A King and Queen and their three daughters Fleur d'Amour, Belle-de-Nuit and the youngest Fine-Oreille (nicknamed Finette) lost their yine, and were forced to sell all their belongings in order to afford food, eventually living on the fish and birds they caught in the Queen's nets, instead of a fine banquet. Their three daughters, however, were useless, and were going to be abandoned, as their parents feared they couldn't supply the lifestyle they truly desired, so they should leave and find it themselves.
Overhearing the news of the upcoming abandonment, Finette, consulted her fairy godmother. On her journey, she grew tired in the harsh environment, and began to weep. A jennet (small Spanish horse) appeared before her, and with the promise of oats, hay and fresh straw, the jennet carried the Princess to the fiary godmother's home.
When she arrived, the fairy godmother gave her a ball of thread that when tied around the door handle of her house, she could return home whenever she wished by following the string, and gifted her with "beautiful dresses all of gold and silver" before she left. The next day, their mother took them to sleep in a meadow stating they were going to see their aunt. Despite the cruelty her sisters forced against Finette, she told them about how they may return with the help from her fairy godmother, and the sisters offered her "lovely dolls, and their little slver dolls' house, and their other toys, and their sugar-plums" for her to take them with her (though Finette knew they would do nothing of the sort).
When they returned the front door of their home, their parents believed they must be their children's ghosts initially, but quick-witted Finette showed her face in the letterbox. Overjoyed, the King let them into the house, but as the Queen was struck with an awkward guilt, she secretly made haste away rom her daugthers, and, blaming Finette for their parents being unkind, her sisters beat her. In pain from her beating, she was unble to sleep that night, meaning she again overheard her parents' plan to abandon them again, yet further away.
She made her way to her fairy godmother, who told her to place ashes on the ground to follow her footprints back home - though this time she must not bring her sisters back home, otherwise she would not be allowed to see her fairy godmother again. The next day, their mother told them they must gather herbs and flowers to make their father feel well again, and left them while they were sleeping. Finette was an extremely forgiving person, and allowed her sisters to return home with her despite her godmother's reservations:
The King and Queen were much astonished by seeing their off-spring once more, and still that night, made plans to send them to a far-off desert. Overhearing the plot, Finette woke her sisters, and told them how she is unable to gain help from her godmother in fear of her great temper. Nevertheless, Belle-de-Nuit came up with the plan to place peas along the ground in order to return home, to which they did. However, they found the birds had eaten all of the peas, and they were well and truly isolated from their home.
After two days of starvation, Finette found an acorn and planted it (refusing the sisters the chance to eat it) saying more acorns would spring from it. Feasting on the nearby lettuces and cabbages, the three sisters lived in solitude, and everyday would water the acorn chanting "grow, grow, pretty acorn", and eventually, the tree grew proud, and everyday, Finette climbed the tree in search of a civilisation they could travel towards. One day while Belle-de-Nuit was climbing the tree, she discovered a hidden sac that held jewellery and clothes Finette stole from the Queen before leaving, and in disgust at their sister's secrecy, they stole the riches and placed stones in the sac instead.
Looking up at the large tree, Finette spotted a fine castle with walls "of emerald and rubies,the roof of diamonds and is all covered with golden bells". Fleur d'Amour and Belle-de-Nuit wished to enter the castle so that a rich Prince would marry them, therefore dressed themselves in the finest wears found in Finette's bag, and threatened to kill and bury Finette if she persisted to complain about it. When they reached the castle, the two decided to label Finette as a maid in fear of her competition with the Princes, and upon knocking on the door, a fifteen foot tall and thirteen foot wide woman with a flat nose, dark complexion and a mouth "so horrible it made everyone afraid to look at it" answered, stating that this was an ogre's castle, and that they would have three days to live before she will eat them!
In a failed attempt to escape, the ogress captures the siblings and hides them from the ogre so that she alone may devour them. Smelling the foreign bodies in the castle, the ogress persuades the ogre ("one eye, a large, ugy one, his hairs stood on end") to keep them as house-maids (so she can eat them in his abscence). The sisters told the ogres that they are incredibly good cooks, and were ordered to make large homemade bread:
The ever-clever Finette tricked the ogre into burning himself alive by asking him to taste the bread in the oven, consequently becoming lodged there, and cut off the ogress' head with a huge hatchet by persuading her that if they dressed her up and gave her a haircut, a noble Prince is sure to fall in love with her.
Overwhelmed with joy, the sisters found themselves richer than they ever were before; still without a husband, however. So Fleur d'Amour and Belle-de-Nuit set out to the nearest town in search of honest merchants willing to wed them, and commanded Finette to stay at the castle and clean up the mess, otherwise she will be beaten. This became a routine of the family, and they often returned with tales of dancing with Princes and causing many eyes to fall upon them—tales of happiness, unlike the poor over-worked Finette.
One day while Fleur d'Amour and Belle-de-Nuit were out dancing with Princes, Finette discovered an old key hidden in the crevaces of the inner chimney, which belonged to a chest full of gorgeous ornaments to wear! Dressing herself in the wears, she set off for the balls her sisters go to, labelling herself as "Cendron" and causing an even greater number of eyes to fall upon her! This was a rather pleasing feeling, and continued for many days in many different wonderful outfits, until one night when Cendron was in a hurry to return home before her sisters, leaving a red velvet slipper masterfully embroidered with pearls behind in her dash.
The mysterious girl at the ball was so admired by the Prince, that when he fell ill, he requested that all the ladies in the land be fitted with the shoe; the one who fits the shoe perfectly will marry the Prince. Excited at the prospect of marrying the Prince, Fleur d'Amour and Belle-de-Nuit rushed off to the shoe-fitting, but Finette was lost for directions! Almost giving up hope, she found the same jennet standing at the door of her castle! The jennet quickly galloped towards the fitting, splashing her sisters with mud on the way there. When fitted, Finette proposed that the Prince— who incidentally claimed her parents' kingdom— should return the land. He gleefully agreed, and they were married.