Saturday, May 25 the Columbia Marionette Theater will be performing its production of the classic fairy tale “Cinderella” at the Spinning Jenny.
Almost everyone has seen the classic Disney animated adaptation of this story. The story has been retold for over two thousand years across many different cultures, but the basic plot remains the same—a young maiden living in poor circumstances ascends to nobility by marrying a prince or king. The plot is often driven by the noble in question searching for the maiden who fits a petit slipper or sandal.
Disney’s adaptation of the story is heavily based upon a French version written by Charles Perrault in the 17th century. His story features the familiar wicked step-mother, the vain and cruel step-sisters, the fairy god-mother, the pumpkin that turns into a carriage, mice that turn into horses, and the famous glass slipper. In Perrault’s version, the spells cast by the fairy god-mother expire at midnight, turning the carriage back into a pumpkin and Cinderella’s beautiful gown back into grubby rags. Anyone familiar with the Disney animated film will instantly recognize this version of the story.
German bothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm record another version of the story in the 19th century. Their version of the fairy tale shares some of the features as Perrault’s version, but with a much darker overtone.
In the Grimm brother’s version of the story, a young maiden’s mother dies, and her father re-marries a woman with two daughters who were beautiful in appearance but had cruel, black hearts. They mercilessly taunt the maiden, taking away her fine dresses and giving her poor gray clothes and wooden shoes to wear. Forced to slave away in the kitchen, the maiden must sleep at the hearth of the fireplace near the cinders to keep warm. The cinders made her poor, gray clothes even dirtier, causing the step-sisters to name her “Cinderella.”
Grimm’s tale features the familiar festival held by the King to find a wife for his son, which Cinderella’s cruel step-mother forbids her to go to because she has no fine clothes to wear. Rather than a fairy god-mother coming to the rescue, Cinderella retreats to her mother’s grave, crying out to the doves and turtle-doves to help her. Over the course of three evenings, these birds bring Cinderella three different gowns and pairs of slippers, each more beautiful than the last, with the final gown being the most beautiful of all and slippers made of gold.
Each evening of the festival, Cinderella dances with the prince. There is no magic spell that will expire at midnight. Instead, Cinderella merely wants to go home at the end of the evening, but the prince wants to escort her home so that he can see which house she belongs to. Fearing that the prince will discover her true condition, she flees from the prince on the first evening by hiding in a pigeon house and the second evening by hiding in a pear tree.
The prince, unable to determine to which family Cinderella belongs, lays pitch on the steps of the palace so that when Cinderella flees at the end of the evening, one of her golden slippers is left stuck to the steps. He then goes to the king and tells him that the maiden who fits the golden slipper shall be his bride.
This is where the story takes a much darker turn. The cruel step-sisters desperately want the prince’s hand in marriage, but the slipper is much too small for their feet. The first chops off her big toe and tries on the slipper. It fits, but as she rides off with the prince, they pass by the grave of Cinderella’s mother where the birds cry out that she is not the true bride. The prince, seeing the blood gushing out of the slipper, casts her aside and resumes his search for the slipper’s true owner. The second sister cuts off part of her heel to fit into the slipper, and as she and the prince ride off, they pass by grave of Cinderella’s mother, and the birds once more call out the deception. She too is cast aside.
Cinderella is finally called for, and when she is discovered to be the true owner of the slipper, the prince marries her. The cruel step-sisters attend the wedding hoping to garner favor with Cinderella and the prince, but doves pick out their eyes, and they spend the rest of their life maimed and blind for their cruelty and wickedness.
Eh, you can see why Disney opted to use the older French version of the tale.
Columbia Marionette Theater’s production will be far more cheerful than the Grimm brother’s version. They promise, “A peppy interpretation of the classic story in which Cinderella is helped by her fairy godmother and the clock at the top of the castle tower to outwit her evil stepmother and win Prince Charming’s heart. Full of humor, warmth, and music, this elaborate production runs 40 minutes and features a clever set and detailed marionettes.”
Don’t miss your chance to see this classic tale retold by skilled puppeteers. Get your tickets now. The cost is $5 for children and $7 for adults.
Here's a quick preview of the puppeteering skills you'll see at the show. Enjoy.