The Grimm Brothers' Cinderella: Summary & Characters

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  • 0:03 A Violent Fairy-Tale
  • 2:37 The Characters
  • 3:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Valerie Keenan

Valerie has taught elementary school and has her master's degree in education.

Learn about the Grimm brothers' version of the classic fairy tale 'Cinderella' in this lesson. It's a violent version of the struggle Cinderella faced getting away from the harsh life she lives with her father and stepfamily.

A Violent Fairy-Tale

Cinderella, written by the Grimm brothers in 1812, begins with the death of a young girl's mother. She tells her daughter to be good and pray faithfully before she passes away. The very next spring, the father remarries a very evil woman who has two daughters of her own. The three of them turn the young girl into a servant who must sleep on the floor in the cinders, and they give her the nickname Cinderella.

Despite being treated so poorly, Cinderella remains humble. One day, her father offers to bring something home from the fair for each of the girls. The stepsisters ask for beautiful dresses and fine jewels, but Cinderella simply asks her father to bring her the first branch that brushes against his hat. When he gives her this branch, she plants it by her mother's grave, and it grows into a beautiful tree. Any prayer made by Cinderella under this tree is granted to her by a little white bird who tosses down her wish from the branches.

Now much time has passed, and Cinderella has endured her sufferings for many years. When the king announces that there is to be a three-day festival for the prince to choose his bride, Cinderella wants desperately to attend. Her stepmother, however, makes it seemingly impossible by dumping lentils, a very small bean-like food, into the ashes and forcing Cinderella to pick them all up.

Determined, Cinderella gets help from white doves, turtledoves, and all the birds in the sky. In no time at all, the lentils are picked up and put away. Next, Cinderella goes to the magic tree that has helped her often, and it tosses down a dress and slippers of gold, silk, and silver. She's so beautiful at the ball that nobody recognizes her, and the prince falls madly in love.

At the end of the three-day festival, though Cinderella tries to sneak away each night, the prince is able to get one of her golden slippers. He knows that the woman who can fit into the shoe is the one he loves. One stepsister cuts off her toe to make the shoe fit and trick the prince, and the other cuts off her heel, but the birds once again help Cinderella by revealing the blood that is pouring out of the slipper in each case.

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