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Modern Interpretations of Cinderella

Full-Text Fiction

A Modern Cinderella: or, The Little Old Shoe (1860)
by Louisa May Alcott

Cinderella (1868)
by Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie

Full-Text Poems

How Fair Cinderella Disposed of Her Shoe
by Guy Wetmore Carryl

by Caroline Hazard

by Henry Lawson

by Vachel Lindsay

Questions of the Hour
by Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt

by Sarah Helen Whitman

Cinderella Poetry

by Sarah Helen Whitman


The night was cold, the skies were bleak,
The ways were dark and dreary,
When Cinderella o’er the fire
Sat hovering, worn and weary.
Neglected in her childhood’s home,
She knew no mother’s care,
Condemned, in youthful loveliness,
A menial’s lot to share.

Her haughty sisters spend their days
In splendor and parade;
To ball and opera they go,
To play and masquerade:
And now, bedecked with gems and gold,
In festal crowds they shone,
While she beside the chimney nook
Sat musing and alone.

The ruddy hearth-fires gleam and fade
Upon the dusky wall,
And on the oaken paneling
Fantastic shadows fall.
No sound is heard in all the house,
So lonely now and drear,
And e’en the cricket’s drowsy song
Falls faintly on her ear.

There pensive by the hearth she sat
And watched the flickering fire,
Nor saw that close beside her stood
A dame in rich attire.
When, lo! upon her startled gaze
A matchless splendor broke,
As thus, in thrilling words and low,
The radiant fairy spoke:—

“No longer shalt thou moping sit,
Oppressed with gloom and care,
But at the royal banquet shine
The fairest of the fair.
Go, search, and by the garden wall
A pompion thou shalt find,
And lo! a chariot shall arise
From out its golden rind!

“Down in the cellar’s darkest nook
A rat-trap shalt behold,
Whose narrow space doth stable steeds
Of more than mortal mold!
Behind the moss-grown garden well
Six lizards thou shalt see;
These, with the pompion and the trap,
Go quickly bring to me.”

And now she sees with wondering awe
Six powdered footmen stand,
Six mice transformed to stately steeds
Beneath the fairy’s wand!
At length a glittering car arose
From out the pompion’s rind,
While blazing torches flamed before
And footmen swung behind!

Lo! Cinderella’s tattered garb,
With dust and ashes strown,
Touched by the fairy’s magic wand,
With pearls and diamonds shone!
All woven woof of mortal loom
Her vesture did surpass,
And on her little feet were seen
Two slippers framed of glass!

“Now,” said the fairy, “mount thy car
And to the palace speed,
But as you prize my fairy gifts,
My parting counsel heed:
Shouldst thou within the castle gates
Outstay the midnight hour,
Thy gorgeous robes to tatters turn,
My spell hath lost its power.”

She said:—the fiery coursers prance,
Their rattling hoofs resound,
With tossing heads and flying manes
They clear the frozen ground.
The Prince (informed some noble dame
Arrives in matchless state),
With all his royal retinue,
Receives her at the gate.

With courtly grace the startled child
He up the staircase hands,
And now within the blazing hall
Sweet Cinderella stands.
Soon as she stept within the door
The music ceased to sound,
And on the softly perfumed air
A murmur floats around.

Before her nobles bent the knee,
And courtly dames caressed,
While foremost in the glittering throng
Her haughty sisters pressed.
Amid the glittering throng she stood
Like some wild woodland flower,
Blushing at her own loveliness,
And trembling at its power.

The Prince, enamored, claimed her hand
And bore her to the dance,
And oft amid its mazy rings
She sought her sisters’ glance.
At length upon the castle clock
She chanced to turn her eye
And starts to see upon its face
The hour of midnight nigh!

Then, swiftly as a falling star
Shoots through the gloom of night,
She sprang into her airy car
And vanished from their sight.
And now of all her splendor reft
And all her rich attire,
She takes her solitary place
Beside the smoldering fire.

But soon she hears a thundering knock
Resounding through the hall;—
The sisters all come rushing in,
Enraptured with the ball.
All talk at once and all descant
Upon the unknown guest,
And tell of all the courtesies
She showed them at the feast.

They say that court and city now
Are ringing with her fame.
The Prince has offered countless sums
To learn the stranger’s name.
Fair Cinderella; wild with joy,
Seems little heed to take,
She only yawns and rubs her eyes
As if but half awake.

At length she said, “Ah, sisters dear,
Might I but only go,
To-morrow night, in pearl and white,
With you to see the show?”
“In pearl and white, you little fright!
A figure you would cut!
How would your pearl and white agree
With cinders and with smut?”

“Then would my sister Charlotte, dear,
But only give me leave
To wear the yellow satin dress
She wore on Christmas eve?”
“Lend you my satin dress, indeed!
But understand at once
That courts and balls are not for such
As you, you little dunce!”


Again the palace halls are thronged
With many a noble guest,
And Cinderella, lovelier still,
Is there among the rest.
So fast the golden moments fly
In rapture and delight,
She soon forgets to count the hours
Nor heeds their rapid flight.

But, hark! at length the castle clock
Sounds from its lofty tower;
She starts to hear it, stroke by stroke,
Toll forth the midnight hour.
She fled across the marble floor
Fleet as the mountain wind,
But, tripping at the door, she left
One shining shoe behind.

There, gleaming like a diamond spark,
The little slipper lies,
Dropped like a star-flake in the path
Where some swift meteor flies.
Breathless she gains the castle court,
In terror and dismay,
With naught of all her splendor left
Nor all her rich array.

Her rich array, to tatters turned,
Hangs fluttering in the wind;
The mice run scampering on before,
The pompion rolls behind!
The guards that round the portal wait,
With startled eyes, behold
A vagrant leave the palace gate
And cross the moonlit wold.

And wondering menials stare to see
The little beggar pass,
For nought of all her pomp remains
Except one shoe of glass.
Next day the herald’s trump did sound
Proclaiming far and wide
That whosoe’er could wear the shoe
Should be the Prince’s bride!

From street to street, from house to house,
The glittering prize they bear,
But ne’er a lady in the land
That little shoe could wear.
’T was midnight ere they reached the door
Where Cinderella dwelt,
Who vainly strove to veil her heart
And hide the joy she felt.

The sisters rushed into the hall
And sought, with vain ado,
To press and pinch and crowd their feet
Into the fairy shoe.
Till Cinderella, all the while
Demurely standing by,
Now on the royal messenger
Cast an appealing eye.

The mute request with curling lip
The tittering sisters see,
But soon to wonder and amaze
Was turned their scornful glee.
With perfect ease she slides her foot
Into the fairy shoe,
Then, blushing, from her folded vest
Its little partner drew.

When, lo! soft music filled the air,
Resplendent lustre shone;
The fairy comes to claim her charge
And lead her to a throne.
And “Ne’er forget, my child,” she said,
“In sorrow’s darkest hour
That unseen guardians still are nigh
To aid thee with their power:

“And often in yon glittering court
Recall my last behest,
For pleasure’s self pursued too far
Shall lose its sweetest zest.
Then count the moments as they pass
And heed their warning chime,
Nor ever in life’s mazy dance
Forget the flight of time.”

from Poems by Sarah Helen Whitman (1879)


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If the Shoe Fits by Laura Whipple

The Poets' Grimm edited by Beaumont and Carlson

Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl

Transformations by Anne Sexton


©Heidi Anne Heiner, SurLaLune Fairy Tales
Page created 1/1999; Last updated 6/23/07