Folktales, Legends, and Stories

Popoluška, The Slovak Cinderella

In a certain land, in a certain country, much like the one in which we live, stood a castle in the center of the mountain. It was white as sugar. A rich lord, his wife and daughter, Julie, lived there. They lived together in harmony and love, until misfortune afflicted them.

One day Julie’s mother became ill and shortly after died. It was as if the root of life was torn out of the lord. He became sad and nothing interested him. The property began to fall into ruin; the castle lost its white beauty.

“Don’t neglect yourself, my friend,” his neighboring landlord said to him. “You should marry again. I can recommend a bride right now. A widow like you, who has two daughters a little older then Julie. But what is significant is that she is a wealthy lady who has a firm hand. Everything will be bright again.”

The new mistress with her daughters came into the castle. In a short time everything ran according to a new order. The castle was whitened both outside and inside. Looking again like sugar. The two new countesses, Herma and Zelma moved through the castle like peacocks. But not even this aroused in the lord the desire for life. From day to day he failed until one day he passed away.

Julie cried, almost drowning herself in her tears, but the madam did not allow her to be sorrowful. “How long do you want to blubber? Get yourself down to the kitchen. You will sweep out the stove there and start the fires!” “But Mother,” shuddered the girl. “Don’t mother me, that has ended forever,” rebuked the mistress. “From today on I am ‘Your Ladyship’ to you. Get yourself to where I ordered you!”

Julie swept out the stove and started the fire. She was completely blackened, covered with soot and ashes from the work. The new cook didn’t even recognize the girl or know that her name was Julie. Everyone just called her Cinderella. Cinderella sweep, Cinderella wash, Cinderella here, Cinderella there! No one gave her recognition except the old horseman, Prokop and three pigeons who she gave crumbs to everyday on the windowsill. The first pigeon was gray with a white breast, the second was white with a black cap, and the third was completely white as fallen snow. From time to time Julie caressed them and gently spoke to them.

One day the King’s courier galloped into the castle. “In the King’s Palace, the Prince is arranging a large ball, to which he is inviting all the countesses and ladyships from the entire country.”

What a bustle came over the castle! The tailors were cutting, stitching and measuring, once for Herma, and once for Zelma. They even invited Cinderella to help sew. She was happy to do so. She was skillful and had light hands for such tasks. In the end when everything was ready, she dared to ask: “Mother . . . Your Ladyship, might I not be able to go to the ball?” “They did not invite girls from the ashes!” snapped the mistress. “You have work in the kitchen!” “I did all the work there.” “What are you saying?” sneered the mistress.

“Servants, bring a bag of lentils and a bag of peas and mix them together. Here is your work, Cinderella. Before I return the peas and the lentils are to be separated!” With a proud laugh she departed.

The whole castle watched as her ladyship with her daughters seated themselves in the coach and drove away. Only Cinderella sat in the kitchen picking lentils from the peas. Tears as big as peas rolled down her face. Suddenly she heard the tap-tap of a beak on the window.  “My friend pigeons, at least you have not forgotten me.” She opened the window and they flew inside. “Don’t cry Cinderella, go to the ball, we will do all the work for you.” “Indeed, in what will I dress myself so quickly?” she asked.

The gray pigeon with the white breast placed a hazel nut on the table and cracked it with his beak pulling out beautiful sky-blue clothes and lovely slippers. “You will go to the ball in these clothes, but remember this: just as soon as midnight begins to strike, depart. You have to depart in these clothes.”

Cinderella dressed herself in the sky-blue clothes. They fit perfectly. She looked as if she was veiled in the spring sky, in which her blond hair shone as the bright sun. She went down into the courtyard. The horseman, Prokop, brought her father’s horse, which she rode many times before, from the barn. She sat on the horse and was off to the King’s city.

As Cinderella entered the ballroom, all eyes were fixed only on her, who is this lovely girl? No one recognized her, not Herma, not Zelma, not even their mother. The prince went to meet her and led her to his throne. He danced and spoke to no one but Cinderella all evening.

“Tell me, beautiful one. What is you name?” he asks her. “They all call me by a name which is not mine, fair prince” says Cinderella. “ I have a proper name but no one has called me by it for a long time.”

They danced and enjoyed themselves, but Cinderella did not forget the pigeon’s command. Just as soon as it neared midnight, she slipped out of the hall, ran down the staircase and sat on her horse. In a short time she was home. There she found everything in order: the peas in one bag, the lentils in another. She put away her beautiful ball clothes and before the mistress came back she had a restful sleep.

The morning talk was of the prince and the unknown girl with whom he had fallen in love. Herma spoke with admiration, Zelma with envy and the mistress with disapproval.

A short time later, a new invitation came. Herma and Zelma eagerly prepared and Cinderella timidly asked whether she might be able to go.

“Indeed, what else!” said the mistress angrily. “Perhaps you don’t have anything to do?” She ordered a bag of millet and a bag of poppy seed to be mixed together. “This you will sort out! Be sure it is right before I return.”

Cinderella sorted the millet from the poppy seed and tears were rolling down her cheeks. Then she heard the tap-tap of a beak on the window. Her friend pigeons did not forget her! She was comforted and ran to open the window for them. They flew inside and said “Do not cry Cinderella, we will do the work for you.” The pigeon with the black cap placed a nut on the table, cracked it with his beak and pulled out beautiful dark blue clothes sprinkled with gold stars. “Do not forget you have to leave at midnight in these clothes.” She dressed herself and looked like she was veiled in a starry night sky. She sat on her horse and rode to the palace.

At the ball it was as if everyone was waiting just for her. The prince went immediately to meet her, even the music sounded more joyful.

“Tell me, beautiful one, if not your name, at least to whom you belong? Who is your father, mother, sisters or brothers?” “My father and mother had left me not long ago. I have no sisters or brothers. I never had. I am alone, very much alone and completely unhappy.”

The prince wondered at this answer, he understood and yet he didn’t and with that he stayed with her all evening.  Even so, she slipped away as midnight struck. At home, she found the poppy seed and millet sorted into their own bags. She took off the starry clothes and dressed into her cinder clothes. She slept very well until morning.

A third invitation came from the Prince. Herma and Zelma prepared but in vain did Cinderella plead that they take her. The mistress ordered a bag of flour and a bag of ashes be mixed together. “When you sort these, you may come to the ball.” At that all three laughed with glee and giggled as they left. Cinderella sat by the table sorting while tears poured down her face. All at once the tap-tap on the window showed the pigeons would help her. “Don‘t cry Cinderella, we will take care of this for you, Go to the ball but be back at midnight.” The white pigeon cracked a nut and white clothes, white as a swan’s feather and slippers white with silver soles where given to Cinderella.

When Cinderella entered the ballroom, everything became silent from surprise. The prince hurried to her and led her to the throne. From that moment on he had eyes for no one else. Seeking a promise from her, he said “Don’t leave me, you won’t let me lose you today, will you?” “It was so three times, fair prince, that I found you,” said Cinderella “What if you would try once to find me?” “I would be very glad, if only I knew where you live.” “Not far, not near,” she answered. “And even though I live in my own house, it is worse than in a stranger’s.” “Where then shall I look for you?” “If I lived there, where I should live, you would find me easily. Only, it is not that way. Maybe you will see me but yet not find me.”

The prince shook his head, he didn’t understand. Inconspicuously, he called to a servant and whispered something to him. When it began to strike midnight, Cinderella slipped out. Running down the staircase… Oh what Happened? Her shoes stuck to the steps! She loosened one shoe with great difficulty but the other; she was truly unable to manage. She heard voices behind her and quickly ran to the gate. Getting home she found everything in order. She hardly put away her ball clothes when the coach with the mistress thundered in. Without a breath they said that the beautiful, unknown one again was lost but the prince had at least a footprint from her, a white shoe with silver sole. He would search for her.

The next day, the prince suddenly arrives at the castle with his escorts. Herma and Zelma just had to try on the white slipper, but what! They could not put it on at all. The chambermaids, the cooks tried but it did not fit anyone.

“Don’t you have another girl?” Asked the prince. “Only Cinderella” the chambermaid let slip.

“What are you prattling about, you stupid girl?” shouted the mistress at her “Go do your work!” The chambermaid was going off, but the prince stopped her. “First bring Cinderella here to me.”

“What! Most fair prince, indeed, she just sweeps out the stove,” said the mistress evasively. “Right now she is totally in ashes.”

“Just bring her here and let her try on the shoe” he insisted. They brought Cinderella. Her head wrapped in a scarf and her clothes covered in ashes. She managed to wipe her face hurriedly.

The prince looks at her and begins thinking. “What is your name young lady?” he asked “They call me, Cinderella. But that is not my name. My name is Julie but no one has called me that for a long time.” ”Haven’t I heard your voice somewhere,” he asked. “Aren’t you the girl, who if I see her, I might not find her?” “You already see me, but still it is not known whether you will find me.”

“What are you jabbering about, Cinderella,” shouted the mistress “She has no rhyme or reason!” “Oh, I already know, I’m already certain,” said the prince. “You are the girl, who lives although in her own house, yet nevertheless, worse than in a stranger’s. I already understand everything. You are the one who three times found me and who I now have finally found. Now just for order sake, Cinderella, try on this shoe.”

Cinderella put it on and the shoe fit on her foot as if it were molded there. “This is my elected,” said the overjoyed prince. He kisses her hard, overworked, ash-covered hand. “Come, my dear, the king’s coach is waiting.” “A little patience fair prince, just till I change my clothes.”

In a moment, Cinderella appeared in her white clothes and white shoes with the silver soles. She was beautiful and completely white as a young swan. “I welcome you, my bride to be” called the overjoyed prince. “Tomorrow we will celebrate our wedding.”

The mistress and her daughters looked on with open mouths, they couldn’t believe their own eyes. Cinderella left for the king’s palace to become a princess.

People have remarked about her beauty, her goodness, and righteousness for a long time. Actually, they haven’t forgotten her up to this very time, the time of the telling of this story.


Story by Mária Duríčková Translated by Helen Savinski