The Many, Many Lives of Cinderella

The Pittsburgh Ballet Theater will bring a preview of the Cinderella to the Carnegie Library Children’s Department on Saturday, April 6 at 2:00 PM. They dance a version based on the one most of us know the best, first published by Perrault in 1697. But since the first-known Cinderella was recorded in ninth century China, over a thousand versions have mesmerized readers with their promise of rewards for the downtrodden and virtuous.

From country to country and imagination to imagination, they vary between whether Cinderella is the daughter of a rich merchant or slave (Egyptian). Whether she asks her father to remarry (Mexico, Middle East) or he is duped into it.  In some versions, she is helped by a fish (Middle East); frog, birds and a bull (Korean) or crocodile (Indonesia). She wears a cloak made of kingfisher feathers (China), a kimono red as sunset (Japan), diamond anklets (India), gold sandals (Iraq) or Penny Loafers (Cinder Edna—American contemporary).

sandalAmong my favorites is The Golden Sandal by Rebecca Hickox, a Middle Eastern Version, partly because of the whimsical illustrations by Will Hillenbrand.


I’m also fond of Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal which weaves variations from many nations into a seamless whole.


Poems from all the major characters tell Cinderella’s story in If the Shoe Fits. Not only do the poems capture the characters’ voices but their feelings and observations.


Nancy Wilson’s Cinderella’s Dress tells a lyrical story from the perspective of magical magpies.

Ella Enchanted, a wonderful novel by Gail Carson Levin, is also a charmer. Under a spell from an evil fairy, Ella must obey what anyone tells her, even if it’s a nasty ogre looking for its next meal. She’s able to resist but resisting wears her out.  She runs away from the charm school where she’s abused by her stepsisters.  Adept at translating and speaking the language of other creatures, she ends up on an adventure hunting ogres with the prince.

We have a page detailing variants. Waltz through a few or several and have a ball.


About Tina Zubak

I've been a librarian at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh for about 12 years, first at the Beechview branch and now at Children's. I've written some books myself, but alas, no publications. Among my favorite books are BFG, Houndsley and Catrina and the Quiet Time, Ramona Quimby, Age 8, Nation and Rose Daughter.
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