Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Egyptian Cinderella

I encountered the The Egyptian Cinderellafirst when doing a unit on multicultural Cinderella tales and then again when teaching a unit on Egypt to fourth graders.

The Egyptian Cinderella is different from most of the other traditional Cinderella tales in that it mixes some historical facts with the traditional Cinderella story. According to records, this story is supposed to be one of the older versions of the tale and it includes some historical facts about the main character Rhodopis and the Pharaoh Amasis she does marry. There is historical evidence to document that she was a Greek slave and that she did marry the Pharaoh. The rest is not documented and fictional.

In this Cinderella tale Rhodopis is a Greek slave who is bullied by the free Egyptian servants in the house she works. They tease her because her hair and skin are different than theirs. As with other Cinderella tales, when humans reject her, Rhodopis finds friends among the animals and dances to entertain them. This catches the attention of her master who rewards her talent with a pair of rose red slippers made from gold. This of course only leads to more resentment and jealousy from the other servants.

When the Pharaoh comes to visit, the servants force Rhodopis to stay behind to finish the chores. While she is working, a great falcon approaches. Rhodopis salutes the falcon as the symbol of Horus, but is horrified when the falcon steals one of the shoes she has put aside to keep them safe while she is washing at the bank of the river.

The falcon travels to Memphis where the Pharaoh Amasis is holding court. The falcon drops the slipper on his lap and he sees it as a sign from the God Horus and sets out to find the owner of the slipper. Thus the classic slipper search is born. As with all Cinderella stories only Rhodopis can fit the slipper and she marries the Pharaoh.

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