The famous fairy tales writer, Charles Perrault, is the author of one of the most famous fairy tales of all time - Cinderella. Just like all other fairy tale writers, he sought inspiration for his works in folk tales, myths, and legends. Perrault was a role model for many later writers, such as the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson, so his works were retold with slightly altered content.
Cinderella was published in the 17th century and nowadays is one of the most famous and important fairy tales ever written. In addition to this, Charles Perrault published many other fairy tales known to us, such as "Puss in Boots", "Beauty and the Beast", "Little Red Riding Hood", "The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood" and many others.
"The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood" was his first published story but without his signature. At the beginning of his work, the readership refused to accept him because he continued adding eerie details into his fairy tales. Over time, his work became accepted by both children and adults because, in addition to having interesting content, all of his stories always had a clear moral message. The characters have always been divided into good and bad, but in the end, the good always won.
Cinderella is a true representative of a naive and good girl. Through the fairy tale, we get to know her life, the jealousy of her half-sisters and stepmother, but also the realization of all her dreams, and we come to the happy ending that all good, diligent people deserve.
She didn’t lose her kindness even after the death of her mother, or even after everything her evil half-sisters and stepmother did to her. She endured everything patiently. Later, she meets the prince and gets everything she has always dreamed of. She got real love and a man who loves her back. In the end, she forgives everyone who harmed her and doesn’t feel the need to take revenge. Her kindness overcomes all adversity and shows us that with our heads held high, we inflict the greatest defeat on jealous people.
There are several thousand versions of this fairy tale. The oldest ones were recorded in China and Ancient Greece, which differ in details, but the essence is the same and in both, it is about a girl who loses her shoe. However, this version written by Charles Perrault, which he published in 1697, is the most famous. The Brothers Grimm published their version of the story at the beginning of the nineties, which was far scarier.
The earliest printed story of Cinderella appeared in 1634 at the Pentamerone, a collection of oral folk tales compiled by Giambattista Basile, a Neapolitan soldier, poet, and courtier. Here Cinderella is called Cenerentola.
Although the title of the story and the name of the main character differs depending on the language, in most versions Cinderella’s name suggests "ashes". Why is Cinderella named Cinderella? Since she has been ignored by the rest of her family (especially her evil half-sisters), poor Cinderella sits among the ashes in the chimney-corner - thus her name.
The ‘rags to riches’ change comes about when Cinderella, who hopes to go to the ball, has her wish come true and thereafter meets the prince. Even though she has to return home early, losing one of her shoes after which the prince searches for her. This is perhaps the most romantic moment in all of the literature and so far, the most familiar one.
In 1982 Roald Dahl rewrote the tale about Cinderella and published it in his Revolutionary Rhymes. The most important detail in his version is the part when one of the half-sisters replaces Cinderella's glass shoe with her shoe. Even though the shoe later fitted her half-sister's foot flawlessly (as expected), the prince refused to marry the half-sister and instead - beheaded her. The despotic prince does the same to the other sister, and he would do the same to Cinderella too if her fairy godmother hadn't interfered and saved her life by fulfilling her wish to marry an ordinary man instead of the prince. So, once again, we have a happy ending, just not the one we expected.
Charles Perrault's version has been adapted into many features and animated films, radio dramas, theater plays, and is probably the most famous Disney animated version from 1950, which was nominated for an Oscar. In 2015, Kenneth Branagh adapted the famous fairy tale into a feature film in which Cate Blanchett played the evil stepmother.
While Cinderella stories are popular, the various objects that are predominantly expressed in the story are becoming essential symbols. Some of the dominant symbols in the story include the main characters, animals, clothing, a glass slipper, and a pumpkin. All of these things help Cinderella to marry her Prince Charming and, below, you’ll find them explained in detail.
Genre: fairy tale
Setting: unspecified; once upon a time in a kingdom
Point of view and Narrator: third-person with an omniscient narration
Tone and Mood: starts sad mood and gradually crawls toward happiness and ends joyfully
Style: eerie, serious
Protagonist and Antagonist: The protagonist is a poor girl Cinderella, while the antagonists are her stepmother and half-sisters
Major conflict: Cinderella’s stepmother forbade Cinderella to go to the royal ball
Rising action: fairy godmother makes it possible for Cinderella to attend the royal ball, but she must return home by midnight
Climax: the Prince arrives at Cinderella’s house to try the glass shoe
Ending: the prince discovers that Cinderella is his beloved and marries her.
Symbols and Metaphors
Clothing - clothing is the main detail of transformation for characters from Charles Perrault's fairy tales. In these stories, clothing signals climbing social mobility. In "Puss in Boots", the Puss can get an audience with the King only thanks to his boots. Puss transforms his master by tricking the king into giving his third son a set of royal attire. Only then is the third son royal enough to attract the attention and curiosity of the princess. Cinderella shares a similar course. In her rags, she has no chance of getting married to the prince. Nonetheless, after her fairy godmother turned her rags into beautiful dresses, Cinderella can rouse the prince’s love.
Glass slipper - the glass slipper is an iconic symbol. The glass is transparent and brittle. In the Cinderella story, the glass slipper represents the natural beauty, purity, gentleness, and true identity of the main character. It serves as a medium in which she shows her identity that attracts the whole kingdom, and most of all the prince.
While the glass is fragile, which symbolizes its gentleness, she has never had a problem with glass slippers. Because it can be seen through, glass represents its purity. The beauty of the glass slipper also represents Cinderella’s natural beauty that no one could dispute. While all of these characteristics are some of the positive symbolism represented by glass slippers, it is also clear that it is also the negative symbolism.
For example, glass slippers can present her as an opportunistic girl. This is because Cinderella gave up coming to the ball the king organized for her son when her half-sisters and stepmother forbade her. She had no clothes or shoes for the event, and she went to the event only after her godmother offered her help with magic.
The prince also believes that a slipper can only be matched for one foot. Cinderella's foot paired with a slipper shows how the two fit together perfectly, which is a sign of true love.
Animals - the animals used in the story also serve as a symbol. Some of the animals used include lizards, mice, and rats. In most cases, all these animals are considered dirty. For example, rats are mostly found in disgusting places. They can also be found in gutters and water tunnels.
In the story Cinderella, the godmother turns these animals into coachmen, servants, and even horses. In addition, these animals become characters who serve the main character as she prepares to attend a ball organized by the king. Therefore, based on the roles that these animals play in the story, it can be assumed that they represent a lower class. Since Charles Perrault wrote this version in 1697, the story may attempt to depict class relations during that period.