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December 1st, 2008

Shoe Fairy Tales: Cinderella

Shoes have long represented wealth and power, thanks to one universal truth: the more uncomfortable the shoe, the richer the wearer.

Princess-worthy pumps

Those who can afford to be carried often sport the most bizarre shoes, while those who labor for a living have little choice but to wear more practical footwear. Shoes also indicate wealth on a statistical level: if you own two pairs of shoes, you’re wealthier than half of the world’s population*.

Perhaps because they symbolize extravagance, shoes are some of the most commonly mentioned items in fairy tales. I’m not the first to make this connection– check out the Fairy-Tale Shoes group at Flickr for soles worthy of The Brothers Grimm. Beginning today, Shoeflyer will explore five whimsical shoe stories and look for their modern equivalents.

Today’s shoe fairy tale is Cinderella, which centers on the loss and recovery of a remarkable slipper. More than any other item in the story, Cinderella’s special shoes represent her transformation from a downtrodden scullery maid to queen.

Humans above the age of five typically know the Cinderella story by heart. Perhaps less commonly known is the variety of shoes in Cinderella stories from around the world. It wasn’t until Charles Perrault’s 1697 version that Cinderella wore glass slippers. In one of the first recorded Cinderella tales, the Egyptian-Greek Rhodopis wore a “rose-gilded sandal.” Another ancient Cinderella, China’s Ye Xian, wears golden slippers, as does the Philippino Cinderella, Anne de Fernandez. Even in the Grimm Brothers’ version, Cinderella wears silver and golden slippers, not glass.

What might Cinder Girl wear today? I imagine her calling upon her Hipster Godmother (Patti Smith in the film version) to magically provide shoes and a stash of cash to get into the AlternaPrince show. Cinder Girl’s shoes would convey such style, power, and playfulness that the lead singer and Prince of Post-Punkdom would have little choice but to take her on tour. Being a modern woman, Cinder Girl would break off and start her own solo album, which would (of course) go platinum.

The Marly, shown above, could inspire such a fable. With burnished gold leather straps suggesting a shootie and a petite, powerful heel, the Marly will bring out your inner princess.

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