Research into the story of Cinderella
The story given for this assignment was Cinderella.
“The word “Cinderella” has, by analogy, come to mean one whose attributes were unrecognized, or one who unexpectedly achieves recognition or success after a period of obscurity and neglect.”(1) And the version that is to be used is the Brothers Grimm version, which is known as ‘Aschenputtel’
BROTHER’S GRIMM PLOT(1)
A wealthy gentleman’s wife lay on her deathbed, and called her only daughter to her bedside. She asked her to remain good and kind, and told her that God would protect her. She then died and was buried. A year went by and the widower married another woman, who had two daughters of her own. They had beautiful faces and fair skin, but their hearts were cruel and wicked. The stepsisters stole the girl’s fine clothes and jewels and forced her to wear rags. They banished her into the kitchen to do the worst chores, and gave her the nickname “Aschenputtel” (“Ashfool”). Despite all of this the girl remained good and kind, and would always go to her mother’s grave to cry and pray to God that she would see her circumstances improve.
One day, the gentleman visited a fair, promising his stepdaughters gifts of luxury. The eldest asked for beautiful dresses, while the younger for pearls and diamonds. His own daughter merely asked for the first twig to knock his hat off on the way. The gentleman went on his way, and acquires presents for his stepdaughters. While passing a forest he got a hazel twig, and gave it to his daughter. She planted the twig over her mother’s grave, watered it with her tears and over the years, it grew into a glowing hazel tree. The girl would pray under it three times a day, and a white bird would always come to comfort her.
The king decided to give a festival that would last for three days and invited all the beautiful maidens in the land to attend so that the prince could select one of them as his bride. The two sisters were also invited, but when Aschenputtel begged them to allow her to go with them into the celebration, the stepmother refused because she had no dress nor shoes to wear. When the girl insisted, the woman threw a dish of lentils into the ashes for her to pick up, guaranteeing her permission to attend the festival, and when the girl accomplished the task in less than an hour with the help of a flock of white doves sent by her mother from heaven, the stepmother only redoubled the task and threw down even a greater quantity of lentils. When Aschenputtel was able to accomplish it in a greater speed, not wanting to spoil her daughters’ chances, the stepmother hastened away with them to the celebration and left the crying stepdaughter behind.
The girl retreated to the graveyard to ask for help. The white bird dropped a gold and silver gown and silk shoes. She went to the feast. The prince danced with her, and when sunset came she asked to leave. The prince escorted her home, but she eluded him and jumped inside the pigeon- coop. The merchant goes home and the prince asks him to chop the pigeon coop down. Aschenputtel already escaped. The next day, the girl appeared in a much grander gown. The prince fell in love with her and danced with her for the whole day, and when sunset came, the prince accompanied her home. She climbs a pear tree to escape him, and the tree is chopped down again. But Aschenputtel disappeared. The third day, she appeared dressed in the grandest with slippers of gold. Now the prince was determined to keep her, and had the entire stairway smeared with pitch. Aschenputtel lost track of time, and when she ran away one of her golden slippers got stuck on that pitch. The prince proclaimed that he would marry the maiden whose foot would fit the golden slipper.
The next morning, the prince went to Aschenputtel’s house and tried the slipper on the eldest stepsister. The sister was advised by her mother to cut off her toes in order to fit the slipper. While riding with the stepsister, the two doves from Heaven told the Prince that blood dripped from her foot. Appalled by her treachery, he went back again and tried the slipper on the other stepsister. She cut off part of her heel in order to get her foot in the slipper, and again the prince was fooled. While riding with her to the king’s castle, the doves alerted him again about the blood on her foot. He came back to inquire about another girl. The gentleman told him that they kept a kitchen-maid in the house – omitting to mention that she was his own daughter – and the prince asked him to let her try on the slipper. The girl appeared after washing herself, and when she put on the slipper, the prince recognized her as the stranger with whom he had danced at the ball.
In the end, during Aschenputtel’s wedding, as she was walking down the aisle with her stepsisters as her bridesmaids, (they had hoped to worm their way into her favour), the doves from Heaven flew down and struck the two stepsisters’ eyes, one in the left and the other in the right. When the wedding came to an end, and Aschenputtel and her prince marched out of the church, the doves flew again, striking the remaining eyes of the two evil sisters blind, a punishment they had to endure for the rest of their lives.
“Aschenputtel’s relationship with her father in this version is ambiguous; Perrault’s version states that the absent father is dominated by his second wife, explaining why he does not prevent the abuse of his daughter. However, the father in this tale plays an active role in several scenes, and it is not explained why he tolerates the mistreatment of his child. He also describes Aschenputtel as his “first wife’s child” and not his own.”(1)
The tale of Cinderella has been told in many different versions around the globe, even before the version we know so well. Below are samples of the earlier versions of the tale – even formerly as 7BC, the story or Rhodopis.
(All stories were found in the link known Reference 1)
THE STORY OF RHODOPIS (Strabo’s Geographica)
They tell the fabulous story that, when she was bathing, an eagle snatched one of her sandals from her maid and carried it to Memphis; and while the king was administering justice in the open air, the eagle, when it arrived above his head, flung the sandal into his lap; and the king, stirred both by the beautiful shape of the sandal and by the strangeness of the occurrence, sent men in all directions into the country in quest of the woman who wore the sandal; and when she was found in the city of Naucratis, she was brought up to Memphis, became the wife of the king
THE STORY OF CORDEILA (Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae)
Cordelia is the youngest and most virtuous of King Leir of Britain’s three daughter, however her virtue is such that it will not allow her to lie in flattering with her father when he asks, so that he divides up the kingdom between the eldest daughters and leaves Cordelia with nothing. Cordelia marries her love, Aganippus, King of the Franks, and flees to Gaul where she and her husband raise an army and depose her wicked sisters who have been misusing their father. Cordelia is finally crowned Queen of Britain. However her reign only lasts five years. (Supposedly this story is famously retold in Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’, with a tragi ending)
THE STORY OF YE XIAN (Duan Chengshi’s Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang)
A hard working and lovely girl be friends a fish, the reincarnation of her mother, who was killed by her stepmother and sister. Ye Xian saves the bones, which are magic, and they help her dress appropriately for a festival. When she loses her slipper after being recognized by her stepfamily, the king finds her slipper and makes her his first wife (eventually rescuing her from her cruel stepmother.
BAWANG MERAH BAWANG PUITH (The Indonesian and Malaysian story)
Two girls named ‘Bawang Merah’ (literally ‘White Onion’ meaning ‘Garlic’) and Bawang Puith(meaning ‘Red Onion’) have a magical fish as the ‘fairy godmother’, which the antagonist cooks. The heroine then finds the bones and buries them, and over the grave a magical swing appears. The protagonist sits on the swing and sings to make it sway, her song reaching the ears of the passing prince. The swing is akin to the slipper test, which distinguishes the heroine from her evil sister, and the prince weds her in the end.
TAM CAM (Vietnamese version)
“Tam is mistreated by both her father’s co-wife and half-sister, who stole her birthright by winning a wager of fishing unjustly proposed by the stepmother. The only fish that was left to her was killed and eaten by her step-family, but its bones served as her protector and guardian, eventually leading her to be the king’s bride during a festival. The protagonist however, turns into the antagonist in part two of the story, by boiling her stepsister alive and then fooling her stepmother into cannibalism by feeding her her own daughter’s flesh.”
KONGJI AND PATZZI (Korean version)
“It tells a story about a kind girl Kongji who was constantly abused by her stepmother and stepsister Patzzi. The step-family forces Kongji to stay at home while they attend the king’s ball, but a fairy appears and gives her an attire more beautiful than everyone else. The motif is the same as in Perrault, concerning a king falling in love with her. However, the story goes on with Patzzi drowning Kongji in a river and disguising herself as Kongji to live with the King. After the king finds out he puts Patzzi to death and feeds her to the unknowing stepmother.”
“Several variants of the story appear in the medieval One Thousand and One Nights, also known as the Arabian Nights, including “The Second Shaykh’s Story”, “The Eldest Lady’s Tale” and “Abdallah ibn Fadil and His Brothers”, all dealing with the theme of a younger sibling harassed by two jealous elders. In some of these, the siblings are female, while in others, they are male. One of the tales, “Judar and His Brethren”, departs from the happy endings of previous variants and reworks the plot to give it a tragic ending instead, with the younger brother being poisoned by his elder brothers. “
Even “The Charles Dickens novel David Copperfield also shares similarities with Cinderella but is gender reversed (David has a passive mother who remarries with a cruel man after her husband passes).”(1)
However the version we probably know best comes from the child friendly version of today, this includes the film by disney:
Cinderella is the beloved child of a widowed gentleman. While a kind and devoted father who feels as though his daughter needs a mother’s care, he remarries to a widowed woman named Lady Tremaine, who has two daughters of her own: Drizella and Anastasia. After Cinderella’s father dies unexpectedly, Lady Tremaine is revealed to be a cruel and selfish woman, and Cinderella is humiliated and mistreated by her stepfamily, who take over the estate and ultimately reduce her to being a scullery maid in her own home. Despite this, Cinderella grows into a kind and gentle young woman, befriending the animals in the barn and the mice and birds who live around the chateau.
One day, while Cinderella is preparing breakfast, Lady Tremaine’s cat Lucifer chases Gus, one of the mice, into the kitchen. Cinderella delivers breakfast to her stepfamily, not realizing that Gus is hiding under Anastasia’s teacup. The angry Anastasia tells her mother of the apparent prank, and Tremaine punishes Cinderella with extra chores.
Meanwhile, at the royal palace, the King discusses with the Grand Duke his desire for his son Prince Charming to settle down and have children. They organize a ball in an effort to find a suitable wife for the Prince without arousing suspicion. Cinderella asks her stepmother if she can attend, as the invitation says “every eligible maiden” is to attend. Lady Tremaine agrees, provided that Cinderella finishes her chores and finds a nice dress to wear. Cinderella’s animal friends, led by Jaq, Gus and the other mice, fix up a gown that belonged to Cinderella’s mother using beads and a sash thrown out by Drizella and Anastasia, respectively. When Cinderella comes down wearing her new dress, Lady Tremaine compliments the gown, pointing out the beads and the sash. Angered by the apparent theft of their discarded items, the two stepsisters destroy the gown.
Just as Cinderella is about to give up hope, her Fairy Godmother appears and turns the remains of Cinderella’s dress with her magic wand into a new ball gown with glass slippers. She also transforms a pumpkin into a carriage, the mice into horses, her horse Major into a coachman, and her dog Bruno into a footman. Fairy Godmother warns her the spell will break at the stroke of midnight. At the ball, the Prince rejects every girl until he sees Cinderella. The two fall strongly in love and dance alone throughout the castle grounds until the clock starts to chime midnight. Cinderella flees to her coach and away from the castle, losing one of her glass slippers. After her gown turns back into rags, the mice point out that the other slipper is still on her foot.
Back at the castle, the Duke tells the King of the Prince’s meeting with the unknown girl. The King, after hearing that the girl disappeared, and thinking that the Duke was “in league with the Prince all along”, goes into a rage and tries to behead him. Fortunately, the Duke is able to calm him down with news of the girl’s glass slipper and states that the Prince will only marry the girl who fits that slipper.
The next morning, the King proclaims the Grand Duke will visit every house in the kingdom to find the girl whose foot fits the glass slipper. When news reaches Cinderella’s household, her stepfamily prepare for the Duke’s arrival. Overhearing this, Cinderella dreamingly hums the song played at the ball. Realizing Cinderella was the girl who danced with the Prince, Lady Tremaine locks her in the attic.
When the Duke arrives, Jaq and Gus steal the key to Cinderella’s room, but Lucifer ambushes them before they can free her. With the help of the other animals and Bruno, they chase him out the window and Cinderella is freed. As the Duke prepares to leave after the stepsisters have tried to shove their enormous feet into the slipper, Cinderella appears and requests to try it on. Knowing the slipper will fit, Lady Tremaine trips the footman, causing him to drop the slipper, which shatters on the floor. Cinderella then produces the other glass slipper, much to her stepmother’s horror. A delighted Duke slides the slipper onto her foot, and it fits perfectly.
Cinderella and the Prince celebrate their wedding and live happily ever after.
No matter how many times the tale of Cinderella changes, there is always certain elements, which stay the same:
* A pure hearted maiden: Every Cinderella is a kind-hearted, beautiful hard working, girl in an unfair position – due to her beauty and kindness, and the jealousy of her stepfamily.
* Wicked Stepmother and sisters: Though an unfair portrayal of stepfamilies, Cinderella’s story begins with her at the mercy of her stepmother and sisters (who are jealous of her beauty and good heart.)
* Mystical help: Whether it be a fairy godmother, or the tree at her mother’s grave, Cinderella always has magic to help her get to the ball.
* Karma ending: Cinderella gets the prince, and her sisters are punished (Though in some versions, the stepsisters actually gain a happy ending – e.g ‘the Anklet’ the “Cinderella” is turned into a dove on her wedding night with the assistance of 12 magic hair pins, and in ‘The Wonderful Birch’ the step mother, a witch, substitute her daughter for the true bride.)
Looking into these story gave me a deeper understanding of the tale – so that I knew it inside and out. However I primarily used this research to see if I could use anything to create a story with (a theme or element of the story). I began to write down what I knew of the story all ready, and what I had now discovered, into a mind map (see photo below)
I then got together with my team member Jai, and we discussed what each of us had come up with. Idea wise not very much, and yet between us we managed to come up with an idea between us. This idea was looking at the stepmother, and creating a potential back story as to why she mistreated Cinderella. We both liked the idea of a villain’s origin story, because me and Jai both believe that a villain is created – not born.
The idea is the one that Jai and I have chosen to use in the project:
In the study of Aschen Manor, Lady Victoria is sat thinking.
Suddenly her new husband’s voice speaks “You’ll love it at Aschen Manor”, the scene cuts to Victoria being led into the entrance hall by her husband. She looks at her surroundings smiling, and feeling pleased. Then her husband says “This is my daughter Ella’, Ella approaches as she welcomes her stepmother, but we only hear her off screen as the stepmother looks worried – then smiles hiding how she feels.
The scene then cuts back to the study where Victoria is still sat in the chair. Then slowly she closes her eyes, as if entering a trance, before lying back. For a few minutes we hear silence, until we hear the sound of wedding bells. We then hears people praising Ella, how happy she looks, how beautiful and how lucky she is to marry the prince. Victoria’s eye snap open and she sits up gasping – as if seeing the future has taken a great deal of energy form her. Victoria sits with her hands in her head as we hear the sound of girls giggling. Victoria touches her locket, when the dark figure of her mother appears behind her. Her mother says, “You can’t change the future. You all ready tried that, and look where that got you. Ella is too much like her I suppose, no wonder you’re jealousy is stirring, afraid to be in the shadows again… or perhaps you’re daughters-” Victoria turns and replies with a sharp “Leave me!”
Yet when Victoria looks the spirit is gone.
A door opens off screen and we hear Ella speak to her Stepmother asking if she is all right. Victoria replies calmly that she’s fine, and asks Ella where her dinner is. Ella replies, that it’ll be ready soon. Victoria dismisses her, as the door closes Victoria is clutching her locket. She takes it off and opens it. Inside is two pictures one girl with dark hair, and the other is blonde. The blonde is her sister.
I wanted to keep with the idea of the stepmother being ‘spell caster’ like, which is typically seen in a traditional Brothers Grimm tale. And I think the background story to a villain character can be interesting, as it presents events which don’t justify the villain’s actions – but it does explain them. As I believe that a bad person is created, not born.
(Below is the recording of my and Jai’s powerpoint presentation to the scriptwriters)