Cinderella | Cinderella; or Aschenputtel (A GermanTale)

The following is an annotated version of the fairy tale. I recommend reading the entire story before exploring the annotations, especially if you have not read the tale recently.

THE WIFE of a rich man fell sick, and as she felt that her end was drawing near, she called her only daughter to her bedside and said, "Dear child, be good and pious, and then the good God will always protect thee, and I will look down on thee from heaven and be near thee." Thereupon she closed her eyes and departed. Every day the maiden went out to her mother's grave, and wept, and she remained pious and good. When winter came the snow spread a white sheet over the grave, and when the spring sun had drawn it off again, the man had taken another wife.

The woman had brought two daughters into the house with her, who were beautiful and fair of face, but vile and black of heart. Now began a bad time for the poor step-child. "Is the stupid goose to sit in the parlour with us?" said they. "He who wants to eat bread must earn it; out with the kitchen-wench." They took her pretty clothes away from her, put an old grey bedgown on her, and gave her wooden shoes. "Just look at the proud princess, how decked out she is!" they cried, and laughed, and led her into the kitchen. There she had to do hard work from morning till night, get up before daybreak, carry water, light fires, cook and wash. Besides this, the sisters did her every imaginable injury -- they mocked her and emptied her peas and lentils into the ashes, so that she was forced to sit and pick them out again. In the evening when she had worked till she was weary she had no bed to go to, but had to sleep by the fireside in the ashes. And as on that account she always looked dusty and dirty, they called her Cinderella. It happened that the father was once going to the fair, and he asked his two step-daughters what he should bring back for them. "Beautiful dresses," said one, "Pearls and jewels," said the second. "And thou, Cinderella," said he, "what wilt thou have?" "Father, break off for me the first branch which knocks against your hat on your way home." So he bought beautiful dresses, pearls and jewels for his two step-daughters, and on his way home, as he was riding through a green thicket, a hazel twig brushed against him and knocked off his hat. Then he broke off the branch and took it with him. When he reached home he gave his step-daughters the things which they had wished for, and to Cinderella he gave the branch from the hazel-bush. Cinderella thanked him, went to her mother's grave and planted the branch on it, and wept so much that the tears fell down on it and watered it. And it grew, however, and became a handsome tree. Thrice a day Cinderella went and sat beneath it, and wept and prayed, and a little white bird always came on the tree, and if Cinderella expressed a wish, the bird threw down to her what she had wished for.

It happened, however, that the King appointed a festival which was to last three days, and to which all the beautiful young girls in the country were invited, in order that his son might choose himself a bride. When the two step-sisters heard that they too were to appear among the number, they were delighted, called Cinderella and said, "Comb our hair for us, brush our shoes and fasten our buckles, for we are going to the festival at the King's palace." Cinderella obeyed, but wept, because she too would have liked to go with them to the dance, and begged her step-mother to allow her to do so. "Thou go, Cinderella!" said she; "Thou art dusty and dirty and wouldst go to the festival? Thou hast no clothes and shoes, and yet wouldst dance!" As, however, Cinderella went on asking, the step-mother at last said, "I have emptied a dish of lentils into the ashes for thee, if thou hast picked them out again in two hours, thou shalt go with us." The maiden went through the back-door into the garden, and called, "You tame pigeons, you turtle-doves, and all you birds beneath the sky, come and help me to pick

"The good into the pot,
The bad into the crop."

Then two white pigeons came in by the kitchen-window, and afterwards the turtle-doves, and at last all the birds beneath the sky, came whirring and crowding in, and alighted amongst the ashes. And the pigeons nodded with their heads and began pick, pick, pick, pick, and the rest began also pick, pick, pick, pick, and gathered all the good grains into the dish. Hardly had one hour passed before they had finished, and all flew out again. Then the girl took the dish to her step-mother, and was glad, and believed that now she would be allowed to go with them to the festival. But the step-mother said, "No, Cinderella, thou hast no clothes and thou canst not dance; thou wouldst only be laughed at." And as Cinderella wept at this, the step-mother said, "If thou canst pick two dishes of lentils out of the ashes for me in one hour, thou shalt go with us." And she thought to herself, "That she most certainly cannot do." When the step-mother had emptied the two dishes of lentils amongst the ashes, the maiden went through the back-door into the garden and cried, You tame pigeons, you turtle-doves, and all you birds under heaven, come and help me to pick

"The good into the pot,
The bad into the crop."

Then two white pigeons came in by the kitchen-window, and afterwards the turtle-doves, and at length all the birds beneath the sky, came whirring and crowding in, and alighted amongst the ashes. And the doves nodded with their heads and began pick, pick, pick, pick, and the others began also pick, pick, pick, pick, and gathered all the good seeds into the dishes, and before half an hour was over they had already finished, and all flew out again. Then the maiden carried the dishes to the step-mother and was delighted, and believed that she might now go with them to the festival. But the step-mother said, "All this will not help thee; thou goest not with us, for thou hast no clothes and canst not dance; we should be ashamed of thee!" On this she turned her back on Cinderella, and hurried away with her two proud daughters.

As no one was now at home, Cinderella went to her mother's grave beneath the hazel-tree, and cried,

"Shiver and quiver, little tree,
Silver and gold throw down over me."

Then the bird threw a gold and silver dress down to her, and slippers embroidered with silk and silver. She put on the dress with all speed, and went to the festival. Her step-sisters and the step-mother however did not know her, and thought she must be a foreign princess, for she looked so beautiful in the golden dress. They never once thought of Cinderella, and believed that she was sitting at home in the dirt, picking lentils out of the ashes. The prince went to meet her, took her by the hand and danced with her. He would dance with no other maiden, and never left loose of her hand, and if any one else came to invite her, he said, "This is my partner."

She danced till it was evening, and then she wanted to go home. But the King's son said, "I will go with thee and bear thee company," for he wished to see to whom the beautiful maiden belonged. She escaped from him, however, and sprang into the pigeon-house. The King's son waited until her father came, and then he told him that the stranger maiden had leapt into the pigeon-house. The old man thought, "Can it be Cinderella?" and they had to bring him an axe and a pickaxe that he might hew the pigeon-house to pieces, but no one was inside it. And when they got home Cinderella lay in her dirty clothes among the ashes, and a dim little oil-lamp was burning on the mantle-piece, for Cinderella had jumped quickly down from the back of the pigeon-house and had run to the little hazel-tree, and there she had taken off her beautiful clothes and laid them on the grave, and the bird had taken them away again, and then she had placed herself in the kitchen amongst the ashes in her grey gown.

Next day when the festival began afresh, and her parents and the step-sisters had gone once more, Cinderella went to the hazel-tree and said --

"Shiver and quiver, my little tree,
Silver and gold throw down over me."

Then the bird threw down a much more beautiful dress than on the preceding day. And when Cinderella appeared at the festival in this dress, every one was astonished at her beauty. The King's son had waited until she came, and instantly took her by the hand and danced with no one but her. When others came and invited her, he said, "She is my partner." When evening came she wished to leave, and the King's son followed her and wanted to see into which house she went. But she sprang away from him, and into the garden behind the house. Therein stood a beautiful tall tree on which hung the most magnificent pears. She clambered so nimbly between the branches like a squirrel that the King's son did not know where she was gone. He waited until her father came, and said to him, "The stranger-maiden has escaped from me, and I believe she has climbed up the pear-tree." The father thought, "Can it be Cinderella?" and had an axe brought and cut the tree down, but no one was on it. And when they got into the kitchen, Cinderella lay there amongst the ashes, as usual, for she had jumped down on the other side of the tree, had taken the beautiful dress to the bird on the little hazel-tree, and put on her grey gown.

On the third day, when the parents and sisters had gone away, Cinderella went once more to her mother's grave and said to the little tree --

"Shiver and quiver, my little tree,
Silver and gold throw down over me."

And now the bird threw down to her a dress which was more splendid and magnificent than any she had yet had, and the slippers were golden. And when she went to the festival in the dress, no one knew how to speak for astonishment. The King's son danced with her only, and if any one invited her to dance, he said, "She is my partner."

When evening came, Cinderella wished to leave, and the King's son was anxious to go with her, but she escaped from him so quickly that he could not follow her. The King's son had, however, used a strategem, and had caused the whole staircase to be smeared with pitch, and there, when she ran down, had the maiden's left slipper remained sticking. The King's son picked it up, and it was small and dainty, and all golden. Next morning, he went with it to the father, and said to him, "No one shall be my wife but she whose foot this golden slipper fits." Then were the two sisters glad, for they had pretty feet. The eldest went with the shoe into her room and wanted to try it on, and her mother stood by. But she could not get her big toe into it, and the shoe was too small for her. Then her mother gave her a knife and said, "Cut the toe off; when thou art Queen thou wilt have no more need to go on foot." The maiden cut the toe off, forced the foot into the shoe, swallowed the pain, and went out to the King's son. Then he took her on his his horse as his bride and rode away with her. They were, however, obliged to pass the grave, and there, on the hazel-tree, sat the two pigeons and cried,

"Turn and peep, turn and peep,
There's blood within the shoe,
The shoe it is too small for her,
The true bride waits for you."

Then he looked at her foot and saw how the blood was streaming from it. He turned his horse round and took the false bride home again, and said she was not the true one, and that the other sister was to put the shoe on. Then this one went into her chamber and got her toes safely into the shoe, but her heel was too large. So her mother gave her a knife and said, "Cut a bit off thy heel; when thou art Queen thou wilt have no more need to go on foot." The maiden cut a bit off her heel, forced her foot into the shoe, swallowed the pain, and went out to the King's son. He took her on his horse as his bride, and rode away with her, but when they passed by the hazel-tree, two little pigeons sat on it and cried, 

"Turn and peep, turn and peep,
There's blood within the shoe
The shoe it is too small for her,
The true bride waits for you."

He looked down at her foot and saw how the blood was running out of her shoe, and how it had stained her white stocking. Then he turned his horse and took the false bride home again. "This also is not the right one," said he, "have you no other daughter?" "No," said the man, "There is still a little stunted kitchen-wench which my late wife left behind her, but she cannot possibly be the bride." The King's son said he was to send her up to him; but the mother answered, "Oh, no, she is much too dirty, she cannot show herself!" He absolutely insisted on it, and Cinderella had to be called. She first washed her hands and face clean, and then went and bowed down before the King's son, who gave her the golden shoe. Then she seated herself on a stool, drew her foot out of the heavy wooden shoe, and put it into the slipper, which fitted like a glove. And when she rose up and the King's son looked at her face he recognized the beautiful maiden who had danced with him and cried, "That is the true bride!" The step-mother and the two sisters were terrified and became pale with rage; he, however, took Cinderella on his horse and rode away with her. As they passed by the hazel-tree, the two white doves cried -- 

"Turn and peep, turn and peep,
No blood is in the shoe,
The shoe is not too small for her,
The true bride rides with you,"

and when they had cried that, the two came flying down and placed themselves on Cinderella's shoulders, one on the right, the other on the left, and remained sitting there.

When the wedding with the King's son had to be celebrated, the two false sisters came and wanted to get into favour with Cinderella and share her good fortune. When the betrothed couple went to church, the elder was at the right side and the younger at the left, and the pigeons pecked out one eye of each of them. Afterwards as they came back, the elder was at the left, and the younger at the right, and then the pigeons pecked out the other eye of each. And thus, for their wickedness and falsehood, they were punished with blindness as long as they lived.


From three stories current in Hesse. One of them from Zwehrn is without the introduction, where the dying mother promises her help to her child, but begins at once with the unhappy life of the step-child-the end also is different. After Cinderella has lived happily with the King for one year, he travels away and leaves all his keys with her, with the order not to open a certain room. When he is gone however, she is persuaded by the false sister to open the forbidden room, wherein they find a well of blood. Into this the wicked sister afterwards throws her, when she is lying ill after the birth of a son. The sister lies down in the bed in her place, but the sentries hear the cry of lamentation, and save the real Queen and the false one is punished. This termination resembles that in the story of The little Brother and Sister (No. 11). A fourth from Mecklenburg has an ending which reminds us of the well-known saga of St. Genoveva. Aschenputtel has become Queen, and has taken her step-mother, who is a witch, and her wicked step-sister to live with her. When she gives birth to a son these two lay a dog beside her, and give the child to a gardener who is to kill it; and they do the same thing a second time, but the King loves her so much that he again says nothing about it. The third time they give the Queen and the child to the gardener who is to kill them, but he takes them into a cave in the forest. As the Queen from grief has no milk, she puts the child to a hind which is in the cave. The child grows, but he becomes wild, and has long hair, and seeks herbs in the forest for his mother. One day he goes to the palace and tells the King about his beautiful mother[1]. Being asked, "Where is thy beautiful mother, then?" he answers, "In a cave in the forest." "Then I will go there." "Yes, but take a mantle with thee, so that she may be able to dress herself." The King goes there, recognizes her though she is wasted away, and takes her home with him. On the way, two boys with golden hair meet him. "To whom do ye belong?" he asks. "To the gardener." The gardener comes and reveals that they are the King's children whom he had not killed but brought up in his house. The truth comes to light, and the witch and her daughter are punished. A fifth story from the Paderborn district begins thus: A beautiful Countess had a rose in one hand and a snowball in the other, and wished for a child as red as the rose, and as white as the snow. God grants her wish. Once, when she is standing by the window looking out, she is pushed out of it by the nurse. The godless woman, however, screams loudly, and pretends that the Countess has thrown herself out. Then she ensnares the Count by her beauty, and he marries her. She bears him two daughters, and the beautiful red and white step-child has to serve as scullion. She is not allowed to go to church because she has no clothes; then she weeps on her mother's grave, and her mother gives her a key, and bids her open a hollow tree; it opens like a wardrobe and she finds in it clothes, soap with which to wash herself, and a prayer-book. A Count sees her, and in order to catch her, smears the threshold of the church with pitch. After this all developes itself as in the other stories. A sixth from the neighbourhood of Zittau is given in Büsching's Wochentliche Nachrichten, i. 139. Aschenputtel is a miller's daughter, and is likewise not allowed to go to church. There is nothing new in it, except that instead of a dove, a dog betrays the false bride, and barks,

"Wu, wu, wu, 
Full of blood is the shoe!"

And to the true one:

"Wu, wu, wu,
How well fits the shoe!"

A seventh is found in Hagen's Erzählungen und Märchen, ii. 339. The rhymes run thus,

"Help to put them in the pot
But not into thy crop."

"Open thee, open thee, willow-tree,
And give thy silken clothes to me."

The dog barks,

"Hau, hau, hau, hau, hau,
My lord has not got the right wife."

There is an eighth in Colshorn, No. 44. A ninth in Meier, No. 4.

This story is one of the best known, and is told in all parts [2]. Murner says, "es soil ein gouch sein wib regieren lassen und meister sin. Nit dass du si alwegen für ein Fusstuch woltest halten, denn si ist dem man uss der siten genummen und nit uss den Füssen, dass si soll ein äschengriddel sin." Geuchmat Strassb. 1519 (first 1515), 4 folio eb.

In Low German we find Askenpüster, Askenböel, and Askenbüel (Bremer Wörterb. i. 29, 30). In Holstein, according to Schütze, Aschenpöselken is derived from pöseln, to seek laboriously (as, for instance, the peas among the ashes). Sudelsödelken, from sölen, sudeln, because it must be destroyed in the dirt.

In Pomerania, Aschpuk, signifies a dirty kitchen-maid (Dähnert). The Hessian dialect corroborates this (see Estor's Upper Hessian Dictionary): "Aschenpuddel, an insignificant, dirty girl." What is more the High German is Aschenbrödel (Deutsches Wörterbuch, 581), and Ascherling. In Swabia we find Aschengrittel, Aschengruttel, Aeschengrusel. (Schmid's, Schwäb. Wörterb. 29. Deutsches Wörterbuch i. 582). in Danish and Swedish it is Askesis, from blowing the ashes (at fise i Asken). In Jamieson, see Assiepet, Ashypet, Ashiepattle, a neglected child employed in the lowest kitchen work[3]. In Polish Kopciuszek, from Kopec, soot, smoke.

There was also a story in which Aschenprödel was a boy despised by his proud brothers; a similar incident occurs in the story of The Man with the iron hand [4] (No. 136) and in Aschentagger, see Zingerle, p. 395. Rollenhagen mentions it in the preface to Froschmeuseler, as the wonderful domestic tale "of the despised and pious Aschenpössel and his proud and scornful brethren."

Oberlin also gives one passage from Aschenprödel, in which a servant bears this name; and Geiler von Keisersberg calls a despised kitchen-boy an Eschengrüdel and says, "how an Eschengrüdel has everything to do," Brosamen, folio 79 a., compare the seventh stave of the fifteen verses. Tauler, in the Medulla animoe says, "I thy stable-boy, and poor Aschenbaltz." Luther, in the Table-talk, 1. 16, says "Cain, the godless reprobate, is one of the powerful ones of earth, but the pious and Godfearing Abel has to be the submissive Asehenbrödel-nay, even his servant and be oppressed." In Agricola, No. 515, occurs "Does there remain anywhere an Aschenbrödel of whom no one has thought?" No. 594, "Jacob the Aschenbrödel, the spoiled boy." In Eyering, 2. 342, is "poor Aschenwedel" Verelius, in the notes to the Gothreks Sage, p. 70, speaks of the Volks Saga, "huru Askesisen sick Konungsdottren til hustru," which also treats of a youth who was kitchen-boy, and won the king's daughter. The proverbs also, sitia hema i asku, liggia som kattur i hreise und liggia vid arnen, apply for the most part to King's sons, in the Wilkinasage, cap. 91, of Thetleifr, and in the Refssage (cap. 9 of the Gothreks Sage) from which Verelius wishes to derive all the others. In Asbjörnsen's Norwegian stories an Askepot frequently occurs. In Finnish he is called Tukhame or Tuhkimo, from tukka, ashes-vide Schiefner, 617, We are likewise reminded of Ulrich von Thürheim's Starker Rennewart, who must also have first been a scullion; likewise of Alexius, who lived under the stairs in his father's royal house like a drudge. Vide Görres' Meisterlieder, p. 302.

It was a very ancient custom that those who were unhappy should seat themselves amongst the ashes. Odysseus, who, as a stranger entreating help, had spoken with Alkinous, thus seated himself humbly down in the ashes on the hearth, and was then brought forth and set in a high place. 7. 153, 169; compare 11. 191.

It is frequently mentioned that pigeons pick all clean. They are pure, holy creatures, and good spirits. In Meister Sigeher (MS. 2, 221b) we find,

"dem milten bin ich senfte bi [5]
mit linden sprüchen süezen,
schone alz ez ein turteletube habe erlesen."

In Geiler von Keisersberg, "thus the pigeons pick up the very cleanest corn," and therefore when any one has good corn, the saying is, "It is just as if it had been got together by pigeons." Brosamen, folio 88b. In Pauli's Schimpf und Ernst (1535), chap. 315, folio 60a, there is a story of a woman who knelt down quite far back in the church and wept from devotion, and the bishop saw how a dove came and picked up these tears, and then flew away. In the incident of Aschenputtel being sought for and found by means of the lost shoe, we are reminded of the saga of Rhodope, whose shoe having being carried away by an eagle, Psammetichus, into whose breast it had fallen, sent over the whole of Egypt in order to make the owner of it his wife. (AElian, Var. lib. 13).

Gudrun in her misfortunes has to become an Aschenbrödel; she herself although a queen, has to clean the hearth and wipe up the dust with her hair, or else she is beaten. Compare 3986, 3991, 4021, 4077, 4079.

In the Pentamerone (1. 6) is Cenerentola, in Perrault Cendrillon, ou la petite pantoufle de verre (No. 6.) In D'Aulnoy, Finette Cendron (No. 10). In Norwegian, see Asbjörnsen, p. 110. In Hungarian, see the second part of The Three Kings' Daughters, in Stier, p. 34, and following. In Servian, with special and beautiful variations, see Wuk, No. 32. Schottky expressly says (in Büsching's Wöchentl. Nachrichten, 4. 61) that the Servians have a story of Aschenbrödel, which is like the German one. The story of Allerleirauh (No. 65) is related to this, and so is that of EinäugleinNo. 130.

1: See "Valentine and Orson."-TR.
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2: A foolish man shall let his wife rule and be master. Not that thou wouldst altogether look on her as a door-mat, for she was taken out of the side of man, and not out of his feet, to be an äschengriddel.
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3: Jamieson observes that Ashiepattle is used in this sense in Shetland, and is perhaps derived from Isi askas patti, a little child employed in the lowest kitchen-work.-TR.
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4: Qu. Der Eisenhans.-TR.
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5: I am softly singing to the generous man, sweet and gentle words lovelier than a turtle-dove could gather together.
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Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Household Tales.Margaret Hunt, translator. London: George Bell, 1884.


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