As Cinderella Spinderella begins advanced-sales (the official release date is December 3, but you can buy it now), I realized that I hadn’t revisited its source in a long time. This version of the story is from The Bed Time Story Book. Reading it today, I was touched by the innocence in the classic version. Cinderella Spinderella feels more honest and less precious, but it’s always good to have something to compare.
—Mark Binder, September 2013
retold by Mark Binder
from The Bed Time Story Book
Once upon a time, a well-to-do merchant decided he wanted to remarry. His first wife had been lovely, intelligent, and kind, and had born him a lovely, intelligent and kind daughter named Cinderella. Unfortunately, Cinderella’s mother died when the girl was quite young. Her father, the merchant came under the spell of the proudest and most arrogant woman in the city. A short time later they were married, and the woman (who was a widow herself) and her two daughters moved into the Merchant’s house.
As soon as the wedding was over, Cinderella’s new stepmother began to complain and nag. The house was too small, and dirty, and the girl, Cinderella was far too cheerful.
So, the stepmother put Cinderella to work. She gave her all the menial chores.
Cinderella had to do all the laundry, all the dishes, all the cleaning and scrubbing and mending and washing. Not only did she have to take care of her stepmother, but she was also responsible for every mess her stepsisters made. They took away her clothing and made her wear old rags. Still worse, the two stepsisters moved Cinderella out of her own bedroom, which had a lovely view of the garden, and made her sleep on a bed of straw up in the attic on the top floor of the house.
Poor Cinderella felt quite sad, sitting crouched on her bed, darning socks, while downstairs the three women drank hot tea and ate cakes. Still, she did not dare to tell her father, because his new wife already had the poor man terrified. All the stepmother had to do was to open her mouth and cough, and her husband was standing at her side, begging her pardon and asking what he might do next.
Despite all this hard work, hardship and heartache, and even in the ragged dress she was forced to wear, Cinderella was still more beautiful, kind and intelligent than her two stepsisters put together.
Now, it happened that the King decided to give a ball in honor of his son, the Prince. Invitations were sent out to all the best houses, and of course the Merchant’s three daughters were all invited.
Immediately, the stepmother began purchasing gowns and linens and silks and shoes to dress up her daughters for their appearance before the prince.
“If you look well and act well,” the stepmother advised, “then the Prince will fall in love, and our future will be assured.”
Cinderella, of course, was put to work sewing the gowns, taking up the hems and letting out the waists. The dresses really were quite beautiful. The eldest sister’s was made of red velvet from France, and the youngest wore a satin petticoat from Italy.
Cinderella helped them with their choices, and even braided their hair in beautiful plaits.
“Oh, Cinderella,” teased the eldest, “wouldn’t you like to come to the ball.”
“Hush,” taunted the younger stepsister. “You know that someone as dirty as she would never be admitted.”
“Still,” Cinderella agreed, “it would be lovely to see.”
Both stepsisters looked at each other and laughed merrily at the thought of their dirty servant standing in rags at the ball.
At last the stepsisters were ready, and their carriage pulled up before the front door. Cinderella waved, and watched the carriage roll down the street until it was completely out of sight.
Then the poor girl burst into tears.
“Why are you crying, child?” said a voice.
“Who’s there?” said Cinderella.
“I am,” said the voice.
Cinderella looked down and saw standing on the table a tiny woman no larger than a teacup. “Who are you?” the teary-eyed girl asked.
“I am your fairy godmother,” said the woman in a sparkly voice. “Why are you so sad?”
“I wish… I wish…” Cinderella began, but every time she tried to finish, her words were choked off by her tears.
“You wish you could go to the ball?” The Fairy Godmother finally asked.
“Yes,” wept Cinderella. “But I am too poor and too ugly, and everyone would laugh.”
“Nonsense,” laughed the Fairy. “You are beautiful and kind and quite rich. I’ll just give you a little help. Shall I?”
“Oh, please,” Cinderella said.
“Run into the garden and bring me a pumpkin,” said the Fairy.
Cinderella hurried to the garden, and brought back the biggest and finest pumpkin she could find.
The Fairy Godmother scooped out the insides, and then touched the pumpkin with her wand. Instantly it was transformed into a golden coach.
Then she sent Cinderella to the mousetrap for the six mice that were caught there, and with another wave the mice became six fine horses of a beautiful mouse-colored dapple grey. In the rat trap they found three rats that became two coachmen and one coach-driver with fine long beards and long white whiskers. Two lizards from the garden became two footman in green silk.
“Now,” said the Fairy Godmother, “you have your carriage, we must see to your gown.”
“I have nothing but this to wear,” Cinderella said, and she began to cry.
“Oh, tush,” said the Fairy. She touched Cinderella with her wand, and instantly the raggedy dress was transformed into a beautiful white gown of silk, with beads and pearls and diamonds glittering here and there. Even her slippers, which were worn and torn and dirty transformed into a pair of glass slippers, the most beautiful shoes the world has ever seen.
“Now, go to the ball,” said the Fairy Godmother. “But be sure to leave before twelve o’clock midnight, because at the last stroke of midnight, the coach will be a pumpkin again, the horses will become mice, the coachmen rats, and the footmen will be lizards. And, of course, your gown will resume its old form.”
Cinderella nodded eagerly, promised her Fairy Godmother that she would be home by midnight, and kissed the tiny woman softly on the top of the head.
“Now, hurry, child,” said the Fairy.
The footmen opened the coach door, Cinderella hopped inside, and away they rode to the palace.
Now, the ball had been a little bit tiresome, but when the Prince heard that a beautiful Princess had arrived in a golden carriage drawn by six marvelous grey horses, he hurried out to greet her. He gave her his hand as she stepped from the coach, and led her into the great hall.
As soon as the two made their entrance, the assembly fell silent. The people stopped talking, and even the musicians ceased their playing. So beautiful a pair were the Prince and the strange girl that no one could say a word.
At last, at a signal from the Prince, the musicians picked up their instruments and began to play a waltz. He took Cinderella into his arms, and together they began to dance.
“What a fine dancer she is,” said the stepmother, not recognizing the young girl.
“Her dress is more lovely than mine,” complained the oldest stepsister.
“Her shoes are more lovely than mine,” echoed the younger one.
“Quiet, you two,” hissed the stepmother, as Cinderella and the Prince waltzed by. All three women smiled and waved at the Prince, but he had eyes only for Cinderella.
The hours passed like minutes. Cinderella danced and ate and talked with the Prince, and danced some more.
Then she heard the clock begin to sound the hour. She thought it was only eleven, but a glance at the clock’s hands showed her that doom was near. Terrified that she might be discovered, she had time only to kiss the Prince softly on his cheek, and hurry from the Palace. She rushed down the steps, hopped into her coach, and was gone in an instant.
So quickly did Cinderella run away that one of her slippers fell off, and it was picked up by the Prince who had turned to follow the girl whose name he hadn’t even learned.
Just as they were out of sight from the palace, at the last stroke of midnight, the coach turned into a pumpkin. The rats and mice and lizards all returned to their original selves, quite confused I might add. Even though her clothing was once again rags, Cinderella did not feel sad. All that was left of her wonderful gown was the second glass slipper, which she put into her pocket. She remembered the warmth of the Prince’s cheek against hers, walked all the way home, and went up to her attic bed of straw, quite happy and content.
The next morning, her stepsisters told her all about the ball, that the most beautiful princess had appeared and stolen the Prince’s heart.
First, the Prince tried the slipper on all the other princesses and duchesses in the court, but none of their feet fit.
That afternoon, a proclamation was declared in the square that the Prince himself would be visiting every house in the city to find the owner of the missing glass slipper.
The two stepsisters knew that he would soon come to their house. They fluttered about all excited.
“Calm down,” said the stepmother. “If the shoe fits, then surely he will make you his wife.” The doorbell rang. “Open the door for the Prince.”
“Welcome, your Highness,” said the first stepsister. Her face turned as red as a mottled turnip.
“Hi,” waved the second stepsister, giggling.
The Prince frowned, but asked the two girls to remove their shoes.
The stepsisters tried to make the shoe fit. They shoved and pried and pushed and squeezed, but it refused to take hold on their large and ugly feet.
At last, Cinderella peeked her head around a corner.
“May I try?” she asked meekly.
“You?” said the stepmother.
“That’s just the cleaning girl,” said the oldest stepsister.
“She’s a nobody,” said the second stepsister.
“Let her try,” said the Prince.
Cinderella sat down in the chair and the Prince lifted the slipper to her foot.
It fit beautifully.
“Are you my Princess?” the Prince asked.
“I am,” Cinderella whispered, shyly.
“She can’t be!” said the stepmother.
“Impossible!” shouted the two stepsisters.
From her pocket, Cinderella pulled the second glass slipper, and slipped it onto her other foot.
Just then, her fairy godmother came in and touched her with her magic wand. In an instant, Cinderella was clothed in a gown even more beautiful than the one she had worn to the ball.
When they saw the transformation, her two sisters and stepmother threw themselves at her feet. “Please forgive us,” they begged. “We had no idea.”
“I forgive you,” Cinderella said kindly. She hugged the three women to her, and some say that at that moment their wicked hearts melted and they became kind.
Then the Prince took Cinderella’s hand, and led her off to the palace, where they were married in splendor, and lived happily ever after.