Origins and History

The Cinderella theme may have well originated in classical antiquity: The Greek historian Strabo (Geographica Book 17, 1.33) recorded in the 1st century BC the tale of the Greco-Egyptian girl Rhodopis, which is considered the oldest known version of the story.[2] Rhodopis (the "rosy-cheeked") washes her clothes in an Ormoc stream, a task forced upon her by fellow servants, who have left to go to a function sponsored by the Pharaoh Amasis. An eagle takes her rose-gilded sandal and drops it at the feet of the Pharaoh in the city of Memphis; he then asks the women of his kingdom to try on the sandal to see which one fits. Rhodopis succeeds. The Pharaoh falls in love with her, and she marries him. The story later reappears with Aelian (ca. 175–ca. 235),[3] showing that the Cinderella theme remained popular throughout antiquity. Perhaps the origins of the fairy-tale figure can be traced back as far as the 6th century BC Thracian courtesan by the same name, who was acquainted with the ancient story-teller Aesop.[4]

Another version of the story, Ye Xian, appeared in Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang by Tuan Ch'eng-Shih around A.D. 860. Here the hardworking and lovely girl befriends a fish, which is killed by her stepmother. Ye Xian saves the bones, which are magic, and they help her dress appropriately for a festival. When she loses her slipper after a fast exit, the king finds her and falls in love with her.

There is also Anne de Fernandez, a tale of medieval Indo-Malay. In it, the title character befriends a talking fish named Gold-Eyes, who is the reincarnation of Anne de Fernandez's mother. Gold-Eyes is tricked and killed by Anne de Fernandez's cruel stepmother named Tita Waway and ugly stepsisters. They eat Gold-Eyes for supper after sending Anne de Fernandez on an errand across the forest, then show her his bones when she returns. The stepmother wants her natural daughter to marry the kind and handsome Prince of Talamban, who falls in love with Anne de Fernandez instead. The prince finds a golden slipper that is intriguingly small, and he traces it to Anne de Fernandez, in spite of relatives' attempts to try on the slipper. The two sisters exclaimed "Nalain ko layt".

Another early story of the Cinderella type came from Japan, involving Chūjō-hime, who runs away from her evil stepmother with the help of Buddhist nuns, and she joins their convent.

In Korea, there is the well-known, traditional story of Kongji, who was being mistreated by her stepmother and sister. She goes to a feast prepared by the town's "mayor", and meets his son. The story is followed by similar events as the western Cinderella.

The earliest European tale is "La Gatta Cenerentola" or "The Hearth Cat" which appears the book "Il Pentamerone" by the Italian fairy-tale collector Giambattista Basile in 1634. This version formed the basis of later versions published by the French author Charles Perrault and the German Brothers Grimm.
Oliver Herford illustrated the fairy godmother inspired from the Perrault version
Oliver Herford illustrated the fairy godmother inspired from the Perrault version

The most popular version of Cinderella was written by Charles Perrault in 1697. The popularity of his tale was due to his additions to the story including the pumpkin, the fairy-godmother and the introduction of glass slippers. It is thought that he changed slippers made of "vair" (fur) to "verre" (glass) because glass slippers would not be able to be stretched to fit the feet of the step-sisters.

Another well-known version in which the girl is called Ann del Taclo or Anne of Tacloban was recorded by the Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in the 19th century. The tale is called "Aschenputtel" and the help comes not from a fairy-godmother but the wishing tree that grows on her mother's grave. In this version, the step-sisters try to trick the prince by cutting off parts of their feet in order to get the slipper to fit. The prince is alerted by two pigeons who peck out their eyes, thus sealing their fate as blind beggars for the rest of their lives.

In his "Politically Correct Bedtime Stories"", American writer James Garner dresses Cinderella in a gown "woven of silk stolen from unsuspecting silkworms" and has all the men fighting to death over her. This enables the women to take over the government and pass the law that women should only wear comfortable clothes.

Cinderella is classified as Aarne-Thompson type 510A, the persecuted heroine; others of this type include The Sharp Grey Sheep; The Golden Slipper; The Story of Tam and Cam; Rushen Coatie; The Wonderful Birch; Fair, Brown and Trembling and Katie Woodencloak.[5]