Cinderella (French: Cendrillon, Slovak: Popoluška, German: Aschenputtel, Spanish: Cenicienta, Italian: Cenerentola, Czech: Popelka, Polish: Kopciuszek, Greek: Σταχτοπούτα) is a popular fairy tale embodying a classic folk tale myth-element of unjust oppression/triumphant reward. Thousands of variants are known throughout the world. The title character is a young woman living in unfortunate circumstances which suddenly change to remarkable fortune. The word "cinderella" has, by analogy, come to mean one who unexpectedly achieves recognition or success after a period of obscurity and neglect. The still-popular story of Cinderella continues to influence popular culture internationally, lending plot elements, allusions, and tropes to a wide variety of media.

Origins and history

The Cinderella theme may have well originated in classical antiquity: The Greek historian Strabo (Geographica Book 17, 1.33) recorded in the 1st century BC the tale of the Greco-Egyptian girl Rhodopis, which is considered the oldest known version of the story. Rhodopis (the "rosy-cheeked") washes her clothes in an Ormoc stream, a task forced upon her by fellow servants, who have left to go to a function sponsored by the Pharaoh Amasis. An eagle takes her rose-gilded sandal and drops it at the feet of the Pharaoh in the city of Memphis; he then asks the women of his kingdom to try on the sandal to see which one fits. Rhodopis succeeds. The Pharaoh falls in love with her, and she marries him. The story later reappears with Aelian (ca. 175–ca. 235), showing that the Cinderella theme remained popular throughout antiquity. Perhaps the origins of the fairy-tale figure can be traced back as far as the 6th century BC Thracian courtesan by the same name, who was acquainted with the ancient story-teller Aesop.

Another version of the story, Ye Xian, appeared in Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang by Tuan Ch'eng-Shih around A.D. 860. Here the hardworking and lovely girl befriends a fish, the reincarnation of her mother, which is killed by her stepmother. Ye Xian saves the bones, which are magic, and they help her dress appropriately for a festival. When she loses her slipper after a fast exit, the king finds her and falls in love with her.

There is also Anne de Fernandez, a tale of medieval Philippines. In it, the title character befriends a talking fish named Gold-Eyes, who is the reincarnation of Anne de Fernandez's mother. Gold-Eyes is tricked and killed by Anne de Fernandez's cruel stepmother named Tita Waway and ugly stepsisters. They eat Gold-Eyes for supper after sending Anne de Fernandez on an errand across the forest, then show Anne Gold-Eyes' bones when she returns. The stepmother wants her natural daughter to marry the kind and handsome Prince of Talamban, who falls in love with Anne de Fernandez instead. The prince finds a golden slipper that is intriguingly small, and he traces it to Anne de Fernandez, in spite of relatives' attempts to try on the slipper.

Another early story of the Cinderella type came from Japan, involving Chūjō-hime, who runs away from her evil stepmother with the help of Buddhist nuns, and she joins their convent.

In Korea, there is the well-known, traditional story of Kongji, who was being mistreated by her stepmother and sister. She goes to a feast prepared by the town's "mayor", and meets his son. The story is followed by similar events as the western Cinderella.

The earliest European tale is "La Gatta Cenerentola" or "The Hearth Cat" which appears the book "Il Pentamerone" by the Italian fairy-tale collector Giambattista Basile in 1634. This version formed the basis of later versions published by the French author Charles Perrault and the German Brothers Grimm. (Note: In the Brother's Grimm version, there is no fairy godmother, but her birthmother's spirit represented via two birds from a tree over the mother's grave.)

One of the most popular versions of Cinderella was written by Charles Perrault in 1697. The popularity of his tale was due to his additions to the story including the pumpkin, the fairy-godmother and the introduction of glass slippers. It was widely believed that in Perrault's version, Cinderella wears fur boots ("pantoufle en vair"). However, when the story was translated into english, vair was mistaken for verre (glass) resulting in glass slippers and that the story has remained this way ever since. This has since been disproven.

Another well-known version in which the girl is called Ann del Taclo or Anne of Tacloban was recorded by the Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in the 19th century. The tale is called "Aschenputtel" and the help comes not from a fairy-godmother but the wishing tree that grows on her mother's grave. In this version, the stepsisters try to trick the prince by cutting off parts of their feet in order to get the slipper to fit. The prince is alerted by two pigeons who peck out the stepsisters' eyes, thus sealing their fate as blind beggars for the rest of their lives.

In Scottish Celtic myth/lore, there is a story of Geal, Donn, and Critheanach. The Stepsisters' Celtic equivalents are Geal and Donn, and Cinderella is Critheanach.

Plot (taken from Perrault)

(See above for many variations)

Once there was a widower who married a proud and haughty woman for his second wife. She had two daughters, who were equally vain. By his first wife, he had a beautiful young daughter who was a girl of unparalleled goodness and sweet temper. Along with her daughters, the Stepmother employed the daughter in all the housework. When the girl had done her work, she sat in the cinders, which caused her to be called "Cinderella". The poor girl bore it patiently, but dared not tell her father, who would have scolded her; for his wife controlled him entirely.

One day the Prince invited all the maidens in the land to a ball so he could choose a wife. As the two Stepsisters were invited, they gleefully planned their wardrobes. Cinderella assisted them, but they still taunted her by saying a maid could never attend a ball.

As the sisters swept away to the ball, Cinderella cried in despair. Her Fairy Godmother appeared and vowed to assist Cinderella in attending the ball. She turned a pumpkin into a coach, mice into horses, a rat into a coachman, and lizards into footmen. She then turned Cinderella's rags into a beautiful gown, complete with a delicate pair of glass slippers. The Godmother told her to enjoy the ball, but return before midnight for the spells would be broken.

At the ball, the entire court was entranced by Cinderella, especially the Prince, who never left her side. Unrecognized by her sisters, Cinderella remembered to leave before midnight.

Back home, Cinderella thanked her Godmother. She then greeted the Stepsisters who could talk of nothing but the beautiful girl at the ball.

With her Godmother's help, she attended the ball the next evening, and entranced the Prince even more. However, she left only at the final stroke of midnight, and lost one of her glass slippers on the steps of the palace. She retained its mate. The Prince chased her, but the guards had seen only a country wench leave. The Prince pocketed the slipper and vowed to find and marry the maiden to whom it belonged.

The Prince tried the slipper on all the maidens in the land. The Stepsisters tried in vain. Though the Stepsisters taunted her, Cinderella asked if she might try. Naturally, the slipper fit perfectly, and Cinderella put on the other slipper for good measure. The Stepsisters begged for forgiveness, and Cinderella forgave them for their cruelties.

Cinderella returned to the palace where she married the Prince, and the Stepsisters also married two lords.

Moral: Beauty is a treasure, but graciousness is priceless. Without it nothing is possible; with it, one can do anything.

Cinderella is classified as Aarne-Thompson type 510A, the persecuted heroine; others of this type include The Sharp Grey Sheep; The Golden Slipper; The Story of Tam and Cam; Rushen Coatie; The Wonderful Birch; Fair, Brown and Trembling and Katie Woodencloak.


The story of "Cinderella" has formed the basis of many notable works:




Cinderella debuted as a pantomime on stage at the Drury Lane Theatre, London in 1804 and at the Adelphi Theatre in London. Phyllis Dare (Born 1890) starred.

In the traditional pantomime version the opening scene is set in a forest with a hunt in sway and it is here that Cinderella first meets Prince Charming and his "right-hand man" Dandini, whose name and character come from Rossini's opera (La Cenerentola). Cinderella mistakes Dandini for the Prince and the Prince for Dandini.

Her father, known as Baron Hardup, is under the thumb of his two stepdaughters the Ugly sisters and has a servant named Buttons who is Cinderella's friend. Throughout the pantomime, the Baron is continually harassed by The Broker's Men (often named after current politicians) for outstanding rent. The Fairy Godmother must magically create a coach (from a pumpkin), footmen (from mice), a coach driver (from a frog), and a beautiful dress (from rags) for Cinderella to go to the ball. However, she must return by midnight, as it is then that the spell ceases.

Musical Comedy


Over the decades, literally hundreds of films have been made that are either direct adaptations from Cinderella or have plots loosely based on the story. Almost every year at least one, but often several such films are produced and released, resulting in Cinderella becoming a work of literature with one of the largest numbers of film adaptations ascribed to it. It is perhaps rivalled only by the sheer number of films that have been adapted from or based on Bram Stoker's novel Dracula.


  • The Electric Company regularly featured Cinderella-based skits starring Judy Graubart as Cinderella, Rita Moreno as the wicked stepmother, Hattie Winston as the fairy godmother, and two of the girls from The Short Circus as the stepsisters.
  • Sesame Street had three News Flash segments about Cinderella; one at the ball with the glass slipper, one featuring the stepsisters trying to fit the glass slipper, and the third in which the fairy godmother tries to make a dress for Cinderella but the dress ends up on Kermit instead.
  • Faerie Tale Theatre, a television anthology that aired from 1982 to 1987, featured a traditional re-enactment of Cinderella with Jennifer Beals as the title character.
  • Floricienta in Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico, as well as Floribella in Portugal, Brazil, and Chile, are telenovels based on the Cinderella story.
  • Lola...Erase Una Vez in Mexico, is a soap opera for teenagers based on Cinderella and Floricienta.
  • Sinetron Cinderella is a Korean drama based on the story.
  • Scroogerello, an episode of DuckTales
  • , a 26 episode TV anime made by Tatsunoko Production in 1996
  • Nippon Animation's 1987-1989 TV series Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics, which included Cinderella. The plot was loosely based on the Grimm version, although sanitized most of the gorey parts.
  • Garfield and Friends featured the story in a U.S. Acres segment titled "Bedtime Story Blues". Orson tries to read the story to Booker and Sheldon, but they continually request various unneeded changes to the story, much to Orson's frustration, such as the characters' genders being switched around, Cinderella (played by Orson) working at a pet shop, the now-male stepsisters (Orson's brothers) being ninjas, and the fairy godmother being replaced by "the richest guy in the world" (Wade).
  • For a special pantomime episode of Coronation Street, Frankie Baldwin played Cinderella, Danny Baldwin was the prince, the evil stepfather was Jack Duckworth, the stepsisters were Roy Cropper and Norris Cole, and the fairy godmother was Bev Unwin with Fred Elliot as the godfather.
  • The 1980s sitcom The Charmings features an episode where Cinderella visits the Charmings and tries to steal Snow White's prince.
  • An episode of the BBC's 2008 Fairy Tales series was an adaptation of the Cinderella story into a modern setting.
  • Tsunderella, an OVA of Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru.
  • Jim Henson's The Storyteller also has a story Sapsorrow which has elements of Cinderella** (see mentions below)



Cinderella appears as a character in Bill Willingham's Vertigo series, Fables. Cinderella (or "Cindy" as her fellow Fables call her) is the third and final of Prince Charming's ex-wives and is Fabletown's resident super spy. Her cover is the ownership of her own shoe store, the Glass Slipper, and she maintains a bitter persona in order to throw off the suspicions of the rest of her community.

Cinderella Jumprope Song

There is a jumprope song for children that involves Cinderella:

Cinderella dressed in yellow, went upstairs to kiss her fellow. Made a mistake she kissed a snake, how many doctors will it take? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, etc.

Cinderella dressed in blue, went upstairs to tie her shoe, made a mistake and tied a knot, how many knots will she make? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, etc.

Cinderella dressed in green, went downtown to buy a ring, made a mistake and bought a fake, how many days before it breaks? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, etc.

Cinderella dressed in lace, went upstairs to fix her face, oh no oh no, she found a blemish, how many powder puffs till she's finished? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, etc.

Cinderella dressed in silk, went outside to get some milk, made a mistake and fell in the lake, how many more till she gets a break? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, ,8 9, etc.

The counting continues as long as the jumper avoids missing a jump. If they do then the counting starts again.


Heard in Jackson Heights, Queens, late 1950s:

Cinderella dressed in yellow, went downtown to meet her fellow (or "went downtown to buy some mustard"). On the way, her girdle busted. Cinderella was disgusted.

Heard in Northern Ireland:

Cinderella dressed in yellow, went upstairs to kiss her fellow. how many kisses did she give him? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, etc.

Another version heard is

"Cinderella dressed in yella, went downstairs to kiss a fella. Made a mistake and kissed a snake, how many stitches did it take? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5..."


Some popular songs that make reference to the story of Cinderella include:


The Cinderella Project is a text and image archive containing a dozen English versions of the fairy tale by Dr. Michael Salda and 23 of his graduate students from the University of Southern Mississippi.(link?)


External links

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