Cinderella of the Nile

Illustrated by Marjan Vafaeian

‘Blow wind, blow,
I promise to be strong.
Watch me bend, not break,
with my little song!’

In this earliest known version of Cinderella, a rosy-cheeked girl called Rhodopis is captured in the mountains of Greece. She is sold in Samos, where wise storyteller Aesop befriends her.

Sold again in Egypt, she is given a pair of rose-red slippers. But when Horus the Falcon sweeps in to steal a slipper, Rhodopis has little idea that this act will lead her to the King of Egypt.

Splendidly illustrated by award-winning Iranian artist Marjan Vafaeian, this is the first in Tiny Owl’s series One Story, Many Voices.

I still have my childhood copy of the Blue Fairy Book with its ‘Cinderella and The Little Glass Slipper’. It’s the version with the fairy godmother and the pumpkin, first written in French by Charles Perrault in 1697. A small label inside the cover shows that it was bought for me at the ‘People’s Bookshop’ in Johannesburg, the city where I grew up. The book was published in London in 1949 and my copy must have travelled soon afterwards on a boat to South Africa.

Books and stories are wonderful ways of ‘mind travel’. My Blue Fairy Book didn’t say where Cinderella lived but the illustrations suggested somewhere in Europe long ago. I was a child living 6000 miles away but I could still imagine being her. That’s why stories are powerful. They take us into other people’s lives.

However, at the time, my mind was still travelling inside a bubble. It was a ‘European bubble’ in which most of the ideas, pictures and words were shaped in Europe. Today, there are many more books and stories that allow children to hear voices from around the world and that encourage them to move beyond a single story.
– From One Story, Many Voices by the Author

…a splendid interpretation of the Egyptian folktale.
– Jack Zipes

A story of triumph over adversity…Naidoo gives an ancient heroine a modern feel.
– Emily Bearn, Daily Telegraph

Beverley Naidoo’s poetic re-telling places the Cinderella story on a global map whilst Marjan Vafaeian’s jewel-like illustrations, delicate and patterned as Rodophis’ lost slipper, transport the reader on a visual odyssey of Rhodopis’ life. It left me with the image of a thread of storytelling unravelling from the present day to ancient times and back again. This is an original retelling of an old, old story about a poor girl who is enslaved for her beauty, tragically as relevant in today’s world as it was in Aesop’s time.
– Sita Brahmachari

… absolutely stunning, with the most beautiful colourful illustrations far, far removed (thankfully) from the usual pink prim princessy type retellings that we usually see in Cinderella.
– Read It Daddy

…brings fresh new light and an engaging story with a difference… An unusual and engrossing version.
– Parents in Touch

… a truly gorgeous rendition of the story.[Marjan Vafaeian’s] stylised patterned landscapes in opulent shades of red, brown and green are stunning and a perfect complement to Beverley Naidoo’s fine telling.
–Jill Bennett, Red Reading Hub

…a jewel of a book that I hope will be widely read and enjoyed by children and adults alike.
– Karen Argent, The Letterpress Project

Read Beverley Naidoo on deciding to reweave the Cinderella story for Tiny Owl, here.

Listen to Jack Zipes, the great scholar of fairy tales, and Beverley Naidoo interviewed by Ann Lazim of CLPE (Centre for Language in Primary Education), here.