Origin of Fairy Tales
Rhodopis the Egyptian Cinderella
This Ancient Egyptian version of Cinderella is considered the oldest version of the story, recorded by the Roman historian Strabo in the first century BC.
Long ago in the Ancient land of Egypt were the green water of the Nile River flows into the blue water of the Mediterranean Sea lived a young maiden named Rhodopis. She born in Greece but had been kidnapped by pirates and carried to Egypt where she was sold into slavery. Her owner was a kind old man and because he spent most of his time sleeping under a tree sleeping; he never saw how the other servant girls in the house taunted and teased Rhodopis because she looked different to them. Their hair was straight and black while hers was golden and curly. They had brown eyes and hers were green. Their skin had the glow of copper, but she had pale skin that burnt easily in the sun so they called her Rosy Rhodopis. They made her work hard, shouting at her all day, "Go to the river and wash the clothes. Mend my robe. Chase the geese from the garden. Bake the bread."
She had no human friends only the animals. She trained the birds to eat from her hand, a monkey to sit on her shoulder, and an old hippopotamus would slide up, out of the mud, onto the bank to be closer to her. At the end of each day, if she wasn't too tired, she would go down to the river to be with her animal friends and if she had any energy left from the hard day's work she would sing and dance for them.
One evening as she was dancing, twirling around lighter than air with her feet barely touching the ground, the old man woke from his sleep and watched as she danced. He admired her dancing and decided that one so talented should not be without shoes. He ordered her a special pair of slippers. The shoes were gilded with rose-red gold and the soles were leather. Now the other servant girls really hate her for they were jealous of her beautiful slippers.
One day, word arrived that the Pharaoh was holding court in Memphis and all in the kingdom were invited. Oh how Rhodopis wanted to go with the other servant girls, for she knew there would be dancing, singing, and lots of wonderful food. As the other servant girls prepared to leave in their finest clothes they turned to her and gave her more chores to be completed before they returned. They poled their raft away leaving a sad girl on the bank. As she began to wash the clothes in the river she sang a sad little song--"wash the linen, weed the garden, grind the grain." The hippopotamus grew tired of this little song and splashed back into the river. The splashing of the water wet her slippers. She quickly grabbed them up, wiped them off and placed them in the sun to dry. As she was continuing with her chores the sky darkened and when she looked up she saw a falcon sweep down, snatch one of her slippers, and fly away. Rhodopis was in awe for she knew it was Horus, God of the Pharaoh, who had taken her shoe. Rhodopis, now with only one slipper, put it away in her tunic.
Now the Pharaoh, Amasis, King of upper and lower Egypt was sitting on his throne looking out over the people and feeling very bored. He much preferred to be riding across the desert in his chariot. Suddenly a falcon swooped down and dropped a rose-red golden slipper in his lap. Surprised, but knowing that this was a sign from the god Horus, he sent out a decree that all maidens in Egypt must try on the slipper, and the owner of the slipper would be his queen. By the time the servant girls arrived the celebrations had ended and the Pharaoh had left by chariot in search of the owner of the golden slipper.
After searching on land and not finding the owner he called for his barge and began to travel the Nile pulling into every landing so that maidens could try on the slipper. As the barge rounded the bend in front of the home of Rhodopis everyone heard the sounds of the gong, the trumpets blaring, and saw the purple silk sails. The servant girls ran to the landing to try on the shoe while Rhodopis hid in the rushes. When the servant girls saw the shoe they recognized it as Rhodopis' slipper but they said nothing and still tried to force their feet into the slipper. The Pharaoh spied Rhodopis hiding in the rushes and asked her to try on the slipper. She slid her tiny foot into the slipper and then pulled the other from her tunic. The Pharaoh pronounced that she would be his queen. The servant girls cried out that she was a slave and not even Egyptian. The Pharaoh responded with "She is the most Egyptian of all...for her eyes are as green as the Nile, her hair as feathery as papyrus, and her skin the pink of a lotus flower."