Once upon a time, I read fairy tales.
As a child I learned that shoes are magical objects. Shoes punish and reward, elevate and entrap, speed and hinder, through their powers and transformative possibilities. Shoes enchanted me enough to become a shoemaker and then continue to write on their cultural resonances. I am happily under the spell of shoes – and I am not alone. In tales from Ireland to Canada, India to Iceland, wondrous shoes render their owners invisible, carry them over the sea, let them sing their way through the snow, elicit love, choose the right road and even approve judicial decisions.

A large part of their tale-enhancing power comes from shoes’ ability to mediate between feet and the ground they tread. The most magical fictional shoes are those that lift their
wearers highest above the earth: flying, dancing, running or transported to divine realms.
As well as being physical, the elevation can be social or spiritual – above the quotidian. Yet an inherent ambivalence attends enchanted shoes. Greek god Hermes’s winged sandals take him both to the heavens and to the underworld, in his role as conductor of souls, or psychopomp.

Shoes are motifs for childhood innocence and protection, yet certain footwear also has potent erotic connotations. Feminine fairy-tale shoes are correctional and passive when compared with their masculine counterpoints, dashing about actively. All such states of transition and
opposition emphasize magical shoes’ importance to journeys, or thresholds between worlds or
states of being. The transformation is the journey; the journey transforms.