Thursday, January 10, 2013

Cinderella Type: ATU 510A Cinderella

Today's Cinderella type is ATU 510A. This is the one everyone thinks they know so well. And they do, but only one version. There are over 190 of them in Cinderella Tales From Around the World. The table of contents lists 190, by the way, but there are several more described in the notes to these tales, so the number is higher in the book.

Just to refresh our memory:

ATU 510A Cinderella

Inarguably, the most familiar Cinderella tale is the one published by Charles Perrault in his Histoires ou contes du temps passé in 1697. When most people think of Cinderella, a version of Perrault’s tale is the one they imagine.

A young woman is mistreated by her stepmother and stepsisters, forced to work as their servant, and usually called by a name associated with ashes or dirty labor. When the stepsisters and the stepmother are invited to a ball (or leave to attend church), they assign an impossible task to Cinderella to prevent her attendance. Usually animals complete the task for her while she receives beautiful clothes from a fairy godmother or other magical helper. She attends the ball (or church) incognito where the prince falls in love with her. She must leave early before her magical accoutrements disappear or her identity is discovered. The same occurs a second and third time with Cinderella losing a shoe as she runs away the third night. The prince acquires the shoe and declares he will wed the woman it fits. Everyone unsuccessfully tries the shoe, including the stepsisters who mangle their feet trying to make it fit, until Cinderella is finally discovered and compelled to try on the shoe. When it fits, she and the prince are married.

I'm going to devote a post to Perrault soon, but I didn't comprehend the true power of his version until I worked on this collection. Cinderellas came before his and many Cinderellas came after. His work influenced so many that came after. And it has dominated the popular view of Cinderella for centuries, pretty much since it appeared. Most of Perrault's versions of tales did this, but still not to the same level as Cinderella. Often the Grimms' version, such as of Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty, is well known and recognizable. But if you describe the Grimms' Aschenputtle (their Cinderella 510A) or really almost any other version obviously not directly influenced by Perrault to people not overly familiar with fairy tales, they will be surprised. Where's the glass slipper? The pumpkin carriage? The fairy godmother?!?!

That said, Perrault's version of the magical elements is fairly uncommon. Most of the 510A tales involve several trips to Sunday church, instead of balls. Her dresses and carriages come from various sources, rarely a "sparkly" fairy godmother. There is usually no time stipulation although she leaves early so as to beat her family home, wisdom on her part.

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