"A library book, I imagine, is a happy book." Cornelia Funke

"Everything puts me in mind of a story." Ben Franklin

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Yeh-Shen: a Cinderella Story from China

Yeh-Shen: a Cinderella Story from China retold by Ai-Ling Louie, Illus. by Ed Young, 1982.

This Cinderella story dates from the T'ang dynasty (618-907 A.D.) and precedes European versions of the tale. It contains the kind, ill-treated orphan girl, her cruel stepmother and favored stepsister. There is the equivalent of a ball (spring festival) and royalty to marry. Yet, there are different and interesting details as well. Yeh-Shen does not receive help from a fairy godmother or a tree on her mother's grave. Instead, her aid comes from the bones of her only friend, a fish that she raised and loved, who was murdered by her vicious stepmother. The spirit of the bones answers Yeh-Shen's daily requests for food, keeping her alive until the festival, when it provides her with a cloak of kingfisher feathers, an azure blue gown and magic golden slippers for her miraculously tiny feet. And you know the rest.

Ed Young's magical illustration's are done in pastels and watercolor and each somehow incorporates the fish as part of the design (See Yeh-Shen's festival clothes, above). He uses glowing jewel colors, as in the picture of the stepmother comforting her daughter while Yeh-Shen works. The background is the magenta scales of the fish, and the woman's robes are patterned with purple, turquoise, green and garnet. Her golden bangles seem to shine.

Fairy tale devotees should be sure to add this lovely Cinderella story to their book list!

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