Cinderella is every girl's dream. Long before they are ready to begin dating young girls are enamored by this rags-to-riches story. What is it about this story that is so universally appealing? Why do most cultures have a story with similar plots, if not an identical plot?
Cinderella, the story of a girl who had nothing to call her own except a heart of gold, appeals to girls of all ages because it is the ultimate "dreams come true" story. In spite of how cruel her stepsisters and stepmother are to her, Cinderella continues to love everyone around her and her pure beauty shines through the ash and rags. Young girls who are not born into wealth and fame are drawn to her story because it can, in fact, be theirs. It proves to them that if they are good at heart and willing to follow their dreams, they can overcome obstacles and become anything they want to be, including a beautiful princess, no matter how difficult their lives are.
Of course, the romance of the story is appealing as well. Everyone wants to be swept off of her feet and out of her difficult circumstances by a prince on a dazzling white steed, and that is what happens to Cinderella. The prince is able to see past her rags and the ashes on her face and see the beautiful girl underneath.
Cinderella's story appears to have European origins, but the truth is that the first Cinderella-like story appeared in Chinese history. This one is about a girl named Yeh-Shen. This story has a stepfamily, magical helper, lost shoe, and king who needed a wife. Unlike the traditional Cinderella, Yeh-Shen must earn her gifts by doing kind deeds for a magic fish.
The Egyptians also had a Cinderella story. This story had a young girl who was a slave. She was Greek and therefor had a paler complexion than the other slave girls in her home. She also loved to dance. Her only friends were animals, and her owner made her a special pair of dance slippers when he admired her dancing. In place of stepsisters she must deal with wicked servant girls, but in the end she ends up catching the eye of the Pharaoh, who makes her his queen.
As the story was passed orally from person to person, and eventually from culture to culture, it gained some very specific qualities. The stepfamily is always wicked, and Cinderella is always good and kind. The fairy godmother or other magical creature comes just in the nick of time before the ball or party, and Cinderella always has a shoe that she loses and the prince or king retrieves. This shoe is the object that is used to find the girl.
One of the most famous versions of Cinderella is Disney's cartoon version of the story. It is, perhaps, the first introduction to the princess for most modern young girls. Grown up movie versions have also been made, and these typically lack the magical helper. Ever After is an example of a more mature look at the classic tale. But while Cinderella is often the subject of movies, it is far more prevalent in literature. The first European version of the story was put into print in Italy in the 1600s. The story "Cinderella, or The Tale of the Little Glass Slipper" was recorded by Charles Perrault in 1697 in Histories or Tales of Past Times, and this is the version that is the most like today's rendition. The Brother's Grim also put out their version of the "Ash Girl" tale in their famous collections of fairy tales, and this one has a slightly darker ending, with the stepsisters having their eyes plucked out by Cinderella's bird friends as penance for their wickedness. Since ancient times Cinderella has been shared throughout the world and become an important part of our culture and heritage. It is the ultimate rags to riches tale and not likely to go away any time soon.
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