The story of Cinderella can be traced to a 1634 anthology of collected folk tales that had been compiled by an author known by the name of Giambattista Basile, who was a soldier in Napoleon’s regime. In 1697, Charles Perrault from France, embellished the story by adding details that we are still familiar with today, such of that of a pumpkin coach and the glass slipper. It is this version which inspired the 1950 Disney version (Tearle, n.d). We all know the story of Cinderella. A man loses his beloved wife and decides to remarry after her death. Unbeknown to the widower, the new spouse is a cruel and tyrannical person who takes to making the daughter of the first marriage’s life, a miserable existence. While her original name is Cenerentola, it is soon forgotten as she takes on the nickname of Cinderella given to her by the mocking stepmother and stepsisters. Cinderella spends her days sitting by the cinders, hence the name, and is often maltreated verbally, and physically by the cruel step-trio.

Coincidentally, and one wonders if the classic fairytale was inspired by this true life account, there was a child who was born in 1579 and who died in 1601 in Pibrac, France. The daughter of Laurent Cousin, Germaine Cousin was a sickly girl who was born with a deformed and paralysed right arm. When her mother died, Laurent Cousin took for another wife, a lady named Hortense. Unfortunately, Hortense despised the infant Germaine, and began to systematically abuse her.

Germaine was practically starved by Hortense. She had been given so little food, that according to accounts, Germaine learnt to crawl so as to get herself to the dog’s bowl. Hortense had also on some pretext sent her out to tend the chickens, but Germaine apparently fell or was pushed into some gutter drain where she was left for dead and forgotten for at least three days. Laurent Cousin seemed oblivious to the abuses rendered upon Germaine, perhaps because he too secretly wished his own daughter dead, and did not intervene when Hortense poured boiling water over Germaine. Germaine’s already weak bodily composition, thus deteriorated rapidly, so much so that she soon became riddled with sores and all sorts of diseases.

Her step-siblings learning from the example of their biological mother, imitated their mother in tormenting Germaine. This they accomplished by putting ashes in her food, and by smearing tar on her ragged clothes. To this end, accounts tell us that the mother found all of these antics highly entertaining. Hortense worried that her own children would catch any diseases that Germaine might carry in her body, and made her sleep and live alone in the barn.

In spite of these horrors meted out against Germaine, Germaine retained a simple faith and trust in the Lord. While she tended sheep in the fields, she prayed upon the rough knotted rosary she had with the little words that she knew. It was reported, that Germaine tirelessly made her way to meet God at the Eucharistic Celebration. According to villager accounts, she would often leave her sheep in the care of God, and none of her sheep suffered any harm when she was at the Eucharist. Another account reported that when the rains came and flooded the village one day, the river parted so that Germaine could make her way across to the church safely.

Germaine was a generous child, and often shared the little that she had with the people who needed it more than her. Hortense in a perverse way, was enraged when the stories of her stepdaughter’s holiness reached her ears. She would often spy on her so as to catch her doing anything wrong, so that she may shame her publicly in the village square. A story goes that during the dead of Winter, Hortense found Germaine carrying something in her apron. Thinking that she had stolen bread to feed the beggars, Hortense began to beat her relentlessly. However, when Germaine opened her apron, a cascade of flowers that were definitely not humanly possible given the season, fell out. It was reported that she picked up a bloom and handed it to Hortense saying, “Please accept this flower, Mother. God sends it to you in sign of his forgiveness.”

Germaine Cousin eventually died in her bed of straw at the age of 22.

This account of a simple child who had undergone grave and severe abuse, would have quietly disappeared and remained contained within her small village, if not for the fact that when her body was exhumed 40 years later – her family grave had been opened to receive the body of a relative, her body was found incorruptible.

Private veneration of Germaine continued after 1644, and her cause of beatification began in 1850. The beatification documents record more than 400 miracles attributed to Germaine Cousin, among them being the multiplication of food for the impoverished community of the Good Shepherd in Borges in 1845. Germaine Cousin was beatified on 7 May 1854 by Pope Pius IX, and on 29 June 1867, was canonised as a Virgin Saint by the same pope.

St. Germaine is invoked for her intercession for abandoned people; abuse victims; against poverty; disabled people; girls from rural areas; illness; impoverishment; loss of parents; shepherdesses; sick people; unkind people; physical therapists, and her Feast day is celebrated on the 15 of June.

(c.f. Catholic Online, n.d.; Malcahy, 1909; Moyer, 2016; The Catholic Travel Guide, n.d.; Catholic News Agency, n.d.)

By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan



Catholic News Agency. (n.d.). St. Germaine Cousin. Catholic News Agency. Retrieved February 12, 2022 from

Catholic Online. (n.d.). St. Germaine Cousin. Catholic Online. Retrieved February 12, 2022 from

Moyer, G. K. (2016). Retelling the Cinderella Story of St. Germaine Cousin. U.S. Catholic. Retrieved February 12, 2022 from

Mulcahy, C. (1909). St. Germaine Cousin. The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved February 12, 2022 from

Tearle, O. (n.d.). A Summary and Analysis of the Cinderella Tale. Interesting Literature. Retrieved February 12, from

The Catholic Travel Guide. (n.d.). Pibrac, France: Tomb of St. Germaine Cousin. The Catholic Travel Guide. Retrieved February 12, 2022 from