We all know the Cinderella fairy tale, the story of the downtrodden but kind young girl forced to toil for her cruel stepmother and stepsisters. With the aid of a few mice and a fairy godmother, she attends a ball, falls in love with a prince, loses her shoe, and finds it again on her journey to “happily ever after.” Her story is reworked into films constantly, pops up in countless advertisements, inspires elaborate weddings, and is even referenced in sports (after all, who hasn’t heard of a team with a “Cinderella story”?).
But there’s a lot more to Cinderella than most people know. Her shoes are not always made of glass, for example, and she isn’t always an orphan. Sometimes there isn’t a fairy godmother at all but rather a magical tree, a fish, or even a flock of turkeys. In a more unsettling twist, there are even versions of her tale that include horrors like incest and rape. “Cinderella,” it turns out, is not so simple.
Folklorists Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman dig into the Cinderella story. They discuss how versions differ and what the tale looks like around the world, how it has been retold in contemporary times, what we can learn from “Cinderella,” and why the story has had such a lasting impact on Western culture. In addition, this program includes the opportunity for participation by attendees.
Cleto and Warman are former instructors of folklore and literature at Ohio State University and co-founders of the Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic.