It’s an enduring tale, with roots in the ancient world, and open to frequent reinvention. I’m fascinated by Marissa Meyer’s reboot, Cinder, the first book in The Lunar Chronicles.
Meyer renamed Cinder’s stepsisters. She also made the younger stepsister a more sympathetic character, almost a BFF for Cinder. Meyer’s not the first to take that approach, making one of the stepsisters wicked, and the other … not so much.
And she’s definitely not the first to rename those stepsibs, either. If you grew up on the Disney version of the tale you have one very specific set of names in mind … but the girls have been named and renamed over the centuries.
That’s not really the case for Cinderella. She’s Cendrillon in French and Cenerentola in Italian. The Brothers Grimm called her Aschenputtel. They all translate to almost the same thing – a reference to ashes or cinders in the hearth, a name for a lowly servant girl. Sometimes it is clear that this is a nickname, and not a very nice one. But often it is the only name she’s given throughout the story.
Let’s take a look at those wicked stepsister names through the ages. While a few are clunky, clearly chosen to match the girls’ personalities, overall they make for a surprisingly appealing bunch.
Anastasia and Drizella – Maybe the best known version of the stepsisters’ names, popularized by Disney’s animated classic. They’re about to be even more recognized, thanks to a 2015 live action adaptation of the enduring tale.
Armelinda and Maguelonne – Pauline Viardot started out as an opera star. By the early twentieth century, she had graduated to composing. She wasn’t the first to tackle Cinderella, but her version renamed the stepsisters Armelinda and Maguelonne. Maguelonne is a very rare diminutive form of Margurite.
Beverly – ABC Family is big on Cinderella-esque tales, and in their 2011 A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song, Lucy Hale plays the worthy Cinderella-esque Katie. Beverly is her undeserving stepsister.
Birdina and Serafina – Back in 1955, MGM released The Glass Slipper, their musical take on the famous story. Leslie Caron played the lovely Cinderella, while Elsa Lanchester – think Bride of Frankenstein – played her none-too-nice stepmother.
Brianna and Gabriella – The enduring tale became a teen movie, with Hilary Duff as Samantha/Cinderella/Diner Girl in 2004’s A Cinderella Story. The names are all pitch-perfect for California teenagers in the era. There are twists: Brianna and Gabriella are twins, and there’s a bonus mean girl, cheerleader Shelby.
Britt and Bree – There’s something fun about this duo – individually I wouldn’t notice them, but together, I rather expect them to be horrible! When Selena Gomez stepped into the glass slippers for 2008’s Another Cinderella Story, these were her spoiled stepsisters.
Catherine and Jeanne – You might expect the most unusual stepsister names from Cinderella Monogatari, an Italian-Japanese anime version made for television in 1996. But they went with the tame – and plausible – Catherine and Jeanne.
Charlotte and Gabrielle – The 2013 Broadway reboot of the classic tale is very different, featuring a much more modern spin on the story. Cinderella is Ella, and her stepsisters are Charlotte and Gabrielle – giving all three characters names that they’re likely to share with the girls in their audience.
Clorinda and Tisbe – From the French opera by Isouard. It debuted in 1810, and was the favored version of the tale until Rossini’s Italian version came along in 1817. Rossini kept the stepsisters’ names the same, but called his Cinderella Angelina.
Clothilde – A 2010 Austrian reinvention of the story reduces the stepsisters from two to one – in the German-language Aschenputtel, there’s only Clothilde.
Della and Golda – Back in the 1960s, an off-Broadway production titled just Cindy gave these names to the stepsisters.
Florinda and Lucinda – Stephen Soundheim’s Into the Woods was a Tony Award-winning fairytale extravaganza in the 1990s. It features many a familiar tale, including Cinderella and her two stepsisters. This time, they’re Florinda and Lucinda. A big screen version is coming to theaters this Christmas season.
Hattie and Olive – Ella Enchanted isn’t exactly a Cinderella story – Ella of Frell’s biggest problem is the gift of obedience, not a wayward glass slipper. She does, however, have a pair of rotten stepsisters with these names.
Isobella and Palatine – A 1976 British production gave these names to the stepsisters.
Marguerite and Jacqueline – You’ve probably seen Drew Barrymore’s turn as Cinderella-Danielle in 1998’s fairytale-inspired Ever After. Jacqueline was the nice stepsister, while Marguerite was as wicked as they come.
Minerva and Calliope – Parents of this generation might remember the 1997 television version, featuring Whitney Houston as the fairy godmother, and Brandy in the title role. Her stepsisters? Minerva and Calliope. Whoopi Goldberg played Prince Charming’s mother, and I can’t resist mentioning her name: Constantina.
Portia and Joy – Rodgers and Hammerstein took a shot at a musical adaptation of the classic tale in 1957. It was written for television, with Julie Andrews as Cinderella.
Noemie and Dorothee – In Jules Massenet’s 1899 opera, these are the stepsisters’ names. The artwork in this post is from a production of Massenet’s Cendrillon.
Pearl and Peony – From Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, the first book in her fairytales-revamped extravaganza. Peony is a sweetheart, a BFF for Cinder. Pearl is the traditional villain. Meyer took her novel to a fictional future world in New Beijing – which also takes the Cinderella story back to its roots. One of the earliest versions of the tale comes from ninth century China.
Venus and Olive – Years before Brandy played the princess, Cindy was an all-black production was made for television, set in World War II-era Harlem. Venus and Olive were the stepsisters’ names. The actresses went on to far greater successes – Nell Carter played Olive, and Alaina Reed-Hall – you know her as Sesame Street’s Olivia – was Venus.
Which pair is your favorite? Do any of the names seem especially wicked stepsister-y to you?