: The Cruelty of Cinderella

Another year, another month of ruining childhood. This time, we bring to you the fairytale, Cinderella.

Adaptations Book Culture Classics Fandom Just For Fun Pop Culture

Welcome back to another edition of Bookstr’s Freaky Fairytales. In this month-long series that started last year, we break your hearts and burst your bubbles (sorry! :P) each edition, by bringing to you your favorite fairytale and highlighting everything dark and twisted about it. To begin this year’s tales of horror, we have Cinderella. Although every culture has its own rendition of Cinderella, as with all fairytales, there are hundreds of renditions of the same story and each one retains fragments of the previous. So, let’s dive into a few renditions of Cinderella.

The earliest recorded Cinderella was told by Greek author Strabo between 7 BCE and 23 CE. But, in the West, Disney produced a version of the French author Charles Perrault’s work “Histoires ou contes du temps passe”, which he published in 1969. While the Disney version (and therefore Perrault’s) was lighter, most, if not all the original Cinderella tales are dark, containing mutilations, cannibalism, murder, and revenge. Let’s dive into the cruelty of the original Cinderella tales.

Rhodopis, the Greek story of Cinderella

Rhodopis, told by author Strabo, is not particularly violent. Instead, it is about a courtesan, a woman of the night, whose social standing is raised. Rhodopis’s social standing changes because an eagle takes her shoe. Now the likelihood of an eagle carrying her shoe across storming oceans is unrealistic but how she supposedly caught the attention of a Pharaoh.

The Chinese rendition, Ye Xian

Unlike the Greek version, Ye Xian was written/told during the Tang Dynasty between 618 – 910 CE. Ye Xian is noticeably more violent with the murder of a fish, that happens to be her companion. And of course in true Cinderella fashion, the fish was murdered by the stepmother to bring her stepdaughter, Ye Xian pain.

But Ye Xian’s fairy godmother, or in this case her Taoist elderly godfather, tells her where the fish bones are and that if she digs them up, she can pray to them when she is in great need. But not to become greedy. Ye Xian is able to go to the New Year Festival because she prays to bones to give her a dress and slipper.

When she loses her slipper and is found by the nobleman, she marries him and has her happily ever after. She even forgives her stepmother and stepsister, proving that kindness is rewarded where cruelty is not.

Image via Amazon

Aschenputtel, the European version of Cinderella

The Grimm Brothers published Aschenputtel (Cinderella) in 1812 and it is one of the more gruesome tales of cruelty towards Cinderella.

Image via Amazon

The Grimm Brothers were of European descent, specifically Germans, but they found inspiration for every culture. While the Grimms continued to edit their stories several times, for unconfirmed reasons, we’ll take a look at their first publication, from 1812.

While we know from the Disney version that Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters were horrible people, what we didn’t see was the true harshness of their cruelty towards Cinderella. In the Grimm’s tale, the stepmother tricks Cinderella into believing if she could sort all the lentil beans from the ashes in two hours she could go to the ball. Cinderella does this twice, with her hopes crushed each time. She makes it anyway with the help of the pigeons resting in her mother’s tree.

Yet, it is when the prince comes with the slipper that we see just how cruel the step-family was. The mother commands her daughters to mutilate their feet to fit the slippers! But, each time the prince brings the daughters back because he notices blood pouring from the slipper, until finally, it’s Cinderella’s turn.

No matter which version of Cinderella you read, there is always cruelty towards Cinderella, the stepdaughter. Sometimes, it’s boiled down to the cruelty of words, but often it’s the murder, cannibalism, or mutilation, of one’s self or another, with the intent of harming Cinderella.

To see my reference material click here. For more Freaky Fairytales to ruin your childhood memories, click here, and stay tuned for another Freaky Fairytale.

Featured Image via Griffyn Tijamo /