(5/17/04 7:12 am)
| Red shoes other
I am researching incidences of red shoes in myth, folk and fairytales,
and am interested to know if there are any besides the Hans Christian
Andersen tale. I'm also interested in tales where shoes are prominent/significant,
beyond the obvious ones like Cinderella, Twelve Dancing Princesses,
East of the Sun, West of the Moon, etc.
All leads and thoughts gratefully received!
(5/17/04 1:49 pm)
| Re: Red shoes
other than Andersen
I believe that the main character of "The Girl Who Trod on
a Loaf" also possesses red shoes, and that it a desire to keep
them clean on a journey through the forest that precipitates the
(5/18/04 10:45 pm)
| I love shoes-
but only in stories
In some early versions of Snow White, the evil queen is made to
dance to her death in red-hot iron shoes. Also, if you're doing
a paper, I STRONGLY reccommend Marina Warner's "From the Beast
to the Blonde"- in it are several long passages about shoes,
feet, goddesses with altered feet, and comparisons of these elements
in various stories.
(5/20/04 9:34 am)
| I love shoes
in fiction and real life
Although it's not folklore, Zipes considers it a fairy tale and
in my opinion no consideration of red shoes is complete without
a look at the ruby slippers of The Wizard of Oz (the movie--in
the book they're silver. I like the ruby better.).
(5/20/04 2:35 pm)
| Re: I love shoes
in fiction and real life
My grandma always had to have a pair of red shoes. But I think for
her it was more of a fashion piece. The only thing I can think of
here is Charles de Lint's fantastic Jackie Kinrowan novels. I don't
remember red shoes playing a role but the color red does. In the
books its a lucky color that the main character tends to wear usually
in her red cap. It might be interesting to see just how many times
the color red comes up in clothing in fairy tales altogether (not
even touching upon red riding hood : ) ).
(5/20/04 4:04 pm)
| where did the
Thanks everyone for your replies. I have read Warner's Reith Lectures,
on predatory women, but not yet got to the Beast and THe Blonde.
There's a whole Ph. D worth of material on the ruby slippers! I'm
writing an MA dissertation, looking at red shoes as both actual
and symbolic objects, so this aspect of it is a big part. I've just
re-read the chapter in Pinkola Estes' 'Women Who Run WIth The Wolves',
where she tells that tlae of the Red Shoes in a slightly different
version. She cites it as a "Maygar-Germanic" version her
grandmother told her, and says the Andersen tale is a re-writing
of an older existing tale called variously 'The Devil's Dancing
Shoes' and 'The Red-Hot Shoes of the Devil' (links with the stepmother??).
Has anyone heard of these other versions - I haven't come across
a proto-tale for Andersen yet, and was under the impression it was
mostly his own invention, based on an incident in his own life when
he was distracted in church by thinking about his new boots.
(5/24/04 5:17 am)
| Re: Red Cap
In British fairy lore Red Cap is one of the Unseelie folk and a
very nasty one indeed.
(5/24/04 2:31 pm)
I think Vasalisa had red shoes or boots in an early version.
Also found a magical little book called "The Red Heels"
in my local library - more a "colonial fairytale" if that
makes sense, than a traditional one.
The book "Every Step a Lotus - Shoes for Bound Feet" has
a discussion on red shoes too: seems the bridal sleeping shoe (to
go over the footbinding wrap) was often red and something the bride-to-be
worked hard and long at to have ready for her new husband..
As an added interesting quote it also says that: "..as a product
of a woman's hand, a pair of lotus shoes is not an inanimate object
but the material extension of her body and her medium of communication.
Literate daughters wrote letters and poetry in their elegant hand
but illiterate daughters spoke through the shoes they made, the
shoes they wore, and the shoes they gave away as souvenirs and tokens…
Bridal daughters were literally judged by the shoes they made…”
Anybody hear their Mahnolo Blahniks talking? (if anybody can afford
them that is!)
(5/24/04 3:14 pm)
| Pertaining to
the color red, and China
This reminds me of a book I read recently called The Lost Daughters
of China, which refers to a Chinese folktale that says husbands
and wives are born with an invisible red thread tied around their
ankles, connecting them to their future spouse.
(5/24/04 4:27 pm)
| Meaning of red?
I think that in India at least, and perhaps China from the earlier
thread, red is the traditional color for the bride. I wonder if
red shoes have different meanings depending upon the significance
and "red" tradition of the origin of the story in question.
Jane, do you have more on the Little Red Cap version you mentioned?
Is there a place to read that?
(5/25/04 12:50 am)
| this is why
red is my favorite color
As for the prototype of the Andersen tale, there are several African
stories dealing with magic footwear, though I can't seem to find
a reference for red shoes, specifically. I was so interested in
your topic, I went hunting and got so engrossed, I forgot to write
down the name of the West African folklore book I was reading.
Red is the color of good fortune throughout all of Asia. Hence its
use in matrimonial rituals in China, Japan,and India. All known
languages have a term for red- it is the third color (after black
and white) to be named as a language develops. Red is the ultimate
symbol; it can mean anything from passion to danger. Which, upon
reflection, might not be so very far apart. Relating back to footwear,
brides, and fairy tales, I have to wonder at the obvious sexual
implications. In Warner's book, she discusses the shoe as representative
of a woman's genitals. There are too many places to go from that
angle- blood, sex, purity, the forbidden fruit etc. That would be
one interesting dissertation. Anyway, I hope your paper goes well.
(5/25/04 5:23 am)
| Re: Red Cap
There's quite a bit about Red Cap in the various Katherine Briggs
books on British folklore.
Also, Ed young, the wonderful Chinese illustrator (and Caldecott
winner) did a picture book a few years ago--whose title escapes
me--based on the Chinese folktale about that invisable red thread
binding the husband and wife from the time they are children.
(5/25/04 9:24 am)
On a side note... One of the earliest Cinderella stories (you probably
already know this!) is from China -- "Yeh-Shen." This
story would allow you to tie in the foot-binding discussion to the
other/later fairy tales, if you wanted to do so.
I really love your topic, and I love InkGypsy's quote. It makes
you wonder: shoes can symbolize female agency (illustrating the
heroine's control over the direction in which she wants to "walk"),
but they also can keep women from following a path. The wicked stepmother
has her feet destroyed by the red hot shoes; Anderson's red devil
shoes take control of the heroine's path... How often can women
use the shoes properly? Cinderella's shoe brings her her prince
-- but she loses it! (and what does it mean that the fur shoe in
the early tale has become an (ouch!) glass slipper?) Dorothy has
the magic shoes, but she has to learn how to use them. They are
her power, but they put her in danger. Like foot-binding -- it makes
women beautiful, but hinders their motion.
Sorry to go on and on. What an exciting topic. I'd love to hear
your conclusions when you finish the project!
(5/25/04 9:28 am)
| One more note
If the stepsisters cut off their toes/heels to fit in the glass
slipper, the red would show through, making the shoe turn from clear
to red. (Maybe?)
(5/25/04 11:59 pm)
I guess I missed Briggs somehow. I will have to find a copy. Thanks,
Jane - I am intrigued by your comment.
(5/27/04 5:57 pm)
| Re: Thanks
I just found more red shoes! In "The Rose Tree," a tale
in Joseph Jacobs's English Fairy Tales, a young girl is
killed by her stepmother. Stepmom uses her heart and liver to make
stew which the father and brother refuse to eat, and the brother
buries his sister under a rose tree which he waters with his tears.
The sister sort of becomes a white bird who sings for a cobbler
in exchange for a pair of red shoes, which she gives to her brother.
Eventually she kills the stepmother too, by dropping a millstone
Yeah. A real old-fashioned kind of fairy tale. They don't make 'em
like that anymore.
(5/30/04 11:52 am)
| Re: Thanks
The Rose Tree sounds a great deal like a variant of Grimms' Juniper
Tree story. I do remember dancing shoes in that story but cannot
remember if they were red as well.
To earlier red cap comment yes I do remember reading about the Red
caps..shiver. Nasty unseelie really.
The red string of Fate is a common theme in so many various representations
in Eastern culture. Its fascinating to see it tie into the red shoes.
I have a guilty pleasure in reading Japanese manga especially the
stories written for girls (shoujo). In some of these stories the
artist likes to draw the main characters tied by the red thread.
A recent purchase shows two boys and a girl all tied by their fingers
with red string. Another story more light-hearted has the main couple
going to an onsen after winning a contest. The caretakers tie them
together by a red thread that they tell them they must not break.
After meeting other couples that try to break them apart and traversing
something more akin to an obstacle course than a spa, the string
does snap. The couple of course dismisses the string as superstition
at this point. Their initial reaction speaks volumes though when
it breaks (despite their reassurances to stay together).
(5/31/04 4:25 pm)
| dancing off
with the topic...wow!
what a brilliant load of references! I haven't come across the majority
of the specific references.
I'm really excited by the topic as well, and know that it's going
to be hard to keep it in my word count. It's sprung from my own
fascination with red shoes, and I wanted to pin down the get-under-the-skin
factor of them, and look at the ambiguities and conflicts within
the symbol. At the moment i'm concluding that red shoes represent
the active, energetic principle. They're often about a woman becoming
independent or active, making her own choices and being a sexual
creature. Depending on the society in which this takes place, it
can be seen as a negative or positive event.
Actually, I'm also writing an essay for a forthcoming publication
on the cultural history of shoes, based on the dissertation. But
I'm really nervous and haven't started it yet so don't want to jinx
All the comments have really helped the myth and fairy tale aspect
- please keep 'em coming
(6/5/04 10:00 pm)
| ^ lol! Nice
Are the red shoes you are talking about the ones that danced away
with the girl? I'm sorry, I don't really know that story. It creeped
me out as a little kid so I only read it once.
I was just wondering because another of Andersen's stories, The
Snow Queen, had red shoes in it which Gerda wanted to give to the
river to make it give Kay back.
(6/29/04 1:35 pm)
| Juniper Tree
and Rose Tree
I just taught the stories in the "Hansel and Gretel" unit
from Maria Tatar's Oxford _The Classic Fairy Tales_ today and thought
Someone earlier mentioned "The Juniper Tree," but I thought
I'd confirm the reference. In Tatar's text, both "The Juniper
Tree" and "The Rose Tree" show children receiving
and wearing red shoes. The dead/bird brother/sister brings a pair
of red shoes to the still living sibling (in JT a sister, in RT
(6/30/04 2:21 am)
| Re: Red Cap
In British fairy lore Red Cap is one of the Unseelie folk and
a very nasty one indeed.
Jane, Can you tell me if this refers to the "Unseele"
- in German, those without a soul? Most intriguing!
(6/30/04 6:22 am)
I have no idea. Just always called the Seelie and the Unseelie courts.