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With a story from The Brothers Grimm

Episode 3 - Sunday, 8 December 2019

Here in the UK, Pantomime at Christmas is quite a big deal. It is when children and adults alike submit themselves to the loudest, cheesiest, most farcical musical comedies, laced through with puns, topical jokes, sarcasm, teasing, mischievousness, and built around a formula that is been with us for decades.

They are a lot of fun, though I admit I tend to avoid them.

The Brothers Grimm have unwittingly become one of the main suppliers of plots over the years, as have others, and there is never a Panto season that doesn't have at least one telling of Cinderella.

But there is a huge difference between the plot used for the pantos and the plot of the original. The panto versions come complete with pumpkins, fairy godmothers, and ugly sisters, as do the film versions. And none of those are in the original.

So, I have dug out the original German story by the Brothers Grimm, dusted it down, given it a little bit of love, and bring it to you on the latest episode of Deep in the Dark Forest.

Don't forget to subscribe to my show on your favourite podcasting service, and sign up to my newsletter!


Welcome back to Deep in the Dark Forest, a place for tales and all about tales, and a few other odd bits too.  I am CC Hogan, and today I have a bit of a treat for you, story wise, but first, just a reminder than I would love to hear from you.  You can send a note through my Facebook page, or find me on twitter and Instagram using the hashtag Deep in the Dark Forest.  And please subscribe to my podcast wherever you have found it. I am adding to this weekly, so there’ll be more stories to come. Check the show notes for more details.

Later, after the story, it will be poetry time.  Hunting Dragons is a poem I wrote a long time ago, and it is all about two young, lonely children who find friendship in a wood chasing down imaginary dragons.

In the meantime, let’s get to the story.  Last night, I stayed up late writing a new adaptation of a story from The Brothers Grimm.  This is a long way from the panto version, or any film version that I know about, and is just a little more gruesome!  So, sit back and wince at the true tale of Cinderella.


By the Brothers Grimm

Once upon a time lived a rich man with a beautiful wife.  They had been together for many a year, but they had but one child; a daughter.  One year, the woman became ill, and she knew in her heart her time was near.  So she called her daughter to her and she said: “Dear child of mine, I must leave you soon. But when I am taken to heaven, I will look down on you.  Plant a tree on my grave, and if there is ever something you need, shake it and it will be yours.  And if you are lonely or upset, I will send someone to help you.  I only ask one thing.  Remain good and keep love in your heart.”

The woman’s eyes flickered closed, and her spirit was taken to heaven.

The poor child wept for her beautiful mother each and every day at her grave side, her tears soaking into the ground.

The winter snows covered the grave in a soft white sheet, and when spring came, and the sun warmed the earth, the rich man found new love and remarried.  His new bride already had two daughters, who, though they were beautiful in the face, were scheming and wicked of heart!

The house where they lived changed.  Where it had been a loving home for the daughter, it now became something quite different.

“Who is this nasty thing, this stupid goose who thinks she can sit with us?” declared the stepmother, turning up her nose at the small girl.  “Daughters, take her to the kitchen.  If she wants to eat our bread, she must first earn.  She can be our maid.”

The stepsisters stripped the girl of her fine clothes and they put her in an old grey coat.  And they through away her soft shoes and gave her hard wooden clogs instead.

“Not such a proud little princess now, are you, girl!” mocked the stepsisters, laughing and sneering at her.  “Look at you now; it is all you deserve!”

They dragged the small girl down to the kitchen and put her to work.  And such hard work it was.  She was up early in the morning before anyone else; carrying water, lighting the fire, cooking and washing.  And the stepsisters did everything to make it worse for her.  They teased and chided her.  They poured the dried peas and lentils into the ashes, and the poor girl had to spend all day picking them out again.  And at night, when she had worked all through the day and was tired near to fainting, she had no bed, but had to lie in the ashes by the cold kitchen hearth. Her face was dirty and grey, and so were her tatty clothes.  She looked much like the ashes themselves.  So the sisters named her Cinderella.

One day, the father was travelling to the fair, and he asked his two stepdaughters what should he bring back for them.

“The most beautiful clothes!” said one.

“Pearls and Gems!” said the other, spinning prettily.

“And what about you, Cinderella?” he asked, for it seemed he had forgotten the girl’s real name, and now used the name given to her by her nasty stepsisters.

“Bring me the first twig that brushes against your hat on the way home, father.  That is all I need.”  For she was as good as her mother had asked her to be, and she was not greedy one bit.

The father shopped for the best clothes and the finest pearls and gems for his stepdaughters from the best merchants, for only those would please them.  On the way home, the twig from a hazel tree brushed against his hat, knocking it clean of his head.  The man snapped it off as quick as maybe, and he put it in his pocket and took it home with him.

His stepdaughters were delighted with their fine gifts and they paraded around the house showing off as much as they wanted.  The father gave the hazel twig to Cinderella.  She thanked him with a quiet little smile, went to her mother’s grave, and planted it as she had wished.  She cried so much that her tears watered the plant, and over time, it become the most wonderful little tree.

Three times every day, Cinderella would sit beneath the tree, weeping and talking to her mother.  And when she did, a little white bird would sit on a branch, and if she wished for something, it would throw it down to her.

The king put on a mighty feast.  It was to be fine affair, lasting not one, not two, but three full days in all its glory.  All the un-wed girls of the land were invited, and his son would choose one who he would ask, “would you consent to marry me?”  For he was a formal lad and like to do things the right way.

The two stepsisters, being unwed, were invited too.  They were absolutely thrilled, and they called to poor Cinderella.

“Comb our hair, brush our shoes, and tie our clasps tight.  For we shall go to the feast!”

Cinderella did as she was asked, but she cried as she did, for she too wanted to go to the feast and be allowed to dance with the other young women.  So she begged her stepmother to let her go.

“You, Cinderella?” asked the stepmother, laughing.  “You are covered with dust and filth and ashes.  And you want to go dancing?”  She laughed all the more.  “You have no clothes and no shoes to dance in.  But if you can pick out all the peas and lentils from the ashes in two hours, you can go.”  And she tipped a huge bowl into the ashes by the fire.

Cinderella rushed into the garden, and the good girl called out to the pigeons and turtle doves, and all the birds under the sky.


Come help me my friends,

Pick the ashes clean,

The good into the pot,

The bad into the bin!


Two white pigeons flew in through the kitchen window.  And then two lovebirds and all the little sparrows and starlings came whirring into the kitchen also and settled around the ashes.  And then the pigeons pick-pick-picked at the ashes and spit-spit-spit went the peas and lentils into the bowl.  And the other birdies joined in.  Pick-pick-pick and spit-spit-spit till all the good grains were in the bowl, and they flew back into the garden.  The girl rushed to her stepmother, happy that she had completed the chore and could now go the feast.

“Oh, no, Cinderella,” said her stepmother.  “You have no clothes, and you cannot dance.  They will laugh at you.”  But when the girl cried, the stepmother said.  “If you can pick another two bowls of peas and lentils from the ashes in one hour, you shall go to the feast!”


Come help me my friends,

Pick the ashes clean,

The good into the pot,

The bad into the bin!


And again, the two white pigeons flew through the kitchen window, and the lovebirds, and all the little birds, and they whirred around and settled by the ashes.  The pigeons nodded their heads. Pick-Pick-Pick and Spit-Spit-Spit, and the good grains landed in the bowl. Then all the birds joined in.  Pick-Pick-Pick and Spit-Spit-Spit until the bowls were both full of clean peas and lentils.  The girl rushed to her stepmother; sure she would now be allowed to go to the feast.  But the stepmother looked at her cruelly.  “You have no clothes, you cannot dance, and we would be ashamed of you!” And she turned her back on Cinderella and hurried to the feast with her two proud daughters.

Cinderella was now all alone, so she went to her mother’s grave under the beautiful hazel tree. And in a small voice she wept:


Shake, shake, shake, dear little tree,

Throw silver and gold over me.


Then the little white bird flew down and laid a golden and silver dress over her.  And it hung silken slippers from a twig, embroidered with silver.  Cinderella jumped to her feet, washed her face, put on the wonderful clothes, and rushed to the feast.

And so beautiful she looked that her cruel stepsisters and stepmother didn’t even recognise her.  They thought she must be some foreign princess, so radiant did she look in her golden gown.  And they never thought once it might be Cinderella who they believed must be still at home, kneeling in the ashes, picking out peas and lentils.

The prince, moving through all the young women in their fine dresses, and not knowing what to do, came across young Cinderella.  And from the moment he saw her, he didn’t want to dance with anyone else.  He took her by the hand and danced with her across the floor, both of them laughing joyously.  And if anyone else asked for her hand, he would quickly say, “this is my partner, this is my dancer!”  And they would dance all the more.

They danced until late in the evening.  Some of the other young women were jealous, some were simply happy to watch the whirling couple, and others, no doubt, were relieved!  When the time came to leave, the prince said, “I shall accompany you home, for I wish to know who your father is.”

But Cinderella panicked, and she escaped from his hand, into the garden, and hid in the pigeon house!  The prince called to the father who was standing nearby and explained that this strange girl had jumped into the pigeon house.  The father thought to himself, “I wonder if this is Cinderella.”  So they brought him an axe, and he chopped his way into the pigeon house, but it was empty, apart from some rather annoyed birds.  And when they all went home, there was Cinderella, all in her dirty clothes, lying in the ashes with just a gloomy oil lamp burning in the chimney.  For she had jumped out of the pigeon house as quickly as she had jumped in, and had run to the hazel tree, taken off the fine clothes, and laid them on the grave.  The bird had taken them away, and Cinderella had put back on her little grey gown and run into the kitchen.

 The next day was the second day of feasting.  And once the father, the stepmother and the stepsisters were gone, Cinderella ran to the hazel tree.


Shake, shake, shake, dear little tree,

Throw silver and gold over me.


Once again, the bird flew down, bringing a dress even finer than the first.  And when Cinderella rolled up at the feast, everyone was astounded by such beauty.  The king’s son rushed up to her, took her by the hand, and spun her across the floor.  “This is my partner; this is my dancer,” he told everyone who asked. And they danced all the more.

When evening came and the prince one more wanted to see where she lived, Cinderella ran into the garden.  There stood a huge tree from which hung the most delicious pears.  She climbed like a squirrel and hid, peeking out.  The prince knew not where she was, but as her father happened to be nearby, he said.  “The strange little girl has escaped me again, and I think she might be hiding in the pear tree!”

So the father, thinking once again this sounded like Cinderella, took an axe and chopped down the tree.  But there was nobody there, except some very squashed pears.  And when they all arrived home, there was Cinderella, lying in the ashes in the kitchen.  For she had jumped from the other side of the pear tree, had put her fine clothes under the hazel tree, and had rushed into the kitchen.

On the third and last day of the feast, once the father, the stepmother and the stepsisters had gone, Cinderella once more sat beneath the Hazel tree.


Shake, shake, shake, dear little tree,

Throw silver and gold over me.


And once more the little white bird flew down and gave Cinderella the most splendid and shiny dress, and from a twig hung slippers of gold thread.

At the feast, the people fell silent at the beauty of the girl in the golden dress, and the prince took her hand and danced with her all evening, spinning and laughing.  And when anyone asked, he would say, “this is my partner, this is my dancer.”  And they danced all the more.

And as the night drew close, the prince tried once more to take the wonderful but strange girl home. But she was too fast for him and sprang away.  But the prince could be clever fellow on occasion, and he had had the servants brush the stairs with sticky pitch.  And as the girl ran for it, her left golden slipper stuck on the stairs, and she hopped away in her bare little foot.

The prince picked up the dainty shoe made from golden thread, and the next morning he rode to the father’s house, for I think he was getting a little suspicious that the man always appeared to be nearby.

“No other shall be my wife,” said the prince to the father, “than the one with the foot that fits this golden shoe.”

The pretty stepsisters danced and clapped, for they both had the most beautiful feet.  The eldest tried first. She and her mother went to the bed chamber and tried to squeeze on the dainty golden slipper. But however hard she tried, she could not get her big toe in. The mother handed her a knife.  “Off with the toe, daughter, for when you are queen you will have no need to go on foot!” So the stepsister cut off the toe and limped out to show the prince the slipper fitted.  He lifted her onto his horse and rode away.  But as they passed the grave, there sat the two white pigeons.


Turn and look, turn and look,

Blood is in the shoe!

The shoe’s too small, so turn you back,

Your bride still waits for you!


The prince looked down and saw the blood, and he looked up at the pained face of the stepsister.  He took this fake bride straight back home, lifted her carefully from the horse, and she hobbled back in, the shoe in her hand.

And so the second stepsister tried.  She and her mother went to the bed chamber and she slipped on the golden shoe.  But though the toes fitted happily inside, her heel was two big.  The mother handed over the knife.  “When you are queen, you won’t need to walk.  Cut it off!”

And so she did, and she limped out to the prince.  He, being perhaps not always that clever, put her on his horse and rode away.  But as they passed the grave, the pigeons sang out.


Turn and look, turn and look,

Blood is in the shoe!

The shoe’s too small, so turn you back,

Your bride still waits for you!


And when he looked at her foot, he saw it was indeed so, and the blood had spilled out of the shoe and even soaked halfway up her white stocking.  So, about he turned and took this second fake bride back to the house.  This time he left her to get off the horse on her own and he stormed up to the father.

“She is not the right daughter either,” said he.  “Is there a third sister?”

“No,” said the man, looking down.  “Only little Cinderella, a poor girl left by my dead wife.  But it could not possibly be her.”

“Far too dirty!” declared the stepmother.  “Too dirty to ever be seen in public.”

But the prince insisted on seeing this girl and they had no choice but to call for their kitchen maid.

Cinderella washed her hands and face and she bowed before the king’s son who handed her the slipper.  She sat down on a stool there in front of them all, took her foot from the heavy wooden clog and slipped it into the golden shoe.  It fitted like a glove.  And when she rose up, the prince looked into her face and saw the beautiful girl who had danced and spun and laughed with him.

“This is she,” he cried.  “And I will ask her if she will consent to be my perfect bride.”

The stepmother and the two stepsisters were pale with rage.  But the prince turned his back, lifted Cinderella, still in her grey robe, onto his fine horse, and rode away.

And as they passed the Hazel tree, the two white pigeons sang out:


Turn and look, turn and look,

No blood is in the shoe!

It’s not too small, so ride you on,

With your bride so good and true!


And they flapped into the air and sat one each on Cinderella’s shoulders; one on the right and one on the left.

Cinderella consented to be married to the prince who really was a very nice person. But at the wedding, the proud and vain stepsisters turned up in their finery, hoping to be flattered, and wanting to make sure that people knew they were related to the new princess who would one day be queen.

But a good tale is never without a twist and as the stepsisters entered the church, the pigeons flew down and pecked an eye from each.  And as they left the church, the pigeons pecked out their other eyes.  And you may think that this is a harsh punishment for the torture they had inflicted upon poor Cinderella. And so it is, but such is often true in the oldest tales.




I had forgotten quite how ghastly some of that tale was. Generally speaking, the earlier 1812 versions are nastier that the ones from 1857.  But in this case the reverse is true.  At the end of the 1812 version, the sisters still have their eyes.

I have adapted this from two main versions and one other for reference.  I put the 1812 and 1857 German versions (first and seventh editions) through Google Translate to give me a starting point, but I also referenced the translation from Margarete Hunt, which is very well known and is based on the 57 version, I think.  There are more recent translations that are meant to be better, but I didn’t use those cos I wanted to go back to the source.  I haven’t tried to be very accurate to the words and I have put my own spin on parts of the tale because I wanted this to be my own telling. But I have been faithful to the plot as first told by the Brothers Grimm.

When I was skipping through their various versions, I was happy to see that in none of the versions were pumpkins, mice, or fairy godmothers, and I think the original story is actually more magical.  And I love that somewhere behind it all, is Cinderella’s late mother, sending the little bird with the gowns and the slippers, and probably persuading the birds to help with the peas and lentils.

Onwards now, and here is the poem I promised earlier.  I wrote this some time ago, and I have recorded it before, but that is no reason not to record it again.  This about two young children who find true friendship while hunting dragons.


Hunting Dragons

By CC Hogan

Sometimes the most special words

Are the ones that are never heard,

Sometimes the most important tales

Are the ones hidden in secret dales.


I can recall, if I try really hard,

A story when I was little more than a yard.

I would wander on my own, if I could,

Behind the house, deep in the wood.


I was so brave, a warrior I thought,

And monsters unimaginable I sought.

I would stalk and occasionally stamp,

Even when the undergrowth was damp.


The tales I imagined in my head,

Were private and always left unsaid.

I never took friends on my noble quests,

As they would realise my stories were jests.


So on one warm day, or maybe not,

To hear a voice turned my tummy to knots.

I crept quietly, wondering who was there,

And without permission, my woodland share.


Behind a tree, I peeked carefully out,

And for a moment, saw nothing, nowt!

And then in the glade, I saw a face,

Small and round, full of young grace.


She had in her hand a long, thin branch,

And was waving it like a noble lance.

“I stick you, dragon!” she cried out shrilly,

“Fly or die, you are nasty and silly!”


The dragon, blinked, as I knew dragons do,

For she was very little, like a mouse or a shrew.

I think it growled, or maybe giggled,

And the girl twisted her nose, just a little.


The girl, I remember, was blonde and round,

And she huffed and sat down on the damp ground.

“Oh, stupid dragon. Why are you not real?

I need someone who I can actually feel!


“I know I am silly, and my mummy tells me so,

For pretending I am brave and have places to go.

But, little dragon, at home it’s me only,

And it’s ever so quiet, and I’m ever so lonely.”


I watched from the tree, a bit perplexed,

Remember I was young, so what to do next?

I was also alone, but I was used to that,

Which is why I hunted in my warrior’s hat.


But this girl sitting quietly was just like me,

And I felt for her, and also felt lonely,

I knew I should do what heroes always do,

And jumped from the tree to her rescue.


“Behind me, princess!” I shouted that day,

“I will kill the bad dragon, and send him away!”

The girl shrieked so loud, I almost cowed,

But I remembered my role and to her bowed


“Who are you?” she yelped, clutching her stick,

“I will tell my mummy, or I might get sick!”

“I am your hero,” I said in a panic,

“Don’t tell your mummy! She might go volcanic!”


The girl rubbed her nose and gave me a look,

“Tell me quickly, what is your favourite book”

I went kind of red because I couldn’t read yet,

And I think she realised because she nodded her head.


“Doesn’t matter,” she said.  “Cos you see dragons.

And as long as you do, you can be my friend.”

I smiled a wide smile and turned back to the fray,

Stabbing the dragon shouting, “Go, fly away!”


With a beat of its wings, it flew from the wood,

Crying a little as dragons should.

I felt a small hand hold mine just lightly,

And I looked at the girl, who smiled so brightly


“Did you hear me just now, when I said what I did?”

I nodded, then noticed she was crying a bit.

“Don’t tell anyone,” she asked quite quietly,

I shook my head and promised her firmly.


“Where are your friends?” she then asked me,

I shrugged, for it was true, I too was lonely.

“You are my friend.” I think I told her,

And she nodded lots and squeezed my hand firmer.


“Can we fight together?” I asked like a knight

“I think there are more dragons for us to fight.”

“Together then!” she said, grinning so wide.

“I can hear one coming. Should we go hide?”


So from that day on, we hunted as one,

And when we got bored, we sat in the sun.

We were only quite little, but we knew what we had,

We loved each other, and were never again sad.


So many secrets hidden in that dale,

Where two young children wrote their own tale,

The words unspoken were because they were young,

But if they had been older, oh what songs would be sung!



Thank you for listening, and I hope you were suitably shocked by Cinderella, and given a smile by our two friends and their dragon quests.

Don’t forget to tell everyone about the Deep in the Dark Forest podcast and subscribe on your favourite Podcast Service.  You can sign up for my normal newsletter too.  Details in the show notes or on the website. Deep in the Dark Forest dot com.

I am CC Hogan, and I wish you good fortune as you travel on your way!