Tales to Tell
'I wept because I had no shoes, until I saw a man who had no feet.' - Ancient persian saying
The earliest known shoes were sagebrush sandals, which were found in Fort Rock Cave, Oregon the USA. Later shoes became more stylish and were wrought from a single piece of laced cowhide. As time went on, the design of shoes began to morph and evolve, adapting to such things as climate, terrain, culture and ideas of fashion. Shoes have also featured and been part of many stories throughout history, and stories like shoes started off with simple, practical intentions, becoming more diverse and elaborate as time went along.
'The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.' - Carl Jung
In Early Times
Exodus 3:5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
Ezekiel 24:17 "Sigh, but not aloud; make no mourning for the dead. Bind on your turban, and put your shoes on your feet; do not cover your lips, nor eat the bread of men.”
The idea behind performing acts of worship with shoes off, seems to have come from the Greeks, as according to Pythagoras, standing on holy ground bare foot, without shoes, brings us closest to the divine. The passage from Ezekiel however, tells us how walking barefoot was a sign of grief ; the purpose of the passage is to convey the message, not to mourn.
'One ,two,buckle my shoe.' - Nursery rhyme
Shoes have featured in many common fairy tales. The roots of theses fairy tales seem to be very old, oral folk tales, which perhaps may even go back to cave drawings in origin. Many of theses tales were dark and quite Gothic, seeming to have moral or ethical messages, whilst scaring the living day lights out of us (or was that just me?). The Red Shoes by Hans Christian Andersen, has clear biblical inspirations, warning the reader against vanity in the form of the seemingly demonically possessed red shoes. Once the poor girl slips on this fiery footwear, she begins to dance and cannot stop. However she begs to have her feet cut off and seeks then to enter a church on her wooden blocks, to find the dancing shoes have beat her there.
Hans Christian Anderson uses shoes again in his not so well-known story, The Girl Who Trod on the Loaf, which again features a vain young girl. In this story, the lass must decide if she will get her shoes muddy, or use the loaf as a stepping stone to protect them. The loaf of bread which was bought with the families last sixpence. The girl, as many a guileless young person might, pops the bread in the puddle to protect her shoes and is sucked down to a nightmare nether world.
Then close your eyes and tap your heels together three times. And think to yourself, “There’s no place like home” - The Wizard of Oz
What about Dorothy's ruby slippers in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which symbolise power and in this case, the power shift from the dead Wicked Witch of the East, to Dorothy, via the Good Witch of the North. Shoes are of course very important in the fairy tale Cinderella, as it is by finding the glass slipper, that the handsome prince is able to find Cinderella and free her from oppression by marrying her.
Many other stories have made reference to shoes, like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, when Tweedledum and Tweedledee recite in nonsensical fashion:
'The time has come,' the walrus said, 'to talk of many things: of shoes and ships - and sealing wax - of cabbages and kings.'
In the wonderful, wacky words of Dr Seuss:
'You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who'll decide where to go.'
And what of the sage words of the lovely Forrest Gump, who for me is much more interesting in the book, than the film:
'Momma always says there’s an awful lot you can tell about a person by their shoes. Where they’re going. Where they’ve been.' - Forest Gump
Today shoes come in many shapes and sizes, for many purposes. You can buy shoes for ballet, tennis, rock climbing, walking in snow, or dancing. If you fancy you can totter about in some sky-high stilettos, or pop on a quaint pair of Mary Jane's. Stories are just as diverse, ever-changing, ever evolving, no longer just utilitarian. Shoes however are still used symbolically, as in the novel (and film) The Devil Wears Prada or In Her Shoes, a film starring Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette. Shoes it seems, are very much part of our human story.