Most people know the story of Cinderella. Poor orphaned girl with step-mother and even worse-step sisters who woos the dreamy prince charming at a ball in a dress crafted by whimsical animals and a fairy godmother. We know about the glass slipper and the stroke of midnight. We know about the happily ever after. However, like most fairy tales, the real story written by the Grimm brothers is much darker. There is no stroke of midnight, no dimwitted mice, and no bibbity-boppity-boo.
So here it goes. Cinderella is not the real name of the protagonist. We never know her name (or anyone else’s in the tale). The story starts with her mother’s last words before dying of an unknown illness encouraging her daughter to always be good and kind. The loss of her mother breaks poor Cinderella and she spends each day at her mother’s grave. After a year, her father marries a woman who brings two daughters into the family. From here, I don’t know where her father goes…who let’s their daughter get treated the way that she does!?! No wonder she loved and missed her mother so much! Her new mother and sisters tossed all of her clothing away, dressed her in rags and forced her to fashion wooden shoes for herself. Then they teased and berated her for how she was dressed and even refused to allow her to sit in the same room as them. Their favorite means of torturing the poor girl was to dump lentils into the fireplace ashes and force her to pick them out, clean them, and sort through the good and bad ones. This activity would cause her to be covered in ash and soot…hence the name of Cinderella.
As the story continues, her father goes on a journey and asks his daughters what they would like him to bring back for them. Obviously the step sisters command jewels and the finest clothes. Cinderella simply requests that he returns with the first twig that brushes against his hat on the way home. This hazel twig that he brings back is taken by Cinderella, planted at her mother’s grave, watered by the child’s tears and grows into a large tree. This tree acts as a magical conduit from her mother to help Cinderella.
Finally the ball is announced for the Prince to find his new bride. It is a three day affair and everyone is invited. Cinderella pleads to be able to attend. This request is met with scorn from her sisters. The mother dumps a plate of lentils into the ashes and laughs the Cinderella may attend if the lentils are taken care of. This task is completed by her friends, the birds and the mother merely dumps more lentils into the ashes, two platefuls this time. Again, the task is done by birds for the girl.
With her sisters and mother already at the ball, Cinderella goes to her tree and begs for a dress. The finest dress falls from the tree and Cinderella goes to the ball, dances with the prince, flees after the party and returns each night for all three nights, each time with a more magnificent dress. The third night’s escape, her golden (not glass) slipper falls off and the prince begins his now-famous hunt through the land to find the foot that fits the slipper.
Okay, not too horrifying yet apart from some overzealous bullying. But here is where the fun begins. The prince gets to Cinderella’s house and the first sister goes to the back room to try the slipper on. It obviously doesn’t fit. The solution? Her mother tells her to slice off her toes because she won’t need to do any walking as queen anyway…the best part, she does it! And the prince buys it. Fortunately, as they are riding off, the friendly birds point out that there is blood pouring from the shoe. The prince turns around and returns to the house. Sister number two’s turn. Pretty much the same story except this one slices off her own heels. Again, birds point out the pouring blood and the prince returns again. This time he gets the right girl, Cinderella put on the now surely blood-soaked shoe and rides off to get married.
My favorite part is that the birds are vindictive little guys and decide to rip out he crippled step sister’s eyes at the wedding!
I really would have loved to see Disney use this ending in their fancy-free musical.