Perrault’s Cendrillon

About an excerpt of Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon, illustrated here by Gustave Doré?

Gustave Dore Cinderella

Gustave Dore Cinderella

You know the story, of course. Cendrillon, morally abandoned by her father and treated as a servant by her stepmother, is crying her eyes out at home. Her stepsisters, in their best finery, are gone to the Prince’s ball. But Cendrillon’s godmother appears and tells our heroine:

“Go to the garden, and bring me a pumpkin.”

Cendrillon hurried to pick the finest she could find, and brought it to her godmother, while wondering how that pumpkin could make her go to the ball. Her godmother hollowed it and, once nothing but the rind was left, hit it with her wand, and the pumpkin was forthwith changed into a beautiful carriage, all golden.

The name “Cinderella”, used in English translations, is not evocative enough. The connotation here is not cinders, but “cendres”, ashes, a symbol of grieving and penitence.

Bruno Bettelheim saw in this near universal tale a story of sibling rivalry, but I believe it goes far deeper. It deals with the mother-daughter relationship, the mother figure being twofold: the good mother (godmother) and the wicked, abusive, jealous mother (stepmother). Also the power of mourning as a preliminary to spiritual rebirth. And how easy it is to pass up beauty, even in plain view.

For the original text of Perrault’s version in all of its late 17th century glory, see here. I am not so fond of the Grimm brothers blood-and-gore version, but it is all a matter of taste.


19 Comments to “Perrault’s Cendrillon”

  1. ah! My absolute favorite version of the tale! Now I must go search out my collection and read it again…for the bazillionth time.

    Thank you for the reminder!

  2. I think a post on Perrault’s fairy tales would be awesome. I was amazed when I read the actual version of Sleeping Beauty, compared to what we think we know of the story thanks to Disney or the ballet.

  3. Catherine Delors says:

    Tristan – I agree, the charm of those tales never wears off. I enjoy them as much as when I first met them as a very little girl.

    Elizabeth – It’s a deal then! A full series of Perrault’s fairytales. Not that I needed much prompting, mind you.
    Indeed Disney, while making these stories more popular with American audiences, has stripped them of some of their charm and meaning, and imposed on us visuals that are, in my opinion, much less attractive than the traditional images, like the wonderful ones by Gustave Dore.

  4. Felio Vasa says:

    Great post Catherine! Yes, please do posts on Perrault’s versions on these fairytales which would be fabulous.

  5. Penny says:

    thank you. and yes, please add more. and don’t forget the art from Tours. Was the Cinderella story originally French? I never knew it was in French language form. I just remember the story and that it was also a musical here in America and a Walt Disney film. hmm, is Snow White also from Europe? this is all news to me and fascinating.

  6. Catherine Delors says:

    Oh, this tale is common to many cultures, and of immemorial date. Some early versions are reported in Ancient Greece. But to my knowledge the first modern retelling of Cendrillon/Cinderella was the one by Perrault in 1697.
    For Snow White, the first modern version, also to my knowledge, was that of the Grimm brothers in 1810. A French version of Snow White must have existed as a foik tale, but for some reason Perrault may not have liked it. I don’t blame him: I find the heroine too passive. Donkeyskin, however, is one strong young lady. More on her later…
    I am no fairytale expert, only an afficionada since long before I could read…

  7. Catherine Delors says:

    Sure, Felio! It will be a real pleasure. And I forgot to tell Penny that I will indeed post pictures on the Tours exhibition. I guess it was just too rich to allow for an easy summation.

  8. Scheharazade says:

    This serie of postes will be a really good idea !^^

  9. There actually was a pumpkin shortage in the States this year.

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/oct/12/great-pumpkin-crop-is-elusive/

    Maybe something similar happened in France, or France didn’t receive as many imports as in the past.

    It’s hard to find canned pumpkin for pies and cakes.

  10. Catherine Delors says:

    Ah, Julianne, a pumpkin shortage! What next?

  11. Enchanting post, Catherine! Yes, I think a series on Perrault’s fairy tales would be excellent! I am so glad you pointed out the connection between cinders and mourning/penitence.

  12. Catherine Delors says:

    Thank you, Elena! I will look for a good English translation to link to, so that readers unfamiliar with the tale, beyond the Disney version, can appreciate its significance.

  13. Seeing the word “Cendrillon” puts me in mind of Massenet’s operatic version. I wore out my LP version of the CBS recording, with Frederica von Stade in the title role. I bought up the CD set when it came out. “Resigne-toi, Cendrille”! Of course, the fairy tale ends with “Vous etes mon Prince charmante.” It is a beautiful telling of the story.

  14. Le Loup says:

    Great image & information. Thanks for posting this.
    Regards, Le Loup.
    http://woodsrunnersdiary.blogspot.com

  15. Catherine Delors says:

    And thanks for visiting, Le Loup! Very helpful information on your blog, which I will add to my blogroll.

  16. lunettes loupe says:

    Connaissez-vous un site qui se focalie uniquement sur ce thème? Merci pour le post!

  17. Interesting, thank you so much! I spent my childhood in Yorkshire in the UK, and I’ve been trying to find a recipe for this delicious pie I remember eating all the time, but can’t remember what we called it!!! Do you know a famous pie recipe from Yorkshire?

  18. lunettesdesoleil says:

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