Red Shoes for a Real Princess
Marilyn A. Kinsella
Once when time was and was not, there was a beautiful pair of red shoes in the cobbler’s window. They were gleaming with crisp red bows and shiny brass buckles. The cobbler was so pleased with shoes that he placed them on a plush white cushion away from the common, ordinary shoes.
“These shoes belong on the feet of a princess!” the cobbler proudly declared. But no princess came to that part of the village and no princess came into the cobbler’s shop.
The shoes began to believe the cobbler’s words. “We are so pretty - much too pretty to be stuck in this window with plain shoes. We belong on the feet of a princess where we can hop, skip, and dance all day.”
One day the cobbler left the door open to air out the store. “Now is our chance,” thought the shoes. They quickly hopped off the pillow and onto the floor.
The cobbler saw the shoes and yelled, “Come back!” But the shoes were already out the door.
As they tip-tapped along the cobblestone streets the shoes thought, “Now we shall find the princess and true happiness. For only a real princess can appreciate our beauty.”
They went tip-tip-tapping along until they came to the corner of two busy roads. There stood a calliope. The hurdy-gurdy man was filling the streets with the music of tiny bells. The shoes felt like they were inside a music box. The sound of the music filled their soles.
A funny monkey dressed in a red uniform greeted the shoes with a tip of its pill box hat…and they began to dance.
“Flip-flop, zippity tap
Tip-top zippity zap!”
…went the monkey and the shoes.
Soon a crowd gathered around. They laughed and threw gold coins. The shoes flushed an even deeper red as they finished with a fancy flourish. Such fun!
Afterwards, the man counted his money. “We have done well today, my little ones. But tomorrow - tomorrow we will do even better!”
Sadly the shoes knew there would be no tomorrow. For although they liked dancing, they could not be happy until they were on the feet of the lovely princess.
So, while the hurdy-gurdy man and his monkey slept, the red shoes softly tippy-toed-tapped away in search of the palace.
Towards evening they stopped in their tracks when they saw a juggler. He was magnificent! He juggled colored balls, and plates, and even fiery sticks. When he saw the red shoes, he scooped them up and threw them high into the air
Higher and higher they went…
whirling and twirling
twisting and turning
…until they looked as if they were dancing with the stars. So beautiful! Peoples stopped and pointed. They “oohed” and “ahhed” and placed gold coins at the juggler’s feet.
“The perfect juggling act. We will make many people happy.”
While the juggler gathered his things, the shoes slipped away. For although it was exciting to dance with the stars, they knew they could not be happy until they were with the princess.
As they went down one street and up the other, they finally came to the road that led to the castle. They began to tip-tip-tapping even faster as visions of dancing on the feet of the princess paved their way to the palace door.
Soon they were at the gate. Two guards in furry black hats looked straight ahead. They did not even see the shoes as they waltzed toward the door. With a one-two-three they knocked loudly until the servant opened it. While the servant looked out to see who was there, they slipped inside.
Once inside they soft-shoed along the plush red carpet until they came into the throne room. When the king saw the shoes, he bellowed, “What is this? What are these shoes doing at the foot of the royal throne?”
The dream of ever seeing the princess began to slip away.
The jester, who was as quick on his feet as he was with his answers, bowed low before the king. He said, “Why, your majesty, I do believe these are the shoes for her royal highness the princess. Is it not her birthday tomorrow? Is it not true that you always give her the first gift?”
“Bravo, Jester! You are right. Take these shoes and wrap them in royal paper befitting a real princess.”
Early the next morning, the king brought the gift to his beautiful daughter. It was the first gift - the first of many on this happy day.
When the princess opened the present, she smiled and hugged the king. “Oh, Father, how did you know? These shoes are a perfect match for my party dress.”
The handmaids helped the princess with her party dress. It was lovely - rows of white lace frillies and a red satin sash. When the princess slipped on the shoes, she could not help but dance and curtsy before the mirror.
All day long shoe wore those shoes. They tapped a snappy tune as they came down the spiral staircase. That evening they were proudest of all when the king came over to take his daughter’s hand. As they danced the first dance at her royal birthday ball, the shoes did not miss a step. They did not know that they could be so happy.
At the end of the day, they were put away in the princess’s closet. There in the darkened space, they could see other shoes - elegant shoes…silver inlaid boots, gold sequined sandals, and even blue velvet slippers set with sparkling diamonds. Next to these shoes they felt quite plain and ordinary.
Day after day the shoes waited for the princess to return. She never returned. They were soon pushed to the back of the closet where they were quite forgotten.
One day the closet door opened wide. In a flurry of dust a woman dressed in a starched white uniform collected all the unused dresses and shoes. She threw them in a large box. Now the shoes had heard rumors - ugly rumors about dumps and second-hand shops and - horror of all horrors - fires!
The shoes knew they had no time to lose. While the lady in white was not looking, they hopped down out of the box and escaped through the first open door.
Once they were outside, they scooted down the hill and back to the village. Perhaps it was not too late to find the juggler or the hurdy-gurdy man. They looked, but the streets were many and the weather had turned cold. They could find no one.
It began to snow. At first the shoes liked the snow. They thought it would be fun to skate on the ice and dance among the snow drops. After all, it always looked to pretty from the cobbler’s window. The snow reminded them of the soft warm cushion where the cobbler had so proudly displayed them. But this snow was not warm. It was cold - bitterly cold. It was not long before the shoes began to shiver and shake.
“Why, oh why did we ever leave?” thought the shoes.
Hours passed and they found themselves in a corner of the cobblestone street. Someone had come along and kicked them into the gutter. They sat there feeling sorry for themselves. They were no longer beautiful, but scoffed and wrinkled. Their bows began to droop, and their shiny brass buckles were scratched and rusted. It was not long before the shoes filled with the slush from carriages passing by.
The shoes were beginning to feel that all was lost, when a gloved hand reached down and pulled them out of the gutter.
“What do we have here?” smiled an old woman. Her eyes danced a mischievous jig when she discovered the shoes.
Inside the warm cottage the old woman cleaned out the snow and ice. She took a wet cloth and gently rubbed the shoes until they glistened with a ruby glow. She took off the bows and ironed them until they were crisp. Last of all she polished the brass buckles until they mirrored the dancing firelight. "Now, you're ready."
What happened next surprised the red shoes. The old woman placed the shoes on the fireside hearth. There the shoes waited until the light of dawn.
The next morning was St. Nicholas Day.
The old woman went into her granddaughter’s room. “Wake up, my little princess. I do believe we had a visitor during the night.”
Jane Ellen had to rub the sleep from her eyes twice to make sure she was not dreaming. “Oh, Granny, what beautiful shoes! And look what St. Nicholas brought...candy!
Jane Ellen put those shoes on her feet. Together they hopped, and skipped, and danced with the stars. And as for the shoes…their dearest wish came true.
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