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December 2nd, 2008

Shoe Fairy Tales: The Red Shoes

Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Red Shoes” is today’s Shoe Fairy Tale. What a dark departure from yesterday’s dreamy Cinderella story. In Cinderella, shoes represent untapped potential and happy endings. In today’s chilling tale, shoes represent vanity, greed, and early death.

The original plot of “The Red Shoes” tells of a vain girl who chooses her enchanting red shoes over God and family. Rather than attend to her ailing adoptive mother, this girl chooses to go to a party. At the party, the shoes take over, and she can’t stop dancing. Desperate for a respite, the girl finds an executioner to chop off her feet, which she replaces with wooden feet and crutches. The detached feet and shoes keep dancing, barring the girl from attending her church and her mother’s funeral. Her only peace comes when she privately opens her heart to God– then, her heart bursts, and she is taken to heaven.

The universal themes of greed and redemption in “The Red Shoes” echo across decades, leading to many adaptations. To see several layers of interpretation, check out this music video, showing scenes from the 1948 British miniseries of the ballet, accompanied by Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control.”

Judging from our fairy tales thus far, shoes can represent the best and worst in each of us. To temper my own vanity, I look for dancing shoes that won’t kill my feet, but will let my inner joy shine. I especially like these Keds NL Mini Slip Ons. The way I dance, heels are out. These slip ons tell the world that I’m interested in a good time, but I’m also comfortable in my own skin. With that kind of a balanced outlook, I hope my dancing will have a happy ending.

Top picture by arias81.

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