Cinderella is one of the most popular Disney princesses and is the blueprint for grace and elegance that inspired many movies and stories after it. It is a classic fairytale, down to how it was set long ago. This begs the question of when this beloved story take place in history? Let’s see what we came up with based on the hints from the movie.
‘Cinderella’ most likely takes place in the late 19th century
Looking at the child Cinderella, her step-sisters, and her father at the start of the film, the style corresponds to the 1860s fairly consistent fashion, but it does change slightly with the characters’ ages.
If we presume Cinderella is 10 at the outset, this suggests that the tale takes place between 1869 and 1870. The stepmother, on the other hand, seems to be from the future, with poofier sleeves and shorter tops, as they did in the 1890s.
Clothing choices were the most critical element in deciding the time period in which the story takes place.
Drizella and Anastasia wear bustled gowns, while Cinderella’s gown was most likely worn with a crinoline. We can assume the film’s main plot takes place in the 1870s-1880s, while the prologue, in which we see Cinderella’s father meeting Lady Tremaine, takes place in the 1850s-1860s.
Cinderella’s dress may have been from a different time span since the Fairy Godmother was “behind the times.” In addition, the majority of the men wear military-style jackets as formal wear, giving the setting a Victorian feel.
Live-action ‘Cinderella’ from 2015 follows roughly the same blueprint
The live-action version of the movie also takes place in a fairy tale setting, which was never explained or referenced in a straightforward way, but once again, due to the clothing choices and the architecture, we can assume roughly the same time period.
The focus was more on creating a magical and enchanting atmosphere rather than placing the story within a particular historical context.
‘Cinderella’ takes place somewhere in rural France
When it comes to the question of where the story takes place, it is actually quite complicated. The earlier European versions of the fairytale vary in location depending on the writer’s origin.
The Brothers Grimm version is most likely set somewhere in Germany or a Scandinavian country, given the context of the story, and the origin of the authors. Charles Perrault’s version, named ‘Cendrillon’,’ takes place in France, and this is key info considering that the Disney version was inspired by this tale.
Belle is also shown speaking French with her mother on several occasions, supporting the idea that the story is set in France. The architectural styles and the ballroom setting in the movie further align with French architectural styles from the time period of the story.
Regarding the 1950s animated movie released by Disney, the answer is not as clear. While most people assume the story takes place in France, the architecture and clothing could point to a central European country of the time period. However, there are very few clues that specify the location, as they could apply to different countries.
A complicating factor is the opening scene of the animated movie, where Cinderella is woken up by the sound of a tower clock. Some have noted that the clock resembles Big Ben, leading to speculation that the story could be set in London. However, this is contradicted by the introduction of Cinderella’s stepmother, Lady Tremaine, whose family name suggests French origin, making it more logical for the story to be set in France.
Cinderella’s origin is confusing to say the last
When discussing the origin of ‘Cinderella’, most people’s minds will directly go to the tale by The Brothers Grimm named ‘Aschenputtel,’ which translates to ‘Cinderella’ in English.
Although their arguably grimmer version of the story is the most popular and is often titled the original story, the premise of the story is actually over two millennia old.
The first known tale about a Cinderella-like figure dates from the sixth century BC in Greece. A Greek courtesan named Rhodopis has one of her shoes stolen by an eagle, which flies it all the way across the Mediterranean and drops it in the lap of an Egyptian king. He then sets off to find the owner and eventually marries her, lifting her from a lower status.
Another Cinderella-like story comes from the ninth-century Chinese fairy tale Ye Xian, in which a young girl named Ye Xian is given one wish by some mysterious fishbone. She uses it to make a gown in the hopes of finding a husband, making it another of the earliest known Cinderella tales.
The most popular version comes from the aforementioned European version; however, when you look into it deeper, you’ll realize that The Brothers Grimm version of the story is not the first one.
The originally Italian story was given a French twist sixty years after it was written, and with that modification, it became the story we know today. Charles Perrault, the French writer credited with inventing the fairy tale, cast Cinderella in the shape she would take for the next 400 years in Cendrillon. He introduced the glass slipper, the squash, and the fairy godmother. This is the version that Disney turned into an animated film.
Another popular version that bears a striking resemblance to the most famous version is those above Italian short stories in the 17th century in the form of a story called ‘Cenerentola.’ ‘Cenerentola’ has all the features of a modern-day fairy tale—the evil stepmother and stepsisters, the spell, and the lost slipper—but it’s darker and more magical.
In the novel, a woman named Zezolla flees the king’s desire to marry her at two separate celebrations until he finally catches her at the third and prevents her from fleeing. ‘Cenerentola’ is a tale about forced marriage and six evil stepsisters rather than a story about requited love.
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