posted by: shoesense in Shoe History Corner on March 28th, 2008
This week’s Friday Shoe History Corner comes via a wonderful little book called The Book of General Ignorance: Everything you think you know is wrong. According to the authors, Cinderella’s slippers were NOT made of glass.
Oh, no. They were made of squirrel fur.
“Charles Perrault, who wrote the familiar version of the story in the seventeenth century, misheard the word vair (squirrel fur) in the medieval tale he borrowed and updated for the similar-sounding verre (glass).
Cinderella is an ancient and universal story. The Chinese version dates back to the ninth century and there are more than 340 other version before Perrault’s. None of the early versions mentions glass slippers. In the original Chinese story “Yeh-Shen,” they’re made of gold thread with solid gold soles. In the Scottish version “Rashie-Coat” they’re made of rushes. In the medieval French tale, adapted by Perrault, her shoes are described as pantoufles de vair–slippers of squirrel’s fur.
One sources says the vair/verre error occurred before Perrault and he merely repeated it. Others think glass slippers were Perrault’s own idea and that he intended them all along.
As well as polishing up “Cinderella”–adding the mice, the pumpkin, and the fairy godmother–Perrault reduced their peasant bloodthirstiness. In the medieval original, the ugly sisters cut off their toes and bunions to try on the slipper, and after the Prince marries Cinders, the King takes revenge on them and the wicked stepmother by forcing them to dance themselves to death wearing red-hot iron boots. Much of this bloodthirstiness was later reinstated by the Brothers Grimm.
In Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex, Freud claimed slippers were a symbol for the female genitals.”
- From The Book of General Ignorance, pp. 233-4.
P.S.: Aren’t you glad Disney didn’t get their hands on the peasant version?