Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Worldwide Cinderellas, Part 1: "Old World" Tales

The story of Cinderella is so much more than a Disney princess from a tale told by a Frenchman. The Cinderella story arc has been found in the stories and traditions of people and cultures from around the world. Part 1 in this series on worldwide Cinderella stories will focus on original Cinderella tales from the Asia, Europe, and Africa. Part 2 will focus on Cinderella stories from the Americas, and part 3 will cover fractured versions of Cinderella tales. The final post is on Teaching Cinderella Stories.

Original Cinderella Stories from Asia

Yeh-Shen: a Cinderella Story from China retold by Ai-Ling Louie and illustrated by Ed Young. This ancient version of the Cinderella tales dates back to the T'ang dynasty of China (618-907 BCE), and the book includes two block-prints from a Ch'ing dynasty edition (1644-1912 BCE). In this original Cinderella tale, Yeh-Shen finds help from the magical bones of the fish she had fed and raised who had been killed by the stepmother. There is also a tiny gold sandal and a dramatic end for the stepmother and stepsister.

The Korean Cinderella retold by Shirley Climo and illustrated by Ruth Heller and Pigling: a Cinderella story, a Korean tale retold by Dan Jolley and illustrated by Anne Timmons. Variations on the Pigling Cinderella story have been told in Korea for centuries. The graphic novel version, Pigling, is always a big hit with my students.

Kongi and Potgi: a Cinderella story from Korea retold by Oki S. Han. Another take on the Cinderella story from Korean, based on a popular Korean folktale. Kongi's father sees the unfair treatment of his daughter by his new wife and step-daughter but is afraid to intervene. Kongi is instead helped by a variety of animals and angels to overcome her tasks.

Anklet for a Princess: a Cinderella story from India by Lila Mehta, adapted by Meredith Brucker, and illustrated by Youshan Tang. This Indian Cinderella story is based on oral traditions dating back at least 1,000 years and features Godfather Snake as her magical adviser.

Abadeha: the Philippine Cinderella adapted by Myrna J. de la Paz and illustrated by Youshan Tang. This Cinderella story is a reconstruction based on traditional Philippine folklore and incorporates native flora, fauna, and linguistic terms (defined by context). Young Abadeha is helped by the Spirit of the Forest to complete her tasks and to meet the Prince via an enchanted ring.


Tam and Cam: the ancient Vietnamese Cinderella Story retold by Minh Quoc and illustrated by Mai Long (full-color and full-size picture book) and Tam Cam: the Vietnamese Cinderella Story retold by Nguyen Thi Nhuan and Nguyen Thi Hop (paperback sized, line drawings). These two retellings of the Vietnamese Cinderella story broaden the story to a set of half-sisters: Tam and Cam. Both books are bilingual in English and Vietnamese, but neither includes provenance information about the age or date of the original story.

Angkat: the Cambodian Cinderella retold by Jewell Reinhart Coburn and illustrated by Eddie Flotte. A version of this Cinderella story was written down by a French folklorist who lived in Cambodia in the late 1800s and studying Khmer culture. This is the first published adaptation in English, and in this tale, Cinderella (Angkat)'s problems do not end with her royal wedding ...

Jouanah: a Hmong Cinderella adapted by Jewell Reinhart Coburn with Tzexa Cherta Lee and illustrated by Anne Sibley O'Brien. This Cinderella tales was adapted from several centuries-old Laotian Hmong folktales, including those told by the family of one of the authors. Rather than losing her mother to death at the beginning, Jouanah's mother turns herself into a cow for the good of the family, but the family's problems only get worse from there.

The Gift of the Crocodile: a Cinderella story retold by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Reynold Ruffins. This Indonesian version of Cinderella comes from the Spice Islands, specifically the island of Halmahera in the Moluccas, and was collected by missionaries and later published in the early 1900s. Damura (Cinderella) finds that the threats of her stepmother and sisters continue even after the wedding - to dramatic end!

Cinderella Stories from Africa and the Middle East

The Egyptian Cinderella retold by Shirley Climo and illustrated by Ruth Heller. This Cinderella story about Rhodopis was first recorded in the first century BC but was based on the life of a Greek slave girl who married the Egyptian Pharaoh Amasis who ruled during the 26th Dynasty (570-526 BC).

The Persian Cinderella retold by Shirley Climo and illustrated by Robert Florczak. This version of a Cinderella tale is one of the more than 200 tales from The Arabian Nights, which dates back to ninth-century Persia (modern Iran), though the stories themselves are older still. Settarah (Star), so-named for a star-shaped birthmark on her cheek, draws the ire of her stepsisters but finds help after spending her last coins for a little blue jug.

The Golden Sandal: a Middle Eastern Cinderella Story retold by Rebecca Hickox and illustrated by Will Hillenbrand. This Cinderella tale is set in Iraq and is based on two Arabic versions of the folktale: one from Iraq and another from eastern Iran and western Afghanistan. Maha's step-sister gets a rather unusual - and humorous - comeuppance in this telling.

Cinderella: an Islamic Tale by Fawzia Gilani. This recent retelling of the Cinderella tale is given an Islamic twist (no specific country identified). A glossary at the back explains the Arabic terms throughout the story as well as references for the quotations from the Qur'an and Hadith.

Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters: an African tale retold by John Steptoe (Caldecott Honor Book). This African Cinderella story is based upon a traditional Zimbabwe folktale and features many classic Cinderella themes. I highly recommend attending a performance of this story if you ever have the opportunity. It is one that my students have thoroughly enjoyed.

Cinderella Stories from Europe

Cinderella translated by Marcia Brown from the French version by Charles Perrault (Caldecott Award Winner). This classic version of the Cinderella story by Perrault formed the basis for the Disney movie version.

Cinderella: a Grimm's Fairy Tale by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm and illustrated by Ulrike Haseloff. This slightly cleaned-up version brings the Grimm brothers' Cinderella tale (Aschenputtel) to the picture book format.

The Orphan: a Cinderella story from Greece by Anthony Manna and Soula Mitakidou and illustrated by Giselle Potter. In this version, our heroine is helped by nature itself and her mother's voice, and the prince sets out a trap to catch her and reveal her identity! This story is loosely based on two different Greek versions.

The Irish Cinderlad retold by Shirley Climo and illustrated by Loretta Krupinski. Published accounts of the Irish Cinderlad tale date back to the nineteenth century after bards were again aloud to share native stories, so it is likely that the story itself is much older. Despite being a Cinderlad, Becan is still faced with an evil stepmother and tormented by stepsisters - as well as a giant and a dragon.

Fair, Brown, and Trembling: an Irish Cinderella Story by Jude Daly. In this version, based on a traditional Irish folktale, it is Trembling's actual sisters who treat her poorly and leave her at home. But the adventures does not quite end once the princes have found the owner of the shoe - then they must fight for her!

The Way Meat Loves Salt: a Cinderella tale from the Jewish tradition retold by Nina Jaffe and illustrated by Louise August. This version of the Cinderella tale has links back to a classic collection of Yiddish folktales collected in Poland in the 1920s but also contains echos of other well-known tales, including Shakespeare's King Lear. Yiddish names and words are introduced with a pronunciation guide at the beginning of the story, and a traditional eastern European wedding song is included at the end.

Do you have other favorite Cinderella tales from Asia, Africa, or Europe? Please share them below! Next week we'll take a look at Cinderella stories from the Americas before sharing some favorite fractured versions too. Or, read up on how I teach Cinderella stories to my students.

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday Challenge is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and is a weekly roundup of educator blogs that are sharing nonfiction picture books. Click the link to check out other nonfiction posts.


  1. I don't think I realized how many Cinderella books were out there. Thanks for this post. I need to pin it.

    1. Thanks, Alyson! It is so much fun throwing these all at students and blowing their mind in the same way. And this is only the first half of the cultural ones.

  2. Wow! What a resource! Pinning as well!

    1. Thanks, Carrie! And thanks for the pin too, I really appreciate you helping spread the word about all of these amazing books.

  3. Beautiful collection, Katie. I have several of these, & like Carrie & Alyson, I didn't know there were so many. Thank you. (I love the Hmong book.)

    1. Thanks, Linda! Once I started looking, I couldn't stop. I love how every student finds a different favorite or personal connection.

  4. This is great! I had no idea that there was a Cinderella story in so many cultures! If you had a spare moment, I would be delighted if you'd drop this (and anything else you'd like to share) by at the #PureBlogLove DIY and recipe link party! You can find me here:

    1. Thanks for the invitation, Nicole; I will have to check it out!

  5. I've read a few of these stories, but wow, I had no idea there were so many! Great collection!

    1. Thanks, Michele! I love how so many of them have quite long histories as well. Incredible.

  6. I had no idea there were so many cultural versions of Cinderella. You're right - there is so much more to the story than the Disney movie, which I must admit, is what I think of when I hear of Cinderella. Such an interesting, informative post!

    1. Thanks, Rebecca! I think many of these stories are much more interesting than the Disney Cinderella, and you can learn so many neat details about other countries and cultures too.


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