Childrens Book Review of The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo: Rhodopis and Her Pharaoh Amasis

by DerdriuMarriner

Egypt’s Cinderella story dates back 2,500+ years. It deals with the fable-teller Aesop’s friend, Rhodopis. It draws upon Pharaoh Amasis’s true love for “The Egyptian Cinderella.”

Modern Egypt’s ancient roots can be traced back 5,000+ years. Egyptian hieroglyphics confirm the history-documenting, story-telling commitments and propensities of its speakers. The location of the ancient world’s most comprehensive library in Alexandria, Egypt, gives evidence of the advanced culture’s commitment to facts.

The preservation of one of the world’s oldest known Cinderella stories is an example of the ancient culture’s respect for aesthetics.
• Egypt’s Cinderella story juxtaposes fable and fact to introduce fairy tale as history -- and vice versa -- within Egypt’s folkloric literature.
• It makes unforgettable impacts in recording the marriage of Pharaoh Amasis (Dynasty XXVI, 570 – 526 B.C.), for love -- not by pre-arrangement -- with fable-teller Aesop’s friend, Rhodopis of the rose-red slippers.

"The beautiful Rhodope in love with Aesop": engraving by Francesco Bartolozzi (September 21, 1727 – March 7, 1815) after painting by Angelica Kauffmann (October 30, 1741 – November 5, 1807)

Private collection of engravings, Saint Petersburg, northwestern Russia
Private collection of engravings, Saint Petersburg, northwestern Russia


The name Rhodopis calls up images of a blonde-haired, green-eyed beauty whose pale skin reddens the Mediterranean’s bright sunlight. It simultaneously describes ancient Egypt’s original Cinderella, as:

  • A child kidnapped -- from northern Greece or Thrace -- by pirates;
  • A friend of Aesop the fable-teller on Samos;
  • The recipient in a Nile River villa at Naucratis of slippers rose-reddened by iron being mixed into gold.

Rhodopis’s story establishes her:

  • Animal domestication achievements;
  • Graceful dance performances;
  • Impressive interpersonal skills;
  • Industrious work ethic.

The above-mentioned attributes explain Rhodopis’s being contracted prestigiously to:

  • Iadmon, Aesop’s master and richest east Aegean Sea island landowner;
  • Charaxus, brother of lyric poet Sappho (640? – 570? B.C.E.) of the northeast Aegean Sea island of Lesbos.


fragmentary statue head of Pharaoh Amasis: real-life pharaoh of "The Egyptian Cinderella"

Altes Museum, Museum Island, central Berlin, northeastern Germany
Altes Museum, Museum Island, central Berlin, northeastern Germany


Pharaoh Amasis becomes aware of Rhodopis’s existence during a visit to Memphis. He dons the ear-pinching, heavy-weighted, red-and-white crown of the Two Egypts. He endures a meet-and-greet while serving as supreme justice to his people’s complaints. A bird concurrently interrupts Rhodopis’s admiration of slippers gifted by Charaxus. The avian identity traditionally is given as an eagle (Accipitridae family) although a lanner (Falco biarmicus) or peregrine (Falco peregrinus) falcon  -- as the animal manifestation of Horus, god of the reigning pharaoh and of the skies -- may be a possibility with a more explainable, understandable impact upon Amasis’s subsequent decision-making. Whatever the genus, the raptor leaves with one of Rhodopis’s slippers, which then is dropped far away into Amasis’s lap.  


The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo ~ illustrated by Ruth Heller

Cinderella stories



Generations of fable-lovers applaud a bird’s successful matchmaking -- vectored by a dainty, exquisite slipper -- of a powerful pharaoh with a powerless beauty of:

  • Lotus-pink skin;
  • Nile-green eyes;
  • Papyrus-colored hair.

First-time witnesses of the story of Rhodopis and her pharaoh benefit from the user-friendly format of the tale’s telling in The Egyptian Cinderella. The “must-have” modern retelling’s comfortable style and convenient applicability honor the inputs of:

  • Shirley Climo, as author;
  • Ruth Heller, as full-color artist;
  • HarperCollins, as publisher.

It is printed in the United States of America, with an original publishing date of 1989. It offers parents of four- to eight-year-olds and teachers of preschoolers to third-graders ample opportunities for:

  • Cultural enrichment;
  • Educational entertainment;
  • Historical exposures.


The Egyptian Cinderella

Published on YouTube on May 8, 2013 by Christina Phillps ~ URL:



My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.


In "The Egyptian Cinderella," Rhodopis' hair is described as having the color of papyrus:

Pith (tissue), visible in cross section of stem of papyrus plant (Cyperus papyrus), is used for making papyrus paper.
Cyperus papyrus
Cyperus papyrus

Sources Consulted


Climo, Shirley. 1989. The Egyptian Cinderella. Illustrated by Ruth Heller. New York City, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

“The Girl with the Rose Red Slippers.” Ancient Egypt: The Mythology > The Myths. Retrieved December 2014.

  • Available at:


the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

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DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 12/11/2014, DerdriuMarriner
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