Cinderella #341 Ye Xian (As Told by Aunt Baba) Yen Mah, A. (1999)
|A little golden shoe.|
Once upon a time, in China, there lived a little girl named Adeline. Although she possessed the same spark of cosmic energy present in every human being,this wasn't recognized by her family. Her poor mother had died in birthing Adeline, and her father had remarried. This second wife was cruel in many ways. Not the least of these was depriving her step-daughter of sufficient food and clothing, while treating her own two children to a glut of treats. Adeline was beaten, forbidden to have friends, ridiculed, and sent into harm's way by her father. Eventually she is dumped into an orphanage, rescued by a kind step-aunt, and then shipped to boarding school. After enduring years of emotional brutality, she receives a letter from her beloved Aunt Baba. This dear advocate had been forbidden contact with Adeline for more than six years. The letter told her that Aunt Baba thought of her daily, treasured her existence, and encouraged her to strive to reach greatness. She included, as encouragement, this story:
Long ago, "in the Tang dynasty in China" there lived a little girl named Ye Xian. "Her father had two wives and two daughters, one by each wife." Sadly, Ye Xian's mother soon died, while the other wife lived. This woman hated Ye Xian and favored her own daughter. She often deprived her step-daughter of sufficient food and clothing and gave all of the best to her own child. Now, "Ye Xian was a talented potter" and made the most beautiful, shapely dinnerware around. People came from far and near to buy her pots which had "a special sheen". The sheen came from the love of Ye Xian's only friend, a goldfish. For years the girl had nurtured the creature. But one day, Ye Xian's stepmother "became jealous, caught the fish, and ate it, hiding the fish bones in a pile of manure." When the girl found the bones and carried them back to her potting studio, they "gave off magical rays that imparted" that oh-so special glow to the glaze. It happened one day that "a great festival was to be held". Of course, Ye Xian's stepmother would not let her go. The girl merely waited until this wicked woman and her spoiled daughter was gone, then "dressed herself in a beautiful cloak of kingfisher feathers and a pair of gold shoes that were light and elegant." Then she went to the festival. She was having a marvelous time, being flattered by "a local warlord ,who was much struck by her beauty", when it happened! Her stepmother saw her! Ye Xian fled, successfully ditching her stepmother but losing one of her golden shoes. The warlord found the shoe, and, by methodically trying it on the feet of every girl in the village, found Ye Xian and married her. "Through her own talent and effort, Ye Xian had bought the shoes that led eventually" to living happily ever after.
From: Yen Mah, A. (1999) Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter. New York: Random House Children's Books http://adelineyenmah.com/
Notes: I am a big fan of Adeline Yen Mah, and highly recommend her other books: Falling Leaves and Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society. As for the way that her biography parallels the Cinderella story it is very sad. What kind of spineless fish of a man would let his own child be treated so cruelly by a stepwife? Why was he so cruel to his own spawn? I would judge him and ignorant, brutish man, no matter the excuse he would surely offer if able. Even though many years later he would pay for Adeline to go to college in England, partially redeeming himself, the harm to her spirit had already been done. The pain and anguish which he heaped upon Adeline might instead have been joy and companionship, were his personality not so pitifully weak and warped. Brava, brava, brava to Adeline Yen Mah for overcoming her own "toxic family".