may_lily: (Default)
may_lily ([personal profile] may_lily) wrote2013-04-11 10:44 am

Rhodopis, Ye Xian and Finette Cendron

From my tumblr.

Finette Cendron is Madame d’Aulnoy’s version of Cinderella, published about a year after Perrault’s Cendrillon. There are considerable differences to Perrault. The heroine and her sisters are abandoned by their parents because of their poverty, much like Hansel and Gretel. They come across a castle inhabited by an ogre couple, and Finette tricks one into burning to death in his oven and beheads the other. The sisters take over the castle, but the older sisters are cruel to Finette and make her do the housework while they go to balls. Finette discovers a magic wardrobe that gives her beautiful clothes and goes to the balls herself, unrecognised by her sisters. She loses a shoe which is discovered by Prince Cheri, who goes lovesick with longing for its owner. He announces that he will marry the one who fits the slipper, of course Finette does, and they marry.

What I find interesting is that the prince never actually meets Finette before finding the shoe (or at least their meeting isn’t mentioned). While Perrault’s prince is inflamed by Cinderella’s beauty, Aulnoy’s prince seems almost to be under a spell. This reminds me of two of the earliest stories related to Cinderella: Rhodopis and Ye Xian.

Rhodopis (from Strabo 17.1.33 and Aelian Various Histories 13.33) was bathing when an eagle took one of her shoes from her maid, flew away with it, and dropped it into the lap of the king. Taking this as a sign, the king searched for the owner of the shoe and married her.

Ye Xian (I got my translation from Jstor) has a more typical Cinderella beginning. A girl is ill-treated by her stepmother and finds a magic fish. The stepmother kills the fish but Ye Xian keeps the bones. The stepmother and stepsister go to a festival, and Ye Xian gets a dress and shoes from the fishbones and goes too. She loses a shoe when hurrying away so as not to be caught by her stepmother.

The shoe is sold by someone who picked it up and eventually a king gets hold of it. He decides to find the owner, Ye Xian, and marries her.

In the more well-known Cendrillon and its variants the prince falls in love with a woman and the shoe is simply the means of recognising her. By contrast, in Rhodopis, Ye Xian and Finette Cendron the shoe is the token by which the prince learns that there is someone to find. In Rhodopis, the extraordinary way the king gets the shoe does suggest that the gods are trying to tell him something. But in Ye Xian and Finette Cendron the shoe is acquired in an ordinary way. Nevertheless, the prince/king recognises that the shoe will lead him to his fate,and he becomes obsessed with finding the owner.

I wonder if, before Cendrillon became the dominant narrative, there were two versions of the shoe episode, one with a meeting and one without? Or is it simply a coincidence that Madame d’Aulnoy tapped into an aspect of her predecessors?
februaryfour: (Default)

[personal profile] februaryfour 2013-04-11 03:32 pm (UTC)(link)
That's amazing. I didn't even know the Ye Xian story existed.