by John Stoehr
Richard Zacks, in entertaining book An Underground Education, suggests that the story of Cinderella is derived from an ancient Egyptian story that itself is really about a foot fetish. The original German fairy tale supports that notion with its graphic description of what was then called a pianelle, or 18-inch-high cork-soled galosh that Renaissance women used to wear to keep their dresses free from mud.
What? No glass slipper? Sorry, no. The real Cinderella would have lost one of these Freudian disco monsters as she scurried away before the clock struck midnight. The dashing prince, therefore, would have clutched this massive thing, saying (quoted in Zacks): "You [that is, the pianelle] used to hold a white foot, now you have caught a wounded heart; thanks to you, she who dominates my heart stood a handsbreath and a half [about 13 inches] taller, so shall my life grow in sweetness so long as I guard and possess you."
I talk about this and more (Thomas Kuhn's theory of paradigm shift, Shakespeare's penis puns, Chaucer's fart jokes, Mark Twain's Science of Onanism, and John Milton's "excremental whiteness") in my feature on La Cenerentola. These days, of course, we have Photoshop. The prince only had his imagination. One has to wonder, though, what kind of story it might have been had the prince seen this.