The glass slipper from Cinderella

The tale as we know it

The traditional tale of Cinderella that we recognise is the story of a young girl who works hard as a servant for her mean step mother and two step sisters. She works hard all day long and as a result of cleaning ash and cinders by the fire, earns herself the nickname ‘Cinderella’.

One day the King and Queen decide to hold a ball in order to find their son, the prince, a bride. All the maidens in the land are invited but poor old Cinders has nothing to wear and, after being ridiculed by her step sisters as they leave for the party in their finery, bursts into tears. Cue Fairy Godmother who with a swish of her wand produces an amazing party frock, coach, footmen and let’s face it highly impractical but fabulous glass slippers.

Like most young women ready for their first night out on the town preparing to party, there is a midnight curfew. After the clock strikes twelve, everything will go back to the way it was and sadly that sparkly dress will turn back into rags.
Cinderella and the Prince spot each other across a crowded ballroom and it’s love at first sight. They dance the night away and before too long, yep, you’ve guessed it, ‘BONG!’

Cinderella leaves the love of her life and runs as fast as she can (in a pair of glass stilettos) before she turns into her normal self. Sprinting in high heels will always be problematic and this time is no exception, one of the glass slippers is lost on the steps of the palace.

The Prince finds it and vows to find his beloved, by trying it on every woman in the kingdom the very next day. Obviously, by the nature of being mean spirited and evil, the step sisters try and hide Cinderella and prevent her from trying on the shoes while at the same time trying to squeeze their enormous and ungainly feet into the dainty shoes. It would appear that true love prevails in this tale though and Cinders manages to slip her tiny toes into the delicate shoe. The Prince is chuffed, they get married and all live happily ever after.

History and Trivia

It is believed that the earliest known variant of the story known as ‘Rhodopis’ was recounted by the Greek geographer Strabo. The tale from between 7 BC and AD 23 tells of a Greek slave girl who has a shoe stolen by an Eagle which flies across the Mediterranean and drops it in the lap of an Egyptian king. Obviously, this shoe must belong to a pretty spectacular and amazing woman, and so the king sets off on a quest to find her and marry her.

The version of the story which we are most familiar with today is from Cendrillon adapted by Charles Perrault. He gave us the pumpkin coach, the glass slippers and even the fairy Godmother.

Most of us will recognise the earlier tale of Aschenputtel retold by the Brothers Grimm where her shoes were actually made from gold and in order to make them fit, the step sisters cut off their toes. A little extreme perhaps. Nothing a little basic welding could fix. Or that the mistranslation of Perrault’s retelling of the story in the nineteenth century where pantoufle de vair, fur slipper was confused with pantoufle de verre, glass slipper. It’s an easy mistake to make.

There are over 500 variations of the tale found in Europe alongside stories from Vietnam and China. It’s not always a slipper which is the final clue as to the identity of Cinderella. There are rings and brocades in Lai of Le Fresne, and in the Maltese version, Ċiklemfusa they have krustini which is a type of biscuit.

Cinderella was first performed at Drury Lane theatre in 1804 although it wasn’t a panto as we recognise it today.
In 1820 ‘Harlequin and Cinderella or the Little Glass Slipper’ opened at Covent Garden and featured characters and plot lines similar to what we see today. In the same year, the Ugly Sisters, Buttons and the Baron also make their first appearance.