Cinderella in Three Thousand Ways - Part 1

Cinderella in Three Thousand Ways - Part 1

The content, characters, and storyline found within fairy tales are influenced by traditions, religion, and the values of individual nations. This enables the imparting of deep knowledge, as well as moral, social, and political lessons from generation to generation. At the same time, fairy tales carry cultural traditions, which in turn helps develop one’s morals and faith, and develop character and attitude to one’s own culture. While each geographic region has its own folktales and tales it considers its own, certain motifs are repeated across many cultures and time periods due to their universality. Recurring topics include the battle of good and evil, love and hatred, courage and cowardice, and kindness and cruelty.

Fairy tales take root in common human experiences, and therefore, they appear in similar forms across different continents and cultures. Another reason could be the spread of stories by word of mouth: people repeating the tales they have heard in foreign countries, also known as the so-called “fairy tale migration”.
Usually, fairy tales acquire their own character by adapting to regional customs, traditions, and cultures. Over time, they also change due to the influence of developing cultures and shifts in social and political conditions. As society evolves, fairy tales adapt to become relevant to the time. There is a reciprocal connection: culture influences fairy tales and in turn, fairy tales influence culture.

Despite the diversity of cultures and geographical distance, it is possible to limit the individual themes of fairy tales to one simplified monomyth: “The hero sets out from their safe home environment to a world full of danger and wonder to achieve victory before returning home.”

According to the teachings of different regions and cultures, a single fairy tale does not have only one meaning and one interpretation. These varied understandings can reflect the many diverse ways of thinking and how one perceives the world. For example, Europeans have an individualistic model of thinking, while Asians prefer socially oriented interpretations. Europeans expect their characters to break social rules, while Asians prefer the ones that stick to them. This is exactly why the same fairy tale can be interpreted differently. For example, the American Cinderella emphasises the value of feminism, the European Cinderella the value of perseverance and patience, the Turkish Cinderella the value of fidelity, and so forth.

How one motif of the story intertwines between cultures all over the world can already be seen in the above-mentioned fairy tale about Cinderella. Based on research, there are up to three thousand versions of this one fairy tale. Although many of them have different titles in different countries, you will immediately recognise the familiar features of this story. Among them are the Greek Orphan, the Thai Kao and the Goldfish, the Cambodian Angkat, the Spanish Little Golden Star, the Philippine Abadeha, the Mexican Adelita, the Indonesian Crocodile Gift, and the Slavic Sister and the Moon Brothers.

If you want to learn more about these stories, read the next part of the blog, where we will look closer into some of them.

You can also find several versions of Cinderella in the Readmio app. For example, try to read the Vietnamese one with your children and look for similarities or differences with the European one.

Boyden, Matthew. Opera: the Rough Guide. 1997.

"Cinderella: A Timeless Tale from Many Lands." Austin Lyric Opera.

"The Composition of LA CENERENTOLA." Dayton Opera.

"Gioacchino Rossini, a Very Brief Biography." from Opera World's website Opera Broadcast Booth. .

Heiner, Heidi Anne. "SurLaLune Annotated Fairy Tales: History of Cinderella." 2000.

Lucas, Jennisen. "If the Shoe Fits: An Annotated Bibliography on the Popular Tale of Cinderella."

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