One of the last things you see before you leave the Bata Shoe Museum is a comment and suggestion box where we encourage people to share their thoughts on the things they've seen during their visit. One comment which we see on a regular basis relates to an area in our All About Shoes exhibition dedicated to one of the most famous shoe stories of all time - Cinderella. There is a debate surrounding this fairy tale that many people ask about. While there are many versions of Cinderella that differ through time and culture, the one most familiar to Western culture was written by Charles Perrault in 1697. Some think that the Perrault version of the fairy tale suffered a mistranslation and Cinderella's famous glass slipper was actually a fur shoe in the original telling of the story. This is a question that is also a source of much conversation on the internet, so we thought we'd ask Bata Shoe Museum Senior Curator Elizabeth Semmelhack to weigh in on the debate.
"Some suggested that Perrault's Cinderella wore a fur shoe rather than a glass one, arguing that the French term verre (glass) was a mistranslation of the term vair (fur) and noting that fur slippers were highly valued in the past. But all aspects of dress in Perrault's story were pointedly contemporary, and fur slippers were not in fashion at the end of the 16th century. Furthermore, when the slipper is place on Cinderella's foot, it is proclaimed to fit as though it were made of wax - meaning it was absolutely form fitting. The rigidity and individual fit achievable through a bespoke (as it were) glass slipper moulded exactly to Cinderella's foot would have confirmed her identity. A fur slipper would have had "give" and would have fit any number of people."
Whatever you think of Cinderella's choice of footwear, because this fairy tale has a shoe as one of it's stars, it is always a topic of interest to Museum visitors. We are happy to be able to show visitors that this version that we know and love is just one of the many cultural variations of this story that has delighted children all over the world. Next time you visit "All About Shoes" make sure you take a minture to learn about Korean Cinderella, Dutch Cinderella and Egyptian Cinderella!