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“Cinderella” the Story by The Grimm Brothers Essay

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Updated: Jun 13th, 2021

Despite all the magic of fairy tales, these stories also offer serious issues to consider. Grimm Brothers’ “Cinderella” is generally accepted as a story about love and the victory of good over evil. However, some critics argue that there is much more to discover in the fairy tale’s content. For instance, Bruno Bettelheim’s analysis is based on the relationships between siblings as depicted in “Cinderella.” While some of the scholar’s ideas seem irrelevant, his major argument is quite reasonable. Therefore, the Grimm Brothers’ “Cinderella” may be viewed as a fairy tale about the unfortunate experiences and aspirations of sibling rivalry that exists between Cinderella and her stepsisters.

The main argument in Bettelheim’s article is that “Cinderella” is “a story about the agonies and hopes which form the essential content of sibling rivalry” (236). Also, the author remarks that the theme of the degraded heroine winning over her abusing stepsisters is prominent in the story (Bettelheim 236). Indeed, it is possible to conclude that the Grimm Brothers’ tale touches upon these topics. At the beginning of the narration, it is noted that Cinderella’s sisters were “black and ugly at heart,” whereas the girl was “always pious and good” (Grimm and Grimm 1).

Thus, it is evident that the girl who has always behaved well and never disobeyed cannot accept the fact that her new sisters treat her unfairly. Their referring to Cinderella as a “stupid creature” and “nothing but a kitchenmaid” makes the girl devastated (Grimm and Grimm 1). Thus, there is the indication of the agony of sibling rivalry, as Bettelheim calls it (236). The unfairly bad attitude towards the poor girl makes her want to prove that she does not deserve such treatment.

The wish to be considered equal induces Cinderella to do everything possible to prove her stepmother and stepsisters wrong. According to Bettelheim, this is the desire of “winning out her siblings” that are constantly abusing her (236). While the girl is forced to do “heavy work from morning to night,” she cannot have a proper rest even when she goes to sleep (Grimm and Grimm 1). In the evenings, being exhausted from her errands, Cinderella has no bed to sleep in and is obliged to “rest on the hearth among the cinders” (Grimm and Grimm 2). As Bettelheim remarks, having to sleep among the ashes is another symbol of sibling rivalry (237).

In particular, being someone’s ash-sibling is regarded as being suppressed and degraded (Bettelheim 237). Grimm Brothers’ referral to stepsiblings rather than siblings are, according to Bettelheim, a “device” to explain and make acceptable the hostility which one wishes would not appear between siblings (237). The difference between Cinderella’s story and other similar cases of sibling rivalry is that usually, parents do not prefer one child to another no matter what relationship exists between them.

Thus, another topic that rises from sibling atrocity is parental rejection. Cinderella cannot understand why she is constantly forced to do hard chores as well as complete some bizarre tasks made up by her stepmother.

Throwing “a dishful of lentils in the ashes” and making the poor girl pick them within an hour is not something a loving and caring parent would do (Grimm and Grimm 2). Thus, there appears a problem closely associated with sibling rivalry: the feeling of being jealous and the need to be accepted by one’s parents (Bettelheim 238). Moreover, Bettelheim argues, such a difficulty may develop even in a single child who has no brothers or sisters but does not feel support from parents (Bettelheim 238). Thus, Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale depicts the girl’s wish to be acknowledged and accepted by her stepmother and, more importantly, her father.

The aspiration to become appreciated for all the hard work she is doing makes Cinderella feel less friendly towards her stepsisters. The girl seeks friendship and support, which she eventually finds in the bird that comes to the tree growing on her mother’s grave (Grimm and Grimm 2). Other birds are Cinderella’s helpers in the tasks set by her stepmother (Grimm and Grimm 3). Thus, the girl is not left entirely without support, but she utterly lacks encouragement from her closest people. Bettelheim notes that the themes raised in “Cinderella” find their reflection in young readers’ thoughts.

For instance, one may justify sibling rivalry by comparing oneself to Cinderella and thinking that he or she, too, is being treated unjustly and can, therefore, feel hatred against a brother or sister (Bettelheim 240). Thus, the agonies are turned into hope, and the child believes that good things will happen to him or her as well.

Having analyzed the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale and Bettelheim’s article, it seems reasonable to agree with the latter that “Cinderella” is a story of sibling rivalry and the sad experiences related to it. Children all over the world put themselves in Cinderella’s shoes and use the tale to justify their ill intentions against their siblings. The narration also touches upon the crucial aspect of parental love and support against hatred and discouragement, which find reflection in the relationships between siblings.

Works Cited

Bettelheim, Bruno. “Cinderella.” The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, edited by Bruno Bettelheim, Vintage Books, 2010, pp. 236-277.

Grimm, Jacob Ludwig, and Wilhelm Carl Grimm. Cinderella. 1812. Web.

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