The original German title of Grimm’s Fairy Tales means “fairy tales for children and for the home.” Both entertaining and didactic, the stories are meant for children and their parents. For children, whose lives lie ahead and hold infinite possibilities, the popular tales extend the promise that all will turn out well for the good and virtuous. That this end is often accomplished with the aid of magic appeals to children’s sense of wonder at the world and reinforces what they need to believe. For parents, and adults in general, the tales serve as a reminder of children’s vulnerability and their reliance on kind and good adults to care for them. Everyone’s heart goes out to Hansel and Gretel, and no one wants to be seen as a wicked stepmother.
“Cinderella” is the quintessential fairy tale that not only contains all of its main figures and features but also embodies its standard themes. These themes were consciously emphasized by Wilhelm Grimm in his repeated rewriting of the fairy tales, and they reflect the biographies, beliefs, and ethics of the Brothers Grimm, who were orphaned at an early age and had to care for their younger siblings.
The main theme of “Cinderella” is of going from rags to riches. Following an early reversal of fortune that plunges Cinderella into degrading poverty, she persists through difficult times and triumphs in the end. This outcome reflects the Grimms’ Protestant work ethic, the...
(The entire section is 600 words.)