Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Golden Sandal A Middle Eastern Cinderella Story

According to the author's notesThe Golden Sandal: A Middle Eastern Cinderella Story is based on an Iraq traditional tale, "The Little Red Fish and the Clog of Gold" she found in Inea Bushnaq's Arab Folktales(Pantheon, 1986.) After reading several Middle Eastern versions, she thought this would be the most adaptable to picture book format.

In this version, Maha lives with her fisherman father and actually encourages her father to marry the neighbor woman who has been caring for them since her mother died. She wants a stepmother and sister. The father is reluctant because he fears the woman may be jealous of another's child. The child continues to beg and the father marries the woman.

As with most Cinderella tales, the father’s prediction is correct. While the relationship starts well, it deteriorates over times. The woman resents the strong bond between father and daughter and she is angered that her stepchild is more beautiful and graceful than her own. As a result, while the father is away working Mala takes on more of the chores. She is given little to eat.

Mala's fairy godmother in this version is a red fish that she finds in a basket of catfish she is sent to pick up from her father's boat. The fish begs for its life and Mala returns it to the river, knowing she will face punishment from her stepmother for the act of kindness. When she sets him free, the fish promises her that he will help her if she calls on him.

When she returns home, she needs assistance from the fish when her father asks what happened to the fish and her stepmother sends her out to find it. She calls to the fish and he gives her a gold coin to appease the stepmother.

The fish continues to help the girl as she grows and in this version of the tale, there is no ball, but the wedding of a merchant's daughter. Mala and the stepsister want to go to see the daughter be painted with henna as she prepares for the ceremony. As expected of a Cinderella tale, Mala is forbidden to go. She seeks assistance from the fish, which provides her with the ability not only to go see the event, but to get prime seating. This includes a pair of golden sandals, which of course in true Cinderella fashion she loses one in flight to return home before her stepmother arrives.

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