Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Egyptian Cinderella

Title: The Egyptian Cinderella
Author: Shirley Climo
Illustrator: Ruth Heller
Publisher: Harpor Collins Publishers, 1989
Genre: Picture book, fairy tale, historical fiction
Age Range: Grades 1-3

Summary: A young Grecian girl is sold into Egyptian slavery. She has blond hair and rose-colored skin, earning her the name of Rhodopis. She is ordered around by the servant girls of the house. She bonds with the animals, and her master loves her dancing. He buys her beautiful rose-gold slippers. When the Pharaoh holds court, she is left behind. A falcon comes and steals one of her slippers, taking it to the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh believes that the gods are telling him to marry the girl whose foot fits this slipper. He travels all over Egypt, and finally finds Rhodopis' home. She hides from him as the other servant girls attempt to try on the slipper. He sees her hiding and asks her to try it on. She does so, and he claims that she will be his queen.

Response: This story is intriguing to me because it is partly true. Rhodopis was an actual Grecian slave, who was made queen by Amasis during Dynasty XXVI, 570-526 B.C. This is provided in the Author's note at the end of the story. Rhodopis differs from the traditional Cinderella in that she is not mistreated by her stepmother or stepsisters. She is sold into slavery when she is almost full grown. The servant girls in the story take the place of stepsisters because they are always ordering Rhodpis around. Her master, on the other hand, sees her as a very "nimble goddess" because he sees her dancing one day. He buys her beautiful rose-gold slippers, which makes the other girls even more jealous of Rhodpis. They tell her she is not allowed to go to Memphis, where the Pharaoh is holding court. The Pharaoh does not want to hold court, he wishes he could be free and drive his chariot. He is similar to Rhodopis because he is bound to uphold his duties as Pharaoh, just as she is bound to slavery. The story says that Rhodopis is very friendly with the animals. We see pictures of a monkey, birds, and a hippopotamus. In reading about Egypt, the hippopotamus was dangerous and known to attack people. It shows how pure and sweet she was, that this dangerous animal would befriend her. The falcon steals her slipper, which is a representation of Horus, who is the deity of the living pharaohs. He takes the slipper to the Pharaoh, who sees this as a sign. This shows the great belief and commitment the Egyptians had towards their gods. Ra, the sun god, is also mentioned in the story. When the Pharaoh Amasis discovers that the slipper belongs to Rhodopis, he exclaims "In all this land there is none so fit to be queen." The servant girls are upset because technically, Rhodopis is not Egyptian. However, the Pharaoh tells them that "her eyes are as green as the Nile, her hair as feathery as papyrus, and her skin the pink of a lotus flower." Even though she may not be Egyptian, she embraces the culture through her looks and her behavior. The illustrations in this book are beautiful and full of color. They are most likely done in water colors. The beautiful bold colors show how important it is to Egyptian. The characters are drawn very similar to actual cultural fashions of the time. The women wear cloth dresses, mostly white, but can be died into light colors of green, yellow,etc. Also, the wear charcoal around the eyes, and green pigmented eye shadow. Their black hair is usually a wig, and for special occasions, headdresses are also worn. Another important thing in the illustrations is that nature is represented in nearly every page, whether it is flowers, animals, or palm trees in the court.

Teaching Ideas: This is a great story to use in a study of Egypt. The story shares so many great aspects of Egyptian culture, including: religion, fashion, social class, and many more. The fact that Rhodopis was a slave who was made into a queen of Egypt is also a great classroom connection. As a tale of Cinderella, it can also fit into a fairy tale unit. The following link is a great resource about Egyptian culture that students will find helpful.

1 comment:

Dr. Frye said...

Wow! I am so impressed by how thoroughly you researched Ancient Egyptian culture. I also appreciate your link to the Thinkquest site! These are my favorite to use with students because students created them! Thank you for commenting so specifically on the illustrations. I hope you enjoyed the book!