A Tuesday Ten: Cinderella Variations

Out on vacation this past week, so just getting back into things!  Cinderella is one of those fairy tales that has its version told in every country and culture.  Again and again the story is transformed to a new setting or a new time period . . . or even with cats, or skeletons or . .. well anything really.   I’ve tried here to capture some of the departures from the traditional retellings, especially some of the “fractured” fairy-tale versions to come out of the original story.


Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (Scholastic, c1997)

Easily one of my favorite Cinderella versions.  This first person account of young Ella is a fully fleshed out story with plenty of adventure and magic.  Ella has been “blessed” with a fairy gift to always be obedient–to do whatever someone tells her.  And she reveals how terrifying this “gift” is within just a few pages.  Growing up stubborn and desperately trying to be herself despite this enchantment, Ella searches for a way to break the spell.  How she ultimately does it will indeed involve a ball and a prince, but with a delightfully different sort of victory.


Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley (HarperCollins, 2006)

In this tale, Bella grows up as a peasant child, though she is friends with a Prince.  Her life is happy until she discovers she is not actually a peasant, but the abandoned daughter of a knight.  Now she is forced to go live at his estates with her deranged father and his hostile new wife.  As usual, it will take a godmother and several enchanted gifts to help Bella find  her own destiny.


Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix (Simon & Schuster, c1999)

What happens after the ball and getting engaged to the handsome prince?  What if you’re not really cut out for royal life?  What if you don’t really like the prince?  The author explores what might happen in this story where Ella must find her own courage to claim a destiny that’s not the traditional happily-ever-after she first thought she wanted.



Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson, illustrated by Kevin O’Malley (HarperCollins, c1994)

This extraordinarily silly Cinderella reinvention has our original Cindy living next to a Cinder Edna.  Unlike the original Cinderella who is outrageously helpless and whiny, Edna is a practical and pragmatic girl who takes the bus to the ball and finds herself someone who shares her sense of humor and seems to have an intelligent head on his shoulders.  And while Cindy gets her prince, it’s Edna who lives happier ever after.


The Gift of the Crocodile: A Cinderella Story by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Reynold Ruffins (Simon & Schuster, c2000)

Damura is a beautiful girl mistreated by her stepmother and stepsisters, forced to do all the chores.  One day she cries out for help down by the river . . . and an ancient crocodile, Grandmother Crocodile answers her plea.  Having such a toothy godmother to help our Cinderella, made this a story worth noting here!  Damura gets beautiful clothes  to wear to dance for the Prince.  But her stemother and sister are jealous and throw her into the river to be swallowed by a crocodile!  Thank goodness Grandmother Crocodile is there to see things right!



The Rough-Faced Girl by Rafe Martin, illustrated by David Shannon (Puffin, c1992)

I particularly like this Native-American version because it requires something different from our heroine to win her “prince”.  The Rough-Faced Girl is ugly and despised in her village because of her looks.  But when the Invisible Being comes looking for a bride in  her village, it isn’t beauty that will win him.  The woman who wants to marry the Invisible Being must prove that she has seen him.  The Rough-Faced Girl’s inner wisdom and sure knowledge of the Invisible Being leads to her being chosen over her beautiful, shallow sisters.



Fanny’s Dream by Caralyn Buehner, illustrated by Mark Buehner (Puffin, c1996)

This story just . . .gets things so sweetly right.  Fanny waits for her fairy godmother to appear the night of a ball . . . but she never shows.  Instead she meets someone else while waiting.  After years of delinquency, Fanny’s fairy godmother finally shows up to grant her dreams of going to the ball and meeting a handsome colonel there.  But Fanny’s no longer interested in her old dream . . . she has something much more valuable in her life.



Cendrillion by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by David Pinkney (Aladdin, c1997)

This Caribbean version is particularly notable for being told from the godmother’s perspective.   While this version is still pretty traditional to the original, I thought it worthwhile to bring to the list. Gorgeous illustrations, a POC as Cinderella, and a chance to see more of the godmother/Cinderella dynamic than comes up in some of the stories.


Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Meg Hunt (Chronicle, May 2015)

Well I had to include a science fictional Cinderella on the list, right?  This Cinderella is an engineer, and she’s not interested in a prince, she’s interested in working on fancy rocketships!  In rhyming verse, this picture book shows us how Cinderella saves the day when the Prince’s own vehicle isn’t working.  Cinderella’s just the gal to fix it.  And when the prince proposes marriage, well Cinderella figures she’s a little young for that yet.  But she’ll be happy to become the royal mechanic!



 If the Shoe Fits by Sarah Mlynowski (Scholastic, 2012)

The second installment in this light-hearted series of fractured fairy-tales! Abby and her brother Johann are back as they travel through their magic mirror once again.  This time they manage to mess up Cinderella’s fairy tale.  When Cindy breaks breaks her ankle, there’s no way the glass slipper will fit!   Apparently Cindy’s fairy godmother won’t fix her foot (and her happily ever after) until Cinderella can prove she’s capable of standing on her own two feet (be self reliant).  Now it’s up to Abby and Johann to help fix things.

What is your favorite Cinderella story?  Comments welcome!



About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on July 19, 2015, in General Posts, Lists and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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