Grimm’s Grimmest – Aschenputtel
There was a rich man whose wife lay sick, and when she felt her end drawing near she told their daughter to be good and pious and that God would always take care of her.
She promised to always be with her and that she would look down upon her from heaven. And then she closed her eyes and passed away.
The maiden went to her mother’s grave every day, being always pious and good. After some time, the man took another wife.
The new wife brought two daughters with her, and they were beautiful and fair. But they were evil-minded and ugly at heart, making the poor stepdaughter suffer.
The maiden was turned away from the splendor of her lifestyle, her pretty dresses stolen with only a simple gray smock to wear. She lived as a maid to her stepsisters and stepmother, doing the heavy work – make the fires, cook, and wash.
Besides all of this, the sisters did their utmost to torment her – mocking her, and strewing peas and lentils among the ashes, and setting her to pick them up. And as she always looked dusty and dirty, they named her Aschenputtel.
One day the father wanted to journey to the fair, and he asked his two stepdaughters what he should bring back for them. They requested fine jewels and clothes, but when he posed the question to Aschenputtel she asked for the first twig that strikes his hat.
So he brought fine clothes, pearls, and jewels back from his journey, snapping a hazel twig from a tree and carrying it home to Aschenputtel. She thanked him and went to her mother’s grave, planting the twig there and watering it with her tears.
Aschenputtel went to see it three times a day, weeping and praying. Each time, a bird came to the tree, bringing her whatever she had wished for.
Soon after, the king ordained a feat that should last three days so that the prince might choose a bride. The two stepdaughters were excited, demanding Aschenputtel to comb their hair, brush their shoes, and make their buckles fast for the feast at the king’s castle.
Aschenputtel did as she was told, but cried because she would have liked to go to the feast, begging her stepmother to allow her to join her stepsisters. Her stepmother made excuses, promising that she could join them if Aschenputtel could pick out a dish full of lentils from the ashes in two hours.
The maiden asked for the help of her bird friends, offering the good lentils to them if they helped her pick them all out in the short time. Before an hour was over, all was done, and the maiden brought the dish to her stepmother.
But her stepmother made excuses, promising that Aschenputtel could join her stepsisters if she picked out two dishes of lentils from the ashes in two hours. The maiden called for the help of her bird friends, which produced the same results. However, her stepmother still denied her, setting out with her two proud daughters.
With no one left at home, Aschenputtel went to her mother’s grave, crying to the little tree, “Little tree, little tree, shake over me, that silver and gold may come down and cover me.” Then the birds threw down a beautiful gown and a pair of slippers.
She put on the dress and went to the festival. Her stepmother and stepsisters did not recognize her. Aschenputtel meet the prince, dancing only with him for the night. And when the evening came to an end, she evaded the prince’s company and left the beautiful gown beneath the little tree.
The next day, when the festival began once more, Aschenputtel went to the little tree and cried out once more, “Little tree, little tree, shake over me, that silver and gold may come down and cover me.” Then the birds cast down a dress more splendid than the one before.
She dressed and went to the festival. The prince found her once more, and she danced with only him the entire evening. Once again she evaded him, leaving the beautiful gown at the little tree.
The next day, Aschenputtel did the same as she had done the two previous days – crying to the tree, arriving at the festival, dancing with the prince, and evading him before returning home before her family. However, the prince would not be evaded easily, spreading pitch on the stairs of the king’s castle and capturing a shoe from the maiden he had danced with every night of the festival.
The next morning, the prince came to her father and told him that none should be his bride save the one whose foot the golden shoe should fit. Aschenputtel had evaded the prince every night near her father’s home, bringing him to the conclusion that the maiden he sought lived there.
The elder stepsister took the shoe to her room as her mother stood by. But she could not get her great toe into it, her mother handed her a knife and told her to cut the offending toe off. So the girl chopped her toe off, squeezed her foot in and went to the prince.
He took her on his horse as his bride, but as they passed the little tree, two white doves sang out from the hazel tree, “That is not the right bride, the slipper is much too small. Blood is flowing inside, it does not fit her at all.” The prince looked down at her foot and saw blood flowing.
He turned his horse round and said that she was not the right one. So the other sister tried the gold shoe in her room, squeezing her toes in but her heel was too large. Her mother handed her knife and told her to cut her heel off. So the girl cut off a piece of her heel and squeezed her foot into the shoe, walking to the prince.
The prince took her on his horse as his bride, but as they rode past the little tree, the two white doves sang, “Go back, go back, there is blood in the shoe. The shoe is too small, that bride will not do.” The prince looked down at her foot and saw the blood flowing.
The prince returned to the home, demanding if there were any other daughters. But the father told him that the only daughter left was a “nasty little Cinderella” that could not possibly be the bride. But the prince would not hear it, ordering her to be fetched.
Aschenputtel washed up and went in, curtseying to the prince, who held out the gold shoe. Her foot fit just right and when the prince took another look at her, he realized that she was the beautiful maiden that had danced with him. He took her as his bride and as they passed the hazel tree, the two white doves sang, “Coo, coo, no blood in the shoe. She is the right bride, with the prince by her side.”
The white doves came to rest on her shoulders. And when her wedding with the prince was appointed to be held, her false sisters came to beg for favor and to take part in the fortune. As the bride and groom went to the church, the white doves plucked out the eyes of the stepsisters because of their wickedness.
Aschenputtel is brutal when illustrating the actions that the stepsisters were willing to take to be the prince’s bride. And those false sisters are made blind by their wickedness toward the good Aschenputtel. But I must admit that I am always disappointed that the prince barely recognizes her; however, he realizes without her being in gold and silver dresses – it is her eyes that he finally recognizes.