There actually are many versions of the Cinderella story. The earliest mention of the legend was recorded by the Greek writer Herodotus some five centuries before the historian Strabo recounted the tale in the first century BC. Many countries and cultures have retold the tale with their own embellishments. The pumpkin, fairy godmother and glass slipper didn’t appear until 1697 in a tale written by Charles Perrault. This story, "Geal, Donn and Critheanach," also appeared in Ireland and the Isle of Mann. It was also published in a 1900 collection by Seamas MacManus entitled "Donegal Fairy Stories."
A Scottish Cinderella
We all know the story of Cinderella, but I never knew she was Scottish.
Celtic Myths and Legends
I was recently reading Celtic Myths and Legends by Peter Berresford Ellis and realized that a story from Scotland was almost the classic Cinderella tale that we all know today, only her name was Critheanach. She had two sisters Geal and Donn and the three were actually triplets. As in the modern version, the two sisters were very vain and made Critheanach do all the work. Every Saturday, they would dress up in their fanciest dresses and go to the fair. Critheanach would stay home to finish the housework. She didn’t have any fine clothes to wear to the fair.
There were no talking mice but there was a sitheach, or one of the fairy folk. She appeared as an old woman and when she asked why Critheanach wasn’t at the fair, Critheanach answered that she had no fine clothes and had to finish the housework. The old woman, Baobh, made her clothes change into the finest of gowns and caused a white horse with a golden bridle to appear. Critheanach could only go to the fair for an hour and wasn’t allowed to speak to any young men or her sisters. When she arrived home again, her clothes changed back into her drab dress and the horse disappeared, but all the housework was done.
Critheanach went to the fair three times. Of course on the third time the handsome prince was there. He was so enchanted by Critheanach that he tried to run along side of her horse but only came away with the slipper. As we all know, he then searched the entire kingdom trying to find the one whose foot would fit the shoe. It wasn’t made of glass but it was magical. It would only fit the one it was made for. He did find her and they were married, but that is not the end of the story in this tale. The other two sisters wanted revenge.
While the wicked sisters are deciding what to do, Donn borrows a cloak from Critheanach. Geal mistakenly pushes Donn over a cliff thinking it was Critheanach. When she finally gets her chance to finish off Critheanach, she pushes her off a cliff too, and into the mouth of a whale.
Geal tries to take Critheanach’s place but the prince, Duncan, knows something is wrong. The sitheach appears again to tell how he can rescue Critheanach. He does rescue her and Geal is punished by being sent off to sea in a skiff with no oars.
Happily Ever After
As for Duncan and Critheanach, they finally were able to live happily ever after, as did their children and all the people in the kingdom.