Cinderella Comparison: Grimm version vs. Traditional French version
I feel that these two stories very nicely represent Allison Lurie’s views of fairy tales. I feel this way because Lurie stated that fairy tales are “stories of magic and transformation”. Such transformations are included in both versions, but in the French story in particular. For example, the magic of the fairy godmother is used in the story to transform a pumpkin into a coach, mice into men, rags into beautiful clothing, and a rat into a man with an elegant mustachio.
After demandingly reading each of the two versions of “Cinderella,” I feel that there are several differences between them. The first difference has to do with Cinderella’s fairy godmother. In the French version, Cinderella has a fairy godmother who looks after her throughout the story. In the Grimm version of this story, however, there is no fairy godmother. Second, in the French version Cinderella had to be home by midnight. I feel that the entire outcome of the story was based on this. If she had not been in a hurry to get home by midnight, she would not have left her slipper behind, and the story would not have ended the way it did.
Another major difference between the two versions has to do with the type of person Cinderella is. In the Grimm version Cinderella was strong and clever. She was aggressive. For example, she was smart enough to ask the birds for a dress to wear to the ball. Also, she displayed her aggressiveness when she raced home from the ball and quickly changed back into her rags so her sisters and stepmother would not know that she was the lovely princess. This was very clever. On the other hand, Cinderella in the French version was more passive and less aggressive. An example of this is evident is when the godmother appears. Cinderella is just given the fancy clothes and a fancy coach. Then at midnight the spell was broken and it was part of the change of clothes. This shows the difference between the passive Cinderella of the French story, and the aggressive Cinderella of the Grimm story.
The two versions are similar in many ways. Both stories have a great amount of magic represented in them. I feel that most of this magic was in the form of transformation. For example, the dead mother of Cinderella in the Grimm story was buried under a tree. Then when Cinderella needed some fancy clothes for the ball, it was the birds from that tree that gave her the dress. It can be inferred that the birds symbolize the dead mother trying to give to her daughter. It is magical that the birds understand what Cinderella says, and they give her what she wants. Another similarity is that both stories use a slipper left behind to force the prince to find Cinderella.
Another aspect of the two versions of this fairy tale discreetly deals with the introduction of violence into society. This point may not be obvious to the common reader, however the demanding reader will discover that there is a tremendous amount of implied gruesome violence. In the Grimm story the stepsisters each slice off a piece of their foot. This is representative of the much more pressing problem of violence in society. This scene is gruesome and chilling, and it can act as a prediction by the author of what violence could evolve into.
Two scholars have made some interesting points about the meaning of fairy tales in society. Bruno Bettelheim stated that the corruption of society is based upon the negative influences introduced into the society through such things as fairy tales. Similarly, Andrea Dworkin believes that fairy tales imprint images of good and evil on our mind when we are very young. These images make us who we are as adults and therefore help form our society.
Another interesting point in both versions of this story again deals with magic. However, this magic is related more to the personification of animals. There is another fine example of magic. This example, as said by Jack Zipes,
In addition to the obvious similarities and differences mentioned above, there were some subtle differences. The father, for example, was an interesting character in both stories. In the Grimm story he was a loving father, however he simply could not stand up to the overbearing power of his second wife. When the father went into the town, he brought back anything that his daughter and stepdaughters desired. This shows that he actually had a kind heart. In the other version the father seemed to simply fade into the background when his overpowering wife took over. This directly demonstrates an imbalance in the social conditions of the roles of the sexes. This is illustrative of Steven Swann Jones’ view of patriarchal family structure. As stated by Jones:
“They promote marriage and the patriarchal family structure as dominant cultural institutions. They depict and behavior patterns considered socially appropriate for each gender and for each age group.”
This means that the social aspect of life, based on fairy tales, is formulated around the idea of a male head of the household. The female should be weaker and always doing what she is told to do by the male; however, in both versions of “Cinderella” the father yielded to the power of the domineering wife. Had this story been constructed on the ideal social relationship within the household, the stepmother would not have been introduced as the problem of the story, as she represents evil.
It can be determined that Cinderella was lonely and sad. She was sad because she had no real mother, but also because she was treated like a slave. This is one of the ways that both versions illustrate the inhumanity with which Cinderella was treated. This is similar to the treatment received by the slaves throughout the history of the world.
These two stories represent many aspects of human beings and how the scholars linked fairy tales to sociology and psychology. From the social factors of the community to the deepest emotions of the inner soul, the ideas expressed in fairy tales guide people through their everyday lives. The French and Grimm versions of “Cinderella” followed many of these points. They were, however, similar and different from each other in many ways. When concluded, both versions of “Cinderella” pointed out the ongoing conflict between good and evil.