Buy Cinderella of the Nile
On the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, it’s hard to think of a story as unfashionable as that of Cinderella. In his 2015 film, Kenneth Branagh meant to portray his heroine as ‘strong and independent’ – only to be hit with a backlash when his star, Lily James, admitted she had been on a liquid diet to fit into Cinderella’s corsets. But in this delightful retelling of an ancient Greek variant by Beverley Naidoo, our heroine wins the day without a fairy godmother or a fancy frock.
Our heroine is actually called Rhodopis, a Greek girl born ‘long, long ago’ with ‘eyes like sapphires’ and hair ‘the colour of the finest sunset’. Rhodopis is no bra burner: ‘She collected water from the well, fed the chickens and did everything her parents asked with a smile. ‘You are our treasure!’ They said’. But when she is snatched by bandits and taken to Egypt to be sold as a slave, she shows her steel. ‘Blow wind, blow./I promise to strong.’ She sings to herself as the waves batter her ship – and when her fellow slave girls torment her, rubbing sand into her food, her resolve only grows. ‘Blow wind, blow,/Watch me bend, not break!’ Rather than moping in the slave hut, she is soon dancing by the banks of the Nile – and weaving her spell on the Pharaoh.
Africa has inspired much of Naidoo’s fiction. As a student, she was arrested for campaigning against Apartheid, and her first book, Journey to Jo’burgh (1985), about two children under the regime, was banned in South Africa until 1991. The Other Side of Truth (2000) a tale of Nigerian political refugees, won the Carnegie. Cinderella of the Nile – illustrated by Marjan Vafaeian – is another such story of triumph over adversity. It’s not exactly a feminist anthem, but perhaps a retelling of Cinderella was never going to be. Instead, Naidoo gives an ancient heroine a modern feel.
- Read Beverley Naidoo’s, author of Cinderella of the Nile, response to our Fairy Tale campaign
- Check out this introduction to the One Story, Many Voices series by Tiny Owl publisher Delaram Ghanimifard
- Read Cinderella of the Nile named ‘One to Watch’ by The Bookseller
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