Could you collect ten bottles of bird tears? From slippers to diamond anklets to shawls, from talking turkeys to talking fish to a pari… these women from around the world share similar stories. Same difference? Not always. I thought I’d share with you some ‘Cinderella’ narratives and highlight a few of the distinctions in each of the texts. Please note: this is not an exhaustive list.
The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo (Author) and Ruth Heller (Illustrator)
Book Description: Poor Rhodopis! She has nothing – no mother or father, and no friends. She is a slave, from the far-off country of Greece. Only the beautiful rose-red slippers her master gives her can make Rhodopis smile. So when a falcon swoops down and snatches one of the slippers away, Rhodopis is heartbroken. For how is she to know that the slipper will land in the lap of the great Pharaoh himself? And who would ever guess that the Pharaoh has promised to find the slipper’s owner and make her queen of all Egypt?
Additional Thoughts: I appreciate that what sets Rhodopis apart as ‘ugly’ and ‘unworthy’ in the minds of her competitors is what the Pharaoh declares as worthy-making.“She is not even Egyptian.” “She is the most Egyptian of all,” the Pharaoh declared. “For her eyes are as green as the Nile, her hair as feathery as papyrus, and her skin the pink of a lotus flower.”
Book Description: In an Algonquin village by the shores of Lake Ontario, many young women have tried to win the affections of the powerful Invisible Being who lives with his sister in a great wigwam near the forest. Then came the Rough-Face girl, scarred from working by the fire. Can she succeed where her beautiful, cruel sisters have failed?
Additional Thoughts: Absolutely lovely! (Sadly, that is my only comment on this version… I didn’t make extensive notes at the time because I thought the value and uniqueness of this version warranted purchasing the book… which I have yet to do).
Book Description: To a young girl who tends turkeys for a living, an opportunity to go to The Dance of the Scared Bird seems but a distant dream.
In this sobering Native American variation of the Cinderella story, the focus is not on finding true love but on remaining true to one’s promises. To repay the kindness of the poor orphan girl who tends them, the tribe’s turkeys dress her in a fine doeskin robe so she can attend the Dance of the Sacred Bird. So enthralled is she with the dancing that she breaks her promise to return to the turkeys before dawn and consequently loses her friends forever.
Additional Thoughts: A not-so-happy-ending; “the hard truth that when we break our trust with Mother Earth, we pay a price.”
Book Description: An Iraqi version of the Cinderella story. Known in Arabic as “The Red Fish and the Clog of Gold,” this is the story of Maha, a fisherman’s daughter, and her
tribulations with her step-mother and step-sister. Maha finds a small red fish in a basket one day. Releasing it back into the water, she is told that no kindness goes unrewarded. The fish becomes her source of help whenever life becomes too difficult.
Additional Thoughts: This Cinderella story stands apart from others in that Maha begs her father to remarry. It also uses the “fish that grants wishes” motif.
Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China by Ai-Ling Louie (Author) and Ed Young (Illustrator)
Additional Details: Dates to the T’ang Dynasty (618-907 AD), one thousand years before the earliest recorded European Cinderella story (1634). The fish plays a large role in this version as well.
Book Description: Blessed Mary rewards Teresa’s good deeds with a shining gold star. Later she punishes Teresa’s unkind step-sisters, Isabel and Inez, with hideous horns and donkey’s ears that they try to hide under heavy veils! But will Teresa outshine her step-sisters at the festival?
Additional Details: Teresa’s father gives her a lamb. Her step-mother slaughters it and sends Teresa to wash the fleece in the river where a fish takes the fleece from Teresa. The Virgin Mary appears and tells Teresa to go to a cottage and to care for the man and baby she will find there. Teresa does so with kindness and Mary blesses her with a gold star on her forehead. Mary also returns the pure white fleece to Teresa. Back at home, when the step-mother touches the fleece, it turns muddy. The step-sisters must go and wash the fleece but the same thing happens to them as it did with Teresa. However, the step-sisters are unkind to the man (Joseph) and the baby (Jesus). One is given horns and the other donkey ears. At a celebration, Miguel falls in love with Teresa and searches after her. The household cat speaks and tells Miguel that Teresa is in the house. Teresa agrees to marry him if her step-mother permits. The step-mother withholds permission until Teresa 1) collects 10 bottles of bird tears 2) fills 12 mattresses with bird feathers and 3) makes a feast. Teresa is helped by heaven’s bird to accomplish these impossible tasks. The step-mother sees that Teresa is blessed and grants permission for Teresa to marry Miguel. Gradually, the step-mother and step-sisters become nicer and everyone lives happily ever after.
Additional Thoughts: In this story, the step-mother gives Pear Blossom impossible tasks to accomplish. Pear Blossom receives help from a frog, sparrows, and a black bull (togkabis). The step-mother often states: “You’ll get what you deserve!” to Pear Blossom. These words prove true. What Pear Blossom deserves, however, is far different than what her step-mother intends. It is also significant to note that the magistrate falls in love with Pear Blossom without there being any disguise or fancy dress. It is her plain old shoe that he finds.
Book Description: A long time ago there lived a beautiful young woman named Adelita. So begins the age-old tale of a kind-hearted young woman, her jealous step-mother, two hateful step-sisters, and a young man in search of a wife. The young man, Javier, falls madly in love with beautiful Adelita, but she disappears from his fiesta at midnight, leaving him with only one clue to her hidden identity–a beautiful rebozo.
Additional Thoughts: In this story, it is a shawl rather than a slipper that marks Adelita as Cinderella. Here, the Cinderella fairytale is known within the text.
Book Description: For hours beneath the velvet sky they dance without a care, until the clock chimes midnight… then she’s no longer there! Just a single lily petal and her fragrance in the air.
One magic night, a poor cinder girl is granted an impossible wish. It may be the most familiar of tales, but under the inimitable wand of David Ellwand, this timeless story blooms as never before. Here, the innocent heroine is a delicate flower, a lily whose faded petals spring to new life as she arrives at the Sultan’s ball in a butterfly-drawn coach. When the smitten Prince sets out in search of the shy, retiring flower who has vanished into thin air, leaving but a petal behind, it’s clear that Cinderlily’s comically garish, pansy-faced stepsisters won’t stand a chance.
Book Description: Magic enables Settareh to outsmart two jealous step-sisters and win the heart of a prince. But where most Cinderella stories end, poor Sattareh’s troubles are
Additional Details: With a mother who died in childbirth and a father who’s mostly absent Settareh lives with a step-mother, two step-sisters and a large extended family. But she is lonely. Jealous of her beauty, the women in the house ignore or mistreat Settareh. When her father gives each woman a gold coin to spend on a new dress for No Ruz, the New Year to be held at the palace, Settareh gives most of her money to a poor old woman and then uses the rest to by a cracked jar. She decides not to go to the celebration. However, Settareh discovers there is a pari in her cracked jar. The fairy will grant whatever she wishes. Disguised in a beautiful new dress and diamond anklets, Settareh goes to No Ruz after all. There she captures the attention of the Prince. Fleeing the celebration in order to arrive home before her step-mother, Settareh loses one of her diamond anklets. The Prince determines to marry whoever will fit the anklet. Once Settareh is found, a wedding is planned. In the meantime, however, Settareh, unwisely tells her step-sister about the pari. On her wedding day, the step-sisters steal the cracked jar and wish for Settareh to be gone forever. The jar bursts and leaves behind 6 hairpins which the step-sisters jab into Sattareh’s hair while dressing her for the wedding. Settareh turns into a turtledove and flies away. Stricken by grief over the loss of Settareh, the Prince remains in his room and is comforted by a turtle dove. After some time, hairpins are discovered in the turtle dove and removed, thus restoring Settareh to her true self. Settareh and the Prince are married and live happily ever after. The step-sisters, however, are so filled with rage that their hearts burst.
With that I conclude.
Do you have any Cinderella stories to add or recommend? I know there are more out there!