Thousandfurs: A Cinderella Story
By Emelyn Ehrlich
Everyone knows the story of Cinderella. It is a favorite bedtime story for most and a famous Disney movie for all. Now, with the popular movie Into the Woods, even more people know at least the basics of the Grimm version of Cinderella. A girl wants to go to the three-day ball. Her evil stepmother agrees to let her go if she can pick lentils from the ashes into a pot. Cinderella enlists the help of the birds and completes the task, only for her stepmother to go back on her word. Cinderella goes to the tree where her mother’s grave is.
This is where things get a little tricky.
In the original Grimm fairy tale, Cinderella actually gets three dresses: one the color of starlight, one of moonlight, and one of sunlight. Into the Woods only features one such dress, so many people are probably unfamiliar with that aspect of the story.
Nonetheless, I digress. Cinderella goes to the ball, the prince falls in love with her, birds pick out her stepmother and stepsisters’ eyes, and they all live happily ever after. Everyone knows the story.
But how many people know the story of Thousandfurs?
Not many, I would presume. And yet Thousandfurs actually shares a lot of the same features as Cinderella. Here is the story of Thousandfurs:
A king and his extremely beautiful queen have a young daughter. The queen becomes very sick. For reasons unknown to us (maybe greed or jealousy), the queen makes the king promise that if he ever remarries, he will marry someone as beautiful as her. The queen dies, and the king attempts to find someone as beautiful as his late wife, to no avail. No one could possibly compare. Except for one person. And this is where it becomes apparent why Cinderella was made into a Disney movie, whereas Thousandfurs remains relatively unknown.
As the king’s daughter grew up, she began to look more and more like her mother. The king noticed. And he decided, instead of simply giving up on the search for a wife and not marrying anyone, it would be better to marry his daughter. The daughter, understandably grossed out, tries to delay the marriage. She demands three dresses: one of starlight, one of moonlight, and one of sunlight (see the connection?). She also requests a cloak made up of a thousand different types of furs.
The king searches the land far and wide to find someone who could create the items his daughter demanded. Somehow, he succeeds. The daughter packs her dresses in a walnut, puts on her cloak, and runs away. She ends up in another king’s court where she works as a servant. Her face is incredibly dirty, so no one can see her beauty, and everyone calls her Thousandfurs. Eventually, the king of her new home (who we will refer to as the “new king” for clarity) holds a three-day ball, which, sure enough, Thousandfurs attends in each one of her dresses. After each ball, Thousandfurs drops an accessory into a bowl of soup for the new king, such as a ring. Eventually the new king catches on and finds out Thousandfurs is the beautiful maiden with whom he’s been dancing. He marries her, and they live happily ever after.
Cinderella and Thousandfurs do share a lot of features. There is a mother’s death, three spectacular dresses, and a three-day ball. However, Cinderella is the story that exists in our mainstream culture. Which begs the question, why is Cinderella more popular?
In short, because the Cinderella story was easier to “Disney-fy.” One can just cut out the part about the birds pecking out the evil family’s eyes, and it is a child-friendly story. It’s harder to do the same to a story about a father trying to marry his daughter.
It is a reflection of our culture’s values that Thousandfurs has faded into the background, while Cinderella thrives, and will likely continue to for many years. So why write about it at all? Putting aside the deeply uncomfortable incest, Thousandfurs is actually quite an interesting story. Don’t get me wrong, it will NEVER be child-friendly, nor would I ever expect it to become widespread. But a princess dressing in a cloak of a thousand furs? Leaving in order to find herself a better life? Actively seeking out the love of her life by dropping “hints”? It’s exciting and new and more importantly, the princess doesn’t just sit back and wait for happiness to find her. She finds it.
So, yeah, it’s kind of a cool story.
…The incest will never not be creepy, though.
Edited by Becca Masch