Núlì gōngzhǔ (The Slave Princess)
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Once upon a time, a chief named Bojing married two wives and each gave birth to a child. The chief and one wife died leaving baby, Chun, to be reared by her stepmother. However, the stepmother did not like Chun for she was more beautiful than her own daughter.
She was given horrible jobs and the only friend she had was a beautiful fish with golden eyes. Chun's stepmother soon heard about the fish, enticed the fish from the water and stabbed it with a dagger. Chun cried on the river bank until an old man with coarse clothes and long grey hair told her the bones of fish were magical and when she was in need to kneel before the bones and tell them of her heart's desires. She was warned not to waste the gifts and hid the bones in her room.
Time passed and the spring festival neared. This was the time when the young people of the village gathered to find their husbands and wives. Chun desperately wanted to go but her stepmother would not allow it because she feared someone would choose Chun over her own daughter.
Longing to go to, she asked the bones for clothes to wear to the festival. Suddenly she was wearing a beautiful azure blue gown with a cloak of kingfisher feathers draped over her shoulders. On her feet she wore dazzling slippers woven from golden threads in a pattern of fish scales and soles of solid gold. The bones warned her not to lose the slippers.
When Chun arrived at the festival all eyes were on her.The daughter and stepmother instantly recognised the gorgeous girl and stepped forward to confront her. Chun realised what would happen and dashed out of the festival, leaving behind one of her slippers. She arrived home dressed in her rags and placed the other slipper in a bed of hay. A merchant sold the second shoe to the king, who claimed the owner of the shoe was to be his wife.
The king sent men to search the kingdom for his bride but no ones foot could fit the tiny golden slipper. He placed the shoe in the pavilion and announced the shoe was to be returned to the owner. Chun went to the pavilion to take back her shoe when she was caught by the kings men. The king was furious that she took it until she presented him with the second shoe of the pair. He was dazzled by her beauty and they were married the next month.
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