Sunday, September 28, 2008

The First Cinderella Was Egyptian!

Copyright © Egypt, Cradle of Civilization

Following up on our story telling, I came across the tale of "Rhodopis" (the rosy-cheeked), which resembled the story line of "Cinderella" with a few variations here and there, the most significant being the glass slipper, which in the still romantic ancient Egyptian version is a "rose red-gilded slipper." This version is the oldest dating back to 570-526 B.C. which makes it older than the Chinese "Yeh-Shen" which was first recorded in a book called The Miscellaneous Record of Yu Yang from the T'ang dynasty of 618-907 A.D.

The story is told in the time just before the country was invaded by the Persians. The ruling Pharaoh at the time was Ahmose Ι and to strengthen his country against this inevitable invasion he invited as many Greeks to trade and settle in Egypt. He even gave them a city of their own, the city of Naucratis.

Naucratis was at the mouth of the Nile that led to the sea, and was one of the richest cities at the time. One of Naucratis' richest merchants was Charaxos. He was originally from the Greek island of Lesbos, and the brother of the famous poetess Sappho. And as he had spent many years trading with Egypt he settled in Naucratis in his old age. One day as he passed through the market place be noticed a crowd, curious he pushed his way through to find a beautiful slave girl, who had just been set up on the stone rostrum to be sold. Her beauty caught his breath for she was fair skinned and with rosy red cheeks and being wealthy it was easy for Charaxos to buy her.

Rhodopis had been kidnapped by pirates as a child from her home in the north of Greece and sold into slavery. Her rich employer had many slaves, and one of her fellow slaves was a little old man called Aesop, who was kind and told her stories and fables about birds, animals and humans. But her master wished to make more money so he sent her to the rich Naucratis to be sold.
As she was different from the other house-girl servants, with pale skin, rosy cheeks, golden hair that blew in the wind and bright green eyes, they were very jealous of her, teasing and making fun of her. They gave her all the dirty chores of washing cloths and weeding the garden. Her master was old and spent most of his day sleeping under a fig tree, but one day he woke to see Rhodopis dancing with such beautiful grace, he presented her with a pair of red-rose gilded slippers, which caused even more jealousy from the other servant girls.

One day the Pharaoh was holding court, to which everyone in the land was invited, but the servant girls made sure that Rhodopis had chores that she would not finish in time to attend the celebration. And as she sang to her friend the hippopotamus while she did the washing by the edge of the river, he splashed water on her rose red slippers. Rhodopis cleaned them and put them behind her as she went on with her chores. The god Horus came down from the sky as a falcon and took a slipper in his talons. He soared with his great wings, still carrying the slippers, south over the valley of the Nile until be came to Memphis, and swooped down towards the palace of the Pharaoh. He dropped the slipper in the Pharaoh's lap, since it was bright he thought it was a scrap of the Sun, and then he realized it was a gift from the gods.

He was so moved by what happened that he decreed that, all the land be searched for who ever fits the slipper, and the owner will be Pharaoh's wife. Ahmose’s search eventually leads him to Rhodopis’ home. Though Rhodopis hides when she sees the Pharaoh’s barge, he sees her and asks her to try the slipper. After demonstrating that it fits her, she pulls out its mate, and the Pharaoh declares that she will be his Queen and the Royal Lady of Egypt, and they live happily ever after of course!