Monday, February 27, 2012

Learning Today: Cinderella Is Really Really Old

Something must be very human about the story of the overworked girl rescued from poverty by beauty, magic, and the horniness of a prince. Cinderella, the ultimate gold-digger, first appeared in first century B.C. Egypt--if not earlier--and has been a great career model for young women ever since.

In the Ancient Egyptian version, Cinderella was a Greek slave named Rhodopis, whose rose-colored slipper is stolen by a bird and dropped on the Pharaoh's lap. The Pharaoh does what anybody would do in this situation. He understands that the bird is not just a bird but the great god Horus, and he interprets the slipper a sign from Horus that he should marry the woman the slipper belongs to. (Happens all the time.) A search for the matching foot begins. The correct woman is found, married, bedded, and rescued from servitude, and all her enemies suffer for her happiness. Sounds familiar?

What is it about this story which has kept it in the mouths of babysitters and storybooks for well over two thousand years? People in mud huts have loved it and people in condos have loved it. The children of goat herders and stock traders have begged to hear it as they were falling asleep. In two thousand years, the children of holograph repairmen and time lords will ask to hear it--indeed, it seems that however long civilization endures, so will Cinderella. But why? What makes this story above all others last?

Maybe it's the feeling that out of the toil of our daily life, something magic will rescue us--that out of the normal duties of our day, we will be recognized: as individuals, worthy, and true. That one day, the great god Horus will swoop down, steal our slipper, and give notice to the Pharaoh that we are awesome.

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