There are various forms of this Italian fable, the most famous being those of Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm. This one is based on ‘Cinder Maid’ by Joseph Jacobs, drawing on the Grimms.
An unhappy young woman treated as a serving-maid by her step-sisters is magically transformed into the belle of the ball. But the prince whose heart she has captured is not content with a lover who vanishes at midnight.
ONCE upon a time, a widowed nobleman remarried so that his only daughter might have a mother and the company of sisters. But they sent her away to sweep out the ash from the fireplaces, and dubbed her ‘Cinderella’, maid-of-ashes.
One day, the Prince announced a sumptuous ball in the hope of finding himself a princess. So mother and daughters put on their best gowns, and left strict instructions with Cinderella to ready the fires for their return.
When they were gone, Cinderella sang a sad little rhyme by the tree that marked her mother’s grave; and as she did, a nut fell at her feet.
She opened the nut, and a magnificent gown tumbled out; then the tree-trunk split wide, and a coach-and-four sprang out.
So Cinderella did go to the ball. She danced with the prince until midnight, and then slipped away, knowing that at that hour the magical gown and coach would vanish.
There are various forms of this fable. This one is based on ‘Cinder Maid’ by Joseph Jacobs.