Fairy Tales in Different Cultures--Egyptian Cinderella

Today I am going to share with you a version of Cinderella from Egypt. Now the most fascinating thing to me about this story is there is some historical truth to it. According to the Author's Note at the end of the book: the fact that there was a Greek slave girl named Rhodopis and she married the Pharaoh Amasis and became his queen. This is one of the oldest Cinderella tales and it was first recorded by the Roman historian Strabo in the first century B.C.

It is thought that Rhodopis was born in northern Greece and kidnapped by pirates as a child. She was sold to a rich man on the island of Samos. One of her fellow slaves was Aesop, who told her wonderful fables about animals. When Rhodopis was almost grown, she was taken to Egypt and bought by a man named Charaxos. He was also Greek and gave her many gifts and favors. This is what is believed to be true, but there of course is no proof of it.

Now a bit about Egypt. Egypt is officially  the Arab Republic of Egypt. It is in both Africa and Asia. Egypt is one of the most populous countries in Africa and the Middle East. The largest population of people live near the Nile River. Egypt has large areas of the Sahara Desert which the majority of which is uninhabitable. The majority of people live in urban areas like Cairo and Alexandria. 

Egypt has the longest history of most countries since it has been inhabited since the 10th millennium B.C. Its ancient civilizations built the pyramids and the Great Spinx. It also has many ancient ruins like the city of Memphis (which is mentioned in this story).  As a result of all this rich cultural history, tourism is a major industry for the country. The country's law is based on Islamic law. (Source)

Ok, now onto our story. The version I am sharing today is The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo. Knowing the historical facts mentioned by the author, makes one wonder if this is the original Cinderella story.

There was a Greek girl, Rhodopis, who was taken by pirates as a girl and sold as a slave in Egypt. Her master was kind, but the Egyptian servant girls were not. Since Rhodopis looked different than them, they made fun of her. Her skin was so pale and she burnt in the sun. Her hair got tangled in the wind and her eyes were green. Their master often slept under a tree and as a result he did not hear the servant girls being mean to Rhodopis. 

One evening the master awoke and saw Rhodopis dancing for her animal friends. He thought she danced like a goddess and had slippers made for her. The slippers had a leather bottom and the top was a rosy gold. This made the servant girls even more jealous as their sandals were made of papyrus.

01755 - Cyperus papyrus (Papyrus-Staude)
Cyperus papyrus by Tubifex [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
One day the servants told Rhodopis they were going to Memphis to see the pharaoh. He was holding an open court. They told her she could not come since she needed to do wash the laundry, grind the grain and weed the garden. They went off in a boat on the Nile to Memphis. Rhodopis watched them leave and began the laundry. Her friend the hippopotamus got bored of her singing a sad song about what she had to do and splashed mud on her. She was upset since the mud got on her slippers. She washed them and left them out to dry. While they were drying, a falcon (in some versions it is an eagle) came and took one of the slippers. She was so upset to have lost one. She continued the laundry while crying.

Egyptian Museum - Lotus flower in front pond
Lotus Flower Outside Egyptian Museum by Daniel Mayer [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
In the meantime the bird flew to Memphis and dropped the slipper into the pharaoh's lap. Since the falcon is the symbol of Egyptian God Horus, the pharaoh saw this as a sign from the gods. He searched all of Egypt for the woman the slipper would fit. He visited the desert and then began to travel down the Nile. When his boat came to where Rhodopis lived she was frightened by the noise from the boat and hid. The servant girls however knew it was the pharaoh and came to welcome him. They all tried on the shoe, but it did not fit. As the pharaoh was leaving he caught sight of Rhodopis and ordered her to come and try on the slipper. Of course it fit. So the pharaoh took her back to Memphis and made her his queen. The servant girls tried to stop him by telling him she was a slave and not Egyptian. He commented how her eyes were the color of the Nile, her hair was feathery like papyrus and her skin the color of the lotus flower, so therefore she was very much Egyptian even more than all of them.

Overall this book was full of ancient history and culture from Egypt. I really enjoyed reading it and am fascinated by the connection to history. Unfortunately with our busy weekend, we did not get much of a chance to do a craft to go with it besides the little peg doll I made. Be sure to check out all of our posts about Egypt and our exploration of this country from our home.


  1. Your doll is really cute! I love this version of Cinderella. I think you may be right about it being the original source.

  2. Thank you for sharing this ancient version on the Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop! So interesting how in this tale being fair-skinned was looked down on. I guess it is whoever it the outsider!

  3. This sounds like a lovely version of Cinderella and it was so interesting to read all the history - thank you for linking up to the Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop.

  4. I enjoy all of the Cinderella versions that you have shared on your blog; and I especially enjoyed this one. Thanks for linking up at the Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop #4!


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