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"Cinderella" by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm


Once upon a time there was a rich man who lived happily for a long time with his wife. Together they had a single daughter. Then the woman became ill, and when she was lying on her deathbed, she called her daughter to her side, and said, "Dear child, I must leave you now, but I will look down on you from heaven. Plant a little tree on my grave, and when you want something, just shake the tree, and you shall get what you want. I will help you in time of need. Just remain pious and good." Then she closed her eyes and died. The child cried, and planted a little tree on her mother's grave. She did not need to carry any water to it, because her tears provided all the water that it needed.

The snow fell over the mother's grave like a white cloth; then after the sun had retired from it a second time, and the little tree had become green a second time, the man took another wife.

The stepmother already had two daughters by her first husband. They were beautiful to look at, but in their hearts they were proud, arrogant, and evil. After the wedding was over, the three moved into the man's house, and times grew very bad for his poor child.

"What is that useless creature doing in the best room?" asked the stepmother. "Away to the kitchen with her! And if she wants to eat, then she must earn it. She can be our maid."

Her stepsisters took her dresses away from her and made her wear an old gray skirt. "That is good enough for you!" they said, making fun of her and leading her into the kitchen. Then the poor child had to do the most difficult work. She had to get up before sunrise, carry water, make the fire, cook, and wash. To add to her misery, her stepsisters ridiculed her and then scattered peas and lentils into the ashes, and she had to spend the whole day sorting them out again. At night when she was tired, there was no bed for her to sleep in, but she had to lie down next to the hearth in the ashes. Because she was always dirty with ashes and dust, they gave her the name Cinderella.

The time came when the king announced a ball. It was to last, in all splendor, for three days, and there his son, the prince, would choose a wife for himself. The two proud sisters were invited. "Cinderella," they cried, "Come here. Comb our hair. Brush our shoes, and tighten our laces. We are going to the prince's ball."

Cinderella did the best that she could, but they rewarded her only with curses. When they were ready, they said with scorn, "Cinderella, wouldn't you like to go to the ball?"

"Oh, yes. But how can I go? I don't have a dress."

"No," said the oldest one, "and we would be ashamed if you were to be seen there, and people learned that you are our sister. You belong in the kitchen. Here is a basin of lentils. Sort the good ones from the bad ones, and if there is a single bad one in the lot when we return, you can expect the worst."

With that, they left. Cinderella stood and watched until she could no longer see them. Then she sadly went into the kitchen and spread the lentils out over the hearth. There was a very, very large pile of them. "Oh," she said with a sigh. "I'll have to sit here sorting lentils until midnight, and I can't close my eyes, no matter how much they hurt. If only my mother knew about this!"

She kneeled down in the ashes next to the hearth and was about to begin her work when two white pigeons flew in through the window. They lit on the hearth next to the lentils. Nodding their heads, they said, "Cinderella, do you want us to help you sort the lentils?"

"Yes," she answered:
The bad ones go into your crop,
The good ones go into the pot.

And peck, peck, peck, peck, they started at once, eating up the bad ones and leaving the good ones lying. In only a quarter of an hour there was not a single bad lentil among the good ones, and she brushed them all into the pot.

Then the pigeons said to her, "Cinderella, if you would like to see your sisters dancing with the prince, just climb up to the pigeon roost." She followed them and climbed to the top rung of the ladder to the pigeon roost. There she could see into the hall, and she saw her sisters dancing with the prince. Everything glistened by the glow of a thousand lights. After she had seen enough, she climbed back down. With a heavy heart she lay down in the ashes and fell asleep.

The next morning the two sisters came to the kitchen. They were angry when they saw that she had sorted the lentils, for they wanted to scold her. Because they could not, they began telling her about the ball. They said, "Cinderella, it was so grand at the ball. The prince, who is the best looking man in the whole world, escorted us, and he is going to choose one of us to be his wife."

"Yes," said Cinderella, "I saw the glistening lights. It must have been magnificent."

"Now just how did you do that?" asked the oldest one.

"By standing up there on the pigeon roost."

When she heard this, her envy drove her to have the pigeon roost torn down immediately.

Cinderella had to comb their hair and get them ready again. The youngest sister, who had a little sympathy in her heart, said, "Cinderella, when it gets dark you can go and look through the windows from the outside."

"No!" said the oldest one. "That would only make her lazy. Here is a sackful of seeds. Sort the good ones from the bad ones, and do it well. If tomorrow there are any bad ones in the lot, then I will dump the whole sackful into the ashes, and you will have to go without eating until you have picked them all out again."

Cinderella sadly sat down on the hearth and spread out the seeds. The pigeons flew in again, and said, "Cinderella, do you want us to help you sort the seeds?"

"Yes," she answered:
The bad ones go into your crop,
The good ones go into the pot.

Peck, peck, peck, peck, it went as fast as if twelve hands were at work. When they were finished, the pigeons said, "Cinderella, would you like to go dancing at the ball?"

"Oh, my goodness," she said, "how could I go in these dirty clothes?"

"Just go to the little tree on your mother's grave, shake it, and wish yourself some beautiful clothes. But come back before midnight."

So Cinderella went and shook the little tree, and said:
Shake yourself, shake yourself, little tree.
Throw some nice clothing down to me!

She had scarcely spoken these words when a splendid silver dress fell down before her. With it were pearls, silk stockings with silver decorations, silver slippers, and everything else that she needed. Cinderella carried it all home. After she had washed herself and put on the beautiful clothing, she was as beautiful as a rose washed in dew. She went to the front door, and there was a carriage with six black horses all decorated with feathers, and servants dressed in blue and silver. They helped her into the carriage, and away they galloped to the king's castle.

The prince saw the carriage stop before the gate, and thought that a foreign princess was arriving. He himself walked down the steps, helped Cinderella out, and escorted her into the hall. Many thousand lights shone upon her, and she was so beautiful that everyone there was amazed. The sisters stood there, angry that someone was more beautiful than they were, but they had no idea that it was Cinderella, who they thought was lying at home in the ashes. The prince danced with Cinderella and paid her every royal honor. He thought to himself, "I am supposed to choose myself a bride. I will have no one but her."

However long she had suffered in ashes and sorrow, Cinderella was now living in splendor and joy. As midnight approached, before the clock struck twelve, she stood up, bowed, and said that she had to go, in spite of the prince's requests for her to stay. The prince escorted her out. Her carriage stood there waiting for her. And she rode away just as splendidly as she had come.
Back at home, Cinderella returned to the tree on her mother's grave, and said:
Shake yourself, shake yourself, little tree!
Take the clothing back from me!

The tree took back the clothes. Cinderella put on her old ash-dress again, went home, dirtied her face, and lay down in the ashes to sleep.

The next morning the two sisters came in looking out of sorts, and without saying a word. Cinderella said, "Did you have a good time yesterday evening?"

"No. A princess was there who danced with the prince almost the whole time, but no one knew who she was nor where she came from."

"Was she the one in the splendid carriage drawn by six black horses?" asked Cinderella.

"How did you know that?"

"I was standing in the front door when she rode by the house."

"In the future do not leave your work," said the oldest one, giving Cinderella an evil look. "What were you doing, standing in the front door?"

Cinderella had to get her sisters ready a third time. Her reward was a basin filled with peas, which she was supposed to sort. "And do not dare to leave your work," shouted the oldest one, as she was leaving.

Cinderella thought, "If only my pigeons will come again," and her heart beat a little faster. The pigeons did come, just as they had the evening before, and said, "Cinderella, would you like us to help you sort the peas."

"Yes," she said:
The bad ones go into your crop,
The good ones go into the pot.

Once again the pigeons picked out the bad ones, and soon they were finished. Then they said, "Cinderella, shake the little tree, and it will throw down even more beautiful clothes. Go to the ball, but be careful to come back before midnight." Cinderella went and said:
Shake yourself, shake yourself, little tree.
Throw some nice clothing down to me!

Then a dress fell down that was even more magnificent and more splendid than the other one, made entirely of gold and precious stones. With it were stockings decorated with gold, and slippers made of gold. Cinderella put them on, and she glistened like the sun at midday. A carriage with six white horses pulled up at the door. The horses had tall white plumes on their heads, and the servants were dressed in red and gold.

When Cinderella arrived, the prince was waiting for her at the stairway. He escorted her into the hall. If everyone had been astounded at her beauty yesterday, today they were even more astounded. The sisters stood in the corner, pale with envy. If they had known that this was Cinderella, who they thought was at home lying in the ashes, they would have died of jealousy.

The prince wanted to know who the foreign princess was, where she was from, and where she was going. He placed his people in the street to keep watch. To prevent her from running away so fast, he had the stairway covered with pitch. Cinderella danced with the prince again and again. Filled with joy, she did not think about midnight. Suddenly, in the middle of a dance, she heard the clock strike. She suddenly remembered what the pigeons had warned her. Frightened, she rushed to the door and ran down the stairs. Because they were covered with pitch, one of her golden slippers stuck fast, and in her fear she did not think to pick it up. She reached the last step just as the clock struck twelve. The carriage and the horses disappeared, and Cinderella was left standing there in the dark street dressed in her ash-clothes.

The prince had rushed after her. He found the golden slipper on the stairway, pulled it loose, and picked it up. But by the time he arrived below, she had disappeared. The people whom he had ordered to keep watch came and said that they had seen nothing.

Cinderella was glad that it had not been worse. She returned home, lit her simple oil lamp, hung it in the chimney, and lay down in the ashes. Before long the two sisters returned, and called out, "Cinderella, get up and light the way for us."

Cinderella yawned and acted as though she had been asleep. While lighting their way, she heard one of them say, "God knows who the cursed princess is. I wish that she were lying beneath the earth! The prince danced only with her, and after she left, he did not want to stay any longer, and the whole party came to an end."

"It was as though they suddenly blew out all the lights," said the other one. Cinderella knew exactly who the foreign princess was, but she did not say a word.

Now the prince decided that since nothing else had succeeded, he would let the slipper help him find his bride. He had it proclaimed that he would marry the person whose foot fit the golden slipper. But it was too small for everyone. Indeed, some could not have gotten their foot inside, if it had been twice as large. Finally it came time for the two sisters to try on the slipper. They were happy, for they had small, beautiful feet, and each one believed that she could not fail. "If only the prince would come here sooner!" they thought.

"Listen," said the mother secretly. "Take this knife, and if the slipper is too tight, just cut off part of your foot. It will hurt a little, but what harm is that? The pain will soon pass, and then one of you will be queen." Then the oldest one went to her bedroom and tried on the slipper. The front of her foot went in, but her heel was too large, so she took the knife and cut part of it off, so she could force her foot into the slipper. Then she went out to the prince, and when he saw that she was wearing the slipper, he said that she was to be his bride. He escorted her to his carriage and was going to drive away with her. When he arrived at the gate, the two pigeons were perched above, and they called out:
Rook di goo, rook di goo!
There's blood in the shoe.
The shoe is too tight,
This bride is not right!


The prince bent over and looked at the slipper. Blood was streaming from it. He saw that he had been deceived, and he took the false bride back.

The mother then said to her second daughter, "Take the slipper, and if it is too short for you, then cut off your toes." So she took the slipper into her bedroom, and because her foot was too long, she bit her teeth together, and cut off a large part of her toes, then quickly pulled on the slipper. When she stepped out wearing it, the prince thought that she was the right one, and wanted to ride away with her. But when they came to the gate, the pigeons again called out:
Rook di goo, rook di goo!
There's blood in the shoe.
The shoe is too tight,
This bride is not right!


The prince looked down and saw that her white stockings were stained red, and that blood and had come up high on them. The prince took her back to her mother and said, "She is not the right bride either. Is there not another daughter here in this house?"

"No," said the mother. "There is only a dirty cinder girl here. She is sitting down there in the ashes. The slipper would never fit her." She did not want to call her, but the prince insisted. So they called Cinderella, and when she heard that the prince was there, she quickly washed her hands and face. She stepped into the best room and bowed. The prince handed her the golden slipper, and said, "Try it on. If it fits you, you shall be my wife." She pulled the heavy shoe from her left foot, then put her foot into the slipper, pushing ever so slightly. It fit as if it had been poured over her foot. As she straightened herself up, she looked into the prince's face, and he recognized her as the beautiful princess. He cried out, "This is the right bride." The stepmother and the two proud sisters turned pale with horror. The prince escorted Cinderella away. He helped her into his carriage, and as they rode through the gate, the pigeons called out:
Rook di goo, rook di goo!
No blood's in the shoe.
The shoe's not too tight,
This bride is right!


* Source: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Kinder- und Hausmärchen, 1st ed. (Berlin, 1812), v. 1, no. 21. Translated by D. L. Ashliman. Copyright 1998.

* In the edition of 1819 (and all subsequent editions) the stepsisters' punishment is more severe: The pigeons attack them and peck out their eyes, leaving them blind for life.

from http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0510a.html