Almost every culture has its Cinderella. The basic story is the same – girl loses mother, gains a stepmother and stepsisters who hate her, and finally wins the prince. In some versions, the father is still alive and his lack of involvement beggars the question on so many levels, but the father isn’t the point. “Cinderella” is part wish fulfillment – who wouldn’t want to go from a life of drudgery to being waited on - and part respect your dead because that is what good girls do. After all, it is usually Cinderella’s faithfulness to her dead mother in actually or spirit that leads to her gaining the gifts. Even if the gift figure is something like a cow, fish, or lioness, there is usually a connection between the helper and the dead mother. In many versions, Cinderella is the one who is always mourning; the ashes in her English name tell us this. There are other variants. There use to be a male version, but that didn’t seem to take. There are the Donkeyskin/Catskin versions where the Cinderella figure first escapes her father who wants to marry her. She travels to a neighboring kingdom where she lives and sometimes works in a disguise until the ball and the prince. In these versions, it isn’t always a shoe, but the idea is still there.
Additionally, there thousands of update and modern retellings. There is the older Disney version with its 1950s sensibility, there is the Brandy version with its diverse cast.
- “Cinderelephant” by Jane Yolen. This short story appears in Wolf at the Door edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow. It is not about an elephant, though that would have been awesome. Instead, it is about a fat girl who likes birds and a prince who likes birds.
- “Cinderella” by Roald Dahl. This poem appears in Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. While the “Red Riding Hood” sequence is pretty stellar, Dahl’s “Cinderella” is a tale about why you might not want to marry a prince who can’t remember what you look like. There is pretty of blood, booze, and jam.
- The Coachman Rat by Henry David Wilson. Wilson’s book isn’t about Cinderella herself, but about one of those rats that got changed into coachmen and what happened after. It is a dark tale, but the question of what if, and what then that it answers are quite interesting.
- Beauty by Sheri S. Tepper. Tepper’s novel isn’t a straight Cinderella story either. In fact, it is merging of Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Cinderella in time travel story. Tepper looks at the roles that women are forced to play in the tales.
- The Princess novels by Jim C Hines. The first book in this four-book series is the Stepsister Scheme and borrows the fairy tale theme of the step-sisters trying to take revenge on Cinderella. However, Hines’ Cinderella is part of a Charlie’s Angels group of princesses who kick ass. Incidentally, she also wields a glass sword and is a mother. Hines’ book stands out for its inclusion of women getting butt, drawing on fairy tales, and the whole bit of mothers actually doing heroic shit that doesn’t include babies.
- The Cinderella Curse by J L Penn. IN this novella Cindy has a problem – she turns into a pumpkin. She also isn’t your normal Cinderella. She is a bit too clothes focused, yet it is one few Cinderella variations where Cinderella has female friends. It’s a fun read.
- A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. While this classic novel has a Cinderella, it does not end in marriage but of a young orphan finding a home. Yet Sara Crewe is a Cinderella, exceeding because despite the drudgery she is still a true princess in behavior.
- Ash by Malinda Lo. The lesbian Cinderella story you didn’t know you wanted or needed until you read it, and you realize that it makes life more wonderful.
- Masquerade by Susanne Alleyn. This short story is a very unique take on Cinderella. It is also about revenge.
- Indexing by Seann McGuire – While Cinderella isn’t a central character in McGuire’s Indexing series, the kindle serial is an interesting play on the Arne-Thompson Index and the people who struggle to protect the world from it.
- White Lotus by Libbie Hawker – Hawker’s story is an adaption of an Egyptian version of Cinderella.
- And just in case you have been living under a rock – Cinder by Marissa Meyer. It is the first book in the Lunar Chronicles and presents a Cinderella who is anything but a house cleaner.
- Confessions of Queen Cinderella by Anton Hur. A Cinderella that is set in the time of Elizabeth I and is somewhat like a fairy tale Mary Queen of Scots.
- Ella by Caroline Lee – This is part of Lee’s Everland Ever After series which are Western romances, each based on a fairy tale. While the characters make guest appearances, you don’t need to read the books in order. While there are pretty of lustful thoughts, there is no sex, and insta love seems to be the theme. That said, in this version of Cinderella, Lee does take an interesting spin – the slipper is totally changed, for instance.