Saturday, June 21, 2008
Genre #2: Traditional Literature - THE EGYPTIAN CINDERELLA
Climo, Shirley. 1989. The Egyptian Cinderella. Ill. by Ruth Heller. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell. ISBN 0690048246
In this variant version of Cinderella, Rhodopis, a Greek maiden, is stolen by pirates and sold as a slave in Egypt. She is quite different in appearance from the other Egyptian servant girls next to whom she has to work, and they spent a great deal of time teasing her and giving her orders. Because Rhodopis is a slave, she is a level below the servants, so she must comply with their orders. With no friends among the servants, Rhodopis finds camaraderie and friendship with the animals, entertaining and dancing for them. After her master sees her dancing with bare feet, he has made for her slippers, made of leather and rose-red gold. These slippers make Rhodopis even more different than the servant girls around her.
One evening, the servant girls make plans to visit the Pharaoh, leaving Rhodopis behind to do chores. After one of her slippers gets dirty, Rhodopis washes them in the river and sets them on the bank to dry, where one is taken by a falcon. The falcon takes the slipper to Amasis, the Pharaoh, who views it as a sign from the god Horus. The Pharaoh begins a search of all of Egypt, seeking the woman whose foot fits the slipper. After much searching, the Pharaoh sees Rhodopis hiding near the banks of the river. She tries on the slipper and when the Pharaoh sees that it is a perfect fit, he declares that she will be queen.
This variant of the Cinderella tale does a good job incorporating the traditional canon of characters associated with this fairy tale and traditional tales in general. With the Egyptian servant girls, we get characters that represent wickedness and conniving behavior; with Rhodopis, we get a character that represents innocence and virtuous behavior. The plot is simple, deviating little from the focus of the main characters and their behaviors. Once Rhodopis receives the rose-red slippers, the plot develops fairly quickly in a predictable manner.
The setting of this Cinderella story is unique, allowing for the reader to get an understanding of Egypt and its culture. Climo’s retelling of this traditional tale allows her to infuse the story with cultural aspects specific to Egypt. For example, when the servants complain to the Pharaoh that Rhodopis is not Egyptian, he declares “her eyes are as green as the Nile, her hair as feathery as papyrus,…her skin the pink of a lotus flower…” (p. 28). At the close of the story, Climo includes an author’s note in which she tells more about the real Rhodopis, offering the reader information about the fiction and nonfiction parts of the tale. These details add validity to the cultural aspect of this story, reinforcing the setting of the traditional tale.
The illustrations in the book add to the setting in which this Cinderella tale takes place and the cultural traditions that are brought forth in the story. The inclusion of animals important to Egyptian culture, as well as Egyptian dress and ornamentation make the pictures a bigger part of the story being told. Heller’s use of vibrant colors and detailed pictures of characters and environments transport the reader to Egypt, further extending the story through this attention to visual detail.
School Library Journal – “Climo has woven this ancient tale, a mixture of fact and myth, with clarity and eloquence…”
Publishers Weekly – “In mellifluous prose and majestic illustrations…an inventive twist on the classic tale.”
One of the Notable Children's Trade Books in Social Studies (NCSS/CBC) for 1989
I enjoyed reading this tale of Cinderella as it was entertaining and informative. With the story based in Egypt, I was pleased to learn more about Egyptian culture and beliefs (i.e. that Horus was an Egyptian god who soared as a falcon on earth). The drawings add a great deal to the story being told and the author’s concluding note was helpful as well.
· Compare and contrast this version of Cinderella with other versions you have heard or read.
· Discuss with a small group what you have learned about Egypt and its culture from this book.
· Create a dramatic reading of this book by assigning parts and drafting a Reader’s Theatre script to follow.
Other versions of Cinderella by the same author
The Irish Cinderlad
The Persian Cinderella
The Korean Cinderella
Humorous versions of Cinderella
Cinderella Bigfoot by Mike Thaler
Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson
Dinorella: A Prehistoric Fairy Tale by Pamela Duncan Edwards
Cinder-Elly by Frances Minters
Folk versions of Cinderella