Sunday, November 14, 2010


There are over 500 versions of Cinderella in Europe alone. Charles Perrault is the author of modern Cinderella in 1690s.

Once there was a widower who married a proud and haughty woman as his second wife. She had two daughters who were equally vain. By his first wife, he'd had a beautiful young daughter who was a girl of unparalleled goodness and sweet temper. The Stepmother and her daughters forced the first daughter to complete all the housework. When the girl had done her work, she sat in the cinders, which caused her to be called "Cinderella". The poor girl bore it patiently, but she dared not tell her father, who would have scolded her; his wife controlled him entirely.

One day the Prince invited all the young ladies in the land to a ball so he could choose a lovely wife. As the two Stepsisters were invited, they gleefully planned their wardrobes. Although Cinderella assisted them and dreamed of going to the dance, they taunted her by saying a maid could never attend a ball.

As the sisters swept away to the ball, Cinderella cried in despair. Her Fairy Godmother magically appeared and vowed to assist Cinderella in attending the ball. She turned a pumpkin into a coach, mice into horses, a rat into a coachman, and lizards into footmen. She then turned Cinderella's rags into a beautiful gown, complete with a delicate pair of glass slippers. The Godmother told her to enjoy the ball, but return before midnight for the spells would be broken.

At the ball, the entire court was entranced by Cinderella, especially the Prince, who never left her side. Unrecognized by her sisters, Cinderella remembered to leave before midnight. Back home, Cinderella graciously thanked her Godmother. She then greeted the Stepsisters who enthusiastically talked of nothing but the beautiful girl at the ball.

When another ball was held the next evening, Cinderella again attended with her Godmother's help. The Prince became even more entranced. However, this evening she lost track of time and left only at the final stroke of midnight, losing one of her glass slippers on the steps of the palace in her haste. The Prince chased her, but outside the palace, the guards had seen only a simple country wench leave. The Prince pocketed the slipper and vowed to find and marry the girl to whom it belonged. Meanwhile, Cinderella kept the other slipper, which had not disappeared when the spell had broken.

The Prince tried the slipper on all the women in the kingdom. When the Prince arrived at Cinderella's villa, the Stepsisters tried in vain. When Cinderella asked if she might try, the Stepsisters taunted her. Naturally, the slipper fitted perfectly, and Cinderella produced the other slipper for good measure. The Stepsisters begged for forgiveness, and Cinderella forgave them for their cruelties.

Cinderella returned to the palace where she married the Prince, and the Stepsisters also married two lords.

The moral of the story is that beauty is a treasure, but graciousness is priceless. Without it nothing is possible; with it, one can do anything

China has its own version of Cinderella and soem say the Chinese version might have been the source of the version we know today. The story was popularly known as Yeh Hsien and told in the 9th century, 800 years before European created Cinderella. If you read the story of Cinderella, the most significant part of the story is the “glass Slipper or golden shoes” in some stories, the evil step-mother, the ugly sisters, the ball or party, the king/prince and of course the magic.

Surprisingly, the story came from a native tribe in Nanning – The Zhuang tribes. According to the author who wrote the story during the Tang Dynasty, it was supposedly told by a servant. Cinderella - a servant's story, only one who has been will know what it is like to be a servant and the hardship of chores

A Zhuang trible woman - Cinderella would probably look like this

The first Cinderella story is about a young girl – Yeh Hsien being bullied by her step-mother and step-sisters, always giving her the worst household chores to do. One day they found out that yeh hsien has a “pet fish”, her only friend and enjoyment, and the step-mother stole the fish and cooked it and ate it.

Poor Yeh Hsien cried and she took the remains of the fish bones and kept it in a box and when night falls, the box will glow and has magical powers. What Yeh Hsien wants, it will grant her wishes. One night she wish she could attend the village festival party and her wishes were granted and she got a beautiful dress and a pair of golden cloth shoes. She attend the party, being worried that the step-mother and sisters could recognise her, she ran home but left one shoe at the party in a hurry to run home. A trader found the golden shoe and present it to a neighbouring village chief and the hunt for the owner of the shoe began. After a long search at last they found that Yeh Hsien foot fits the shoe and the village chief brought her home and married her.

Anyway, it is believed that the story must gave been told to travellers along the silk road and that’s how the Yeh Hsien’s story reached Europe. If you read about Chinese ancient history, you will realize that shoes can differentiate and signifies some royalty values. Foot binding – to have small feet signifies power and royalty. You can’t have small feet if you are a peasant girl because you need to work for a living. Therefore finding a small feet among the villager becomes something intriguing.

Foot-binding - a chinese customs - a painful and pitiful custom to prove that you are from a royal or wealthy family. To criple yourself so that you can't walk without assistance, a privilege only the royalty and the rich could afford.

Another fact that they found out is that the Zhuang tribes have annual “mating festivals” – a day when the women and men will sing their hearts out to woo one another finding their future mate.

The Chinese were the first to round the world, hundreds of years before Columbus did and now Cinderella was copied from China. I think there will be alot of fascinating discoveries as the search for more historical facts begins as China opens their country to the world.

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