Cinderella has inspired the creativity of countless writers, artists, producers, and others. Fairytale adaptations and art are created using all sorts of different mediums – even paper cutting!
In the early days of stop-motion photography, paper-cut figures were used to create cutout animation movies.
Charlotte Reiniger (1899-1981) was a German animation pioneer in the nascent film industry during the early 20th century. Many of her subjects were fairy tales!
Aschenputtel, from 1922, is a silhouette animation depicting the Grimm’s fairy tale of Cinderella:
“What Cinderella suffered… here is seen, told by a pair of scissors on a screen.”
“A fairy film in shadow show by Lotte Reiniger”
Since the animation is based on the Grimm’s fairy tale, poor Cinderella must pick lentils out of the ashes, and the stepsisters mutilate their feet for a chance at the prince. However, there are some notable differences.
Forget about midnight, Cinderella doesn’t have to leave this ball until 1 o’clock in the morning!
The major innovation I found in Reiniger’s adaptation concerns the source of Cinderella’s grand apparel. Usually provided by a willow tree at her mother’s grave, this film specifies that she goes to an apple tree. At first I didn’t pay much attention to that, but then I discovered the reason for the apple tree. Cinderella receives her golden raiment from the Hesperides.
In Greek mythology, these are nymphs guarding the golden apple tree from which Hercules must steal three apples for his eleventh labor.
The Hesperides are a unique connection I don’t recall seeing in any other version of Cinderella. I never expected to find a Greek myth in a Cinderella silhouette film! It helps explain the gold of her dress (and possibly of her slippers) and it provides a reason for the tree’s magic.
Among Reiniger’s many films, more than a few others are fairy tales, such as Hansel and Gretel, The Frog Prince, and Sleeping Beauty. Her hand-cut silhouettes can really charm fairytale characters into being.