Literature: Rhodopis

"Rhodopis" is a Greek Fairy Tale recorded by the historian and geographer Strabo in the first century B.C. It is considered the oldest known version of "Cinderella". The fairy tale is an embellished version of a story told by Herodotus as a true one, according to which Rhodopis was a Thracian freedwoman of the 6th century B.C. who made a fortune as a courtesan in the Egyptian city of Naucratis.

Rhodopis is a Greek girl kidnapped from her home and sold into slavery in Egypt. Her master, an old man, is kind to her but spends most of his time sleeping, while the servant girls in his household bully and discriminate against her because of her fair complexion. She finds friends with the animals, however, and takes up singing and dancing to them. Her master sees her performing such a dance one day, and decides that such a gift deserves a reward. He gives her a pair of rose-red gold slippers (sandals in other variants), which becomes another excuse for the other servant girls to tease her out of envy.

Eventually, news arrives that the Pharaoh (Amasis II, if his name is given) is holding court in Memphis, and all are invited to celebrate. The servant girls, however, leave Rhodopis behind with more chores to do while they go off to enjoy themselves, one of which is washing the laundry. As she does this, she accidentally splashes water onto her shoes and takes them off to let them dry. When she does, a falcon (the god Horus from Egyptian Mythology in one of his forms) swoops down and flies away with one of her slippers. Her response is of awe, knowing who it really is, and then to tuck the other into her tunic and go back to work.

Meanwhile, while the Pharaoh is sitting on this throne and starting to hold court, the falcon drops the slipper into his lap. He examines the slipper, knowing it as a sign, and then made a decree that all maidens in Egypt must try on the slipper, and the one whose foot fits it will be his Queen. In the search, he calls for the royal barge and travels down the Nile on it, pulling it into every landing along the way to find the slipper's owner.

Eventually, he arrives at the residence of Rhodopis's master, and all the servant girls rush to try on the slipper, recognizing it as Rhodopis's but saying nothing about it. Rhodopis herself, however, merely hides in the rushes.

While the girls try unsuccessfully to force their feet into the slipper, the Pharaoh sees Rhodopis hiding and asks her to try it on as well. She does, and pulls out the other one from her tunic, proving her identity. The Pharaoh, seeing this, declares that she would be his Queen, and they go on to live Happily Ever After.

Can be read here.

Rhodopis provides examples of:

  • All of the Other Reindeer: None of the servant girls like Rhodopis.
  • Character Title: The story is called Rhodopis, like Rhodopis herself.
  • Cinderella Circumstances: The titular character is subjected to this; specifically, being a slave in a foreign country.
  • Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: In most variants, the Pharaoh is merely referred to as "the Pharaoh". When he's given a name, he's usually known as Amasis II.
  • Fairy Tale: One of the oldest written, and a variant on a more famous one, Cinderella.
  • The Girl Who Fits This Slipper: The rose-red slippers only fit Rhodopis.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Rhodopis, who is depicted as kind and pure-hearted, is described as having curly, golden hair.
  • Love Before First Sight: The Pharaoh swears to marry the woman to whom the slipper belongs. Never mind that all that he knows about Rhodopis is that slipper; he marries her when he discovers that she is the one who fits it.
  • Nice Shoes: Rhodopis's rose-red gold slippers.
  • Rags to Royalty: Rhodopis starts off as an abducted slave, who then becomes the Queen of Egypt through marriage to the Pharaoh.
  • Uptown Girl: Gender-flipped: Rhodopis, a Greek slave, ends up marrying the Pharaoh of all Egypt himself.