Date Palm Chart

Step 3 of 4

“A hazel twig brushed against him and knocked off his hat”

“Shake, shake, hazel-tree!”, 1903 edition of Grimms’ Fairy Tales – Illustrated by Helen Stratton

The date was something that Basile must have seen and eaten from a young age. But look at this chart: in the cultural sphere where the German brothers Grimm grew up, date palms were something ausländisch ‘foreign’. Therefore, the brothers Grimm, who nonetheless wanted to introduce a tree to their Cinderella (Aschenputtel in German) story, chose a tree that they knew well from their forests and their pastries: their Cinderella was introduced to the hazel tree.

In the German fairy tale, Cinderella’s father, who is a rich man, sets off to the regional fair (instead of going to a far away Island like Zezolla’s father did). As in Basile’s plot, he too asks his daughters what to bring back for them. Cinderella said: “Father, break off for me the first twig that brushes against your hat on your way home”. Jacob e Wilhelm Grimm, “Aschenputtel,” in Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales - Grimms’ Fairy Tales), traduzione di D. L. Ashliman (Göttingen: Verlag der Dieterichschen Buchhandlung, 2001-2006), 119-26.

And so he brings his daughter a branch of a hazelnut tree. Cinderella takes the branch and plants it on her mother’s grave. The branch grows into a tree, serving the same function as the date palm. When uttering “Shake and quiver little tree, throw gold and silver down to me.”, a bird gives her the objects that she needs to attend the ball. No need for a fairy with the Grimm Brothers; she is replaced by a bird that delivers the required objects and places them close to the hazel tree. The tree also serves as a comforting place for Cinderella, as it’s her mothers resting place. Nor is there need for a fancy towel or an expensive golden bucket - this was, after all, the Biedermeier era where people were expected to be sober and frugal.

And so we see that the objects in the Basile and Grimm version of Cinderella are subject to the cultural place and time in which the authors lived. This makes it easily relatable to their audiences. But then there was the version in which the tree is nowhere to be found...