Disney Vs. Real Fairy Tales: What’s Cinderella’s Original Fairy Tale And More

Have you every wondered what the Cinderella original fairy tale was like compared to Disney's version? Read more now!

All of us are well versed with the Disney movies and many of them are based on Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm tales we heard as children ourselves. The problem is – how many of these Disney movies are true to the original stories? Do you really know  Cinderella’s original fairy tale or the Sleeping Beauty’s original fairy tale

What about the Mulan movie? Does that hold true to the original Mulan tale of a legendary female warrior in China? Even beauty and the Beast might not be true to the original story! We’ll check out some of the original stories that were used as the basis for the Disney movies, topping off with a few ideas for our favourite DIY Disney costumes.  

Cinderella’s original fairy tale

Disney Cinderella reading a book with mice and birds around her
Image source: Playbuzz
Illustration of original Cinderella in rags looking out of a window
Image source:

The Disney story of Cinderella concerns her mistreatment by her stepmother and stepsisters. She wakes early to light the fire, and cooks and cleans all day long. She is even made to sew new gowns for them to go to the ball, but she can’t go with them, because her stepmother won’t let her out of the house. As they drive off in a wonderful carriage to the ball, Cinderella cries, because she wants to go as well. Suddenly a fairy godmother appears in a puff of magic,  creates a beautiful ballgown, coach and horses, and Cinderella goes off to the ball and marries a Prince! This is the Disney version of the Cinderella fairy tale, but what’s the real story?

The first part of Cinderella’s original fairy tale is consistent with the Disney version, but instead of a fairy godmother appearing, Cinderella plants a twig on her mother’s grave and as she cries and waters the twig, it turns into a tree. Whenever she cries at the foot of the tree, it grants her wishes. When she hears about the three day festival to honour the Prince, little magical birds come and help her to create a beautiful gown. Every day she goes to the ball, but she refuses the Prince’s offer to escort her home. At the end of the third day, the Prince covers the steps in pitch, Cinderella’s shoe becomes lodged in the pitch and she races home without her shoe. The Prince then looks for the owner of the shoe and Cinderella’s stepsisters cut off parts of their feet to try and squeeze into the shoe! The Prince eventually realises that the shoe belongs to Cinderella, he whisks her away, marries her, and then birds pluck out the eyes of the horrid stepsisters!

So you can see that Disney’s version varies from Cinderella’s original fairy tale when the fairy godmother appears, although it remains fairly true thereafter (with a few wobbles!). 

Beauty and the Beast original fairy tale

Beast and Emma Watson as Belle from live action Beauty and the Beast dancing
Image source: Pop Sugar

The Disney story of Beauty and the Beast is about a rich merchant with three daughters. The elder two daughters loved shopping and wearing nice dresses, but the younger just liked reading and didn’t bother with her appearance. Her sisters made fun of her, because they liked being rich and beautiful. One day however, their father’s merchant ship was lost at sea, and he became as poor as a church mouse.They moved into a small hut in the woods and the elder sisters made the youngest do all the work. Suddenly, the merchant’s ship sailed into port and he was rich again! After asking the sisters what gifts they wanted to celebrate his good fortune (the elder sisters wanted dresses, but the younger wanted a rose), he raced back to town. 

On his way home, he remembered about the rose, but couldn’t return to town because of a storm. He saw a palace in the woods, went inside and stayed the night, but there was no-one around. On his way out the next day, he passed a garden and stole a rose for his daughter, but was caught by the owner – a beast! The only way the beast agreed not to kill him was if he brought one of his daughters to live in the palace, and the youngest daughter agreed. After a while, the beast fell in love with her and asked her to marry him, but she refused. 

To win her over, the beast gave her a magic ring and mirror and she used the ring to visit her father. When her sisters saw how she was richly dressed, they became jealous and tricked her into staying longer than the week allowed by the beast. Checking the magic mirror, she saw that the beast was dying, so she raced back, told him that she loved him, and he turned into a handsome Prince. Her love had broken a wicked magic spell!

This is Disney’s version of this old tale, but how different is it to the original? You might be surprised to know that it’s very similar with hardly any noticeable differences!

Sleeping Beauty’s original fairy tale

Animated Sleeping Beauty Disney film scene of Prince Phillip leaning to kiss Aurora
Image source: Playbuzz

Whilst still a baby, Princess Aurora is betrothed to an equally young Prince Phillip. At her christening, three good fairies arrive to give Aurora their blessing. A wicked fairy also turns up and curses her to die when she pricks a finger on a spinning wheel, before she turns sixteen. The third good fairy still hadn’t bestowed her gift on Aurora, so she uses it to change the curse so that she only sleeps, not dies, waking when she feels true love’s kiss.

The three good fairies take Aurora to live with them in the forest, to protect her until she is sixteen and the curse is lifted. Close to her sixteenth birthday, she unknowingly meets Prince Phillip in the forest on a walk and they fall in love. Before she can learn his name, the three fairies whisk her off to her parents where the evil fairy lures her to a tall tower and she pricks her finger on a spinning wheel and falls asleep.

The good fairies tell Prince Phillip the story and he battles his way to the tower, kills the evil fairy, kisses Aurora awake, and they live happily ever after! Sleeping Beauty’s original fairy tale however is much different. A King asks an astrologer to predict his daughter Talia’s fate, learning that she will be in danger from a piece of flax. The King bans all flax from his kingdom, but his daughter finds a woman and her spinning wheel. Talia accidentally gets a piece of flax stuck under her nail and dies. Her distraught father takes her to his country estate and lies her on a bed. Another King from a nearby kingdom follows his falcon into the estate and finds Talia lying dead on the bed. He can’t wake her, but 9 months later she gives birth to twins!  The twins sucked on their mother’s finger and removed the piece of flax, waking Talia from her death/sleep. The visiting King returns, realises he is a father, Talia falls in love with him, his wife finds out, and tries to kill them all. The King kills her, and they all live happily ever after! Sleeping Beauty’s original fairy tale is quite different to the Disney version!

Mulan original fairy tale

Image of Disney Mulan with short hair clutching Emperor's necklace of honour
Image source: Burn Book

The Disney version of this legend begins thousands of years ago in ancient China. A beautiful woman named Mulan lived with her parents, but she impersonated a man and went to join the imperial army to prevent her injured father being conscripted. She worked hard, but wasn’t strong enough to stay with the army. She was told to go home, but to uphold her family’s honour she retrieved an arrow from the top of a very tall pole, which was supposed to be impossible.  A dragon named Mushu and a cricket named Cri-kee had been sent by her ancestors to protect Mulan in the army and they wrote a letter to the head soldier Shang ordering him to attack the Huns. They were close to losing the battle when Mulan saved the day by creating an avalanche to bury the Huns.

While being treated for her injuries, she was revealed as a woman and left behind by the soldiers. She heard Hun voices and ran to tell the soldiers, but they didn’t believe her. Huns kidnapped the Emperor, but Mulan and the soldiers saved him, and the Emperor was saved. She took a sword to her father, as a gift from the Emperor.

The original Mulan story isn’t very different. In the original, Mulan was trained to fight at home and served for more than ten years with the soldiers, before being found out. There are various endings, one being similar to the Disney version, but another where she dies at war.

Will Mushu be in Mulan live action?

Disney Mushu licking his thumb reading a Chinese newspaper
Image source: Buzzfeed

Mushu the dragon isn’t in Disney’s Mulan live action movie! Instead Mulan is guarded by a Phoenix, a mythical creature that apparently, also guards the Emperor.

DIY Disney costumes

Do you want to make your very own Disney costumes? Cinderella and beauty from Beauty & the Beast can both be made very easily, because they are very similar costumes. All you need is a party dress which can usually be found at a charity shop, a tiara, elbow length white gloves and you are good to go to the ball! A Mulan costume might be a bit harder to pull together quickly, so you could always check out the Costumebox vaults for our Mulan costume. You can also use our Cinderella costumes for Disney princess party, if you aren’t into DIY Disney costumes.

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