Originally a Grimm tale.
Once upon a time there was a poor little orphan girl who had been living on the streets since her parents died, begging barefoot to passersby.
The wife of a shoemaker felt sorry for the little girl and gave her a pair of red shoes to wear.
At least now she need not beg barefoot.
One cold, cold day, the little girl was in the village square wearing her red shoes when a carriage passed by.
The lady in the carriage felt so sorry for the little girl that she took her home with her.
She gave the little girl something to eat, a warm bed and a place to stay forever.
The little girl was so happy that she danced and she danced.
In fact, she loved her new life so much that she would dance with her own reflection in the mirror.
Until one day, she had worn out her new shoes.
“Go and buy yourself a new pair of shoes,” said the little old lady.
“Make sure you buy sensible shoes mind!” she called; but the little girl didn’t listen.
Instead of buying sensible shoes to go to school and to church in, she bought new red dancing shoes.
Then one day, the sweet old lady turned ill: right on the day of a big festival in the village.
The little girl had been looking forward to the festival very much, so she waited until the lady was asleep, and crept out of the house in her new red dancing shoes.
She danced and danced and danced; until the clock struck twelve.
“Oh no!” thought the little girl.
“The dear little old lady won’t be better quite yet and I must get home.”
But however hard she tried, she could not get home.
The shoes stuck to her feet and kept on dancing, and dancing, and dancing: and they took her all across the land.
Perhaps the shoes have forgotten how to get home...
The Dancing Shoes
Before the music starts sometimes the story behind the shoes is played. This dialogue is however in Dutch. Please find the translation below for your benefit.
A long time ago there was a little girl who was so poor that she always had to walk barefoot.
When Karen’s mother died, she came to live with a sweet old lady. She liked this very much.
She got new clothes and new shoes for the first time. A rich shoemaker from the city made her beautiful red patent leather shoes.
On a Sunday, she went to church with her new red shoes. All the people looked at her. "Red shoes in church?! "They said to each other. That just won’t do. In front of the church stood a soldier with a long beard. He did not like vain girls and said, "Those are beautiful dancing shoes but they are no good for church. They are for dancing. ". Karen could not resist trying a few dance steps. But what happened? Her shoes kept on dancing. Continually. The old lady’s coachman had to lift her into the carriage and take off her shoes for her.
One day the old lady was taken ill. But Karen did not care for that sweet old lady. No, she went instead to a grand ball. She put on her red shoes and immediately they started to dance. She danced her way out of the room and out into the world. Karen could not stop. The shoes were dancing and dancing. And Karen was so tired.
How long she danced we do not know. A day, a week? But one day she danced her way past a small house. In it lived an executioner. "Take my shoes!" yelled Karen. "I will do just that" said the executioner. He took his ax and chopped the shoes of her feet. Karen ran as fast as she could back to the old lady. But the shoes danced on into the world.
Look. Here they are dancing still.
A video of the event with english subtitles.
The translation in a handy PDF
A handy audio file of the translation
A compilation of all the translations of all the audio stories you may come across in the Efteling.