Beautiful and troubled, the heroines of Cinderella tales may undergo any variety of hardships and endure any number of family conflicts but, will ultimately marry her prince and live happily ever after. The heroines of Perrault’s Donkeyskin and the Brothers’ Grimm Cinderella differ in their familial relationships and the ways in which they seek help.
After the death of his queen, the king wishes to remarry. The only way he believes he can do this and keep his promise to his wife is to marry his daughter, “Donkeyskin”. Extremely upset by this proposal, Donkeyskin “wept night and day” (110). After failing to thwart her father’s efforts, she runs away from home before the marriage can take place. The Cinderella of the Grimm’s tale however, faces familial conflict not from her father, but from her cruel stepsisters. In the story, her stepsisters “ridiculed her” and “did everything imaginable to make her miserable” (116). Cinderella is able to escape them, however, with the help of kind animals.
Cinderella loved her mother dearly and wept by her grave every day. After planting a hazel branch on the grave one day, her tears nourished a tree in which doves nested. The doves would grant Cinderella’s wishes. These doves helped her go to the prince’s festival by giving her dresses “of gold and silver” (119). Because the birds came from the tree over her mother’s grave they were representative of the relationship between the two. The love Cinderella felt for her mother was what helped her meet and marry her prince. But, when Donkeyskin needed help, she turned to her fairy godmother. Her godmother gave her different advice in order to avoid her father’s proposal. And, while Donkeyskin did manage to escape, it was her own cunning that ensured her marriage to the prince. When baking a cake for the prince she hid her ring inside the dough so that “her young admirer would accept the ring” (114) and use it to find her once again.
These changes in the tales show a shift in values from personal strength and wisdom to devotion to one’s family and sense of duty. Perrault’s Donkeyskin was able to escape as a result of her own cunning and resourcefulness while Cinderellla needed the aid of the doves and is saved by being a virtuous and dutiful daughter. These changes show the shift from the older tales filled with more overt sexual themes to the more child-appropriate bedtime stories which resemble the contemporary versions we know today.
Tatar, Maria, ed. The Classic Fairy Tales. New York: W.W. Norton &, 1999. Print.