“The tale of Cinderella has inspired countless picture books, musicals, novels and dreams.”
-Heidi Anne Heiner, Cinderella Tales from Around the World
The story of Cinderella - a good hearted young woman who overcomes hard times with the help of magical friends and special clothes is an old and popular story. Cultures all over the world have their own version of it.
The oldest known Cinderella story is from China (618-907 AD). Its heroine Yeh-Shen is a good hearted girl with a beloved fish. Her mean stepmother will not let Yeh-Shen go to the local party where the young people of her land meet their wives and husbands. And to be extra mean she cooks Yeh-Shen’s fish. The sad girl gathers her fishes’ bones. She talks to them and they give her a beautiful dress and gold slippers so that she can go to the party. Yeh-Shen looses a slipper trying to escape from her stepmother who sees her at the party. The prince finds it and matches it to Yeh-Shen’s foot and they live happily ever after.
The Egyptian Cinderella – Rhodopis - was based on the true story of a Greek slave girl, name Rhodopis who married the Pharaoh (king) of Egypt. In the Egyptian version, the magical animal is an eagle who helps the Pharoah find Rhodopis. Instead of a cruel step family, Rhodopis is enslaved and owned by cruel masters. Yet like Yeh-Shen, she has slippers of gold, is kind-hearted and hard working.
In Soot-Face Girl, the Native American Ojibwa Cinderella, the heroine’s stepsisters were so mean that they burned her face and chopped off her hair. Soot-Face only wore rags, yet she is hard-working, kind and virtuous. The Prince in this version is an invisible warrior who drives a sled with a rainbow and has a bow made from the Milky Way.
Estrella de Oro (The Little Gold Star) is from the American southwest. This story also contains magic birds and mean stepsisters. But instead of a special slipper, it is a beautiful gold star on her forehead that helps the Prince find the heroine.
The version of Cinderella that you are going to see at Center Theatre Group’s Ahmanson Theatre -Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella- is based on the French story written by Charles Perrault in 1697. The Disney animated movie is also based on the Perrault story. All three of these Cinderella stories share elements found in the versions from around the world: a mean step-family, special shoes, magical helpers, a big party and a kind- hearted young woman.
Why do you think that people all over the world have a Cinderella story?
Why do you think this story keeps getting told over and over again?