Top Ten Differences Between "Cendrillon" and "Aschenputtel" (Two Versions of the "Cinderella" Tale)

"Cinderella" is a classic European folk tale and an often adapted work of literature. It is the story about a young woman who is pure at heart, but who is forced by her wicked stepmother and stepsisters to work for them as a maid. Through magic, she then receives a makeover that lasts until midnight when the spell is broken, and enters a ball organized by a king where she falls in love with the prince. But as she runs off at midnight, she loses one of her slippers. The prince now searches for the woman who fits into the shoe, finds Cinderella, recognizes her when she tries on the slipper and they live happily ever after.

This is what almost all versions of the tale have in common, but over time and in different countries, certain differences in the storytelling have developed, some of which are small, others of which are more essential.

"Cendrillon" by Charles Perault is a French adaptation from 1697, "Aschenputtel" by Brothers Grimm is a German version from 1819 (there was an earlier version from 1812, but the other one is the popular one). While neither of them are the original versions of the story, they rank among the best known ones, and depending on the country, either of them may be seen as the definite version. Disney's famous film adaptation is based on "Cendrillon" as are most American movies based on the tale, but several Central European films tell the "Aschenputtel" version.

Overall, the main difference is the tone. "Cendrillon" is far more family friendly and even somewhat playful, and finds a peaceful solution. "Aschenputtel" is darker, more violent and has more symbolism, it goes further in order to characterize the situation and people involved, and to reward the good hearted and punish the mean spirited.

Personally, I'd say that both are timeless moral tales in its own right. If you want to read an enchanting magical story to your child that shows that modesty and kindness will ultimately triumph, go for "Cendrillon". If you like yourself a more intense tale in which the evil doers are ultimately punished, and that features several poetic and metaphorical images, go for "Aschenputtel".
The Top Ten
1 "Cendrillon" has a fairy godmother, "Aschenputtel" a magical tree

This is the most apparent difference. Those who mainly know the Disney version know that a fairy comes to help Cinderella get her time to shine. The ultimate moral in the end of the French version is also that it sometimes needs the help of a friend to achieve success. In the German tale however, Cinderella asks her father to get her a twig she wants to plant on her mother's grave (her stepsisters want him to get them beautiful clothes and jewelry). With her tears, it grows into a tree that she wishes upon to be able go to the ball - a wish that is fulfilled as beautiful clothes fall down from it (this is what I meant by the German version being more metaphoric and having a certain poetry).

2 In "Aschenputtel" the stepsisters cut off parts of their feet to fit into the shoe

This is one moment in which the Brothers Grimm version is more intense, but it also shows how far the stepmother goes for wealth to tell their daughters to mutilate their feet - and how greedy they are by actually doing it. At first, the prince is fooled, but then Cinderella's doves tell him to look inside the shoe.

3 In "Aschenputtel", Cinderella has doves that help her

Doves play a crucial part in "Aschenputtel". They appear when she wishes upon the tree, they help her when the lentils are poured, they tell the prince to look inside the shoe when the stepsisters wear it (there's blood in it) and ultimately they attack the stepsisters. What that means is left open to your interpretation.

4 In "Cendrillon", the stepsisters tell Cinderella that maids aren't invited to the ball, in "Aschenputtel" the stepmother pours a bowl with lentils onto the floor and tells Cinderella she can go to the ball if she picked up all of them in two hours

This is one of the best known moments of the tale in German speaking territory, but it does not occur in the French version. The stepmother who doesn't want Cinderella to go to the ball tells her to pick the lentils up in two hours - but even though she succeeds with the help of her doves, she and her daughters go to the ball without her. It's one of the moments in which the step family is crueler to her than in the French version, is which she is merely forbidden to go to the ball. This seemingly impossible task is humiliating towards Cinderella and even when she suceeded, it was all in vain. And this is just one instance in which they not only abuse Cinderella as a maid but psychologically torture her.

5 "Cendrillon" has a happy ending for the stepsisters, "Aschenputtel" ends with poetic justice

In "Cendrillon", the end is all about forgiveness. Even after all the events and being a princess now, Cinderella still is too good hearted to punish her stepsisters, and they end up with some rich men they met at the king's court. In "Aschenputtel", the final punchline occurs at the wedding, where they try to brownnose Cinderella. Suddenly, the doves arrive and attack them - and pick at their eyes, thus robbing the vain girls of the beauty.

6 In "Aschenputtel" the mother is more important than in "Cendrillon"

In the beginning of "Aschenputtel", Cinderella's loving mother is on her dying bed, and talks to her daughter. The mother is also symbolically important as her grave is the place where the magic occurs after Cinderella cries tears of loss. It can be interpreted that the doves are the angelic manifestation of the mother. Overall, the grief over her mother is what keeps the story going.

7 In "Cendrillon", Cinderella loses her slipper by accident, in "Aschenputtel", it is because the stairs are smeared with pitch

In both versions of the story, Cinderella visits the ball on several evenings, and always runs off before midnight, although both she and the prince fall in love with each other. In "Cendrillon", she simply loses the slipper for no particular reason. In "Aschenputtel", the prince goes further to get the girl: on the third evening he smears the stairs with pitch, on which the slipper gets stuck.

8 In "Cendrillon", Cinderella wears glass slippers, in "Aschenputtel", they are made of gold.
9 In "Cendrillon", Fairy Godmother transforms mice, rats and lizards into horses and humans and a pumpkin into a carriage, in "Aschenputtel", the carriage and horses appear out of nowhere.

Pretty self explanatory. No Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo in the German version.

10 In "Cendrillon", the father is not a crucial part of the story, in "Aschenputtel", he is very present but doesn't help her, and at one point even denies her as his own daughter

While the father is alive in "Cendrillon" (in many adaptations, he's dead), he is not part of the taunting of Cinderella, and is blind to what's going on. He appears more often in "Aschenputtel", and when the prince arrives at his house with the slippers for the stepsisters to try them on, he calls his own daughter a mere maid.

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