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Cinderella: It’s Influence Cross-Culturally, Essay Example

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Essay

Introduction

Through the ages, there have been many folktales that have inspired countless millions and also have served to be moral reminders of major themes of life. They have also been translated and made culturally relevant for many countries across the globe. One of these famous folktales tells the story of Cinderella, the story of a despised girl who rose to fame through good fortune. This particular folktale, its main editions, major elements and moral theme are all discussed herein.

There are two main versions of the Cinderella story; the American version released by Disney, and the German version known as Aschenputtel1. Although widely popularised in both print and media, the Disney version of the story differs significantly from the German version of the story, for three main reasons.

Firstly, the story had to have cultural significance. The American and German audiences vary quite differently, in terms of demographics and storyline inclinations. In particular, the American variant seems to focus more on Cinderella’s timidity, whereas the German version focuses on Cinderella’s ingenuity. It is shown through the various nuances and characters that the particular audience is most drawn to these qualities.

Furthermore, the different variants of the story show a different storyline. In the American version, it is shown that Cinderella is helped to the ball by her godmother, who provides her with clothes, shoes and transport2. However, the German version shows that Cinderella has to complete three different errands for her stepmother before she is to go to the ball, and having completed them with assistance from birds in the garden, she is turned down, only to receive fancy clothes from a tree3.

Secondly, the story had to have moral impact. Although the moral of both the American and German versions of the story are quite similar, they still have certain differences. For instance, the moral of the American version shows that graciousness is a priceless gift of greater value. This gift was one that was given by Cinderella’s godmother, and grants favour to the one who has it. The German version focuses more on the fate of Cinderella’s evil sisters. In this version, the eyes of both sisters are plucked out by the birds that helped Cinderella get to the ball. It also shows that wickedness and falsehood will be repaid to those who espouse it.

Lastly, the story had to have an underdog. This is one of the most important criteria to note that relates to every version of the Cinderella folktale, especially in light of both the American and German versions. Seen as a heroine in the end, Cinderella did not make it there in a short amount of time, but rather by a pivotal event. She also received help in both stories, although the type of assistance and its origins differed somewhat. Cinderella also won the favour of the prince by simple graciousness, a characteristic that she gained through many events in her life, but was also a gift to her by her godmother.

It is also important to note that the original story was of French origin, written by Charles Perrault. It centres around the culture, place and time when it was written, although generally made applicable by the popularisation of the story by Disney. As the original story outlines, it also is made relevant for audiences of many different countries, with the main focus of the story around Cinderella’s rise to fortune through her perseverance.

The French culture plays a part in the original story of Cinderella, particularly in relation to the kindness Cinderella showed to her sisters, despite the ill-treatment that she received at their hands. Indeed, it is quite reflective of the general motives of the French people and the importance that society places on such a characteristic.

The place of where most of the story is set is in the palace, emphasising the prominence of French class and royalty. It is said that Charles Perrault formulated the story to fit his main audience, which were members of the French Court4. As Cinderella ultimately becomes a princess and is chosen by the prince to marry, this shows that such royalty is held in high honour, despite the fact that Cinderella actually was considered a poor servant.

Finally, the time in which the Cinderella folktale is told was in the late 1600s, a time when traditional morals were clearly distinguished in society, and such is the case for this story. Though it still shows the rise of the underdog, the virtue of graciousness is clearly seen in whatever Cinderella undertakes.

In regards to the different story elements observable throughout the folktale of Cinderella, there are three main elements, as influenced by Carl Jung’s theory. The first element is the sibling rivalry amongst the sisters. Both of Cinderella’s sisters wish to become acquainted with the prince, but despise Cinderella when she seeks to accompany them to the ball, forcing her to stay behind and do menial work. There is also competition between both of Cinderella’s sisters, as shown by each trying to outdo each other.

The second element is the relationship with the prince that Cinderella shares. Though she initially was prevented from attending the ball by her sisters and also by her stepmother, she manages to attend with the provision and assistance from her godmother. In addition, her relationship with the prince begins on the first night of the ball, mainly due to her graciousness and the prince’s attraction to her. This is shown to be reciprocal on the second night of the ball, and also when Cinderella ultimately marries him.

The third element is the importance of the folktale’s end. In this ending of the story, the moral is shown in light of Cinderella’s character. She maintains her graciousness and extends this by caring and providing for her sisters, even after their ill-treatment to her and after her marriage to the prince. Therefore, the moral of the story, also synonymous with the end of the folktale, shows that with graciousness, one can do anything, but without it, nothing is possible.

Such folktales are often made to preserve morals within the mode of writings, in the hope that these treasured stories will be handed down from generation to generation. In the case of Cinderella, the moral of the story, such that good is often repaid with good, is shown to shine through the entire storyline5. Also, due to the famous movie of the same title, Cinderella has also maintained its popularity, especially with children of a younger age. This has also become quite a central story in educative literature and American culture, by the influence of Disney.

However, there are two main variants of the story that are not personally applicable to future generations, according to individual preference. These include the German variation and the Chinese variation. According to aforementioned criteria, the cultural significance of the story does not translate into the current culture, in relation to both the German and Chinese versions. This is due to the fact that in the German story, the eyes of the sisters are plucked out by the same birds that helped Cinderella; while the Chinese story shows that both of Cinderella’s sisters and her stepmother are killed by flying stones. This is particularly graphic and would portray a negative connotation to the story, especially to younger children living in Western countries.

In addition, the moral impact of the story differs somewhat in relation to the American version of Cinderella. The Chinese and German stories focus on evil and the repayment of it, while Cinderella’s graciousness and its ultimate reward is the focus of the American version.

Lastly, the concept of the underdog is very important to younger children in Western countries, especially as life events are pivotal in a child’s life. In her early stages, Cinderella is shown to portray the same trait of graciousness as when she is finally made the bride of the prince; although the Chinese and German versions do not shed as much light on this trait as the traditional folktale. Therefore, the American version is preferred in comparison to the Chinese and German variants.

Conclusion

In summary, the folktale of Cinderella has impacted the societies of many countries throughout the world, and has been adapted from French origins to cater for American, Chinese and German audiences in particular. The moral of the story focuses on various pivotal elements in the story, and Cinderella’s graciousness is a trait that many seek to aspire for both in the past, and also for future generations.

Works Cited

Dunde, Alan. Cinderella: A Casebook. Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982. Print.

Perrault, Charles. Tales of the Past. Paris: Barbin, 1697. Print.

Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Aschenputtel. Gottingen: Buchhandlung, 1857. Print.

Behren, Laurence, and Rosen, Leonard. A Closer Look at Cinderella. New York: Pearson, 2010. Print.

Ting, Z. H. A. O. “A Cross-Cultural Study of the Cinderella Story – The Chinese, German and French Versions.” Journal of Xinjiang University (Philosophy, Humanities & Social Sciences) 5 (2009): 031.

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