Disney vs. Grimm

Oct 18, 2010
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My wife recently wrote an essay for her college English class comparing Disney's 1950 film Cinderella to the literary version told by the Grimm brothers.  The contrast was revealing. Whether deliberate or incidental, the Disney version seems to effortlessly recast the story within a fantasy world of dreams without consideration or reference to the personal duty and responsibility preserved in the Grimms' version. Disney's Cinderella awakens not the moral imagination, but the dreamer's untamed fancy. I am reminded of Lewis' analysis in An Experiment of Criticism. He begins chapter 6 by defining three types of psychological fantasy, the second of which he calls "Morbid Castle-building."
A pleasing imaginative construction entertained incessantly, and to his injury, by the patient, but without the delusion that it is a reality. . . .  It becomes the prime consolation, and almost the only pleasure, of the dreamer's life."
I see this most clearly in the way the two versions of Cinderella portray the child's parents. In the Disney film there are no respectable adults to direct Cinderella. The mother is absent or dead, and the father dies early in the film. The leading adult is the step-mother, who offers no substatnive model for parenting. Grimms' version begins with an ailing mother who calls her daughter to the bedside with the invocation, "Dear child, continue devout and good. Then God will always help you, and I will look down upon you from heaven and watch over you." The father never dies, but remains somewhat aloof throughout the story. It is apparent that the story of Cinderella builds on a child's devotion to her mother in honoring the call to "continue devout and good." Regardless of the bloody events to follow in Grimms' telling of Cinderella, do we rob children of a moral cultivation when we replace "continue devout and good" with "may your dreams come true?"
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Buck Holler

Hello, I am graduating and the topic I chose for the thesis is the contrast between the original versions of Grimms' fairy tales and the relative Disney's films. I would be very grateful if you could send me the essay your wife wrote, it would be very useful for my thesis. Thank you in advance. Fabrizio, Italian student.

Interesting. What are you discovering?

There is a link to the essay at the beginning of this post. Let me know if that does not work, or if you would like a copy in a different format.


Oh, you're right, I did not see the link at first. Thank you. The essay is quite interesting, it gave me a couple of ideas.
For my thesis, well, it is not an easy work; I found out that a simple comparison between the films and the written stories is not productive. I should try another approach. Probably I will have to analyze Grimms' world and Disney's and then try to understand what changed from the origins, how and why. I found that Disney was trying to impose his vision of life by changing some things for example. I am still at the first steps and I must find the right way for my work anyway.


Do you know the topics of invention from classical rhetoric. They'll help you on a project like this.

Thank you sir, I will learn more about that.

Buck, I was thrilled to find your writing here and I also found your blog!
I am enjoying your contributions to my readings...

Blessings to you and your family.

I can´t see the link here :(

Sorry about that. Try pasting this link into your address box:



It IS very revealing, I'm doing an essay on comparing the Grimm Cinderella, to the Disney's Cinderella and the Ever After: A Cinderella Story - and seeing how the moral lessons have changed drastically through time. I have always found it interesting seeing the same thing being create by two different things - the results are surprising.