Four and Twenty Fairy Tales: Selected from Those of Perrault, and Other Popular Writers | Annotated Tale

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Cinderella; or, The Little Glass Slipper

ONCE on a time there was a gentleman who took for a second wife the haughtiest and proudest woman that had ever been seen. She had two daughters of the same temper, and who resembled her in everything. The husband, on his side, had a daughter, but whose gentleness and goodness were without parallel. She inherited them from her mother, who was the best creature in the world. The wedding was hardly over before the stepmother's ill-humour broke out. She could not abide the young girl, whose good qualities made her own daughters appear more detestable. She employed her in all the meanest work of the house. It was she who cleaned the plate, and the stairs, who scrubbed Madame's chamber, and those of Mesdemoiselles, her daughters. She slept at the top of the house, in a loft, on a wretched straw mattress, while her sisters occupied rooms, beautifully floored, in which were the most fashionable beds, and mirrors wherein they could see themselves from head to foot. The poor girl bore everything with patience, and did not dare complain to her father, who would only have scolded her, as his wife governed him entirely. When she had done her work, she went and placed herself in the chimney-corner, and sat down amongst the cinders, which caused her to be called by the household in general Cindertail. The second daughter, however, who was not so rude as her elder sister, called her Cinderella. Notwithstanding, Cinderella, in her shabby clothes, looked a thousand times handsomer than her sisters, however magnificently attired.

                It happened that the King's son gave a ball, and invited to it all persons of quality. Our two young ladies were included in the invitation, for they cut a great figure in the neighbourhood. Behold them in great delight, and very busy choosing the most becoming gowns and head-dresses. A new mortification for Cinderella, for it was she who ironed her sisters' linen, and set their ruffles. Nothing was talked of but the style in which they were to be dressed. "I," said the eldest, "will wear my red velvet dress and my English point-lace trimmings." "I," said the youngest, "shall only wear my usual petticoat; but to make up for that, I shall put on my gold-flowered mantua, and my necklace of diamonds, which are none of the poorest." They sent for a good milliner to make up their double-frilled caps, and bought their patches of the best maker. They called Cinderella to give them her opinion, for she had excellent taste. Cinderella gave them the best advice in the world, and even offered to dress their heads for them, which they were very willing she should do; and whilst she was about it, they said to her, "Cinderella, shouldst thou like to go to the ball?" "Alas! Mesdemoiselles, you make game of me; that would not befit me at all." "Thou art right, they would laugh immensely to see a Cindertail at a ball!" Any other but Cinderella would have dressed their heads awry, but she was good natured, and dressed them to perfection. They could eat nothing for nearly two days, so transported were they with joy. More than a dozen laces were broken in making their waists as small as possible, and they were always before their looking-glasses. At last the happy day arrived. They set off, and Cinderella followed them with her eyes as long as she could. When they were out of sight, she began to cry. Her godmother, who saw her all in tears, inquired what ailed her. "I should so like--I should so like--" she sobbed so much that she could not finish the sentence. "Thou wouldst so like to go to the ball--Is not that it?" "Alas! yes," said Cinderella, sighing. "Well, if thou wilt be a good girl, I will take care thou shalt go." She led her into her chamber, and said to her, "Go into the garden and bring me a pumpkin." Cinderella went immediately, gathered the finest she could find, and brought it to her godmother, unable to guess how the pumpkin could enable her to go to the ball. Her godmother scooped it out; and, having left nothing but the rind, struck it with her wand, and the pumpkin was immediately changed into a beautiful coach gilt all over. She then went and looked into the mouse-trap, where she found six mice, all alive. She told Cinderella to lift the door of the mouse-trap a little, and to each mouse, as it ran out, she gave a tap with her wand, and the mouse was immediately changed into a fine horse, thereby producing a handsome team of six horses, of a beautiful dappled mouse-grey colour. As she was in some difficulty as to what she should make a coachman of, Cinderella said, "I will go and see if there be not a rat in the rat-trap; we will make a coachman of him." "Thou art right," said her godmother. "Go and see." Cinderella brought her the rat-trap, in which there were three great rats. The Fairy selected one from the three, on account of its ample beard, and having touched it, it was changed into a fat coachman, who had the finest moustaches that ever were seen. She then said, "Go into the garden, thou wilt find there, behind the watering-pot, six lizards, bring them to me." She had no sooner brought them than the godmother transformed them into six footmen, who immediately jumped up behind the coach, with their liveries all covered with lace, and hung on to it as if they had done nothing else all their lives. The Fairy then said to Cinderella, "Well, there is something to go to the ball in. Art thou not well pleased?" "Yes; but am I to go in these dirty clothes?" Her godmother only touched her with her wand, and in the same instant her dress was changed to cloth of gold and silver, covered with jewels. She then gave her a pair of glass slippers, the prettiest in the world. When she was thus attired, she got into the coach; but her godmother advised her, above all things, not to stay out past midnight--warning her, that if she remained at the ball one minute longer, her coach would again become a pumpkin; her horses, mice; her footmen, lizards; and her clothes resume their old appearance. She promised her godmother she would not fail to leave the ball before midnight, and departed, out of her senses with joy.

                The King's son, who was informed that a grand Princess had arrived whom nobody knew, ran to receive her. He handed her out of the coach and led her into the hall, where the company was assembled. There was immediately a dead silence; they stopped dancing, and the fiddlers ceased to play, so engrossed was every one in the contemplation of the great attractions of the unknown lady. Nothing was heard but a low murmur of "Oh! how lovely she is!" The King himself, old as he was, could not take his eyes from her, and observed to the Queen, that it was a long time since he had seen so beautiful and so amiable a person. All the ladies were intently occupied in examining her head-dress and her clothes, that they might have some like them the very next day, provided they could find materials as beautiful, and workpeople sufficiently clever to make them up.

                The King's son conducted her to the most honourable seat, and then led her out to dance. She danced with so much grace that their admiration of her was increased. A very grand supper was served, of which the Prince ate not a morsel, so absorbed was he in contemplation of her. She seated herself beside her sisters, and showed them a thousand civilities. She shared with them the oranges and citrons which the Prince had given to her; at which they were much surprised, for she appeared a perfect stranger to them. Whilst they were in conversation together, Cinderella heard the clock strike three-quarters past eleven. She immediately made a profound curtsey to the company, and departed as quickly as she could. As soon as she had reached home, she went to find her godmother; and after having thanked her, said she much wished to go to the ball again the next day, because the King's son had invited her. While she was occupied in telling her godmother all that had passed at the ball, the two sisters knocked at the door. Cinderella went and opened it--"How late you are!" said she to them, yawning, rubbing her eyes, and stretching herself as if she had but just awoke. She had not, however, been inclined to sleep since she had left them. "Hadst thou been at the ball," said one of her sisters to her, "thou wouldst not have been weary of it. There came to it the most beautiful Princess--the most beautiful that ever was seen. She paid us a thousand attentions. She gave us oranges and citrons." Cinderella was beside herself with delight. She asked them the name of the Princess; but they replied that nobody knew her; that the King's son was much puzzled about it, and that he would give everything in the world to know who she was. Cinderella smiled and said, "She was very handsome, then? Heavens! how fortunate you are!--Could not I get a sight of her? Alas! Mademoiselle Javotte, lend me the yellow gown you wear every day?" "Truly," said Mademoiselle Javotte, "I like that! Lend one's gown to a dirty Cindertail like you!--I must be very mad indeed!" Cinderella fully expected this refusal, and was delighted at it, for she would have been greatly embarrassed if her sister had lent her her gown.

                The next day the two sisters went to the ball, and Cinderella also, but still more splendidly dressed than before. The King's son never left her side, or ceased saying tender things to her. The young lady was much amused, and forgot what her godmother had advised her, so that she heard the clock begin to strike twelve when she did not even think it was eleven. She rose and fled as lightly as a fawn. The Prince followed her, but could not overtake her. She dropped one of her glass slippers, which the Prince carefully picked up. Cinderella reached home almost breathless, without coach or footmen, and in her shabby clothes, nothing having remained of all her finery, except one of her little slippers, the fellow of that she had let fall. The guards at the palace gate were asked if they had not seen a Princess go out; they answered that they had seen no one pass but a poorly-dressed girl, who had more the air of a peasant than of a lady. When the two sisters returned from the ball, Cinderella asked them if they had been as much entertained as before, and if the beautiful lady had been present. They said yes, but that she had fled as soon as it had struck twelve, and so precipitately that she had let fall one of her little glass slippers, the prettiest in the world; that the King's son had picked it up; that he had done nothing but gaze upon it during the remainder of the evening; and that, undoubtedly, he was very much in love with the beautiful person to whom the little slipper belonged. They spoke the truth; for a few days afterwards the King's son caused it to be proclaimed by sound of trumpet that he would marry her whose foot would exactly match with the slipper. They began by trying it on the Princesses, then on the Duchesses, and so on throughout all the Court; but in vain. It was taken to the two sisters, who did their utmost to force one of their feet into the slipper, but they could not manage to do so. Cinderella, who witnessed their efforts and recognised the slipper, said, laughingly, "Let me see if it will not fit me." Her sisters began to laugh and ridicule her. The gentleman who had been entrusted to try the slipper, having attentively looked at Cinderella and found her to be very handsome, said that it was a very proper request, and that he had been ordered to try the slipper on all girls without exception. He made Cinderella sit down, and putting the slipper to her little foot, he saw it go on easily and fit like wax. Great was the astonishment of the two sisters, but it was still greater when Cinderella took the other little slipper out of her pocket and put it on her other foot. At that moment the godmother arrived, who having given a tap with her wand to Cinderella's clothes, they became still more magnificent than all the others she had appeared in. The two sisters then recognised in her the beautiful person they had seen at the ball. They threw themselves at her feet to crave her forgiveness for all the ill-treatment she had suffered from them. Cinderella raised and embracing them, said that she forgave them with all her heart, and begged them to love her dearly for the future. They conducted her to the young Prince, dressed just as she was. He found her handsomer than ever, and a few days afterwards he married her. Cinderella, who was as kind as she was beautiful, gave her sisters apartments in the palace, and married them the very same day to two great lords of the court.

Beauty in woman is a treasure rare     
Which we are never weary of admiring;     
But a sweet temper is a gift more fair     
And better worth the youthful maid's desiring.     
That was the boon bestowed on Cinderella     
By her wise Godmother--her truest glory.     
The rest was "nought but leather and prunella."     
Such is the moral of this little story--     
Beauties, that charm becomes you more than dress,     
And wins a heart with far greater facility.     
In short, in all things to ensure success,     
The real Fairy gift is Amiability!


Talent, courage, wit, and worth     
Are rare gifts to own on earth.     
But if you want to thrive at court--     
So, at least, the wise report--     
You will find you need some others,    
Such as god-fathers or mothers.


CENDRILLON; ou, la Petite Pantoufle de Verre. Here, again, could it enter the heart of an Englishman to call this anything but Cinderella? I am proud to say I was not equal to such a sacrifice to principle. I should have been afraid to meet the eyes of my grandchildren. There are persons, however, who have been cruel enough to tamper with the second title, to destroy "the little glass slipper," and tell us that in the original story it was not a pantoufle "de verre," but "de vair"--i.e., a fur much worn in the middle ages, and from which the charge of vair in heraldry was taken. I thank the stars that I have not been able to discover any foundation for this alarming report. Even should it be unfortunately the fact, it would not affect the Conte de ma Mère l'Oye, as handed down to us by Perrault. In that, it is an undeniable "pantoufle de verre," and has been said to represent allegorically the extreme fragility of woman's reputation, and the prudence of flight before it is too late. There appears to be no doubt that this story is founded on an old Armorican tradition, as in 1826 an alteration of an ancient Breton chronicle was published by Madame Piette, entitled Laurette de Karnabas; ou, la Nouvelle Cendrillon, which is taken from the same source, but divested of its fairy agency; and the Countess d'Aulnoy had previously availed herself of some portions of the tale of Cendrillon in her story of Finette Cendron.

                The trial of the slipper is like that of the ring in the story of Peau d'Ane, and a "little glass shoe" is the subject of a German fairy tale. The Germans have also a version of Cinderella, in which the slipper is of "pure gold."

                At the banquet it will be remembered that the Prince is said to have given Cinderella both oranges and citrons. These do not appear to us at present as particularly suggestive of the magnificence of a royal collation; but in the seventeenth century, Portugal oranges were considered a present worthy princes of the blood. "Monsieur, me vint voir," says the Duchesse de Montpensier, in her Memoirs, "il me donne des oranges de Portugal." Molière, in his description of the comedy which formed a portion of the famous fêtes given at Versailles, in 1668, by Louis XIV., tells us that "d'abord on vit sur le théâtre une colation magnifique d'oranges de Portugal;" and in his own comedy, L'Avare, when Harpagon apologises to his mistress for not having prepared a collation for her, his son replies, "J'y ai pourvu, mon père, et j'ai fait apporter ici quelques bassins d'oranges de la Chine, de citrons doux, et de confitures." Also, according to L'Emery (Traités des Aliments, 1705), the citron was supposed to give a better colour to the lips, and the ladies of the Court in the 17th century, therefore, "portoient en main des citrons doux, quelles mordoient de tems en tems pour avoir les livres vermeilles."--Le Grand D'Aussi.--Vie Privée des Français, tom. i. p. 251.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Cinderella; or, The Little Glass Slipper
Tale Author/Editor: Perrault, Charles
Book Title: Four and Twenty Fairy Tales: Selected from Those of Perrault, and Other Popular Writers
Book Author/Editor: Planché, J. R.
Publisher: G. Routledge & Co.
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1858
Country of Origin: France
Classification: ATU 510A: Cinderella

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