Cinderella is one of the most popular stories we’ve read since childhood. In 1950, Walt Disney made an animated movie on the story which has till date been the most popular re-telling of the age old fairy-tale. But, like most Disney adaptations, Cinderella is an adaptation of a story from Grimm’s Fairy Tales. But the origin of Cinderella comes from different countries, all of them radically different from another, but keeping the core elements intact.
Here’s a list of the 7 most interesting versions of the fairy-tale about the unfortunate young woman, her cruel guardians and her prince charming.
In Indonesia and Malaysia, the story is about two girls named Bawang Putih (literally “White Onion”, meaning “garlic”) and Bawang Merah (“Red Onion”). In the Indonesian version, Bawang Putih is the kind-hearted girl who does all the work, while her evil step-sister Bawang Merah and her step-mother routinely abuse her. Bawang Putih (in her free time), makes a magical swing sway with her melodious voice, something the Prince overhears. When the Prince asks about the singer, the evil sister lies and says it’s her. But she’s proven wrong and she and her mother finally admit that there’s another daughter in the house. The one named after garlic comes out and makes the swing move with her singing, the Prince falls in love and they marry.
The Malaysian adaptation has a man with two wives and two respective daughters. After his death, Bawang Merah (who is the good one here) and her mother are tortured by the second wife and her daughter Bawang Putih. The good sister’s mother is killed by the step family (and then she turns into a fish). In this version, the step-mother kills the fish and feeds it to the good sister, who then gets a dream about her mother’s fishbones which she finds with the help of ants. She then buries her mother, but she’s in for a surprise when the grave turns into a magical swing which moves only when she sings. The rest of the story is similar to the Indonesian one.
The one originating from Philippines is my personal favourite version of Cinderella. In this one, Cinderella (who is usually named Maria) is ill-treated by her stepfamily, her aunt, cousins, and even her jealous godmother. She usually gets assistance from a friendly crab. The protagonist though is far more independent than any other version we’ve read about. Here she shapes her future, becomes a rich and successful woman in her own right. She overcomes all the cruelties she has suffered and the story doesn’t end with a man ‘saving her’. A movie adaptation of this version? Yes please!
Sadly, due to later influences , conventional tropes like the missing shoe, a prince or a wealthy bachelor was added to the fable.
Vietnam has one of the darkest variations of the fairytale and my god, I NEED to see this one on-screen! Here the protagonist is called Tam and she’s ill-treated by her step-mother and step-sister. This one though, is a two-part revenge drama where the step-mother and step-sister stab Tam 4 times. But she comes back and boils her step-sister alive in front of her step-mother, the shock of which kills her.
In another macabre version, Cinderella dismembers her step-sister, puts her body in a jar of food and sends it to her step-mother to eat, which she enjoys until she finds a skull at the bottom of the jar and dies of shock. I think I threw up a little in my mouth.
What a twist!
One version of this story which is famous in West and South Asia is the tale of Judar and His Brethren, here, a boy is often tortured and abused by his elder siblings and instead of him finding his happy ending eventually, this story ends with the younger brother being poisoned by his siblings. Oh no!
Cinderella and incest don’t really go hand-in-hand, but like does incest really go with anything? Anyway, this version of Cinderella serves more as a prequel to the main story and it involves a father (who is the King) and his vow to never marry again unless he finds a woman who fits perfectly into his dead Queen’s clothes. By the time Cinderella attains puberty, she starts fitting into her dead mom’s clothes so the king (WHO IS HER FATHER IN CASE YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN!!) totally wants to marry her. Understandably, Cinderella is not comfortable with this deal and decides to escape her mad dad. She puts a condition where she says that she’ll marry him only if he gives her a trunk that locks from outside and inside and can travel over land and sea. He does that for her, but she says she needs to be inside it to make sure it works. To prove that the trunk works, he locks her inside it and lets it float in water. This way, Cinderella manages to escape and reach another shore. But she ends up being a maid in an evil family and the popular story of Cinderella begins from here.
Another version has a father who wants a son, but gets a daughter instead. So like he wants to marry her because he’s gross. She doesn’t want to, so she tells her father she’ll marry him if he gifts her a coat made from the skin of cats (what’s with this family?). When he brings her that, she wears it and runs away. The coat disguises her and when she finally reaches the ball, the prince falls in love with her and they marry.
A prince has a daughter, Zezolla (who is the Cinderella in this version), who loves her seemingly kind governess. The governess, with Zezolla’s help, persuades the prince to marry her. It’s only after her marriage does the governess show her true colours. She brings six daughters of her own to the palace and all of them abuse Zezolla and make her do all the work. Her father goes to the island of Sinia where a fairy gives him four presents for his daughter – a golden spade, a golden bucket, a silken napkin, and a date seedling. Zezolla then cultivates the tree where a fairy resides. The king of the island hosts a ball and like Disney’s version, this Cinderella too is dressed up with the help of the tree fairy. The king falls in love with her, but Zezolla runs away before he can find out who she is. The King and his servants try to find her twice, but she escapes both times. It’s only the third time when one servant finds her slipper. The rest is similar to the Cinderella story in popular culture.
Aschenputtel, written by the German brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm is a really intense re-telling of the story. In this one, after her mother’s death, Cinderella’s dad marries another beautiful lady and brings her and her two daughters home. What happens next is the basis of the Disney version of the story, only this time, the father is alive and he’s spineless. After Aschenputtel (who is the Cinderella in this version) runs from the prince’s ball and leaves a slipper there, the prince goes to every house looking for her. When he reaches the protagonist’s home, the step-mother tells the elder step-daughter to cut off her toes for the shoe to fit. The prince believes she’s the one and they ride off towards the palace, but two doves from heaven, tell the prince about the blood dripping from the girl’s foot. The prince goes back to the house and asks the other step-sister to try the slipper on. This one cuts off her heel and wears the slipper, while leaving, the doves warn the prince again. On his third visit, Aschenputtel’s father finally tells him they have a young kitchen-maid in the house. When she steps out, the Prince recognizes the beautiful girl from the ball and the slipper fits perfectly!
The two decide to get married, and on the day of the wedding, Aschenputtel walks down the aisle with her stepsisters as her bridesmaids. The biggest plot-twist here is that the doves fly down and strike the two stepsisters’ eyes, one in the left and the other in the right. That’s not all. When the ceremony is over, the killer doves strike the functioning eyes of the evil sisters again, rendering them blind.
Which version is your favourite? Tell us in the comments below!