What is it about the fairy tale Cinderella that is so appealing that there are versions in numerous cultures, and children beg their parents to read or tell the story "just one more time"? Depending on where and when you were brought up, your idea of Cinderella may be the Disney movie, the fairy tale in Grimm's Fairy Tales, the classic fairy tale by Charles Perrault, upon which the Disney movie is based, or one of the other versions of Cinderella. To further confuse matters, calling a story a Cinderella story does not mean that the heroine is named Cinderella. While the names Ashpet, Tattercoats, and Catskins may be somewhat familiar to you, there seem to be as many different names for the main protagonist as there are different versions of the story.
Elements of a Cinderella StoryWhat exactly makes a story a Cinderella story? While there seem to be several interpretations of this, there also seems to be general agreement that you will usually find certain elements in a Cinderella story. The main character is generally, but not always, a girl who is badly treated by her family. Cinderella is a good and kind person. Her goodness is rewarded with magical assistance. She is recognized for her worth by something she has left behind (for example, a golden slipper). She is elevated in position by a royal person, who loves her for her good qualities.
Story VariationsI was surprised to find that as early as the late nineteenth century, variations of the story were being collected for publication. In 1891 The Folk-Lore Society in London published Marian Roalfe Cox's Cinderella: Three Hundred and Forty-Five Variants of Cinderella, Catskin, and Cap 0' Rushes, Abstracted and Tabulated, with a Discussion of Medieval Analogues and Notes. Professor Russell Peck's online Cinderella Bibliography will give you an idea of just how very many versions there are. The bibliography, which includes summaries for many of the stories, includes basic European texts, modern children's editions and adaptations, including versions of the Cinderella story from around the world, as well as a great deal of other information.
The Cinderella ProjectIf you'd like to compare some versions yourself, visit The Cinderella Project. It is a text and image archive, which contains a dozen English versions of Cinderella. According to the site's introduction, "The Cinderellas presented here represent some of the more common varieties of the tale from the English-speaking world in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries. Materials to construct this archive were drawn from the de Grummond Children's Literature Research Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi."
Another resource from the de Grummond Children's Literature Research Collection is the table of Cinderella: Variations & Multicultural Versions, which includes information about a great many versions from a variety of countries.
More Cinderella ResourcesCinderella Stories, from The Children's Literature Web Guide, provides an excellent list of reference books, articles, picture books, and online resources. One of the most comprehensive children's books I've found is Judy Sierra's Cinderella (), which is part of The Oryx Multicultural Folktale Series. The books contains one- to nine-page versions of 25 Cinderella stories from different countries. The stories are good for reading aloud; there are no illustrations of the action, so your children will have to use their imaginations. The stories also work well in the classroom, and the author has included several pages of activities for children nine to fourteen years old. There is also a glossary and a bibliography as well as background information.
Grimm's Fairy Tales and Other Versions is an article I wrote about the brothers Grimm and their fairy tale collection, with an emphasis on some other Cinderella versions and resources.
The Cinderella page on the Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts site contains the texts of folktales and related stories from a variety of different countries about persecuted heroines.
"Cinderella or The Little Glass Slipper" is an online version of the classic tale by Charles Perrault, from The Blue Fairy Book.