Following the Adaptations of the Cinderella Story Through Time and Differing Cultures

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Larcy Brooks
World History Final
Cinderella Essay

There are some stories that everybody knows, that are passed down from generation to generation, becoming part of a culture. The classic tale of Cinderella is one of those stories. We all know it, the beautiful girl who's father marries a wicked woman with two wicked daughters, then dies, leaving the girl alone. Cinderella becomes the servant to her wicked stepmother and lives an oppressive life, until her fairy godmother arrives with magic to let her reach her dreams and true love. She dances with the prince, loses her slipper, and he comes to find her. The slipper fits, and they live happily ever after. This is only the American version of the tale, however. This classic story has existed for centuries, with varying depictions in every culture. The core elements of the story stay the same – a mistreated girl, a prince, some magical assistance and a missing slipper – but the way they are told differs from country to country, taking the shape of native cultures and traditions. Three very interesting variations are the versions of the tales from Egypt, China and Germany.

The story of Cinderella is said to have originated in Egypt around 100 CE. This version of the tale follows a young girl from Greece named Rhodopis, who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Egypt. She was very different from the Egyptian house-girl servants, and they teased her mercilessly and forced her to do all the hard work, but her master was a kind old man. She made friends with the animals and danced with them, and when her master saw her dancing beautifully he bought her a pair of beautiful slippers. One day, it was announced that the Pharoah was holding court, and all could go except Rhodopis. She stayed at home cleaning, and all at once the God Horus in the shape of a beautiful falcon swooped down and flew away with one of her slippers. Horus carried her slipper all the way to the Pharoah who was sitting on his throne at the Court, bored, and dropped it in his lap. He knew the slipper was a sign from the Gods, and knew the girl who's foot fit into the slipper would be his bride. He traveled near and far, until he reached Rhodopis' home. She hid while the other girls tried on the slipper, but the Pharaoh saw her and she tried on the slipper and soon became the queen. As you can see, most of the story stayed the same, but has different elements that show the time period, cultural background, and traditions of Egypt. Striking examples of this are that Rhodopis was a slave, rather than an overworked daughter, and the racial prejudice in the story. Most interesting though, I think, is the appearance of the Egyptian God Horus. Horus was one of the most significant gods in the Egyptian pantheon, being the god of the sky, sun, war and protection. He was often depicted as a falcon, and his hieroglyphic character is even a falcon. The secular Cinderella that we all know is a very interesting deviation from the original Egyptian version – using a fairy Godmother to grand divine wishes instead of the will of a God. Another difference in this story is the absence of an oppressive parental figure with the presence of a kind slave owner (never thought I'd put those three words together). Our 'Cinderella' character also never actually went to the ball – the Pharoah only took it on faith that it was a sign from the Gods. On the other hand, I find interesting the small details that have persisted over the years, especially her friendship with the animals.

Coming about 700 years later during the Han dynasty was the Chinese version of the tale, focusing on a young girl named Yeh-Shen. A cave chief named Wu married two women, who each had a daughter, Yeh-Shen being one of them. Yeh-Shen's mother died, and she was left in the care of her stepmother, who despised her as she was more beautiful than her own daughter. She was given all the worst jobs, and her only friend was a...
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