The Red Slippers, an Ancient Egyptian Cinderella Story, retold by Lin Donn Illustration

An Ancient Egyptian Cinderella Story
The Red Slippers

Once upon a time, a long time ago in ancient Egypt, there lived a lovely slave girl named Rhapdosis. The other slaves who lived in the grand house by the Nile rarely spoke to Rhapdosis. If the truth be told, the slave girls were jealous of her beauty. The slave boys thought she was proud and haughty.

Certainly Rhapdosis was beautiful. But she was not haughty. She was gentle and shy. She barely remembered her life before she had been captured when she was quite young. The only thing she had left from her former life was a pair of beautiful red slippers. Rhapdosis treasured her slippers and kept them hidden from the other slaves. Sometimes, when no one was about, Rhapdosis took her slippers from their hiding place and held them up to the sun or the moon. It always made her feel better, holding her slippers, watching the stones sparkle in the light.  They were not real stones. Rhapdosis knew that. But they were beautiful just the same.

As careful as she was to hide her slippers, other slaves girls knew she had slippers covered in jewels, but they could not find them. Rhapdosis had hidden them well.

One night, exhausted from a day filled with work, Rhapdosis was too tired to sleep. She quietly slipped away from the rooftop where the other slaves were sleeping. It was a beautiful night. Rhapdosis took her slippers from their hiding place. She held one slipper up to the moon, turning it this way and that. She lost herself in the glittering stones, feeling better than she had all day. It was fast. She did not even have time to cry out. The eagle came out of nowhere. He disappeared into the moonlit sky, his prize, one bright red slipper clutched in his claw. Stunned, Rhapdosis slid the shoe she had left back into its hiding place. The tears came then.

Far away, in another city entirely, Pharaoh was sitting in his garden, listening to his Vizier fill him in on the happenings of the day, as his Vizier did each night. An eagle flew into the garden. The eagle dropped a bright red slipper into Pharaoh's lap, and soared away.

Pharaoh and the Vizier stared at each other in surprise.

"The woman who owns this slipper must be very rich!" the Vizier decided. The Vizier was caught by an idea. "I can ask the officials in each city to see if anyone has reported a missing red slipper of great quality, covered with jewels."

Pharaoh turned the shoe this way and that, watching the stones glitter in the moonlight. "Yes, my Vizier. Do what you can to find her. I am sure the woman who owns this slipper would appreciate its return."

Four days later, one of the Vizier's officials reported he had found the young owner of the ruby red slipper. She was a slave in a great house on the Nile, in the city of Memphis. The other slave girls were eager to report her to the Vizier's official, hoping her punishment would be great.

The Vizier did not believe a slave would own such a beautiful slipper. He decided to visit Memphis and see this slave girl for himself. If she had lied to an official, she would be punished. When the Vizier demanded Rhapdosis prove she was the owner, she pulled the matching ruby red slipper from its hiding place.

The Vizier sat thinking for a moment. "I believe Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris, sent Pharaoh an eagle with a message. You, my child, are coming with me, back to the palace."

The family did not want to lose a slave, but no one argued with the Vizier. The Vizier was the most important man in all of Egypt, except of course, for Pharaoh. The Vizier handed the owner of the grand house on the Nile a bracelet of gold in payment for the slave girl.

All the way back to the palace, the Vizier smiled and nodded. "How surprised he'll be. And happy. I have no doubt he will be happy!"

He was right. Pharaoh and the slave girl soon fell in love. They were married in the spring, and lived happily ever after.

Ancient Egyptian Tall Tales

Creation Stories

The Story of Isis and Osiris

The Vizier