Cap O'Rushes

A Folkloric and Literature Resource

for Teachers and Librarians

Cinderella, Understanding an Archetype: Grades 2 - 4

When children have developed the ability to see an abstract concept like the structure of a story, they can then tackle a more complex idea like an archetype. Cinderella is perhaps the best known fairy tale in the western world. There are at least 500 variations of the story cataloged and the earliest may have come to us from China. The purpose of this lesson is for the children to recognize a particular abstract idea, the archetype, by identifying the elements of the story and then demonstrating their understanding by creating their own "Cinderella" story.

The French version of the story, "Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper", by Charles Perrault should be used as the base story, since it is the version most people know. In a typical presentation of this unit with two second grades all of the children knew the story, although the version they knew was Walt Disney's. After hearing the story, the class was asked to list all the important people, places, things, and events in the story. Each class came up with approximately the same items:

This list was made into a chart. As each subsequent story was read, the characters in the new story were placed next to the character, object or event that they most resembled in the French story. In each case the function of the character or the role the character played was considered, rather than just the name. For example the Father in Cap O'Rushes is the villain and thus is placed in the slot next to the Stepmother and Step sisters, rather with the Father in the first story.

Cinderella has often been criticized by feminists as a sexist story but you will undoubtedly notice that the strength and independence of each "Cinderella" varies with the story. This is worth discussing with the class.

When seven stories had been examined it was clear that the class understood the idea of "a Cinderella story" and were ready to write their own.

Cinderella Stories:

Chase, Richard. Grandfather Tales. Houghton Mifflin, l948. ("Ashpet" and "Catskins".)

Climo, Shirley. An Egyptian Cinderella. Crowell, 1989.

Cohen, Barbara. Lovely Vassilisa. Atheneum, 1980.

Haviland, Virginia. Favorite Fairy Tales Told in England, retold from Joseph Jacobs. Little Brown & Co., l959. ("Cap O'Rushes")

Hooks, William H. Moss Gown. Clarion Books, 1987.

Huck, Charlotte. Princess Furball. Greenwillow, 1989.

Kha, Dang Manh. In the Land of Small Dragon, A Vietnamese Folktale told to Ann Nolan Clark. Viking Press, l979.

Louie, Ai-Ling, retel. Yeh-Shen, A Cinderella Story From China. Philomel Books, 1982.

Perrault, Charles. Cinderella or The Little Glass Slipper. Illustrated by Marcia Brown. Charles Scribner's Sons, l954. Winner of the Caldecott Medal

Steel, Flora Annie. Tattercoats. Bradbury Press, 1976.

Steptoe, John. Mufaros Beautiful Daughters. Lothrop, 1987.

Note: There are probably new Cinderella stories that your librarian can provide for you. Some of the books listed above, like Grandfather Tales, are classics and should be in any library.

See also repetitive tale and cumulative tale


If you have questions or comments about any of the material offered here, please email Carole at carole at slattery dot com.