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Carli Miller

Ethnographic paper



Once upon a time..

Folklore studies have always focused on language, literature, philosophy, and history. Johann Gottfreid

von Herder and The Grimm brothers are the founders of folklore, which it was referred to as Philology.

Past folklorists focused on mostly songs in order to understand the past and sometimes to shape the

present. This topic is controversial because some believe that folklore should not be in the history

category. Folklore belongs as a song or a riddle. In the 19th century, fairy tales were written primarily for

adult viewing only. The fairy tales then were not permitted to be viewed by children. In today’s world we

are so used to seeing folktales in literary print that we seem to forget that they are Oral traditions

across the globe. “Oral tradition is remarkably resilient, often existing alongside, but unnoticed by,

literary culture. Given the existence of versions, elements, and motifs typical of the folktale in early

English literature, and occasionally in other historical records and accounts, it is not unreasonable to

assume that the telling of folktales was once an important part of oral tradition in England, but suffered

a major decline before it could be documented. When you have an oral tradition, it allows you to hear

and observe the storytellers actions.” (Widdowson, J. D. A. "Folktales in Newfoundland Oral Tradition:

Structure, Style, and Performance." Folklore 120, no. 1 (2009): 19-35

Folklorists at the time were awaiting a response from the creative acts. For many years, Folklorists

argued on how to classify a folk tale. In the sixties, folklorists were moving from categorization and

trying to focus on forming a system. This generation knew that the interactions between an individual

tells a story and how the audiences react and interact with other elements of culture were important.

Folklorists today look at the relations between the socially given, the traditional, and the creative

individual. It’s important to maintain the balance of those three things. Let’s start off by taking the

creative individual for example. In my research, I have found many versions of Cinderella. Depending

on your culture and what area of the world you are from, Cinderella will be viewed in charismatically

and contrasting ways. “Today we appreciate collections and the methods of previous generations, but

the new insights of performance theory have further opened the field. Performance theory remains a

valid and useful perspective within many cultures, it is various and dynamic and can be almost infinitely

described, analyzed, and appreciated (just as a text in literature can be read and understood from

various perspectives).” (Magoulick, Mary, History of Folklore, https://faculty.gcsu.edu/custom-

website/mary-magoulick/history.htm )

Cinderella was first introduced in 1501 as a Sermon in Strasburg which referred to the “Tale number

129” in Europe. The young character was nicknamed ass hide that had little ants marry her.

Late 17th century, French author Charles Perrault published the first version of Cinderella, titled “The

Little Glass Slipper” His adaptation came from “Cat Cinderella” written by Italian poet Giambattista

Basile in the early 17th century. In 1899, Georges Méliès created a French silent film, “Cendrillon”. In

the 19th century the Brothers Grimm retold the tale as “Aschenputtel”. Followed by the classic

“Cinderella in” 1950 by Walt Disney.

The Cat Cinderella was taken from an oral source. Each narrative out of ten represented one day worth

of story-telling. In this version, her name was Zezolla and she lived with her father who was the Prince.

He was alive throughout the whole story. He taught her how to sew, among other skills. She was

looked after by her governess whom she adored. Her stepmother was evil and had a terrible temper.

Zezolla wished that her father would have married the governess instead of her stepmother. The

governess and Zezolla discussed how they would kill the stepmother. Zezolla had to tell the stepmother

she needed an old dress. As the stepmother was searching in the trunk, Zezolla would let go of the lid,

quickly breaking her neck and killing her. The Prince remarried the governess and Zezolla would

become the mistress. The governess would allow Zezolla to sit at the best seat at the dinner table. She

was also in the best attire. This all changed as the governess brought each of her six daughters to live

with them. She suddenly forgot about the relationship with Zezolla, renaming her Cat Cinder. The

prince would travel to Sardinia to retain gifts for all of his daughters. He grew close to his new

daughter’s often forgetting about Zezolla. He returned with gifts for everyone but Zezolla. He begged

the fairies to bring her a gift without her noticing. The fairies magically planted a date tree. Zezolla

would repeat the spell “O my golden date tree, With golden spade, I've dug thee, With golden can I've

watered thee, With golden napkin dried thee, Strip thyself and robe thou me.” (Dundes, Alan

“Cinderella a Casebook” The University of Wisconsin Press )

After reciting the spell, Zezolla magically appears in a beautiful dress. Her father is surprised by the

Kings reaction when he insists on Zezolla sitting in at the grand feast. He then proceeds to ask Zezolla

to be his Queen.

The French version of Cinderella (Cendrillon) was a silent film produced by Georges Méliès in 1899.

The film was very short. It was shot in black and white with pops of color. There was sheet music
playing. It was about five minutes long. The servant girl, evil stepsisters, fairy godmother, ball, and

Prince were all present. The pumpkin was changed into a carriage. I didn’t see any violence throughout

the film, although you could see the distress in Cendrillon. The lost glass slipper was returned to

Cendrillon. She married the Prince and there was a happy ending. Every character in the film was


Charles Perrault’s version of Cinderella, “The Little Glass Slipper” is noted as the most popular version.

It is similar to the Disney version. In the beginning of this version, Cinderella is depicted as sweet and

kind. There is a wicked stepmother who is married to Cinderella’s father. The father is alive throughout

the storyline. Cinderella has to do all of the dirty housework including cleaning the chimney, which later

translates her name to Cinderwench .The youngest sister didn’t refer to her as so. There was a ball

being held at the Kings Palace. Cinderella had to help her sisters get ready. She knew she wouldn’t be

able to attend. Cinderella was found crying by her Godmother. Her Godmother asked her to get a

pumpkin from the garden. It turned into a coach. There were mice that were turned into coachman. Her

rags were turned into a ball gown. She had to be back by midnight. She attended a second ball and

lost her glass slipper. The next day, the Prince has her try on the slipper. He falls even more in love

with her, as she is dressed in her rags. The stepsisters are bewildered that she was the beautiful girl at

the ball. She was off at once to marry the Prince. The stepsisters begged her to forgive them, knowing

she would come into good fortune. Cinderella’s good heart allowed her two sisters to live in the Palace.

Cinderella arranged to have them matched up with two of the Lords on the court.

In the 19th century, the story was picked up by The Brothers Grimm who introduced modern literature.

The story had a German background. It was entitled “Aschenputtel”.

In the Brothers Grimm version, Cinderella grows up with a rich father. It is Cinderella’s deceased

mother who helps her out. The stepmother and sisters refer to her as ash girl. This is because she has

to do all of the dirty chores around the house. The father is attending the local fair and asks the

children what they would like. He brings back what they asked for. The step sisters received jewelry

and lavish clothes. Cinderella desired the first twig that brushes against his hat to be broken. She

planted the hazel twig upon her mother’s grave and she would continue to visit the site daily. A little

white bird would appear at the grave. Every time she would cry, her wishes would slip out. The wishes

would be granted each time. The King planned a three day festival and all of the most beautiful ladies

were invited. The wicked stepmother said Cinderella could attend the festival, if she picked out all of

the lentils in the ashes within two hours. In this version she had pigeons help her get the lentils out of

the ash. She went to her mother’s grave and wept. She was sent down a gold and silver dress with

silver sequenced shoes. The prince only wanted to dance with her the rest of the night. This story line

has Cinderella wanting to go home, not because she had to be back by midnight. She dashes for home

with the Prince trying to escort her. The next two days her dress would be better than the one before.

The third day she had gold slippers. She wanted to leave again abruptly after the dance. The Prince

covered the stairs with pitch so when she took off, her slipper would stick. He was searching the village

until he found the woman who fit this slipper.

“The 1950 Disney movie uses the glass based slipper as a way of adding a plot twist - when the slipper

is shattered, Cinderella is robbed of the chance to try it on, but is provided with an opportunity in which

to prove her identity when she produces the matching one. In the German revision of the story, the first

stepsister fits into the slipper by cutting off a toe. The second stepsister cuts off her heel in order to

achieve the same. When the prince finds blood dripping from the slipper, he sends them home. This

same version sees the evil stepsisters punished when birds peck their eyes out. Modern adaptations
have become more child-friendly and lack the gore of these earlier versions. The number of balls in

each story varies from one to three. Several variants have Cinderella attending church, forgoing the

ball all together. The original name of the story and the Perrault added the now famous elements of

the fairy godmother, the pumpkin carriage, and the glass slippers.”( Dryfhout,Taryn


In the American versions of Grimm’s' tales through the nineteenth century was to create cheap

editions, expand the number of illustrations, and emphasize the younger audience.

They wrote: "It is probably just the right time to collect these tales, since those who have been

preserving them are becoming ever harder to find (to be sure, those who still know them know a great

deal, because people may die, but the stories live on). The custom of telling tales is ever on the wane,

just as all the cozy corners in homes and in gardens are giving way to an empty splendor that

resembles the smile with which one speaks of these tales-a smile that looks elegant but costs so little"

(Bronner, Simon J. "The Americanization of the Brothers Grimm." In Following Tradition, 184-236.

University Press of Colorado, 1998. doi:10.2307/j.ctt46nqtf.9. )

They also stood by their decision to make the tale dark. The reader is left cold. That’s how they

interpreted the story long ago and they wished to keep it that way. The Grimm’s were telling their

version to the German people to connect them to their past and what they were going through socially

and physically. As literary critic Maria Tatar argues in her study of the Grimm’s' fairy tales: "Originally

told at fireside gatherings or in spinning circles by adults to adult audiences, fairy tales joined the canon

of children's literature ... only in the last two or three centuries. Yet the hold these stories have on the

imagination of children is so compelling that it becomes difficult to conceive of a childhood without

them". She also makes the important observation that, while fairy tales express "our deepest hopes
and most ardent desires," they also contain within them darker visions: "Wishes and fantasies may

come to life in the fairy tale, but fears and phobias also become full-blooded presences". ( Laderman,

Gary. "The Disney Way of Death." Journal of the American Academy of Religion 68, no. 1 (2000): 27-

46. http://www.jstor.org.libprox1.slcc.edu:2048/stable/1465709.)

Disney Productions can be viewed as alterations or adaptations. According to many studies, Disney

was both pioneer and prophet in American society. Walt Disney made some modern films but most of

his inspiration came from European folklore.

“ As modern-day fairy tales, his films both reflect and shape religious sensibilities across the grain of

American culture-they are popular meditations that rely on a cultural system of religious meanings to

make sense of death . The centrality of death in these films mark them not only as significant cultural

artifacts in the history of attitudes toward death in America but as revealing cultural texts that

communicate popular fears about social disorder, common fantasies about family life as a source of

transcendence, and idealistic dreams about American values and virtues. Without this preoccupation

with death, Disney would not have had the cultural impact he did in twentieth-century America; if

Americans in this period did not have similar pre-occupations and similar strategies for imagining

meaning in the face of death, his films would have held little public interest.”( Laderman, Gary. "The

Disney Way of Death." Journal of the American Academy of Religion 68, no. 1 (2000): 27-46.


The term Disneyfication essentially means that the stories are altered to create safer entertainment for

children. It takes the original dark, vulgar story and transforms it into a more optimistic, charismatic

script. Disney had the advantage of Cinema. It comes to life before your eyes. It creates realism.

Cinema allows the characters to be in your home and you grow to love the character. The music is a
key factor in Disney’s animation of Cinderella. The music was recorded by legendary musicians.

Disney generates a lot of money from their blockbuster films.

“In addition to inspiring subsequent references to fairy tale transformation, Disney also commodified

animation of the Grimm’s' tales in an American mode of showing off technological wizardry and

organizational prowess. Disney's advertising touted the "dazzling color and brilliant color" that brings

the tales to "magical life." .( Bronner, Simon J. "The Americanization of the Brothers Grimm."

In Following Tradition, 184-236. University Press of Colorado, 1998. )

Disney’s character Cinderella from the 1950s film, is portrayed as young, charming and beautiful. She

is the epitome of a 1950’s housewife. Her voice is lovely and she is shown as a dreamer. She grows up

without a mother or father and is taken care of by her wicked stepmother. Her stepsisters as well as the

mother are jealous of her. Cinderella has to listen to their every command and live in the attic. She is

wholesome and pure with potential. Her stepmother is aware of her qualities. The step mother and

daughters are the direct opposite of Cinderella. Their skin and other features are not as nice. Lady

Tremain (stepmother) has an evil cat Lucifer who follows her around in the shadows. Disney uses

Lucifer the cat to communicate the evil parts that are showed through the stepsisters in the Brothers

Grimm. He felt that making the stepsisters this mean would imply to the younger viewers you can be

rewarded for bad behavior. The story continues with the stepmother receiving a letter that indicates all

eligible women are allowed to attend the Kings ball. The King is helping his son, the Prince to find a

young lady to marry. After Cinderella helps her stepsisters get ready, she makes her own dress with the

help of her friends. Her friends are her cheery animal companions, a few mice and birds. The step

sisters out of jealousy rip her dress apart. Cinderella runs out to the garden upset in rags, knowing she

is unable to meet the Prince and has lost her chance of escaping her stepmother. Magically her fairy
Godmother appears. The godmother consoles Cinderella, waving her wand and creating a beautiful

ball gown. She then turns the pumpkin into a carriage, the mice into horse, the horse into coachmen,

the dog into a footman. The spell will be broken at midnight. Cinderella is more than grateful. The

Prince notices her and asks for a dance. He falls in love with her mesmerizing gown and her beauty. It

becomes midnight and she runs off losing her glass slipper. The King sends out a search to see if the

glass slipper fits any of the remaining single bachelorettes. The stepmother locks Cinderella in her

room. The two stepsisters try to squeeze their over sized feet into the shoe with such force. The slipper

pops off and shatters all over the floor. Cinderella with the help of her animal friends, meets the Kings

crew and shows them the other glass slipper. In disbelief and awe her wicked family watches her off,

knowing she will be the Princess. The ending is unclear what happens to the stepmother and sisters.

Cinderella and the Prince live happily ever after. Disney also makes sure that the stepsisters do not

find husbands to take care of them in comparison to Perrault’s version.

As Cinderella changes throughout History, it is fascinating to see the Authors point of view based upon

their values and standards. Each story transforms into relatable and notable pieces. You can

remarkably see from the beginning of the 1500’s to present, how the tale of Cinderella has changed

and continues to change based upon the surrounding culture and economy. The “Tale number 129 “

sermon didn’t have mass media or money in mind when it was told. There are easily over 700 versions

of this popular tale. Grimm looks at the classic Cinderella tale as folklore. Disney adds in the fairy tale

factor. He tells a story and creates magic to the viewer. Grimm doesn’t rely on the magic of the

pumpkin turning into a carriage. Disney needs to do this in order to generate money. It is Disney

productions ultimate goal, to sell. Disney creates consumers, not listeners. Publication of children’s

books became popular due to the demand of capitalism. It changes how books are produced and
written. The way things are published now reflects on what could possibly be taught in classrooms all

around the world.

“Publication is of major importance in such a Society as ours. In the 60s some of

us were depressed by a long gap between the early days of many publications and our

meager record in recent times, in what was founded as a learned and publishing society.

Out of this came the campaign to start the series of Mistletoe Books, which had grown

to 19 volumes by 1984. Our intentions were to bring out rare source material, properly

edited, short monographs on subjects of interest to folklorists but unlikely to attract

commercial publishers and collections of short papers. We did all these things. A series

of mini-conferences at various universities, highly stimulating and enjoyable and usually

paying for themselves, provided material for several volumes. It had been intended to

publish the books at low prices, but here the difficulties of present-day publishing

gradually became apparent” (Davidson, Hilda Ellis. "Changes in the Folklore Society, 1949-1986."

Folklore 98, no. 2 (1987): 123-30. http://www.jstor.org.libprox1.slcc.edu:2048/stable/1259974.)\

J.R.R. Tolkein’s perspective on fairy tales, “ At least it will be plain that in my opinion fairy stories should

not be specially associated with children. They are associated with them: naturally, because children

are human and fairy stories are a natural human taste (though not necessarily a universal one);

accidentally, because fairy stories are a large part of the literary lumber that in latter day Europe has

been stuffed away in attics; unnaturally because of erroneous sentiment about children, a sentiment

that seems to increase with the decline in children” (Tolkien, J.R.R., Fairy Stories,

In conclusion, stories are first framed as oral traditions. They start out as folktales and then transform

to fairytales. The historical and linguistic culture would be lost if it wasn’t written down. Once the oral

tradition is lost the structure of language becomes inconsistent from a Linguistic perspective. With

mass media, circulation of publishing, cinema and disneyfication makes it hard to keep the tradition


“Sapir also acknowledges language as a valuable guide to the scientific study of a particular culture,

because 'the network of cultural patterns of a civilization is indexed in the language which expresses

that civilization'. It is therefore obvious that the speech of a particular community embodies and

transmits its folklore, and folklore is naturally an authentic manifestation of the speech.” (Dr. M.

Manijruzzaman,Studying language through folklore



“All framing, then, including performance, is accomplished through the employment of culturally

conventionalized meta communication” ( Duranti , Alessandro, Linguistic Anthropology, A Reader)

Work Cited Page

(Widdowson, J. D. A. "Folktales in Newfoundland Oral Tradition: Structure, Style, and Performance."

Folklore 120, no. 1 (2009): 19-35 http://www.jstor.org.libprox1.slcc.edu:2048/stable/40646489.)

(Mary Magoulick, History of Folklore, https://faculty.gcsu.edu/custom-website/mary-

magoulick/history.htm )

(Dundes, Alan “Cinderella a Casebook” The University of Wisconsin Press )

( Dryfhout,Taryn https://hourloop.com/blogs/news/29400193-cinderella-rags-to-riches)

(Bronner, Simon J. "The Americanization of the Brothers Grimm." In Following Tradition, 184-236.

University Press of Colorado, 1998. doi:10.2307/j.ctt46nqtf.9. )

( Laderman, Gary. "The Disney Way of Death." Journal of the American Academy of Religion 68, no. 1

(2000): 27-46. http://www.jstor.org.libprox1.slcc.edu:2048/stable/1465709.)

(Davidson, Hilda Ellis. "Changes in the Folklore Society, 1949-1986." Folklore 98, no. 2 (1987): 123-30.


(Tolkien, J.R.R., Fairy Stories, http://heritagepodcast.com/wp-content/uploads/Tolkien-On-Fairy-


(Dr. M. Manijruzzaman,Studying language through folklore



( Duranti , Alessandro, Linguistic Anthropology, A Reader)