Contrasting Feelings in Perrault's Cinderella and Grimms' Aschenputtle

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Charles Perrault's "Cinderella" and Wilhelm and Jacob Grimms' "Aschenputtel" both feature a mistreated, yet kind heroine who, despite overwhelming obstacles, attends a ball and marries a prince. However, the similarities between these two versions of the fairy tale end here. While Perrault's version emphasizes the moral and materialistic concerns of his middle-class audience, Grimms' focus is on the harsh realities of life associated with the peasant culture.

Perrault immediately connects with the materialistic values of his middle-class audience as he describes in detail the pampered lifestyle of Cinderella's step-sisters who "lay in rooms with inlaid floors upon beds of the newest fashion" (Classics, 17). Once invited to the ball, the step-sisters contemplate what they will wear. One decides on her "red velvet suit with French trimmings", while the other chooses to accentuate her look with a "diamond stomacher" (Classics, 18). While Perrault describes in detail the pampered lifestyle of this bourgeoisie family, he says much less about the appearance of the misfortunate Cinderella.

While Cinderella's clothing is of little interest to Perrault's audience, her "rare goodness and sweetness of temper" (Classics, 17) are esteemed values desired by all the middle-class. When called upon to arrange the hair of her unkind step-sisters for the ball, we are told that "anyone but Cinderella would have dressed their hair awry, but she was good-natured, and arranged it perfectly well" (Classics, 18). After arriving at the ball with the help of a fairy godmother, and winning the affection of the desirable prince, Cinderella "sat down with her sisters showing them a thousand civilities"(Classics, 20). Her rare goodness ...

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...igeons pluck out her step-sisters' eyes to repay them for all the evil they brought upon her.

Although the heroines in "Aschenputtle" and "Cinderella" both manage to attend the ball and marry the prince despite mistreatment and unreasonable demands, the two versions of the popular fairy tale leave the reader with contrasting feelings. These contrasts can be understood when considering the writers' audiences. The violence and references to nature found in "Aschenputtle" are commonplace in the peasant culture of which the Grimms were fascinated, while the focus on the pampered lifestyle of the bourgeoisie family, and the kindness of Cinderella are aspects Perrault's middle-class audience desires.


Griffith, John W and Charles H. Frey. The Custom Edition of Classics of Children's Literature: Fourth Edition. New Jersey: Upper Saddle River, 1996.
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