This legend intrigues me as it is so much like 'our own' 'Cinderella' story. Yet one imagines both stories to have come into being long before any form of copying would have been likely! Maybe it's chief charm is the fact that, in both cultures, young girls longed to be able to escape the drudgery of daily existence.
In the Valley of the Nile where it flows into the sea
Sat a lovely, gentle maiden, underneath a shady tree.
She was not Egyptian and her hair was shimmering gold,
And her eyes were green as emeralds and lovely to behold.
Her home was Greece, hence she was fair, the envy of her peers,
And, frequently, they taunted her, till she dissolved in tears.
She had been stolen as a child, condemned to slavery,
And many times she sat alone and yearned for liberty.
The other servants in the house, teased her and reviled,
Saying she must surely be an evil demon's child.
They gave her all the meanest tasks; they scolded and they sneered,
And mocked her strange, exotic face whenever she appeared.
'Go wash the clothes!' " Go chase the geese!' the taunting servants cried;'
'Bake the bread!', 'Mend the clothes!', 'Go and sit outside!'
She spent hours by the river, making friends of beasts and birds,
For they never sought to hurt her with cruel human words.
And she would dance down by the river, circling on her own,
Finding the greatest happiness that she had ever known.
Her master was a kind old man, who rarely cast his eye
Over his many servants when he saw them passing by.
But, one day, he saw Rhodopis, for that was the maiden's name,
And compared her with the others, seeing she was not the same.
He sat and watched her dancing, he saw her costume swirl,
And he began to realise she was a special girl.
He viewed her as a daughter, unusually sweet,
So he bought some lovely slippers for her little dancing feet.
They were made of shining rose-red gold, with leather for the soles,
And the other servants wished that she were dancing on hot coals!
She wore them to the river to dance away her cares,
Far away from the servants with their mean and jealous stares.
A hippopotamus swam up and splashed a golden shoe,
So she took it off and laid it in the sun to dry it through.
But a falcon swooped down, took the shoe and flew off in the sky,
Leaving Rhodopis terrified, and we will tell you why.....
She knew the bird was Horus, a god in his disguise,
A god that every child was taught to fear and recognise.
She wandered home with, in her tunic, her one remaining shoe,
Pondering as she walked along what she was going to do.
Meanwhile the great god, as a bird, flew across the sand,
Till it came to the palace of Amasis, a Pharoah great and grand.
Amasis recognised the god! Did it herald some mishap?
But .... suddenly, a golden shoe was dropped into his lap!
Amasis had desired a wife for many a long long day,
And now he saw this as a sign that one would come his way.
A glorious barge, with purple sails, was summoned to be rowed
Up and down the River Nile, wherever the river flowed.
With gongs and trumpets sounding out so everyone could hear,
The Pharoah and his entourage declared that they were near.
Rhodopis, wandering on her own, saw the barge float by
And she hid among the rushes for she suddenly felt shy.
'Every girl must try this shoe!' came the proclamation,
'For Pharoah will marry the girl it fits, though lowly be her station.'
Rhodopis' fellow servant-girls rushed to the water-side,
Eager to try the slipper on and become a Pharoah's bride.
They pushed, they pulled, they dragged at it, but all to no avail.
Their feet were broad and ugly and every one would fail.
Then Amasis spied a lovely girl hiding among the rushes,
And she was coaxed out in the sun, beautiful in her blushes.
And, lo, the slipper fitted! She was all a man could crave,
Although the other servants cried 'She's nothing but a slave!'
The Pharoah then responded, 'She's all that she should be;
She is a perfect Egyptian as far as I can see.
For her hair is like golden papyrus, her skin like a lotus flower,
And her eyes are the green of the River Nile, as it shines at the sunset hour.'
So Rhodopis reached into her tunic, pulled the other slipper out,
And when she stood there fully dressed the courtiers raised a shout.
'All praise to the great god Horus, who has brought us a lovely queen!'
And Amasis said 'A beautiful girl with eyes of emerald green.'