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I’ve been working on a storytelling show for an exhibition about footware. It’s early days yet but it’s struck me how many fairy and folktales and even myths feature shoes of one sort or another. I thought I’d mention them here, partly out of interest and partly in the hope that it might help someone else who is seeking a tale about shoes.

I’ve considered becoming analytical about shoes in folktales and fairy tales – shoes help to elevate a woman from poverty to riches, as in Cinderella, BUT shoes must be small and petite for Cinderella, and the ugly step-sisters are willing to mutilate their feet to fit into the shoes. Shoes convey status, as in Puss in Boots, but can also be a punishment as in Parmetella and Snow White and The Red Shoes and the legends of girls dancing with the devil. Shoes are symbols of movement and travel, as in the tale of Hermes or Little Thumbling. Shoes can be gifts (The Juniper Tree), or the root of great trouble (Abu Kasim’s Slippers) or the cause of liberation (The Shoemaker and the Elves) or simply functional items (The Dancing Sisters).

My not-very-in-depth-analysis?

Shoes are important in folk and fairy tales, but they can be important for very many different reasons!

Deep, right?

The stories

Here are the (relevant) stories I’ve source thus far, in my mission to find stories about shoes:

Cinderella or Ashenputel: She spends her days in wooden clogs and sometimes even barefoot, only to be transformed into a princess because her petite feet fit the glass slippers perfectly. And as already mentioned, in the original versions, the ugly step-sisters cut of their toes to try to cram their feet into the shoes – perhaps they wanted to be transformed, too.  Go to the story →

Puss in Boots: A clever cat asks for and receives a pair of boots, symbols of status, and goes on to great things. Go to the story →

The Golden Root: Parmetella is cursed to wear iron shoes, seven pairs one after the other for seven years, until they wear out, as punishment for curiosity. Go to the story →

Little Thumbling: Features magic shoes (seven-league boots) stolen by Little Thumbling from the ogre, that enable him to travel great distances at great speed. Go to the story →

Snow White: Snow White’s evil stepmother  is cursed to dance to death wearing red shoes as a punishment for her wickedness. Go to the story →

The Red Shoes: In Hans Christian Anderson’s story The Red Shoes, a young orphan named Karen becomes so enamoured of her new red shoes that she begins to dance uncontrollably and unable to stop, asks the town’s executioner to chop off her feet whilst she prays and repents. Go to the story →

The Twelve Dancing Girls: Throughout Europe there are stories of sisters who slip out of their rooms at the dead of night to dance the night away in the fairy court, literally dancing their slippers to shreds. They are discovered by a soldier or a fool or a wise man who follows them and observes their nightly adventures. Go to the story →

Hermes and Perseus: In Greek mythology, Hermes wore beautiful sandals that  able to take to the roads with the speed of wind, and in recent years, his sandals are depicted with wings. Hermes lent his shoes to Perseus, to give him speed on his mission to kill Medusa. Go to the story →

The Juniper Tree: The murdered-boy-revived-as-a-bird drops a pair of red shoes to his beloved sister. Go to the story →

Abu Kasim’s Slippers: In this tale from the One Thousand and One Nights, a miser leaves his tattered shoes outside a mosque, and prays for a new pair. When he comes out, his shoes have been moved and in their place are a beautiful pair of shoes, which he assumes is the answer to his prayer. Trouble follows! Go to the story →

The Elves and the Shoemaker: Magical helpers appear to help a kind shoemaker make shoes, but his kindness also results in the helps disappearing… Go to the story →

The Adventures of a Jackal: A trickster tale in which Jackal wears shoes and Panther wants a pair. Go to the story →

The Golden Shoes: A tale of the foolish folk of Chelm, and a pair of golden shoes made for the chief sage to make him more recognisable. Go to the story →