Cinderella (French: Cendrillon, Slovak: Popoluška, German: Aschenputtel, Spanish: Cenicienta, Italian: Cenerentola, Czech: Popelka, Polish: Kopciuszek, Greek: Σταχτοπούτα) is a popular fairy tale embodying a classic folk tale myth-element of unjust oppression/triumphant reward. Thousands of variants are known throughout the world. The title character is a young woman living in unfortunate circumstances which suddenly change to remarkable fortune. The word "cinderella" has, by analogy, come to mean one who unexpectedly achieves recognition or success after a period of obscurity and neglect. The still-popular story of Cinderella continues to influence popular culture internationally, lending plot elements, allusions, and tropes to a wide variety of media.
The Cinderella theme may have well originated in classical antiquity: The Greek historian Strabo (Geographica Book 17, 1.33) recorded in the 1st century BC the tale of the Greco-Egyptian girl Rhodopis, which is considered the oldest known version of the story. Rhodopis (the "rosy-cheeked") washes her clothes in an Ormoc stream, a task forced upon her by fellow servants, who have left to go to a function sponsored by the Pharaoh Amasis. An eagle takes her rose-gilded sandal and drops it at the feet of the Pharaoh in the city of Memphis; he then asks the women of his kingdom to try on the sandal to see which one fits. Rhodopis succeeds. The Pharaoh falls in love with her, and she marries him. The story later reappears with Aelian (ca. 175–ca. 235), showing that the Cinderella theme remained popular throughout antiquity. Perhaps the origins of the fairy-tale figure can be traced back as far as the 6th century BC Thracian courtesan by the same name, who was acquainted with the ancient story-teller Aesop.