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Steampunk Cinderella

“Father, break off for me the first branch which knocks against your hat on your way home.”

So he bought beautiful dresses, pearls and jewels for his two step-daughters, and on his way home, as he was riding through a green thicket, a hazel twig brushed against him and knocked off his hat. Then he broke off the branch and took it with him.

When he reached home he gave his step-daughters the things which they had wished for, and to Cinderella he gave the branch from the hazel-bush. Cinderella thanked him, went to her mother’s grave and planted the branch on it.

Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Household Tales. Margaret Hunt, translator. London: George Bell, 1884.


Did you ever expect that in the Brothers Grimm’s story  Cinderella was a witch?



  • Jeri Burns
    Posted June 24, 2015 at 12:09

    Cinderella, like many a folk story character, is many things. I think of her less as a witch and more like a medium in the version you quote, but I totally see your point. A mix of both perhaps?

    The steampunk photos are awesome, I love seeing her like that. It gives meat to her bones. Thanks for waking up my brain today with a folkloric twist.

  • Post Author
    Posted June 24, 2015 at 12:53

    I’m fascinated with all stories of old: legends, myths, fairy tales. But folktales are the most fascinating. We think we know them because we’ve heard them when we were children many many times. they are familiar to us. We think we’re safe with them.
    But the truth is we just know crippled versions. Sanitized versions, stripped of all their blood.

    I believe folktales are our oldest memory, and I mean ‘us’ as a species, as human beings. They tell us things about ourselves we don’t really want to remember, this is why we generally prefer the ‘safer’ version. But if we listen to the ‘truest’ version, we can look into ourseves in a more honest, more adult way.

    Well, this is how I feel about it 🙂

    • Jeri Burns
      Posted June 24, 2015 at 15:02

      I absolutely agree with you.

      The world of folk stories, myths, fairy tales is my life. I spend much of my thinking time considering and reflecting on these old stories so that I can tell them honestly and authentically.

      Most of these stories are not meant for/targeted to children in the first place. There is depth and meaning that goes well below the surface that are meant to tell us who we are and can be. There are safe stories, but most of the safe ones have been made safe in adaptations and retellings… sanitized (I think you used that word?) – but I love that you used the word “crippled.” What a wonderful word choice there!

      There is awesome, beautiful wisdom in those older, “truer’ as you put it, versions. And interesting socio-political insights in the changed ones too. (That’s my other passion with these stories, looking at that aspect).

      • Post Author
        Posted June 24, 2015 at 19:33

        The way folktales change is truly fascinating. As a writer of historical stories, I don’t like to take poetic licenses. I think history should be recount as close to how it happened as possible, or you’ll betray it. But folktalse… it’s different. The important part of as folktale is its heart, all the rest may – and will – change, according to the time period, what’s important to the audionce, even the storyteller’s personality. I think this is part of what they are: living beings always adapting.

        I heard once that in Ireland there were families of storytellers, and every family had their own repertoire. But every member of the family had his or her own version of the same stories. I think something similar happened here in Italy too.

        A Native American friend of mine told me instead that for her people, stories always had to be recount in the same exact way. Because all stories belong to the people and not to the single storyteller, they needed to be preserved just the way they were first told.

        There are so many awesome facts about folktales. They turly are a treasure of humanity.

  • Jacqui
    Posted June 24, 2015 at 15:33

    I haven’t seen this side of Cinderella. I have a new appreciation for Steampunk so am intrigued by your discussion.

    • Post Author
      Posted June 24, 2015 at 19:34

      I love fairy tales retelling. I think fairy tales have this characteristic, this strong personality so that they can brave any time and change and remain always true to themselves.

  • Melissa Barker-Simpson
    Posted June 24, 2015 at 15:56

    This is an excellent example of all we can do with fairy tales, folklore, legends, etc. I liked your comment above too. Stories change, adapt, grow, and become anything we want them to be at the time 🙂

    • Post Author
      Posted June 24, 2015 at 19:36

      Fairy tales retellings are among my favourite reads 🙂

  • Alex Hurst
    Posted June 26, 2015 at 14:09

    You know, I never made that connection! But also, that version of Cinderella is pretty dark. Down to the prince consummating his passions and then abandoning her again.

    • Post Author
      Posted June 27, 2015 at 06:15

      I think there is always a ‘hidden’ meaning inside folktales and fairy teles. With this I mean these stories have chenge a lot over a long long time, and what they actually talk about is something we have to dig for, often with the tools of antropology and history.
      I mean, everybody interested in fairy stories has heard at least once that ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ (which apparently is one of the oldest stories we still reccount) probably tells about a ritual rape.

      These kind of ancestral memories are embedded in any fairy story, I think, that’s why they tend to be dark in their ‘original’ form. They dig into the roots of us as a social animal, into the dynamics of our society as it was when it was still forming.
      It’s kind of scary, if you think about it, but I also find fiscinating that we still remember this. I’ve read scholars mentainting that some of the fairy stories we still recount today may go all the way back to pre-history.

      • Alex Hurst
        Posted July 5, 2015 at 13:54

        You’re actually right. There are a lot of fascinating books on the subject, parsing down the stories and their origins in rural areas. With Cinderella, she would have been better off remaining indentured to her stepmother and simply obeying!

  • Celine Jeanjean
    Posted June 27, 2015 at 01:50

    I read the comments earlier and I loved the expression you use, that nowadays we just get ‘crippled’ versions of folktales. It’s so true. There was a depth and a darkness to folk and fairytales that has been lost when Disney arrived and gave us his sugar coated version. Personally I much prefer the originals.

    I came across a book of old English folk and fairy tales recently, and some of them were really dark and twisted. Like there’s one story that starts off with a suitor asking the girl he’s courting to come visit him at his place, and since she doesn’t know the way, he tells her he’ll cut a pig’s throat and leave a blood trail on the white chalk path all the way to his place. You can guess that the story continues getting darker from there. But I loved the imagery of the white path among the black forest trees, and the red line of pig’s blood in the middle of it. Each story has a record of who told it to the writer, and how that person came to learn the story, and there’s even one given by Dickens, a very scary one that his nurse would tell him as a child to scare him.

    There’s something magical about how stories were passed from person to person. I really like the idea of a shared pool of stories belonging to a whole people, rather than each story having a single ‘owner’ as it were.

    • Post Author
      Posted June 27, 2015 at 06:21

      Well, in his ‘On Fairy Stories’ Tolkien said fairy stories ended up in the nursesy just for an accident, since they were never meant for a young audince. He sure knew what he was talking about 😉

      Hey, that image of the white path into the forest with the blood trail is sure fascinating… and there’s no way I’ll think there isn’t a ‘hidden’ meaning in it!
      Tolkien also said we are fascinated with what we lost over time on the sotries. We try to retrieve the elements we lost, while we should focus on what stayed in the stories instead. Why those elements are still there… because of course, they’re still there because they still have a meaning for us, whether we get it or not.

  • Sue Archer
    Posted June 27, 2015 at 13:28

    Love those boots, Sarah! I didn’t know about the Brothers Grimm version of Cinderella’s character, and it’s fascinating. Fairly tales used to be so dark, and keep being rewritten over time. It’s neat to see how much they reflect the beliefs of the current culture.

    I remember completely disliking a collection of Hans Anderson stories as a child because they were just too depressing. 🙂

  • Jeri Burns
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 16:56

    Whoo boy. This is a mountain of fun and gold. I love fairy tales and as a storyteller (writing and performing), I have a responsibility to preserve them. But one can’t always carry an antique to audience which wants technological sheen. There are times and places for antique appreciation and times and places when the antique must be reconditioned and evolved.

    Tolkien was totally right, fairy tales only accidentally ended up for children, and then Grimm Brothers and their ‘descendants’ carried them forward (and cleaned them up). In my opinion, Walt Disney is yet another descendant of that tradition. Not a collector like the Grimm’s, but like them a presenter but his medium made him very powerful. And although I have alternately reviled and reveled in him over my career, I am currently in a place of appreciation. By “cleaning them up” he was doing nothing different than others have done. Charles Perrault certainly cleaned up Little Red Riding Hood (his was considered one of the first written versions). It WAS an attempted rape story – but hear ye hear ye – in Perrault’s root tale Little Red Riding Hood escaped of her own devices (there are other versions that predated the rape story, but I’m not dealing with that here because as I understand it, the trail of folkloric breadcrumbs from Perrault’s goes to the rape story -called Grandmother’s tale, on the web). So when I tell LRRH (well I actually don’t tell Perrault’s or the rape one, I tell original fractured versions based on Perault’s – I always have her escape on her own. This honors the root story intent as I understand it, is nice for modern culture, and fits my own personality and preferences as the teller.

    Phew, I could go on, but that’s more than enough.

  • Jeri Burns
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 17:00

    Actually, one more thing 🙂

    I also think it is might important to tell stories in traditional ways that honor them, and do that a lot (just performed my original adaptation of the Snow Queen which is totally HCA’s piece in spirit, but with language and imagery that fits with a secular, modern audience).. There are ways to tell old stories not as museum pieces, but in ways that honor the cultures who told/created them and respecting the hearts of the stories.I got off on the fracturing jag to add a different layer into the discussion. 🙂 🙂

    • Post Author
      Posted July 2, 2015 at 06:38

      Well, that’s what fascinates me the most about fairy stories: whatever you think about them, they certainly are not museum pieces. I mean, lots of writers are still retelling fairy stories in new forms. We may sometimes be critical of the way they do so, but the fact that these stories are still fascinating enough for writers to write and for readers to read testify of the power inside them, in my opinion.

  • Post Author
    Posted July 2, 2015 at 06:34

    Thanks so much for stopping by, Jeri, I really appreciate your opinion 🙂

    Well, generally speaking, I tend to prefer the ‘as original as possible’ version of stories, because I find they are more interesting. They teach us to try and get in contact with a different realitis, first of all, to try to understad why things where as they were in the time the story was told, and if you really get into it, you may even discover things about our ancestors, which is always a super-good things in my opinion. We do come from somewhere, though we sometime prefer to forget it.

    But I see your point in telling a story and ‘updating’ it. That’s probably what has always happened, and with sense, since audiences will relate better to people, places and times they recognise.
    There’s a Chinese version of Cinderella which suggestes to me that story may have come from Asia with our (well, certainly my 😉 ) Indoeuropean ancestors, so long before that story was ever written down in the form we consider ‘traditional’. I’m fascinated (maybe eccessively so) by human migrations, because I think that if we go back enough, we’ll discover we do come from the same place. So in a way, I do believe all stories are connected, because they too all come from the same place of origine.

    Goodness. I really hope we’ll never meet in person, or I’m pretty sure we’ll spend hours talking about this 😉

  • Janice Wald
    Posted July 12, 2015 at 09:03

    Cinderella CAN be dark. Its intriguing you remind us all of that.
    Thank you for your visit to my blog Reflections yesterday. I am glad you liked my post about how to use Pinterest to get more traffic. I just finished writing a guest post about how authors like you–of the literary genre–can use Pinterest to stimulate interest in their writing. Thanks again for dropping by.

  • Steampunkstore@steampunk
    Posted July 12, 2019 at 22:54

    steampunk fairy tales really have a special flavor. It’s simply delicious, an enriching experience, thank you.

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