Discovering the past can be a hard and daunting process. History is like a puzzle that has to be assembled piece by piece. Historians and archaeologists try their hardest to discover these pieces, to put them together and obtain answers to their questions. However, sometimes things go wrong and misconceptions appear. Many events that had been passed down as true have eventually been proved false. Here are three of the most common historical misconceptions.
1. “Let them eat cake”
Most movies and stories featuring Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, quote her as saying: “S’ils n’ont plus de pain, qu’ils mangent de la brioche.” (“If they have no bread, let them eat brioche/cake”). It is believed that from her statement, a law was given in order to protect people from ruthless bakers who did not want to bake cheap bread in order not to lose money. Bakers who sold all their cheap bread were forced to sell their egg and butter bread (such as brioche) at a very low price. The statement also shows the speaker’s lack of awareness of the condition of the people.
However, the quote attributed to the Queen of France is one of the most common historical misconceptions. In reality, it was not Marie Antoinette who said this. When she was nine year old, this saying was mentioned by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in “Confessions” in the following way: “I recalled the make-shift of a great princess who was told that the peasants had no bread and who replied: ‘Let them eat brioche’. “ Rousseau does not mention who was the princess.
2. Witches were burned at the stake in Salem
Everyone heard of the infamous witch trials in Salem during 17th century in colonial Massachusetts. If we ask a person on the street in USA what happened to the witches of Salem, s/he will most likely say they were burned at the stake. However, this is not true! Twenty people were sentenced to death, sixteen women and four men, but none of them were burned at the stake. Instead, they were all hanged.
3. Cinderella wore glass slippers
When they are little, girls listen with rapt attention to the tale of Cinderella and her glass slippers. They envision themselves at the ball, in a beautiful gown, with the famous slippers in their feet. However, the story is the victim of a misconception. The oldest versions of the tale, those from the 9th century, tell us that Cinderella actually wore a magical ring or slippers made of gold or silver. In none of the old tales are the slippers made of glass.
The earliest French version say that Cinderella wore pantoufles en vair, or “slippers of white squirrel fur.” However, after the word vair disappeared from the French language, Charles Perrault mistook vair with verre which means glass. Therefore, when he wrote “Cendrillon,” his version of the tale, the main character started wearing glass slippers.
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