“Aschenputtel” as recorded by The Brothers Grimm
Abridged by TQ Townsend
The wife of a rich man fell ill and realized that she would die. She called her only daughter to her bedside and told her to always say her prayers and have faith, and then her spirit would always be there to comfort her. The mother died, and every day the girl went to her grave in the garden to pray and she tried hard every day to be good. In the spring, her father was married to a woman with two daughters from her own first marriage. They were all very beautiful, but their hearts were cold and proud.
The sisters took away the girl’s beautiful clothes, leaving her only rags to wear, and forced her to work in the kitchen. The poor girl had the hardest work to do and her stepsisters would torment her by throwing the peas and lentils into the ashes so that they had to be picked out again. Without even a bed to sleep in, the girl had to lay down by the kitchen hearth to keep warm, and soon everyone began to call her Aschenputtel.
One day her father was going to the fair and asked the three girls what he could bring them. The stepsisters demanded beautiful dresses and jewels, but Aschenputtel asked only for the first twig that brushed against his hat on the way home. The father did as he was asked, bringing home dresses and jewels for the stepsisters, and a sprig of hazel for Aschenputtel. She planted the twig on her mother’s grave, and it soon grew into a beautiful tree. She would say her prayers beneath the tree, and a white bird would fly to it and toss down whatever she wished for.
One day the king announced a three day festival. All of the young ladies in the land were to come so that the prince could choose a bride. Aschenputtel was put to work preparing her stepsisters for the event, and she worked harder than ever, although she was sad that she would not be allowed to go. Her stepmother mocked her, saying that she was too filthy to be seen at a ball. But the stepmother then poured a bowl of lentils into the ashes, saying, “If you can pick all of the lentils out in the next two hours, you may go to the festival.”
Aschenputtel went out into the garden and called to the birds, who quickly came to her aid and picked every lentil from the ashes, putting them neatly in the bowl. But when the stepmother saw the bowl of lentils she only said, “You may not go because you have nothing to wear and you don’t know how to dance.” Aschenputtel began to cry. The stepmother then said “If you can pick out two bowls of lentils in one hour, then you may go.” Once again Aschenputtel called on the birds to help, and although she brought back the lentils in time, the Stepmother only replied, “You would only embarrass us if I allowed you to go.” And with that the Stepmother and her daughters hurried off to the festival.
Aschenputtel went to her mother’s grave and wept beneath the hazel tree. But then the little white bird tossed down a beautiful dress of gold and silver and a pair of silk slippers embroidered with silver. The girl put on the beautiful things and went to the festival. When she arrived, the prince walked straight to her and took her by the hand. He would not dance with anyone else, and begged to escort her home. But Aschenputtel managed to slip away from him at the end of the evening. The prince chased after her, but the girl managed to hid inside the dovecote outside her home. She slipped quietly out the back of the dovecote, returned her beautiful clothes to the little white bird, and went inside the house. When Aschenputtel’s father arrived home, the prince asked about the girl who had disappeared. Her father wondered, “Could it be Aschenputtel?” and forced open the dovecote, but the two men found nothing.
The next day the same thing happened. With cruel insults the stepmother and her daughters left for the festival, and Aschenputtel went to the hazel tree and received clothing more magnificent than before. She went to the festival, where once again the prince wished only to be by her side. At the end of the evening she fled home, climbing into a pear tree to escape. She nimbly slipped out of the tree when the prince could not see her, returned her fine things to the little white bird, and went into the house. When her father returned home, the prince asked about the mysterious girl hiding in the pear tree. The father chopped down the tree, but the two men found nothing.
On the third night, Aschenputtel arrived in the most magnificent gown anyone had ever seen, with golden slippers on her feet. Once again when it was time to return home the prince begged to escort her so he could learn who she was, but the girl fled. However, this time the prince had ordered the steps of the castle to be coated with pitch, and one of her slippers got stuck and was left behind. Although she managed to get away, the prince retrieved the marvelous golden shoe. In the morning, the prince declared that he would only marry the woman who owned that shoe, and he went to the house where he was certain he would find his true love. The two wicked stepsisters were determined to try the shoe. But when the first one tried to put it on, she could not get her toes into it. Her mother produced a knife and said, “Cut your toe off. When you are Queen you won’t need to walk any more.” The stepsister did this, and she managed to force her foot into the dainty slipper. The prince lifted her up onto his horse to take her to the castle, but two little doves called out for him to observe the blood dripping from the shoe. The prince turned his horse around and brought the false bride back home.
The other stepsister tried the shoe, but she also could not make it fit. Her mother said “Cut off your heel. When you are Queen you won’t need to walk any more.” The stepsister did this, and she managed to force the shoe onto her foot. Once again the prince began to ride away with her, and once again the doves cried out so that he would notice the blood. The prince returned the second false bride, asking the father if he had no other daughter.
“There’s nobody left but Aschenputtel, but she couldn’t be your bride,” the father replied. The prince asked to see her. The stepmother said that the girl was much too dirty to be seen. The prince insisted on seeing her. As soon as Aschenputtel entered the room, she slipped her foot into the shoe and it fit perfectly. As soon as she raised her face the prince was overjoyed, for he could see that she truly was the woman he had fallen in love with. The stepsisters shook with rage, but the prince lifted Aschenputtel onto his horse and rode away with her.
On the day of Aschenputtel’s wedding, the wicked sisters came to the church to try to gain favor with the new princess. But as they stood on either side of the church, doves came and pecked out their eyes. And so they were punished for their wickedness.