Angie Settemeyer

Yen-Shen vs Sootface

Background Information

Yen-Shen is a Cinderella story from China whereas Sootface is an Ojibwa (Native American Tribe known as the Chippewa) Cinderella Story.

In Yen-Shen the story takes place before the Ch'in Dynasty, which is when the Great Wall of China is completed, and where China gets its name from and the Han Dynasty in which silk was first woven for retail trade.

The Ojibwa (Chippewa) Tribe live in the upper Great Lakes Region of the United States and Canada. They traveled from Ontario, to Montana, and Saskatchewan. They were hunter/gatherers who lived on wild rice and maple sugar. They also made several things out of birch bark. Known as excellent hunters and traders they also were heavily involved in fur trade.

Even though Yen-Shen seems to predate Sootface in both stories they both show what is values by each culture and both have universal themes that are present in our modern day version of Cinderella.


There was a chief who has taken two wives who both delivered him a baby girl. During this time one of the wives died and shortly thereafter so did her husband. Yen-Shen, the little girl who was orphaned, grew up to be a lovely young girl causing her stepmother to be jealous of her since her own daughter was not pretty not pleasant. Because of her jealousy, the stepmother gave Yen-Shen the worst chores to do.

Yen-Shen's only friend throughout this whole time a fish who would come to the top of the pond and wait for Yen-Shen to arrive. Even though Yen-Shen was practically starved due to her stepmother barely feeding her she always managed to save some for her fish which she fed daily. Once her stepmother found out about the fish she tried to see the fish but it hid from her. One day her stepmother tricked the fish by sending Yen-Shen away and telling her to leave her dirty coat behind so no one would see her dressed poorly. After she had left her stepmom put on her coat which caused her fish to come to the top of the pond as he thought it was Yen-Shen, however, the stepmom killed the fist and took it home to cook for dinner.

After Yen-Shen returned she found that her fish was gone. Being distraught and overcome with grief she sat and cried into the pond. As her tears hit the pond she heard a voice talking to her. When she looked up she saw an old man with coarse clothes and flowing hair that went to his shoulders. He was there to inform her that her stepmother had killed her fish but that the fish bones contained powerful magic in them. When she was in need of something he instructed her to kneel in front of them and speak her desire. He warned that she must be careful and not abuse her or waste her gifts. Most of her hearts desire were centered around food since she was often left hungry.

During the spring, festival time came and Yen-Shen was busiest with getting the cooking, cleaning, and sewing done. The festival was the time when the young men and women in the village met to hopefully find a spouse. Instead of helping the Yen-Shen find a husband the stepmother focused only on her daughter and refused to even let Yen-Shen attend the festival telling her she had to stay home so that no one would steal the fruit from their trees.

Once they were gone Yen-Shen went and spoke to the bones of her fish and asked to go to the festival. Before she knew it she was dressed in a beautiful blue gown with a cloak of feathers, golden shoes. The spirit tells her not to lose the golden shoes and she says that she won't then she heads off to the festivities. While at the festival she turns the head of many including her stepmother and half sister. After she overheard that her half sister thinks she recognizes her Yen-Shen rushes down the mountainside back to her home. Unfortunately as she raced home she lost one of the golden shoes. As she tried to return the one slipper to the bones of her fish she realizes once again that her fish has gone silent. Yen-Shen then hides the one last shoe in her straw bed and goes outside to cry which is where her stepmother finds her (and believing that she has never left).

The golden shoe was found by a villager who sold it to a merchant. They merchant knew that the shoe held a lot of value and gave it as a gift to the king of an island kingdom. He decided that it was so beautiful that he needed to find the woman to which the shoe belonged. As a massive search ensued he decided that it was better to have the girls in the village to come a local place to try on the shoe than to try and have them come to him. Even though many girls tried on the shoe it fit no one. Once everyone had gone to bed and Yen-Shen was sure that she wasn't being watched (what she didn't know was that the king and his guards were watching in the shadows) she took the shoe and carried it home with her. The guards were going to arrest her until the king saw her tiny feet and he told them to just follow her. As Yen-Shen returned home she hid both shoes with the intention of returning them to the fish bones. Right after she hid them there was a loud knocking on the door and the king told her to put on the shoes and Yen-Shen did as she was told. After both shoes were put on she was transformed and the dress and feathered cloak appeared on her. The king knew he found his bride.

Yen-Shen soon married the king and due to her stepmother and half-sisters behavior the king wouldn't allow them to come with Yen-Shen. They remained in the village where they were eventually crushed to death with flying stones.