6th April 2011
2 of 2
A peasant girl named Karen is adopted by a rich old lady after her mother’s death, and grows up vain and spoiled. Before her adoption Karen had a rough pair of red shoes, and now she tricks her adoptive mother into buying her a pair of red shoes fit for a princess. Karen repeatedly wears them to church, without paying attention to the service. She ignores the anger of her adopted mother and disapproving stares that even the holy images seem to express at her wearing red shoes in church. Her adoptive mother becomes ill, but Karen deserts her, preferring to attend a party in her red shoes. A mysterious soldier appears and makes strange remarks about what beautiful dancing shoes Karen has. Soon after, Karen begins to dance and she can’t stop. The shoes take over; she cannot control them and they are stuck to her feet. The shoes continue to dance, through fields and meadows, rain or shine, night and day, and through brambles and briars that tear at Karen’s limbs. She can’t even attend her adoptive mother’s funeral. An angel appears to her, bearing a sword, and condemns her to dance even after she dies, as a warning to vain children everywhere. Karen begs for mercy but the red shoes take her away before she hears the angel’s reply. Karen finds an executioner and asks him to chop off her feet. He does so but the shoes continue to dance, even with Karen’s amputated feet inside them. The executioner gives her a pair of wooden feet and crutches, and teaches her the criminals’ psalm. Thinking that she has suffered enough for the red shoes, Karen decides to go to church in order for the people to see her. However her amputated feet, still in the red shoes, dance before her, barring the way. The following Sunday she tries again, thinking of herself at least as good as the others in church, but again the dancing red shoes bar the way. Karen gets a job as a maid in the parsonage, but when Sunday comes she dares not go to church. Instead she sits alone at home and prays to God for help. The angel reappears, now bearing a spray of roses, and gives Karen the mercy she asked for: it is as though the church comes home to her and her heart becomes so filled with sunshine, peace, and joy that it bursts. Her soul flies on sunshine to Heaven, and no one there mentions the red shoes.