French author of nonfiction, verse, verse tales, and fairy tales.
The following entry presents an overview of Perrault's career through 2006. For further information on his life and career, see CLR, Volume 79.
Writing in seventeenth-century France during the reign of King Louis XIV, Perrault is best remembered as the creator of the modern fairy tale. His greatest legacy is his collection Histoires, ou Contes du temps passé, avec des moralitez, (1697; Histories or Tales of Past Times; also published as Fairy Tales or Histories of Past Times, with Morals,) which contains some of the most enduring and widely recognized stories in all of Western literature, including "La Belle au bois dormant" ("Sleeping Beauty in the Woods"), "Cendrillon ou la petite pantoufle de verre" ("Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper"), "Le Maître chat ou le chat botté" ("The Master Cat, or Puss in Boots"), and "Le Petit chaperon rouge" ("Little Red Riding Hood"), among others. Translated into numerous languages and adapted by authors and artists of every medium, Perrault's fairy tales are considered among the most influential works in children's literature, having played an integral role in European folk culture for over three hundred years.
The youngest of five boys, Perrault was born on January 12, 1628, in Paris, France, to Pierre Perrault, a member of the Paris Parliament, and Pâquette Leclerc Perrault. He briefly attended the Collège de Beauvoir before dropping out, preferring to study poetry and philosophy on his own. In 1651 Perrault received a law degree and passed the bar, but soon grew disillusioned with the French legal system. He took a job as a clerk under his brother—a tax collector—in 1654, and began publishing poems in 1660. His work drew the attention of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, an aide to King Louis XIV, and Perrault was appointed artistic advisor to the royal court. After working for Colbert at the office of Royal Buildings, Perrault became a member of the Académie française, the official authority on French language and literature. He married Marie Guichon in 1672 and was promoted that same year to Controller of His Majesty's Buildings. When his wife died in 1678, Perrault was left with the task of raising and educating their four children. In 1687 Perrault caused an uproar within the Académie française with his poem Le Siècle de Louis le Grand, which argued that modern French culture was superior to classical antiquity. This controversial notion formed the central argument for what became known as the Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns, the cultural debate over whether classical or contemporary works should serve as literary models. Perrault's first verse tale, "La Marquise de Salusses ou la patience de Griselidis," based on a tale in Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron, was published in 1691. Perrault compiled five new tales in "Contes de ma mère l'oye" ("Tales of Mother Goose"), a manuscript which he presented to Louis XIV's nineteen-year-old niece Elisabeth-Charlotte d'Orléans in 1695. In 1697 he published Histoires, ou Contes du temps passé, avec des moralitez, which collected eight tales, including the five originally presented in his 1695 manuscript. Perrault died on May 15, 1703, while composing his memoirs.
Contes de fée, or fairy tales, became highly fashionable within the aristocratic salons of late seventeenth-century France. Finding the light verse which characterized the fairy tale well-suited to his talents as a poet, Perrault also saw the genre as a vehicle for his modern social and moral concerns. Thus, many of the story elements he created for the tales in Histoires, ou Contes du temps passé, avec des moralitez serve a didactic purpose, emphasizing the values of wisdom, virtue, and obedience. Each of the tales in the collection follows a similar structure, presenting a story in prose followed by a moral in verse form. Perrault borrowed basic motifs and plot elements from other documented folktales, including such works as The Arabian Nights and Giambattista Basile's Pentamerone to supplement his unique vision for the fairy tales. For example, the framework for the Cinderella story existed in multiple versions prior to 1697, but Perrault's "Cendrillon ou la petite pantoufle de verre" marks the first appearance of the fairy godmother, the pumpkin carriage, the midnight curfew, and the glass slipper. In earlier versions of "La belle au bois dormant," the princess is awakened after being raped by the prince, but Perrault's tale presents a morally sound prince who takes Sleeping Beauty as his wife. Other tales, such as "Le Petit chaperon rouge," "Le Maître chat ou le chat botté," and "Le Petite poucet" ("Little Thumb"), had been part of oral tradition and folklore before being recorded and adapted into their widely recognized forms by Perrault. Published in 1729, Robert Samber's English translation of Histoires, ou Contes du temps passé, avec des moralitez, Histories or Tales of Past Times, increased the popularity of Perrault's work throughout Europe and featured a reproduction of Perrault's original frontispiece to the 1697 edition. An illustration of a peasant woman reading to a group of children, this page introduced the image of "Mother Goose"—already familiar to the French audience—to English and American readers. Attesting to Perrault's significant contribution to the European folktale tradition, the Brothers Grimm selected Perrault's stories for inclusion in their landmark compilation of fairy tales, Kinder- und Hausmärchen, which was originally published in several volumes between 1812 and 1815.
The works which comprise Perrault's seminal volume of fairy tales have been embraced by—and thoroughly ingrained in—Western culture. Critical studies of his work have focused on his indispensable contribution to children's literature and the universal appeal of the fairy tale form. Scholars have examined the illustrations which accompanied early editions of Perrault's collection to explore notions of oral story-telling and the role of women within the folktale tradition. Additionally, critics have underscored themes and subtexts in Perrault's tales, identifying undercurrents of sexual desire, gender identity, and voyeurism in his stories despite their connotations of innocence and simplicity. While acknowledging that Perrault was but one of many authors publishing fairy tales during his lifetime, several scholars have credited the endurance of Perrault's tales to their adaptability to the popular pantomime stages of nineteenth-century England. Though his name may be unfamiliar to the generations of readers which have appreciated his stories, Perrault has left a lasting impression on the fairy tale genre. His work has been cited as the earliest example of children's literature and remains a source of critical interpretation and discovery.
Le Siècle de Louis le Grand (verse) 1687
Parallèle des anciens et des modernes, en ce qui regarde les arts et les sciences. 4 vols. (nonfiction) 1688-1697
L'Apologie des femmes (verse) 1694
Griselidis, nouvelle, avec le conte de Peau d'Ane et celui des Souhaits ridicules (verse tales) 1694
Histoires, ou Contes du temps passé, avec des moralitez (fairy tales) 1697; translated by Robert Samber as Histories or Tales of Past Times, 1729; revised as Fairy Tales or Histories of Past Times, with Morals, 1794
Contes de Ma Mère l'Oye, Histoires ou Contes du Temps Passé (Par le Fils de Monsieur Perreault) (fairy tales) 1698
Perrault's Popular Tales [edited by Andrew Lang] (fairy tales) 1888
Perrault's Tales of Mother Goose: The Dedication Manuscript of 1695 Reproduced in Collotype Facsimile. 2 vols. [edited by Jacques Barchillon] (fairy tales) 1956
Contes [edited by Gilbert Rouger] (fairy tales) 1967
Contes de Perrault: Fac-similé de l'édition originale de 1695-1697 (fairy tales) 1980
Contes [edited by Roger Zuber] (fairy tales) 1987
Contes [edited by Marc Soriano] (fairy tales) 1989
Cinderella: And Other Tales from Perrault [illustrations by Michael Hague] (fairy tales) 1989
Cinderella, Puss in Boots, and Other Favorite Tales [translated by A. E. Johnson] (fairy tales) 2000
Cinderella [retold and illustrated by Barbara McClintock] (fairy tales) 2005
Jacques Barchilon and Peter Flinders (essay date 1981)
SOURCE: Barchilon, Jacques, and Peter Flinders. "Perrault's Fairy Tales as Literature." In Charles Perrault, pp. 63-100. Boston, Mass.: Twayne Publishers, 1981.
[In the following essay, Barchilon and Flinders offer a critical overview of Perrault's most famous fairy tales from Histoires ou Contes du temps passé, discussing the status of the fairy tale genre in seventeenth-century France and the elements of the supernatural in each tale.]
I. Which Are the Fairy Tales of Perrault?
We have now reached the moment to present Perrault's most important contribution to world literature, his fairy tales, which have only been mentioned incidentally up to now. Let us first list them in the order of their publication. The list is impressive, if not large; and the reader will immediately recognize the familiar titles. There are eleven of them: Griselidis [Patient Griselda ], published in 1691 for the first time, not really a fairy tale; Les Souhaits ridicules [The Ridiculous Wishes, or The Three Wishes ], published in 1693; Peau d'Ane [Donkey-Skin ], published in 1694; these three first works are known as the verse tales. They were followed in 1697 by the more famous prose tales, the Histoires ou Contes du temps passé [Histories or Tales of Past Times ], familiar in both French and English as Contes de Ma Mère l'Oye [Tales of Mother Goose ].
Such a popular title is generally associated in English-speaking countries with nursery rhymes rather than with fairy tales; nevertheless, the English expression is simply a translation of the French and did not cross the Channel until the first translation of Perrault's tales appeared in England in 1729.
The prose fairy tales are: "La Belle au bois dormant" ["Sleeping Beauty" ], "Le Petit Chaperon rouge" ["Little Red Riding Hood" ], "Barbe bleue" ["Bluebeard" ], "Le Maître Chat ou le Chat botté" ["The Master Cat or Puss in Boots" ], "Les Fées" ["The Fairies" ], "Cendrillon ou la petite pantouffle de verre" ["Cinderella or The Little Glass Slipper" ], "Riquet à la houppe" ["Rickey with the Tuft" ], "La Petit Poucet" ["Tom Thumb, or Hop O'R My Thumb" ].
These stories were cast in enduring form by Charles Perrault long before the Brothers Grimm, in 1812, published their celebrated collection of folktales, in which most of the tales of Perrault appeared in German. They had crossed the Rhine through the first German translation of 1745, and through other oral channels.1 This chapter and the next will treat of the fairy tales of Perrault at length, as their importance warrants. There will be presentations of the stories in a literary as well as in a sociohistorical context. Most importantly, we will also account for the special circumstances in which fairy tales became popular in seventeenth-century France.2
II. What Are the Fairy Tales of Perrault?
It will be useful to have for handy reference simple summaries of each of Perrault's tales. We have tried to write these summaries in a style that neither repeats the stories lifelessly nor reduces them to mere skeletal outlines. We added no extraneous commentaries. A remark is necessary on the subject of Griselidis ; the story has no magical element. Nevertheless, Perrault included it in his collection of verse tales, considering it a Nouvelle (novella), a tale seemingly based on reality. But he considers the patience of Griselidis as so unusual in his time and day that he wrote in the dedication of the story, "That a Lady as patient / As the one I am praising here, / Would cause quite a surprise anywhere, / But in Paris would be considered a prodigy." Clearly, in his mind such a story tells of something long gone, a tale of passed times, as the very title of his collection of prose tales emphatically spells out.
We have added to our summaries a brief statement about each of the morals of the prose and verse tales, as they are rarely discussed in the criticism of Perrault published in English; furthermore, ignorance of their content amounts to a neglect of Perrault's own concept of his Contes. Our main intent in this section is to facilitate discussion by making our author's tales familiar. Of course, nothing replaces direct contact with the texts themselves. The salt, the wit of the language, in French or in English, cannot be savored in our summaries. And we should emphasize that these tales are among the shortest of fairy tales, a brevity they share with those of the Grimm Brothers.
A certain prince who believed that women were faithless and deceitful vowed that he would never marry. His subjects, however, wished for an heir and urged him to wed. He replied that he would, only on the condition that his future wife be without pride or vanity, patient and obedient, and with no will of her own.
One day while hunting the prince strayed from the main hunting party and came upon the most beautiful young lady he had ever seen, a shepherdess watching over her sheep by the edge of a stream. He learned that she lived alone with her father and that Griselda was her name. At the palace he called his council and announced that he would not choose a wife from a foreign country but from among his own people and that he would not give her name until the day of the wedding.
Great was the excitement among the ladies of the land. Knowing that he was looking for a chaste and modest wife, they all took to styles more suitable to his taste, softening their voices, letting their hair fall loosely around them, and putting on high-necked dresses with long sleeves, so that only their little fingers showed. Great preparations were made for the wedding, and when the day arrived, the prince rode off on the path he usually took to go hunting, his courtiers following behind. At length he came to Griselda's hut where he asked her to marry him. She consented, but not before he made her swear that she would never go against his wishes.
Griselda was the perfect queen, and she gave birth to a beautiful daughter, whom she loved dearly. But the prince suspected her behavior and put her to the test. He ordered that her child be taken from her and brought up apart. He sent the child to a convent to be brought up by nuns. Fifteen years passed and she grew into a beautiful young lady, and fell in love with a great nobleman and wished to marry him. The prince, however, told Griselda that her daughter had died. Griselda was greatly grieved but her only thought was to comfort her husband. The prince was pleased with her but yet put her to the test once again by announcing publicly that he must remarry in order to provide an heir to the throne. He had chosen for wife the girl he had brought up in the convent. Griselda returned, in rags, to her hut, but shortly thereafter the prince called her back again to the palace to make ready the rooms for his new bride.
When the wedding guests arrived, the prince announced that he had only been putting his wife to the test. He then freed his daughter to marry the nobleman and promised to think only of his wife's happiness and to proclaim her virtues to the world. The marriage was celebrated and all eyes were on Griselda, whose praises were sung above all others.
And the people had great admiration for the prince, forgiving him his cruelty to his wife, for it had given rise to such a model of patience. Perrault did not publish a separate moral at the end of this story. Instead he expounded on a few ideas in the introductory dedicatory letter to an unknown and unnamed "Mademoiselle." He ironically insisted that patience "Is not a virtue of Parisian wives, / But through a long experience they have acquired the Knack / Of teaching it to their husbands."
B. "Peau D'Ane"
There once lived a king who was the happiest of monarchs and dearly loved by his people. The queen was a most beautiful and virtuous princess. The daughter was lovely and full of charm, so much so that having more children did not matter to them.
One of the king's most prized and most unusual possessions was a donkey who had the place of honor in his magnificent stables; for this donkey, instead of dropping manure onto the straw, deposited gold coins which were collected each morning. One day the queen took ill and died. The king was overcome with grief. Before she died, the queen had made the king promise that, should he wish to remarry, he would marry only a princess more beautiful than she. The king vowed he would never marry again, but time, and his councillors, convinced him that he must re-marry in order to provide a male heir to the throne. He searched and searched throughout the kingdom but could not find a princess more beautiful than the queen to whom he had been married. He began to think that there was no more ravishing beauty than his own daughter, who was even more talented and delightful than her mother, and he decided to marry her. The young princess recoiled in horror at this thought and begged her father to reconsider. But the king was persistent and ordered her to make ready for the marriage.
For assistance the princess called upon her fairy godmother who suggested that she marry the king only if he could make for her a gown which was the color of the sky. The king, much flattered at her request, promptly produced a gown more beautiful even than the blue of the sky. A second gown was suggested by the fairy godmother, a gown the color of the moon, and a third, a gown as brilliant as the color of the sun. But the king had his tailors produce them as quickly as the first. So the fairy godmother proposed to put the king to the most terrible test of all: that he should sacrifice the skin of his gold-producing donkey if he truly wished to marry his daughter. To her dismay, the king dispatched the donkey in no time at all and delivered its skin to the princess. In desperation, she fled, with the donkey skin upon her back, as a disguise to a farm where she became a scullery maid. And so she became known as Donkey-Skin.
The only pleasure she had at the farm was on Sundays, when opening the trunk which her fairy godmother had magically transported for her, she would put on her beautiful gowns, one after the other, and admire herself in the mirror. One day a prince happened by and, having seen her through the keyhole of her cabin, fell madly in love with her, returned home to his palace, and stopped showing any interest in food or entertainment. He told his mother, the queen, that he would eat only a cake baked by Donkey-Skin, the ugly maid who looked after turkeys on a farm. The queen, thinking that her son's every whim, however irrational, must be satisfied, ordered that Donkey-Skin make a cake for the prince.
Donkey-Skin baked the cake, most willingly, as ordered, but in it hid her ring, hoping that the prince might discover it. The cake was brought back to the prince, who ate it most greedily, and almost choked on the ring. So delighted was he to find the ring that he kept it under his pillow. The prince did not want to displease his mother and father by marrying a peasant girl but, upon examining carefully the ring, they all agreed that it must surely fit the finger of a high-born lady. The king and queen acquiesced in the prince's request that he be allowed to marry the girl whose finger fitted the ring.
Throngs of princesses, duchesses, marquises, and baronesses arrived at the palace to try on the ring, but it would not fit the finger of any of them. The prince asked that Donkey-Skin be fetched so that she too might try on the ring. With shouts of ridicule the prince's men led her to the palace, covered in her donkey skin, underneath which, however, she had the foresight to put on one of her beautiful gowns. The ring fit perfectly and Donkey-Skin shed her ugly clothes to reveal a princess in all her beauty.
The king and queen were delighted about the marriage of their son to this beautiful princess. Great potentates from distant countries were invited, including Donkey-Skin's father, who, fortunately, had forgotten his misguided love for his daughter and was now very glad to be a happy parent at the wedding.
This story appeared framed by a dedication and by a statement or moral of twenty-four lines of verse at the end. The dedication to the marquise de Lambert contains the familiar defense of the fairy tale: "Why marvel / If the most rational of men, / Often tiring of insomnia, / Take pleasure in entertainment / Of ingeniously contrived day dreams / Tales of Ogres and fairies." As for the final moral it was a reminder that the purpose of the story is to:
That they should suffer the worse of troubles
Rather than fail in accomplishing their moral duties;
That the righteous path can bring about much misfortune
But eventually it crowns the virtuous with success.
The last verses of the moral have become well known in France. "Donkey-Skin is difficult to believe, / But so long as our world will bring forth children, / Mothers and grandmothers, / Her story will be remembered."
C. "Les Souhaits ridicules"
A woodcutter who wished to die because his life was so miserable was overheard by Jupiter, who took pity on him and promised to grant him any three wishes he made, whatever they might be. Overjoyed, he went home to his wife Fanchon and told her the good news. She told her husband they must think things over carefully and wait until morning to make their wishes. The husband, whose name was Blaise, agreed, had a good drink, stretched his legs in front of the fire and said, "I wish I had a nice big sausage to cook over this nice fire." A sausage appeared, snaking its way toward his wife. In anger Fanchon declared that only a stupid oaf could have made a wish like that. Her husband flew into a rage, saying, "To hell with this sausage! I wish it would stick to your nose!" And so it did.
Thinking of all the wondrous things he could wish in using his last wish, he asked Fanchon if she would prefer being a grand princess with a horrible nose, or whether she would rather remain a woodcutter's wife with the nose she had before. She preferred to be as she had been rather than an ugly queen.
And the woodcutter was, after all, only too glad to use his last wish to turn his wife back into her old self, which is what he did.
D. "La Belle au bois dormant"
There was once a king and queen who, grateful for finally giving birth to their first child, a girl, celebrated with a magnificent christening ceremony. As was customary, all the fairies in the realm attended, including one, who through an oversight, had not been invited. Feeling deliberately slighted, she cast an evil spell on the young princess: that she would die by pricking her finger on a spindle. One of the good fairies, however, counteracted this spell and decreed that the princess, instead of dying, would fall into a deep slumber lasting one hundred years.
As predicted by the fairies, the princess grew into a beautiful and talented young lady. But one day, high in a garret at the top of the tower, she met an old lady spinning at her wheel. The evil fairy's wish came true, in part: she pricked her finger on the spindle but, instead of dying, she fell into a hundred years' sleep, as did the entire castle. At the end of a hundred years, a young prince, adventurous and wishing for love and glory, arrived at the castle as the trees and bushes parted magically for him. As he approached the bed of the sleeping princess, she awoke, the spell having been broken, and declared, "Is it you, dear prince? You have been long in coming!" The entire castle awoke too and the young couple were married in the castle chapel. Two children were born of this union, Dawn, a girl, and Day, a boy.
The prince, however, kept his marriage a secret from his mother and father, who were king and queen of the realm in which he lived, and especially from his mother, who was descended from a race of ogres who loved to eat little children. The king died shortly and the prince ascended to the throne, whereupon he proclaimed publicly his marriage to Sleeping Beauty. Consequently, Sleeping Beauty and her two children came to reside at the palace of the queen mother. A few months later the prince was obliged to go off to war. In his absence, ever jealous of Sleeping Beauty, the queen mother asked her chief steward to serve Dawn, her granddaughter, for dinner. The chief steward, who loved little Dawn dearly, slaughtered a young lamb in her place. The queen mother, pleased nevertheless with her dinner, ordered the same fate for her grandson, Day, but was tricked again in the same manner by her chief steward. She soon discovered the ruse, however, and ordered a huge vat filled with vipers, toads, and snakes of all sorts to be brought into the courtyard. Sleeping Beauty, her children, the chief steward, his wife, and their servant girl were all to be thrown into it. At the last moment, the king rode into the courtyard and the queen mother at once threw herself into the vat and was devoured forthwith. The prince, naturally grieved at the death of his mother, in time found ample consolation in his beautiful wife and children.
"La Belle au bois dormant" appeared in its final version with two morals. The first stressed with a touch of erotic humor the "modern" unlikelihood of a hundred years' sleep: "Now at this time of day, / Not one of the Sex we see / To sleep with such profound tranquillity." In the second moral Perrault characteristically expands on the same message, insisting on the "female sex's ardor in seeking marriage."
E. "Le Petit chaperon rouge"
Little Red Riding Hood, so called because of the red hood she wore everywhere, went off to visit her sick grandmother, bringing her flat cakes and a pot of butter. On the way she met the wolf, who wanted to eat her but dared not, because of woodcutters nearby. Instead, he asked her where she was going and suggested they see who could get there first. He took the shorter route, ran as fast as he could to grandmother's house and, having been let in, gobbled her up in no time at all. Little Red Riding Hood, chasing butterflies and gathering hazelnuts on the way, arrived later, and was let in by the wolf, who had gotten into grandmother's bed. The wolf told her to get undressed and get into bed too, which Little Red Riding Hood did, much amazed at the undressed state of her grandmother. When Little Red Riding Hood exclaimed to the wolf, "What big teeth you have!" the wolf replied, "They're to eat you up with!" And with those words he pounced upon Little Red Riding Hood and ate her up.
Perrault's moral clearly indicates the allegorical nature of his story; it is a tale symbolically recounting the seduction of a young child or woman, and he equates wolves with seducers: "I say the wolf, since not all wolves are of the same kind." The popularity of this tale and its erotic innuendoes probably account for the widespread use of the expression "wolf" as synonymous with seducer.
F. "La Barbe bleue"
Bluebeard was a wealthy man but so ugly and frightful that he terrified women. No one wanted to marry him because he had already married several wives and nobody knew what had become of them. In time, one lady, eyeing eagerly his magnificent possessions, decided that his beard was not so blue after all and agreed to marry him. The marriage took place and soon thereafter Bluebeard was obliged to go away on a business venture. He instructed his wife to enjoy herself and to invite her friends over to his sumptuous castle but, at the same time, cautioned her never to open the door of the little room at the end of the long passage on the lower floor. Having given her the key, he departed. No sooner had he left than she invited her friends over to see her wonderful surroundings, but she was so curious about the little room that she left her guests and rushed to the forbidden door.
Upon entering she discovered a floor entirely covered with clotted blood and in this were mirrored the dead bodies of several women that hung along the walls: all of Bluebeard's wives, whom he had slain, one by one. The key to the little room was stained with blood but, try as she would, she could not wash it off. Bluebeard returned, asked for his keys, and noticed that the key to the little room was missing.
When his wife finally produced the key, Bluebeard realized her transgression and informed her she would be killed like his other wives. He made ready to be-head her, but at the last moment her two soldier-brothers arrived and dispatched him with their swords. Bluebeard's wife subsequently inherited her former husband's wealth and married a worthy man who banished from her mind all memory of the evil days she had spent with Bluebeard.
There are two morals, the first blandly blaming curiosity as the cause of much trouble in the world, the second alluding to "Bluebeard" as a tale of past times and a story presenting a cruel husband, the like of which had disappeared.
G. "Le Maître chat ou le chat botté"
A certain miller died and bequeathed to his three sons all the earthly possessions he had. The youngest son received only a cat. Puss, overhearing his master's remarks of disappointment, assured his master of a comfortable life if only he would get him a pair of boots so that he could walk in the woods. Puss, being very clever, caught many a fine rabbit or partridge with his trap and presented these to the king as a gift from his master, the marquis de Carabas (a title he had invented for his master).
He laid further plans for his master by contriving an encounter of the king and his daughter with the marquis de Carabas while he was swimming in a nearby river. Robbers (said the cat) had stolen his master's clothes and he had nothing to wear. The king immediately provided him with a magnificent wardrobe and invited him to travel with him and his daughter in the royal carriage. They soon came upon peasants mowing in the fields who had been forced by Puss to declare that all the surrounding lands belonged to his master. The king was duly impressed by the great wealth of the marquis de Carabas.
Finally, Puss, preceding the royal carriage, came upon a rich ogre whom he tricked into a fateful metamorphosis, for the ogre could change himself into any kind of animal. He changed first into a lion and almost frightened Puss to death. And then, bullied into changing into a mouse, the ogre was promptly devoured by Puss. At that moment, the king's coach arrived at the ogre's castle, which Puss declared now as the property of his master, the marquis de Carabas.
At the king's request, his daughter and the marquis were married that same day. As for Puss, he never chased mice again except for amusement.
Perrault's two morals cynically extol opportunism and good looks as inestimable assets for a young man's progress in the world: "Youth, a good face, a good air and good mien / … ways to win / The hearts of the fair, and gently inspire the flames of sweet passion, and tender desire."
H. "Les Fées"
A widow with two daughters, one beautiful and kindly, the other arrogant and disagreeable, preferred the latter, for she was of the same temperament. The beautiful daughter was made to work in the kitchen from morning to night. One day when she was at the spring fetching water, an old lady of the village (in truth, a fairy) asked her for a drink, which the beautiful daughter promptly and cheerfully gave her. Grateful, the fairy bestowed a gift on his daughter: that with every word she uttered, there would fall from her mouth either a flower or a precious stone.
At home, when she spoke, she scattered diamonds right and left, and the mother was truly amazed. Greedily she urged the arrogant daughter, Fanchon, to do the same and sent her to the spring also. When the fairy, this time disguised as a princess, asked for a drink of water, the haughty Fanchon refused rudely and told the fairy to get the drink herself. Displeased, the fairy decreed that when Fanchon spoke, a snake or a toad would fall from her mouth. At home the mother was greatly angered at this and banished the good daughter from their home. Later, in the woods, she met the king's son, who fell in love with her, and they were married.
As for the other sister, she became so unbearable at home that her mother drove her out into the forest where, no one being of a mind to take her in, she lay down and died.
The two morals of the tale praise the youngsters who display good manners and honnêteté (a French word whose meaning was then roughly synonymous with courtesy).
I. "Cendrillon ou La Petite pantoufle de verre"
A widower who had a beautiful and kindly daughter married for a second time a proud and haughty woman with two daughters who were as ill-tempered as their mother. They treated their stepsister most cruelly, making her do all the chores and forcing her to sleep in a garret at the top of the house while they lived in luxurious rooms. She was forced to sit among the cinders in the corner of the hearth and thus acquired the name of Cinderella.
The king's son decided to give a ball and invited persons of high state, including Cinderella's two stepsisters. For days they talked about nothing but the ball and made Cinderella assist them in their toilette and in their choice of dresses, which she did good-naturedly and with exquisite taste. When the two sisters left for the ball, Cinderella began to cry. She was soon comforted by her fairy godmother, who with her magic wand fashioned for her a coach from a pumpkin, horses from mice, a coachman from a whiskered rat, and six lackeys from six lizards. Her gown was of gold and silver, bedecked with jewels, and she had a pair of tiny slippers made of glass. Her fairy godmother imposed one condition: that she leave the ball before midnight.
At the ball everyone was awed by the beauty of the unknown princess, and the king's son fell in love with her. On the third night of the ball, he retrieved one of her glass slippers which, in her haste to leave before midnight, she had dropped. She arrived home late, and all the fine finery had disappeared except for the one glass slipper, which she kept.
A few days later, the king's son issued the proclamation that he would take for wife the woman whose foot fitted into the glass slipper which he had in his possession. All the ladies of the court tried to fit into the glass slipper, including Cinderella's step-sisters, who squeezed and squeezed, but could not make it fit. Then Cinderella, laughing gaily, cried out: "Let me see if it will not fit me." The sisters shrieked in ridicule, but the equerry who was trying on the slipper saw that she was very beautiful and let her try it on. The slipper fitted perfectly and all were astonished, but even more so when Cinderella drew out of her pocket the matching slipper and put it on, too.
At this the sisters fell down upon their knees before Cinderella and begged forgiveness for the ill-treatment they had given her. She pardoned them with all her heart. Cinderella and the prince were married and, for her sisters, she set aside apartments in the palace and married them to two fine gentlemen of the court.
"Cinderella" 's two morals mention grâce—in its French connotation of innate elegance and graciousness—reinforced by propitious godmothers' upbringing. The importance of godfathers is also emphasized.
J. "Riquet à la houppe"
A queen once gave birth to a most misshapen and ugly son. A fairy who was present at the birth consoled the mother by promising that her son would possess great intelligence and that he would be able one day to impart the same degree of intelligence to the one he loved best. His name was Rickey with the Tuft, because of the tuft of hair on his head.
Some years later there were born to a queen in a nearby kingdom two daughters, one very beautiful but stupid, the other intelligent but ugly. She became well-known for her wit and, gradually, became more popular than her beautiful sister. This deeply chagrined the beautiful princess, who went off into the wood one day to bemoan her misfortune. There she met Rickey with the Tuft, who had seen her portrait and was on his way to visit her from his father's kingdom. He proposed to ease her distress by telling her that he had the power of imparting his intelligence to the one he loved best and that she was, indeed, the one he loved best. The only condition was that she should marry him. She would have a year to decide. But she accepted immediately, promising to marry him a year from that day. At once she felt a change come over her and found that she was able to speak brilliantly on many subjects. She engaged in a lengthy argument with Rickey and, holding forth quite well, caused Rickey to fear that he had given her a greater part of his intelligence than he had retained for himself.
At court she amazed all with her newfound wit, over-shadowing even her sister, who became quite saddened. Her father found her so intelligent that he consulted her on affairs of state and often held council in her apartments. Many asked for her hand in marriage, and she agreed to consider seriously a man who was extremely powerful, rich, witty, and handsome. To ponder her decision before giving it, she went for a walk in the wood, the very one in which she had met Rickey with the Tuft. There she came upon a kitchen full of cooks and scullions making ready for a great banquet, the marriage feast of Rickey of the Tuft. In a flash the princess remembered that it was a year to the very day since she had promised Rickey with the Tuft to marry him.
Rickey then appeared to claim her hand in marriage, but the princess replied that she had not yet made up her mind. A lively but erudite lovers' discussion ensued, most intelligently stated by both parties. Rickey won over the princess's hand by informing her that the same fairy who had bestowed upon him his wit also gave to the woman of his choice the power to bestow beauty upon the man she loved. The princess agreed to the marriage and instantly Rickey with the Tuft appeared to her as the most handsome, attractive, and graceful man she had ever laid eyes upon. As Rickey with the Tuft had foreseen, the royal marriage took place, as planned, the next day.
Love's "magical" power is once again extolled in the two morals: "Everything is beautiful in the object of our love. / Everyone we love has wit, intelligence, and great spirit."
K. "Le Petit Poucet"
A woodcutter and his wife had seven children, the littlest of whom was called Tom Thumb, because at birth he was no bigger than a person's thumb. During a bad year of famine, the mother and father decided they could no longer support their children and resolved to lead them into the forest to die. Tom Thumb, who was the cleverest of the seven children, overheard their conversation from under his father's stool. In the morning, he rose early, went to the edge of a brook, and filled his pockets with stones. The mother and father and their seven children arrived the next day deep into the forest and, while the children were busy, the parents abandoned them and ran away home. Tom Thumb led his brothers safely back home by the trail of stones he had left to show the way. The parents, who had received some money meanwhile, were overjoyed beyond words to see their children again.
But when poverty struck a second time, the mother and father once again resolved to lose their children in the forest. Tom Thumb resolved also to get his stones by the brook in the morning but found the door of the house doubly locked. It occurred to him then to use bread crumbs in place of stones. The children were led away again and this time truly did get lost because the trail of bread crumbs which Tom Thumb had left had been eaten by the birds.
In the midst of fierce winds, heavy rain, and the howling of wolves, the children made their way to a house in the forest inhabited by an ogre who loved to eat little children. The ogre's wife took pity on them and decided to hide them from her husband till morning. But the ogre smelled fresh flesh and discovered the children under the bed. He ordered his wife to fatten them up, put them to bed, and he would have them for supper the next day. Pleased with himself, the ogre proceeded to drink a dozen more cups of wine than usual and it went somewhat to his head.
The ogre had seven daughters who had all gone to bed early, each wearing a golden crown on her head. On a separate bed slept Tom Thumb and his brothers. Tom Thumb, fearful that the ogre might change his mind and eat them earlier than expected, took the golden crowns from the heads of the seven daughters and put them on his own and his brothers' heads. Then he took his own and his brothers' sleeping caps and put them on the heads of the ogre's daughters.
The ogre did change his mind and went upstairs to the children's room to cut the throats of Tom Thumb and his brothers; but he cut the throats of his daughters instead. Tom Thumb and his brothers left the house and fled through the forest while the ogre slept. When the ogre discovered his dreadful mistake in the morning, he ordered his wife to fetch his seven-league boots so that he might overtake Tom Thumb and his brothers. In his pursuit, the ogre became weary and fell asleep on the very rock which was hiding Tom Thumb and his brothers. Tom Thumb took off the magical seven-league boots of the ogre and put them on and raced back to the ogre's house, where he tricked the ogre's wife into giving him all that the ogre possessed. Laden with all the ogre's wealth, Tom Thumb repaired to his father's house where he was received with great joy.
Another account—given by Perrault himself as another ending—denies that Tom Thumb committed the theft from the ogre: he went to work in the service of a nearby king, became very wealthy, and returned to his father's house, where he was received with the greatest joy imaginable.
The one moral of seven lines expands on one topic: the hidden talents and the sudden benefits that might accrue to a family from its youngest, shortest, and most unnoticed child.
III. The Climate of the Fairy Tale
In seventeenth-century France, there was much interest in the allegorical, the mythological, the emblematic, and, of course, the fairy tale. Much evidence survives concerning the telling of fairy tales in courtly circles. Here is an intimate sidelight into the youth of Louis XIV, from Pierre de La Porte, his personal valet since childhood: "… I was among the first entrusted with sleeping in the room of his majesty … what caused him the most chagrin was that I could not regale him with the telling of fairy tales, which up to now had been told to him before going to sleep by the ladies in charge of him."3 Just as interesting is this statement about the great minister of state: "Monsieur Colbert, in his leisure hours, invited people to tell him fairy tales, especially stories like that of Donkey-Skin. What a pity that in those days Mesdames d'Aulnoy and Murat [women authors of fairy tales] were not then occupied with their fairies. He would have often received them."4 Similarly, Mme. de Sévigné, the celebrated letter writer, in a letter to her daughter Madame de Grignan, writes on August 6, 1677: "Mme. de Coulanges [a relative] … was kind enough to retell us some of the tales with which ladies at Versailles are entertained … she told us of a green island in which a princess, the fairest of all, more beautiful than the day, was grow- ing up; the fairies were showering their favors on her continuously … the tale lasts a good hour."5 The impressive point of these examples is the emphasis on the oral telling of fairy tales, before any author, Perrault included, showed any inclination to commit them into print.
According to Gilbert Rouger, "long after his youth Louis XIV was still interested in listening to fairy tales, Versailles had its Mother Goose [teller of tales], wife of a state councillor, Mme. Le Camus de Melsons, a friend of Mlle L'Héritier [niece of Perrault]," who wrote the following lines to praise the woman who could entertain a king: "You whose lifelike tones / Found the way to entertain so many times / With your enchanting tales the most powerful of kings / Inimitable Mme Le Camus."6 These lines can be dated 1695, through the date of publication of the work in which they appear. In that year, Perrault had already published three stories in verse, of which one was certainly a fairy tale, Peau d'Ane, that typical folktale, which he rewrote so delightfully. It was about that fairy tale that La Fontaine, Perrault's model as a writer, had written (in 1675): "If Donkey-Skin were told to me / I would enjoy it extremely, / They say the world is old: I believe it; nevertheless / We must still amuse it like a child."7
In the immediate vicinity of the king, Fénelon, the appointed teacher of the royal heir, thought of fairy tales in terms of their enjoyment and educational value. For him the animal fable, with its talking animals, and the fairy tale were kindred genres. In this respect there is a meeting of minds between Fénelon, La Fontaine, and Perrault. Fénelon had, in fact, written some twenty-seven stories (many of them fairy tales), around 1690. In that year there appeared the first literary fairy tale in French literature, the tale of "l'Isle de la Félicité" [The Island of Happiness] by Mme d'Aulnoy. The story, a rewriting of a very well known folktale, the "Land Where No One Dies," is to be found inside a novel entitled Hypolite.8
With all these "signs" of a taste for that peculiar art form, appealing at once to children and adults, partaking of mythology and popular traditions, it would have been surprising if Perrault, throughout his life a man ready to be "in the wind" or "at the scene" of all trends, had not picked up the scent, and had not started to produce his own fairy tales. And he had an imperative incentive, the education of his children, for whom he felt that entertainment and instruction went hand in hand.
IV. Perrault, Boileau, and the Fairy Tales
In one of his earlier works, the allegorical Dialogue de l'Amour et de l'Amitié (1661), Perrault had foreshadowed, by his delicate evocation of the "magical" power of love, the tone and the subject of his fairy tale "Riquet à la houppe." Similarly, in his "Labyrinthe de Versailles," he had created a structural anticipation of his fairy tales—little illustrated prose narratives or "fables" accompanied by verse commentaries or morals, some of which are curious foretellings of the morals in the tales. The following lines form a kind of introduction to the "Labyrinthe" :
Any wise man who knowingly enters
The labyrinthine paths of love
And wishes to travel through the whole of it,
Must be cautious and sweet in his language,
Gallant, clean in his appearance,
And especially not behave like a wolf.
Otherwise all the beauties of the fair sex
Young, old, plain, or fair,
Blond, brunettes, sweet, cruel
Would throw themselves on him and
Would gobble him up like owls.9
Another versified statement uses the same rhymes as the moral of the tale of "Little Red Riding Hood" to express the same message: "Beware of these sweet-talking young men [doucereux], / They are a hundred times more dangerous [dangereux]."
Furthermore, Perrault alluded frequently to fairy tales in the text of his Parallèle. He felt that the popular but "modern" French fairy tales of Mother Goose were superior to the tales of antiquity, such as those of Apuleius (The Golden Ass) and many others. He found that French popular tales were "cleaner" than such stories from antiquity. He reproved their eroticism with his typical "Victorian" prudishness (2:126).
It is obvious that during those years of the writing of the Parallèle (1688-1697) his mind was occupied with the fairy tales, as well as with the Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns. For a man like Perrault, the hyperboles of Homer referring to Fate having her head in the clouds, or the horses of the gods making gigantic leaps, seemed somewhat more nonsensical than the "modern" imagination of the seven-league boots, which he praises in terms that sound somewhat Cartesian to the modern mind: "There is quite a bit of sense in that invention [of the seven-league boots], for children conceive of these as some kind of big stilts which ogres can use to cross long distances in less than no time" (3:120). Since the third Parallèle was published in 1692, this reference to the seven-league boots and ogres, practically the essen- tial themes of "Le Petit Poucet," attests that this story was either known by Perrault or already in manuscript form at that date, fully five years before its publication in the famous collection of 1697. Interestingly enough, Perrault, in the same passage, felt the need to define the term "ogre," as if the expression was not too familiar at that date: "those cruel men, which are called Ogres, who smell fresh meat, and who eat little children…."
But the most suggestive references to fairy tales are those in which Perrault writes of poetry and of the opera as imaginative expressions which partake of the supernatural, like the fairy tales. One of the passages deserves full quotation:
In an opera, everything must be extraordinary and supernatural. Nothing can be too fabulous in this kind of poetry; the old wives tales, like those of Cupid and Psyche, provide the most beautiful subjects and give more pleasure than the most complicated theater plots…. These kinds of fables … have a way of delighting all sorts of people, the greatest minds as well as those of the lower classes, the older men and women as well as children: these wonderful fictions, when they are artistically handled, entertain and put to sleep the powers of reason, even though they may be contradictory to it, and they can charm this reasoning mind far more than the most true-to-life works of art.
What Perrault is developing here is an aesthetic theory of the fairy tale. He is stating, adroitly and convincingly, that there is a kind of aesthetic seduction in the enjoyment of the supernatural. He anticipates by three centuries notions that are quite familiar to men of our era. Wish-fulfillment seems to be the name of the game. But he is also stating that veri-similitude has little to do with reality. The fairy tale, even though it may be apparently nonsensical, has its own inner logic. He develops his ideas further when he states that the fairy tale need not be versified to be poetic, just as tragedies need not be written in verse to be tragic. There can be poems or fairy tales in prose, just as there can be tragedies or comedies in prose: "Since comedies written in prose are no less dramatic poems than comedies in verse, why could not the fantastic stories written in prose be poems like those written in verse? Verse is but an ornament in poetry, a great ornament which is not essential" (3:148). All of these references to the art of the fairy tale, or the poetry of the fabulous, once again suggest that Perrault had already begun to write fairy tales. However, the story now becomes murkily delicate: Perrault, as we have earlier noted, had an enemy in the person of Boileau, who thought that writing fairy tales was ridiculous.
Perrault first published Griselidis in 1691. This versified tale is close in tone and style to the sort of story La Fontaine could have written. The versified tale of Les Souhaits ridicules [The Ridiculous Wishes, 1693], is not very original either; it is but a flat adaptation of a fable La Fontaine had already treated, Les Souhaits [The Wishes ]. The third verse narrative, Peau d'Ane (1694), is truly the first fairy tale Perrault ever published. Here we have the whole fairy tale paraphernalia of wonders: an all-powerful fairy godmother, a magical chest which follows Donkey-Skin wherever she goes, and a donkey whose litter is not manure but pure minted gold pieces (not an original invention by Perrault). This extraordinary tale was put on sale by the distinguished bookseller-printer Jérome Coignard at a time when both Perrault and Boileau were not on the best of terms. After the publication of Peau d'Ane, Boileau circulated the following satirical poem, which we translate and quote only in part:
If you want to find the perfect model
For the most boring of works
Don't search the Heavens for it….
At the printer's Coignard, eaten through
With worms, here is the incomparable
The inimitable author
Of Donkey-Skin versified.10
In June, 1694, Boileau wrote to the great theologian Arnauld, who had agreed to mediate the quarrel between the two academicians, scathingly referring to "the tale of Donkey-Skin and the story of the woman with the sausage nose, put into verse by M. Perrault of the French Academy."11
It is true that in The Ridiculous Wishes the unfortunate peasant wife Fanchon has had wished upon her, magically and unfortunately, a sausage for a nose by her irate husband. To Boileau that kind of popular tale, fable, or fairy tale had no literary value whatsoever. he had not the slightest interest in popular tradition of any kind. The intellectual divorce between his type of mind and that of Perrault was almost absolute.
We can well understand why Perrault felt defensive about publishing his first volume of collected verse tales (1695) with a preface that took pains to explain that fairy tales were "legitimate." The next volume of eight prose tales appeared under the "authorship" of his son, Pierre Perrault d'Armancour, whose initials P. P. (Pierre Perrault) appear both in the manuscript of 1695 and in the first edition of 1697 at the end of the dedicatory letter to Elisabeth Charlotte d'Orleans, Louis XVI's niece. Gilbert Rouger is correct in stressing that Perrault took all possible precautions to ensure that the real author could deny he ever wrote the book.12 After all, he must have said to himself, "this is child's play, nothing that Boileau could blame on the father…."
V. Who Wrote the Mother Goose Tales of Perrault?
Stated in such terms the question seems absurd. For the answer can only be: "Perrault wrote the tales of Perrault." The question is more subtle: yes, it is Perrault, but which one? The son or the father? While it is understood that the father may have thought it unwise to claim authorship for himself, and thus was glad to pretend that his son was the author, quite a few scholars have discussed seriously the possibility that the son may have been the author. Here is the case for the son.
Mlle L'Héritier, we recall, had printed a dedicatory letter of sorts to Mlle Perrault mentioning the good upbringing which Charles Perrault was bestowing on his children, who were all so intelligent and full of spirit. In that letter she mentioned the "tales which one of his young students has just put down on paper with such successful expression … please offer this story to your worthy brother … to be added to his pleasant collection of tales."13 Such a statement seems to indicate clearly that Perrault's son had just written a collection of tales, in 1695, when Mlle L'Héritier's book was published. It may have been the very manuscript which the Pierpont Morgan Library acquired in 1953. However, since this manuscript is the work of a professional scribe, and therefore not in the hand of either the father or the son, we cannot find confirmation of authorship by its existence.
There is, however, another statement, in the story, "Marquise-Marquis de Banneville" (anonymous, Mercure Galant, September, 1696) which attributes without equivocation the text of "Sleeping Beauty" (published in that same magazine in February, 1696) to the son: "the Author … is the son of a Master [Perrault]…." There does not seem to be anything ambiguous in these phrases. And the evidence so clearly points to the son that there seems to be no point in discussing the subject any further. But not all contemporaries were agreed that Pierre was the author, or the sole author.
The following dialogue from a book published in 1699, two years after the appearance in print of Perrault's tales, is suggestive:
… the best tales … are those which imitate most closely the style and simplicity of Nurses; and it is precisely for that reason that you seem fairly satisfied with those attributed to the son of a celebrated member of the Academy…. [Answers the other interlocutor] … one has to be an experienced writer to imitate convincingly their plain ignorance, and that is not anyone's gift; and no matter how much I admire the son of that member of the Academy, I find it hardly believable that the father did not have a hand in the writing of his book.14
The words "attributed to the son" seem to imply that at the time there was doubt or discussion about the question of authorship. The last words of the quotation suggest a collaboration; contemporaries found it quite plausible that the tales could have been written by the son, provided the father had helped him. Some critics have gone to great length to try to discern and unravel what might have been written by the father, and what by the son. Sainte-Beuve found the morals disruptive, because their refined and gallant tone differed so strikingly from the tales themselves. The conclusion was that only the father could have written them.15 According to another critic, the father added many of the little digressions on love, the little parodies of manners, the remarks on feminine psychology, and the descriptions of interiors; other elements of the tales, such as the witty remarks, the love of the countryside, and the simplicity of the style would point to the son.16
The authorship question is not a puzzle that is easy to solve; quite a case can be made for the father as the author. Besides, the tales give the impression of an organic whole, a finished work of art, which rather suggests the product of but one mind, or the result of a very harmonious integration of many parts.
The son may well have helped the father, or vice versa. What we do know about the son did not, until recent years, amount to very much: the testimony of his collaboration, the date of birth (1678), and of his death (1700). When he died he was in the army. His death notice mentions that he had been a "lieutenant in the Regiment Dauphin. He was the son of Mr. Perrault … of whom we have many very esteemed works of poetry and erudition."17
Why was there no mention of the fairy tales in that death notice? The tales had already achieved quite a success, gone through many editions in France and Holland, and there was quite a vogue for published fairy tales at the time. The case could rest on these last shreds of evidence.
Since the recent publication of hitherto unknown documents from seventeenth-century archives new light has been shed on both the father and the son. We have already mentioned briefly the tragic affair of the involuntary homicide in which Pierre killed a young neighbor with his sword. Who started the quarrel, Pierre or the neighbor? We only know what a friend of Perrault wrote in a letter, "that his youngest son, who is only sixteen or seventeen years old, having drawn his sword against one of his neighbors of the same age, an only son, whom he killed while defending himself."18
The young man who was killed was the son of a woman named Marie Fourré, widow Caulle. There were many confrontations and actions in the courts between the father Perrault and the mother of the victim. Finally the affair was more or less settled (the documents available are not quite clear or conclusive) with the payment of an indemnity of two thousand seventy-nine French livres ("pounds") on April 15, 1698.
The reader may wonder what all this has to do with the question of authorship of the tales. According to the French critic Marc Soriano, this event had a pro-found significance in the life of Charles Perrault. He believes Pierre Perrault was a child prodigy, a fact which explains that he could have written the fairy tales. The father and the son became fast friends and collaborators. At this moment of his life the elder man was past the age of sixty-five. In his gifted son he had found an unconscious resonance going all the way back to the circumstances of his twin birth. His son became for him the substance (and no longer the unconscious and repressed shadow) of his long lost brother François who had come into the world a few hours before him and died at six months of age. The happiness of creation in a "twin situation" was then one sunny moment in the life of Charles Perrault. He had practically "fallen in love" with his son (at the time between seventeen and nineteen) whom he unconsciously confused with his lost twin. Suddenly, the "dream" was shattered by this tragic affair of involuntary homicide.19
Whether we accept the theory that Pierre Perrault was a child prodigy (or rather at seventeen an adolescent prodigy), or not, there is no doubt that the event must have been very painful, very disappointing for Charles Perrault. Three hundred years ago, as now, it is a tragic affair for a father to "rescue" a son involved in a homicide.
This twin situation is discovered practically everywhere in the fairy tales and other works of Perrault. Apparently our author was obsessed with the number two. It was part and parcel of his unconscious. It is impossible to discuss the son without being faced with the problems of the father. When all is said and done, the father is more important than anyone in the elaboration of the tales, even if we admit that the son played his part in the initial composition of the work.
There are quite a few contemporary statements pointing to Charles Perrault as the sole author. The Abbé Dubos regularly sent reports about the Paris literary scene to a common friend, the historian-critic Pierre Bayle, then exiled in Holland. The following extracts are in chronological order:
[September 23, 1696] The publisher [Barbin] is also printing the Tales of Mother Goose by Mr. Perrault. They are trifles with which he did amuse himself in the past in order to entertain his children….
[March 1, 1697]…. Madame Daunoy [d'Aulnoy] is adding a second volume to the tales of Mother Goose of Monsieur Perrault. Our age has become quite childish concerning its taste in books; we need tales, fables, novels, and little stories…. Their authors are those who enrich booksellers and which are reprinted in Holland.
[August 19, 1697]. Monsieur Perrault sends his greetings, but he does not believe you. He says that you are wrong to think that he could believe your kind compliment because he was simple and naive enough to have written fairy tales.20
The three previous passages were not intended for publication: they were private letters in which one could feel free to say most anything. From the first one, dated September, 1696, it appears clearly that the Abbé Dubos unequivocably identified the elder Perrault as the author of the tales, almost as if he had just spoken to him and were reporting his own words: "… trifles with which he entertained his children…." The second passage again attributes the tales to Charles, a few weeks after they had appeared in print (in January, 1697). As for the third passage, it is even more explicit in reporting the very words of our author: "… he does not believe you, … because … he wrote fairy tales…."
The French word used in the third passage, which we translated by two words "simple and naive," was bonhomme. There could well be a touch of humor in the use of that word (practically untranslatable in English); it denoted something like peasantlike simplicity, a certain naive credulity, and perhaps a little dose of senility, depending on the context in which it was used.
In the periodical Mercure galant (January, 1697) there is a long passage giving news of Perrault's forthcoming publications, the fourth volume of the Parallèle, the first of the Hommes illustres, and then, without transition, as if it was understood only too well that Perrault was the author, mention of the story of "Sleeping Beauty" (which had been published separately the year before), then the following paragraph concerning the fairy tales.
… a collection of tales which contains seven new ones, with that one ["Sleeping Beauty" ]. Those who produce that kind of work are usually rather pleased if it is believed that they have invented them. As for him, he insists that one should know that he did nothing else than record them naively the way he heard them told in his childhood. The connoisseurs maintain that they are all the more worthy for that fact and they must be considered as having for authors an infinite number of fathers, mothers, grandmothers, governesses, and great-grandfriends, who for more than a thousand years probably have added of their own, always piling up more agreeable circumstances, which did remain in the narrative, while anything that was not of a good inspiration fell into oblivion. They say that these are all original tales, genuine as old mountains, easy to remember, and whose moral is very clear, the two strongest signs of the goodness of a tale. Be that as if may, I am quite certain that they will greatly entertain you, and that you will find in them all the merits that such trifles can possess. To be found at Barbin's [the bookseller].
No name is mentioned, to be sure; however, who would not think of Charles Perrault? This long commentary on the antiquity of fairy tales is almost a modern definition of folklore, with its insistence on the "informants" as authentic sources. And yet there is this other insistence on the element of elaboration from each individual storyteller. The editor of the magazine could not have written such a passage: the ideas are Perrault's. Like a leitmotiv we find again the insistence on the pedagogical value of fairy tales told by parents, nurses, or relatives—as in the Parallèle, as in the preface to the verse tales edition of 1695—and again mention of the valuable morals in the fairy tales, while still maintaining that they are bagatelles ("trifles"). Such ideas will be repeated almost verbatim in the dedicatory letter of the 1697 edition. In that edition the issuance of the privilège to the son can easily be interpreted as a warning that the father would resent the tales being definitely attributed to him.
For nearly three hundred years scholars have debated the question: "father or son?" In our opinion, it is a vain question that can be answered: "both," but we will never accurately know what proportion each of the collaborators contributed the most. We tend to believe, on the strength of the numerous references in other works which we have already mentioned, that it must have been mostly Perrault. The well-known and respected twentieth-century novelist (and writer of tales) Marcel Aymé wrote an introduction to Perrault's tales in which he favors the father as author. Concerning the son, he writes: "I am not of that opinion. If you ask a boy—like this one certainly must have been—to write a story which he has heard told by his nurse, you will find not naiveté, but preciosities, affected expressions which will spoil the simplicity of the original narrative. I believe that it is more probable that the young Perrault, well trained and well formed by his father, tried to report faithfully…."21 To this opinion of Marcel Aymé we add our feeling that it must have been the father who revised both the text of the 1695 manuscript and that of the first edition of 1697. A further element of "proof" can be adduced from the death notice of the father. Perrault's obituary in the Mercure galant issue of May, 1703, is fairly explicit, although still allusive in implying authorship of the famous work: "The felicitous fiction in which Dawn and the little Day [names of the two children in "Sleeping Beauty" ] are so ingeniously presented, and which appeared nine or ten years ago, has subsequently brought to birth all the fairy tales which have been published since that time."
Thus, when such an important writer as Perrault dies, the Mercure galant editor did state that he was talking about the author of "Sleeping Beauty" (and other tales), the author who had inspired the vogue of the fairy tale in the final years of the century. In our next chapter we will again discuss more evidence in favor of Charles Perrault.
Marcel Aymé referred to an oft-quoted passage of Mark Twain concerning the authorship of Shakespeare's plays, a statement which is fully applicable to the problem of authorship of Perrault's tales. In that spirit, we could say that the fairy tales of Perrault are not the work of the Perrault we may believe, but they are still the tales of Perrault, just as Mark Twain concluded that the theater of Shakespeare is not Shakespeare's, but the work of another author by the same name.22
VI. The Sources of Perrault's Tales
The phrase "Mother Goose," is a direct translation of the French Ma Mère l'Oye. In designating fairy tales in the seventeenth century, it was common practice to say or write Contes de Ma Mère l'Oye [Tales of Mother Goose ]. Mother Goose came to England—and thus into the English language—through the first translation of Perrault's Tales in 1729. The English edition reproduced the archetypal frontispiece of the first French edition of 1697, showing a peasant woman spinning and entertaining a group of three enthralled children sitting by the fireplace. On the wall a placard reads, for the first time in the language of Shakespeare, the translated title, Mother Goose's Tales. 23 Through that English translation, Mother Goose was beginning its diffusion outside of France: first German translation, 1746; first Dutch translation, 1747; first Italian translation, 1752; first Russian translation, 1768. Insofar as French editions are concerned, they number somewhere between five hundred and one thousand, and continue to appear regularly. The first American edition appeared in Haverhill, Massachusetts in 1794, followed by that of J. Rivington (1795), a bilingual, luxuriously illustrated edition.24
There are stories somewhat similar to those of Perrault which existed in Latin, German, Catalan, Italian, and French literature before 1697. They constitute the tradition of the Mother Goose Tales before Perrault.25
It is currently assumed that all of Perrault's tales came from folklore or popular tradition, and that all he had to do was to transcribe them from some peasant woman (presumably Mother Goose) and publish them. The usual sources of popular tales are the chapbooks, which the French call livres de colportage, or Bibliothèque bleue.26
Of the eleven stories that Perrault wrote, only one, Griselidis, can be found in chapbooks which were published before his stories.27 Extensive research has not yet produced any other such trace. While it is true that many of these volumes of chapbooks contain Perrault's fairy tales, they are all subsequent to the publication of his stories, and are mere reprints of his text.
Even if we do not have earlier texts from popular tradition, we can be reasonably confident that most of the basic elements of what the folklorists call motifs existed long before his renditions of them. A motif is "the smallest element in a tale having a power to persist in tradition. In order to have this power it must have something unusual and striking about it."28 As we examine these sources or analogues we will become more familiar with Perrault's tales.
Griselidis is not a fairy tale, but he included it in his collection of verse tales, in 1695, along with Peau d'Ane and Les Souhaits ridicules. Griselidis is not at all of Perrault's invention. It is a nouvelle (short story with a basis in reality) about a forlorn wife finally rewarded and exalted for her exemplary patience, almost a female Job. Boccaccio was the first to tell the story (Decameron, X, 10) in the mid-fourteenth century, to be followed in 1374 by Petrarch who wrote a Latin version, which probably inspired Chaucer's "The Clerk's Tale" in the Canterbury Tales. These versions were translated into French, and there were many versions throughout the centuries, eventually many chapbook versions. Thus, "the story of Griselda, abandoned by lettered men, comes down into the petty middle classes, even the lowly people….29 Perrault knew Boccaccio's story and he researched other versions of the story before he wrote his own rendition. He carefully "pruned" whatever he did not consider proper in popular versions, for he found that "Griselda had been somewhat soiled [become a bit indecent] through the hands of the people."30
The tale of Peau d'Ane is also present in popular tradition long before Perrault. One of the essential motifs of this story is the flight of the heroine. She is trying to escape from the incestuous pursuit of her father, eventually hiding from him under the skin of a donkey (hence the name of the tale). Like the expression "Mother Goose Tales," the phrase "Donkey-Skin Stories" (Contes de Peau d'Ane ) was synonymous with fairy tales. It is quite probable that Perrault knew many of the previous analogues of this story: the episode of Nerones in the anonymous fourteenth-century French novel Perceforest in which a princess hides under a goatskin; the "Doralice" story from the Italian Straparola (Piacevoli Notti, I, 4) many times translated into French; or "l'Orza" in the Neopolitan Giambattista Basile's Cunto de li cunti overo Pentamerone [The Tale of Tales, or Pentamerone, 1634-1636].31
Insofar as the last verse tale, The Ridiculous Wishes, is concerned, this story of the ill-spent first two wishes only corrected by the third wish reestablishing the initial poverty of the "wisher" goes back to the Middle Ages. It was even present in Oriental tradition.32
As we now turn to the more famous prose fairy tales, we can pursue their sources closely and in more detail, as we assume the reader knows most of these stories quite well from his youngest years.
In "Sleeping Beauty," the magical sleep motif is very old. The Greek Epimenides slept for fifty-seven years, and the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus were dormant for two hundred years. And there are many other examples. From Indian mythology comes the story of Surya Bai, whose finger was pricked by an ogre's claw, causing her to fall asleep and be awakened by a king. Similarly, in the Volsunga Saga, the German hero Sigurd discovers the Valkyrie Brunhilde asleep, surrounded by a wall of fire, and he frees her. However, Perrault's "Sleeping Beauty" seems closer to the following stories: the anonymous fourteenth-century Catalan versified narrative of "Frayre de Joy e Sor de Placer" [Brother of Joy and Sister of Pleasure];33 the adventure of Troylus and Zellandine in the sixteenth-century novel Perceforest; the tale "Sun Moon and Talia" in Basile's Pentamerone.
The impressive difference between these stories and that of Perrault consists in his treatment of Sleeping Beauty's discovery by the prince. In each of these previous versions, the enchanted princess is raped during her sleep by her discoverer, becomes pregnant, and only after having delivered one or two of her offspring does she awaken. We find none of this in Perrault. We recall how he had decided that Griselidis had become somewhat "soiled" through popular tradition. He would "clean it up" according to the French classical tradition of bienséances ("decorum"). And he did the same for "Sleeping Beauty." He could not tell such a violent tale to either a courtly audience or a group of children. It is impossible to assume that he was ignorant of the earlier, coarser versions. The censoring, editing, and pen of the author are everywhere present in the Tales of Mother Goose.
The next story in the collection, "Le Petit Chaperon rouge" ["Little Red Riding Hood" ], does seem to come from oral tradition, and we know of no literary version of this narrative before Perrault. Readers will no doubt compare the stark ending of Perrault's version with the happier final fate of the rescued Little Red Riding Hood in the Brothers Grimm's Rotkäppchen.
After "Le Petit chaperon rouge" comes "Barbe bleue." Perhaps Perrault intended the two most fearful stories of his collection to follow one another. We tend to believe that the tale of the cruel husband may well be an original invention of Perrault. However, two elements come from earlier popular tradition: the motif of the forbidden chamber, and the magical key with the indelible spot of blood.
The last five stories of the collection all seem to owe something to earlier literary models. "Le Chat botté," the story of an animal providentially helpful to his master, is present in the tradition of many countries. The closest literary model Perrault may have known is that of the story of "Constantino Fortunato," from Staparola's Piacevoli Notti. The absence of the character of the ogre and a few differences in the plot notwithstanding, both stories seem patterned from one another. Basile, in "Gagliuso" (Pentamerone, II, 4) also retells "Le Chat botté," with one interesting plot difference at the end of the tale: the cat hurriedly leaves the house of his ungrateful master who wants to kill him. In Perrault, it will be recalled (in the last sentence of the story), the cat sits in the home of the master he helped to become a king, and "hunts mice only for pleasure and not out of necessity."
The story of "Cendrillon" ["Cinderella" ] has a long tradition that antedates Perrault all the way back to Egyptian antiquity, if we consider the story of Queen Rhodopis losing her slipper as one of the earliest prototypes. Yet the name of the heroine dates from Basile's "Gatta Cenerentola" [The Cat Cinderella] as found in his Pentamerone (I, 6). The very word "Cenerentola" already evokes the sound of "Cendrillon" and "Cinderella." The word has an interesting etymology. It incorporates the two Latin words for "ashes" (cinis), and for "carry" or "remove" (tollere). Cinderella, sitting close to the ashes in the hearth, is thus the ash carrier or remover. Perrault in his text exploits the idea: when the persecuting sisters refer to Cinderella they call her "Cucendron" (Ash-ass, or Ash-bottom). The first English translation of 1729 also plays upon the analogies: the persecuted heroine is called "Cinder-breech."
The subtitle of the story refers to the celebrated glass slipper. Nonsensical and fragile as it may seem or sound, glass slipper it is in the first edition; and this is what Perrault meant. In the magic realm a glass slipper can certainly be unbreakable. The idea of it is unmistakably Perrault's, like the invention of the elegant boots for his master cat.
The last story of the Contes, "Le Petit Poucet" is sometimes confused with another tale of a diminutive hero, Tom Thumbe (1621). While it is true that this earlier story is close to Perrault's because of that similar motif, there are notable differences in plot and incidents. In particular, the seven-league boots so prominent in Perrault seem to be invented by our author. English and American readers of this book will appreciate that the different tale of Tom Thumbe is the only one somewhat close to Perrault's that can be traced with certainty in previous English tradition. Here is the full title of that tale: The History of Tom Thumbe, the Little, for his Small Stature Surnamed, King Arthur's Dwarfe.34
In "Les Fées" ["The Fairies" ] and "Riquet à la houppe" ["Rickey with the Tuft" ] we have two stories already printed before Perrault by two women authors he knew: his niece, Mlle L'Héritier, and Mlle Bernard. Mlle L'Heritier prefaced her collection of stories, Oeuvres meslées (1695), with a letter to Mlle Perrault, the daughter of our author, and offered her a story to be included in the recueil ("collection") which her brother Pierre was supposedly writing. That story was not accepted because it was too long, but another one, "Les Enchantements de l'Éloquence" [The Enchantments of Eloquence], although still too long, might have inspired Perrault.35 It is the same typical fairy tale known to English and American children as that of "Diamonds and Toads," in which the fairies bestow on a civil young girl the gift of uttering a precious stone or flower with every word, and, on a rude girl, the curse of spewing out frogs or serpents. The main difference between the two stories is in their length: one hundred and thirty-one pages for Mlle L'Héritier, a mere eleven pages for Perrault. Here our author proves himself a master of concision.
VII. The Supernatural in Perrault
Perrault wrote fairy tales in which, by definition, supernatural events occur; but this "supernaturalness" is not what is really supernatural. The supernatural in Perrault is the mood evoked by the magic of language. Because he was so influential, and therefore so imitated, much of what we can say about him also applies to many other authors. But we must remember that he was among the very first to articulate the language of the supernatural in literature.
There is a sort of logic of the supernatural: in fairy tales, by convention, the tragic is abolished. Thus the miller's son in "Puss in Boots" receives the lowest portion of his father's estate; by all odds of normal life, he should be a loser. Yet he comes out a winner against all these adverse odds: a contradiction to the conditions of real life. In "Hop O'R My Thumb," a diminutive hero is confronted by the most frightening situations, yet he will come out on top, save his brothers, and make his parents rich. In "Cinderella," according to the timeless rule of the fairy tale, the poorest girl gets the prince. By our acceptance of the world of the fairy tale we enter a new realm where "wicked" every day reality is considered not only invalid but unjust and therefore immoral. Let our heroes and heroines win all the time. Perrault certainly understood this, as we have already mentioned in our discussion of his preface to the verse tales.
Consequently, no adventure of Perrault resembles those of reality. André Jolles is right to write that the veritable basis of the fairy tale is that in its unfolding "the wonderful is not wonderful but is natural."36 In legends, which differ from fairy tales, the miracle, in terms of divine intervention, is the agent which makes everything plausible and natural. In the fairy tale the wonderful element, in a similar way, ensures not only its plausibility, but also its verisimilitude, if within a psychological realm of artistic or oneiric make-believe (wherein lies the difference from legends). What we wish is what we believe for the moment, according to the time-honored principle of wishfulfillment. Thus we find it natural that the brothers of Blue Beard's wife arrive just in the nick of time to rescue her from death; similarly, it is only natural that the rags of Cinderella become princely clothes. In a word, it happens because we expect it. Anything which happens is not logical if it does not happen through the wonderful agency of the magical.
How Perrault articulates this principle shows that he understands the naturalness expected of the genre. He does not bother to give too many explanations, but those he gives contribute to make the fantastic acceptable in a typically logical and French way. When the whole palace awakens with Sleeping Beauty, chacun songeait à faire sa charge (each character was thinking about fulfilling his appointed office), as if everyone—after a hundred years' sleep—was carrying his or her genetic code to do this or that job (perhaps like ants or bees). But how could it be otherwise? The whole world of Sleeping Beauty would collapse like a castle of cards without all the palace's attendants. It is once again poetic suspension of disbelief which carries so strongly our conviction. Strangely enough, even the element of humor, which some critics interpret as a disruption, can also function to increase the convincingness of the narrative. So, "since [the palace officers] were not all in love, they were dying of hunger…." Once again, how could it be otherwise? Significantly, Per- rault suppressed a sentence from the first two versions of the story: "it had been quite a long time since they had eaten."
The "reality principle" of Perrault and of the fairy tale in general consists of removing that reality from the world of today, so that it happens "long ago and far away" in a dreamlike realm where we can become children again, and believe anything and everything. We are asked to suspend our own incredulity in accepting the supernatural: a subtle game of aesthetic complicity in which adult and child commune in the pleasure of the irrational made rational or natural. We have seen already how Perrault "rationalized" the invention of the seven-league boots by stating that children conceive of them as "big stilts."37 He understood that an aesthetic principle was at work: "these well handled chimera [fairy tales] have a way of pleasing…."38 The realism of many descriptions is one of the facets of his art of the supernatural. For the realistic details of the supernatural adventure help seduce us into believing it. There are many passages in the Mother Goose Tales that "root" them in the sociotemporal context of the age of Louis XIV. Time and again critics have noticed a striking resemblance between the palace of Sleeping Beauty and that of the Sun King: courtyards paved with marble, huge halls of mirrors, concerts of violins and oboes, menageries of animals, entourage of officers for the service of the royal family. It seems nothing is missing. The fairy tales of Perrault are complete worlds in themselves.
Yet the actualization of the supernatural is still dependent on other factors, notably the evocation of feelings and the liveliness of dialogues. It is not true that fairy tale heroes are "cold as shadows,"39 at least in the case of Perrault. Any reader of his "Sleeping Beauty" can recall the trembling and admiration of the young prince upon the discovery of his enchanted princess, the fear and horror of Bluebeard's wife, not to say anything of the many moments of sadness throughout practically every story. A particularly felicitous expression of feelings is to be found in "Cinderella." After her sisters go to the ball and leave her behind: "She followed them with her eyes as long as she could, and when she had lost sight of them she began to cry. Her godmother who saw her all in tears asked her what was the matter. ‘I wish I could, I wish I could.’ … She was crying so much that she could not finish. Her godmother, who was a fairy, said to her: ‘You wish you could go to the Ball, is that it?’"40 This is a clear evocation of childhood, with warm and tender attention to the speech of a child.
The Cinderella of Perrault is vividly real and different from other Cinderellas, which makes us think that perhaps she was patterned after one of Perrault's children. She leaps out of the page again, when having caught the excitement of the magical game, she says to her godmother: "I'll go and see if there be never a rat in the rattrap, we'll make a coachman out of him."41 The child playing with her godmother, finally provided with the famous pumpkin carriage, has now become a regal person; yet she had almost gone to the ball in rags: "Yes, but am I to go like this in my ugly clothes?"42 We do not need to summarize the story; we know how the godmother's wand changed her clothes into royal garments of gold and silver.
What captivates us in this rendition of an immortal story is how suddenly the transformation of the crying waif into a princess was effected: a case of sudden adolescence, or adulthood, for Cinderella did not have the education which had been lavished on her sisters. How did she find time to learn how to dance? The real magic of Cinderella is the magic of growth, not the pumpkin coach. That pumpkin coach, so basic to the story, so well-known, is a pure invention of Perrault—a fact not clearly understood by one of the greatest interpreters of fairy tales, Bruno Bettelheim. He writes ironically: "Perrault's Cinderella, who goes to the ball in a carriage driven by six horses and attended by six footmen—as if the ball would take place at Louis XIV's Versailles."43 But Bettelheim does not seem to realize that in the France of 1697 it is perfectly normal for a young lady to dream of going to the ball at Louis XIV's court. Indeed, why not? And where else? Critics and psychologists of German background, like Bettelheim, often tend to have an idealized version of the fairy tale as a "pure" folk form that must not be embellished by "literary" elaborations; as if it could be a literary elaboration, even for a peasant girl, to dream of being invited to the royal court.
In any case, the realism of Perrault's tales is rooted in the evocation of the royal surroundings of the period he himself knew, because this is how the drabness of his present day was compensated for in dreams of the splendor with which he had been associated. This dream clothed in reality partakes of the wonderful, just as in dreams or fantasies we need the realistic touches in order to make pass for plausible the odd, the strange, or the supernatural.
To come back to our subject: the evocation of the feelings of fairy tale characters. The feelings of fairytale characters correspond to the feelings of readers or listeners first within a given cultural context (France) and then outside of France, provided the tales are successfully transmitted abroad. The dialogues are ways in which characters "come alive" in various ways. Here is fear in Bluebeard: "Why is there blood on this key?" "I do not know at all," replied the poor woman, paler than death. "You do not know at all?" exclaimed Bluebeard; "I know well enough. You did enter the little room! Well, madam, enter you shall—you shall go and take your place among the ladies you have seen there."44
Everyone knows the dialogue between Little Red Riding and the wolf, and appreciates its atmosphere of mock-tragedy or mock-drama, with the questions leading, in crescendo levels of expectation, to the dreadful end. However, it is little known that this celebrated dialogue was first printed in Perrault's collection and may well be his own invention, an invention that has become a tradition, the property of the world. That Perrault was aware of the dramatically pleasant impact of this dialogue is obvious from a very interesting marginal note in the manuscript text of "Little Red Riding Hood." The note refers to the key words of the wolf's last reply: "It is to eat you with." The marginal note reads: "One says those words in a loud voice to frighten the child as if the wolf was going to eat her."45 The words of this note should be interpreted as a playful, humorous aside from the adult Perrault himself. Such humor and playful drama is overinterpreted by Marc Soriano who writes that these words are an ethnographical indication.46 Perhaps, but we prefer to believe that in his family Perrault used to say those words in such tones as a game, just as we remember that our own parents, on telling us this story, would instinctively raise their voices, and then burst out laughing, telling us that "there was no wolf, and it was all a game, a story…."
Notes and References
1. See Harry Velten, "The Influence of Charles Perrault's Contes de Ma Mère l'Oye on German Folklore," Germanic Review 5 (1930): 4-18.
2. See Mary Elisabeth Storer, La Mode des contes de fées (Paris, 1928), for the period 1685-1700. For the period 1700-1790 see Jacques Barchilon, Le Conte merveilleux français de 1690 à 1790 (Paris, 1975).
3. Pierre de La Porte, Mémoires (Paris: Foucault, 1872), p. 411.
4. Ibid., p. 412.
5. Mme. de Sévigné, Lettres (Paris: Gallimard, 1955), 2:320.
6. Rouger, Contes, p. xxii, n. 5.
7. La Fontaine, Oeuvres Complètes (Paris: Gallimard, 1965), "Le Pouvoir des fables," in Fables, VII, iv., 128-29.
8. Mme. d'Aulnoy, Histoire d'Hypolite (Paris: Sevestre, 1690), pp. 143-81.
9.Recueil, p. 239.
10. Nicolas Boileau, "Parodie burlesque de la première Ode de Pindare à la louange de M. P[errault]," in Oeuvres Complètes (Paris, 1966), p. 264.
11. Ibid., p. 793.
12. Rouger, Contes, p. xxxi.
13.Oeuvres meslées, pp. 5-6.
14. Pierre de Villiers, Entretien sur les contes de fées (Paris: Collombat, 1699), p. 109.
15.Nouveaux Lundis (Paris: Garnier, 1861), 1:296-314.
16. Charles Marty-Laveaux, "Quelle est la véritable part de Charles Perrault dans les contes qui portent son nom?" Revue d'Histoire Littéraire de la France 7 (1900): 221-38.
17.Mercure Galant (March, 1700), p. 105.
18. Quoted from Yvonne Bezard, Fonctionnaire maritimes et coloniaux sous Louis XIV (Paris: Albin-Michel, 1932), p. 200.
19. Soriano, Contes de Perrault, pp. 340-64.
21.Contes de Perrault, introduction by Marcel Aymé (Paris, 1964), p. 10.
22. Ibid., p. 8.
23. While it has been established that John Newbery, the celebrated first London publisher and bookseller of children's books, did prepare an edition of nursery rhymes with the title Mother Goose's Melody, or Sonnets for the Cradle, no copy of that first issue of 1781 has survived. The earliest extant edition is that of 1791, published in London. It has been published in facsimile, with introduction, by Jacques Barchilon and Henry Pettit, The Authentic Mother Goose Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes (Denver, 1960).
25. The best book on the subject is still Charles Deulin's Les Contes de Ma Mère l'Oye avant Perrault (Paris, 1878).
26. See Pierre Brochon, Le Livre de colportage en France depuis le XVIesiècle (Paris: Gründ, 1954).
27. Rouger, Contes, pp. 11-14.
29. Rouger, Contes, p. 12.
31. The standard English edition of Basile is that of Norman Moseley Penzer, The Pentamerone of Giambattista Basile (London: Dutton, 1932). The English text is not translated directly from the Neapolitan of Basile, but from the Italian translation of Benedetto Croce.
32. Rouger, Contes, pp. 79-80.
33. This story is still not published in its entirety. A partial text published by Paul Meyer appeared in Romania 13 (1884): 264-84. A complete edition, based on the extant manuscripts, is being prepared by Professor Ester Zago, Department of French and Italian, University of Colorado.
35. This story of Mlle L'Héritier is reprinted in Rouger's edition of Perrault's Contes, pp. 235-65.
36. André Jolles, Formes Simples (Paris, 1972), p. 192. This is a French translation of the original German, Einfache Formen (Tübingen, 1930).
38. Ibid., p. 284.
40. Rouger, Contes, p. 159.
42. Ibid., p. 160.
44. Rouger, Contes, p. 126.
45. Jacques Barchilon, ed., Perrault's Tales of Mother Goose: The Dedication Manuscript of 1695 (New York, 1956), 1:133.
46. Soriano, Contes de Perrault, p. 153.
Jacques Barchilon and Peter Flinders (essay date 1981)
SOURCE: Barchilon, Jacques, and Peter Flinders. "Formal and Nonformal Elements in the Fairy Tales." In Charles Perrault, pp. 101-26. Boston, Mass.: Twayne Publishers, 1981.
[In the following essay, Barchilon and Flinders explore stylistic elements of Perrault's fairy tales and comment that, "Were Perrault alive now he would probably be simultaneously pleased and surprised to read all of the criticism and thought lavished upon stories which he did not even clearly acknowledge as his own."]
I. Of Style and Substance
Nothing is more difficult to define than style. We can use the following workable definition: a writer's choice and use of words in a definite sociocultural context in order to express his intent. Opinions concerning Perrault's style are contradictory: he is either "one of the greatest writers of the seventeenth century," 1 a statement we fully endorse, or he is the collector of popular stories told in plain language by plain people,2 a mere transcriber, not a creator.
The contradiction we have just sketched seems inescapable and we shall attempt to resolve it as best we can. In this chapter we will compare the manuscript and the final printed text of the tales, show how computer-aided analysis of Perrault's vocabulary has yielded interesting results; attempt to show how characteristic Perrault's style can be; and how his particular genius was translated into the English language. In the remainder of the chapter we will consider such aspects of Perrault's tales as their connection with folklore, and, finally, their profound moral and psychological significance. Were Perrault alive now he would probably be simultaneously pleased and surprised to read all of the criticism and thought lavished upon stories which he did not even clearly acknowledge as his own.
II. The Manuscript and the Final Text of the Mother Goose Tales
The comparison between a manuscript and its final printed text is no mere inconsequential trifle of scholarly fussiness. It can be a fascinating exercise in pre- cision and an invaluable key to the inner mind of a writer as he wrote and revised his work. For well-known and influential texts, such as Alice in Wonderland and Perrault's stories, this exercise can be both revealing and entertaining.
All of Perrault's corrections show a stylist at work, aware of the significance of the right word in the right place. This is obvious from the very first pages, those of the dedicatory letter. This letter was important for the career of Perrault's son, Pierre, who was nineteen years old at the time. The dedication of a book to a royal personage by the son of an academician is not without ulterior motive, for "Mademoiselle" could, in return for a flattering one, bestow some important official favor on the young man. Luxurious leather binding decorated with the royal arms of the house of Orléans, careful scribal handwriting throughout, and especially beautifully colored gouache illustrations make this "publication" unusually rich.
As we glance at both texts—the manuscript and the printed text in the first edition—we find differences of vocabulary which suggest rewriting by the more experienced father. Thus in the manuscript dedicatory letter we read that these stories reveal a very sensible moral "for those who listen to them." In the printed text we find the same words with only one exception: "those who read them." This is indeed the passage from the "oral text" to literature, the realm of reading. A few other additions elaborate on the personality of Mademoiselle, which could only have been thought of by Perrault—the father, an accomplished courtier—and not by his young son. While the manuscript simply praises Mademoiselle for a mind "which has the power to rise to great things and to stoop to small ones," the first edition adds another sentence: "one will not be surprised if the same princess, whom nature and education have familiarized with the loftiest subjects, should deign to find pleasure in trifles such as these [fairy tales]."3
In both "Barbe Bleue" and "Le Chat botté" we find additions to the manuscript text which again show the hand of a stylist at work. Everyone knows the passage in which the unfortunate wife finds the bodies of women killed by her husband when she opens the forbidden chamber. The manuscript simply tells us of "several dead women standing up and attached along the walls. She almost fainted with terror."4 The printed text is much more explicit: "dead women hanging along the walls. (They were all the previous women which Bluebeard had married before and whose throats he had cut one after the other.) She nearly fainted with terror."5
Time and again we find more of those finishing touches. In "Le Petit Chaperon rouge" the young child is described as unaware "that it is not good to stop and listen to a wolf," but the final printed version reads: "she did not know that it is dangerous to stop and listen to a wolf."6 The addition of "dangerous" reasserts the meaning much more effectively and contributes to the familiar suspense we ourselves may well remember from childhood.
A number of additions bring out humorous or gently satirical "pokes" at the characters. At the end of "Le Chat botté," although we are first told simply that the king's daughter "fell in love" with the handsome miller's son, we now find in the printed text: "the daughter of the king found him quite handsome and agreeable, and the count of Carabas only had to glance at her two or three times in a respectful and somewhat tender way to cause her to fall in love madly."7
Thanks to the manuscript, it is possible to observe the technique of Perrault at close range. Every generation has experienced a feeling of direct communication in reading or hearing the tales. They seem to have been always with us, as if we had dreamed them into existence. These stories, however, are the result of a writer's careful craftsmanship.
III. Of the Computer and Mother Goose
The computer is one of the most modern techniques that can be used by critics for vocabulary analysis. The first thing that must be said is that the computer is essentially an adding machine that sorts out and counts words in a prodigiously rapid way, but it does not think. Man must do the thinking and evaluate the results "printed out" by the computer. A question lurks in the mind of every scholar attempting a statistical evaluation by computer: "Will I ever find the word or words most frequently used by this author? Will this or that expression finally reveal or betray his or her secret obsession?
It would be gratifying for us to say that we have found the secret obsessions of Perrault through the statistical analysis of his vocabulary. But the simple truth is that we are not sure that whatever revelations there are will be of a spectacular nature. However, some statistical findings from our computer-aided research are suggestive.8
While the total number of words used to write the eight prose tales is 18,320, the corresponding total for the three verse tales is 14,100. In proportional terms it would seem that for only three verse tales does Perrault's vocabulary seem quite as rich as that of the eight prose tales. In terms of different alphabetized vocabulary entries—what in computer jargon is called "word-types"—Perrault's prose language amounts to 2,676 headings, against 2,611 headings for the poetic entries. In other words, Perrault's vocabulary for prose comprises sixty-five more words than were used for poetry.
As we compare these statistics with those available for Perrault's contemporary, Racine, we find that the author of Phèdre and eleven other plays needed a total of five thousand words. Perrault's vocabulary—considering his much more modest output of only eleven tales—is roughly one half that of either Racine or Corneille. If we compare Perrault's poetic vocabulary to that of La Fontaine—a more logical choice for comparison than Racine—we find that Perrault's total of different terms (2,611) is once again roughly one half of the 6,354 words of the celebrated French writer of the Fables.9
Perrault's language, like that of La Fontaine, Corneille, Racine, or Molière, is striking in its economy of words, once again, classical. But the vocabulary of fairy tales—imaginative as it may be—cannot quite compare with that of tragedies written in verse form. What we can, and must, say is that the vocabulary of Perrault is not overly rich, like that of his fellow writers of the age of Louis XIV.
Now what about the frequencies and the obsessions? Let us first state that in all languages the most frequently used words are the "tool words"—"of," "to," "at," "he," "she," "that," "what"—which are necessary to construct sentences and which we give here in their English garb. The enormous frequency of these words does not in itself prove anything. The frequencies we are seeking are those of other words.
Some interesting conglomerations or constellations of frequencies of substantive words struck us. These we print in parentheses after each item in English and in French. The words "king," roi (69), "princess," princesse (53), "beautiful," belle (34), "queen," reine (34), certainly suggest an aristocratic climate. The fairy tale almost always evokes the life of those "happy few" at the top of the social scale of the Old Regime before the French Revolution. There is nothing "abnormal" in this finding of the computer: after all, why should the lower classes not dream of the life of kings and queens? The dream of the fairy tale is the dream of the higher social order of wealth and power where everything is possible. The concordance reveals that family words are rather frequent: "children," enfants (46), "mother," mère (30), "sister," soeur (32), "father," père (22), "brother," frère (20); one could consider as family-related two additional entries: "woman," femme (56) and "little," petit (53).
The constellations of frequencies in the verse tales are also interesting. The words "prince" (51), "love," amour (30), "heart," coeur (27), "day," jour (26), "young," jeune (21), "beautiful," beau (19), "sky" or "heaven," ciel (19), "spouse," époux (19), "time," temps (19), "all," toute (19), "at last" or "finally," enfin (18), "great" or "tall," grand (17), "gold," or (17), "eyes," yeux (17), "to speak," dire (16), "king," roi (16), "lord," seigneur (16), "beautiful," belle (15), "pain," peine (15) seem to suggest or hum some kind of poetic phrase or some passionate aria from a familiar opera.
Similarly, the verbs most frequently used in the prose tales can be suggestive. The forms "had" or "had been," avait (150), "was" or "there was," était (157), "he went" or "she went," alla (42), "they went," allèrent (20) can only suggest two ideas: first, the emphasis on the past tense, and second, the emphasis on movement, through the use of the verb aller ("to go") conjugated in so many forms.
The computer is a tool of research to be used judiciously. Overly anxious about the possibilities of spectacular revelations through a "scientific" method of investigation, a scholar might in his maze of figures and statistics miss the forest while looking for the lone tree. Insofar as we are concerned, we are glad that the statistically revealed vocabulary of Perrault has proved to be so basically simple. Were Perrault alive right now, and looking at our computer printout of his vocabulary, he might well agree with our observations. He would not be surprised to learn that his fairy tales tell of adventures of kings, queens, princes, and princesses, families of parents and children as they happened long ago in a fast-paced world filled with characters often on the run.
IV. A Sense of Classical Style
All the features commonly associated with French classicism are present in Perrault's stories: concision, precision, economy of words, and multifaceted and powerful suggestiveness. What we praise in Pascal, Racine, La Fontaine, or La Bruyère is also present in Perrault's most famous work. Nearly everything he wrote in prose during the last ten most productive years of his life tends toward concision and simplicity.
While he was publishing the fairy tales, he was also putting to press his Hommes illustres (discussed above in chapter 3), in which he was summarizing in neat, elegantly penned notices of one or two pages the lives and works of a hundred distinguished Frenchmen of his age. That style is also present with its often concise sense of efficient formulation in the Parallèle, in the Mémoire de ma vie, and in the "Pensées chrétiennes." All these works have a stylistic kinship with the Contes.
As we turn to the tales we notice how rarely they are encumbered by too many details or descriptions. We often find a tendency toward condensation and concision, especially when we find two states of a given text. In "La Belle au bois dormant" Perrault deliberately eliminated the dialogues and digressions so apparent in the first text of 1695 (published in the Mercure Galant). While in the first (Mercure edition) there are two pages of conversation between Sleeping Beauty and her prince after he discovered her, we have nothing in the final text save this transition: "They had been talking for four hours and yet they had not succeeded in uttering one half of the things they had to say to each other. Meanwhile the whole palace had awakened."10 The two pages of dialogue suppressed were printed in the first version between the words "each other" and "Meanwhile the whole palace." We surmise that very few readers ever felt they "missed" the suppressed dialogue upon reading in French or in English the story of "Sleeping Beauty."
And we do find numerous remarks on style in the Parallèle ; the following, in particular, we consider rather suggestive because of its analogy between literature and architecture: "It is true that, on the one hand, architects dishonor their buildings by a grand abundance of superfluous ornaments; it is the same in eloquence [literature] where an excess of brilliant turns of phrase and excessive affectation will mar its grandeur and majesty (2:165).
Let us glance back at the statement just quoted from the Parallèle : "mar the grandeur and majesty…." What has this to do with the style of fairy tales? Simply the notion that a certain sense of grandeur, pomp and circumstance, formalness, logic, and appropriateness reigned supreme in the minds of Perrault and his contemporaries. There was a sense of style in everything they did and thought. It was then, as it is still now, a dominant cultural trait of the French. So much so that one English critic even wrote a book called The Formal French,11 in which the bulk of his examples come from the age of Louis XIV. A beautiful, and today very relevant, example of this preoccupation with form and logic is Arnauld and Nicole's Logique ou l'Art de penser, which ran through five editions in three years. It was read and admired by Perrault, and, we believe, echoed with unconsciously harmonic resonances. When we read in the Logique this example illustrating a syllogism:
Divine law orders men to honor kings:
Louis XIV is King;
Divine law therefore orders us to honor Louis
we cannot help thinking that this is precisely the kind of example Perrault would have thought of to illustrate a syllogism in "modern" terms. To our twentieth-century eyes this example for a syllogism might seem jarring. It is probably superfluous to state that it did not then seem jarring but natural: it was part and parcel of the divine and secular world view taken for granted in which logic, grammar, style, and belief were much more "integrated" than our own beliefs and our own much more complex institutions.
The connections all this has with the fairy stories is their inner logic and coherence. We must not forget that Perrault was trained as a lawyer, as May Hill Arbuthnot justly reminds us. It means that the stories were written with "outstanding logic without any loose ends unaccounted for, with every detail worked out to completion with legal precision … the kind of work one would expect from a legal mind."13 The endings of some of the tales are good examples. In "Bluebeard" we are informed that the deceased husband had no heir, and thus his wife inherited his castle and his wealth. Perrault then explains that she used one share of the inheritance to enable her sister to get married to a nobleman who had been in love with her for many years, another share to purchase officers' commissions for her two brothers, and the last share, or "the remainder"—to use Perrault's expression—she used to get married, that is, we assume, to locate a husband in order to join her wealth with his, as was the custom of the bourgeoisie of those days. The endings of "Le Chat botté," "Cendrillon," and "Le Petit Poucet" also have the same legalistic precision. Such carefully thought endings point obviously to the mature mind of the sexagenarian father Perrault, rather than to that of the seventeen-year-old son Pierre as the author of the stories.
For Perrault, anything which is not necessary to the action or movement of the story should be cut out. He expressed this clearly in this striking statement: "one must compose as a painter and finish as a sculptor, that is to say, when one writes, first jot down many ideas on paper and then finish up by removing as much as possible. I sketch as a painter and I finish as a sculptor."14 The best "show" of Perrault's mind at work is the comparison between the first and final state of "La Belle au bois dormant." This process of condensation or concision often results in a style full of understatements, ellipsis, and wit.
Such characteristics link his style with that of other classical authors of his age, particularly La Fontaine, Racine, and Pascal. The resemblance with La Fontaine has often been noted. One could say that Perrault's three first tales in verse sound like works of La Fontaine. In Les Souhaits ridicules we find the suggestion that the "magical" misfortune of the peasant's wife, who could not talk very easily because she was afflicted with a long sausage welded to her nose, can be a boon to her husband who thought her too talkative anyway. All these ideas are expressed by us, but only inferred by Perrault.
Cet ornement en cette place
Ne faisait pas bon effet;
Si ce n'est qu'en pendant sur le bas du visage
Il l'empêchait de parler aisément,
Pour un Epoux merveilleux avantage.15
This decoration in such a spot
Did not look very good;
And in hanging in front of her mouth
Prevented her from talking very easily,
For a husband what a wonderful boon.
It is in the last two lines that we find a significant ellipsis, because the sentence would be more grammatically correct if it were stated thus: "prevented her from talking easily / Which for a husband is a wonderful boon."
This is the time, once again, to say: "Brevity is the soul of wit." Our explanation is already too long. In our translation of Perrault's key line, we should have left out the word "what" and the line should have read: "For a husband a wonderful boon." Poetry is a language in which affect is elicited by a mysterious relationship between context, meaning, and sound. And when it is felicitous, poetry, whether in verse or in prose, is characterized by its concinnity. That harmony between the parts, that melody of sound and meaning, that inner coherence of the work of art—such is the definition of concinnity. Not a word could be suppressed from the narratives we know as "Little Red Riding Hood," "Puss in Boots," "Cinderella," or "Hop O'R My Thumb." Who could, who would dare change the perfect dialogue between the wolf and Red Riding Hood? Marcel Aymé, in his introduction to Perrault's Contes, is certainly right in writing that he would shudder at the thought of what "Bluebeard" or "Puss in Boots" might have become at the hands of either Boileau or a twentieth-century "arranger" or "adaptator."
V. Perrault in English
The stories of Perrault came into the English language, we recall, with the 1729 translation of Robert Samber. There will be no attempt here to repeat what has been said in other publications concerning that little known edition.16 In the text we will look for the ways in which the first translator dealt with a material which was first very new, from across the Channel (or across the Atlantic), but then became very familiar.
The first English translation has something debonair and attractive about it: the print is large and clear and the illustrations of the original French edition are carefully reproduced; the text is prefaced by an interesting letter of dedication to the countess of Granville, which may well be the first criticism in English of Perrault's tales. A crucial passage deserves to be quoted in its entirety:
The Author of the following stories has happily succeeded … and perhaps nothing yet extant can equal them in their admirable Design and Execution. It was however observed that some of them were very low and childish, especially the first, Little Red Riding Hood. It is very true, and therein consists their Excellency. They therefore who made this an Objection, did not seem very well to understand what they said; they should have reflected that they are designed for Children; and yet the Author hath so ingeniously and masterly contrived them, that they insensibly grow up, gradually one after another, in Strength and Beauty, both as to their Narration and Moral, and are told with such a Naiveté, and natural innocent Simplicity, that not only Children, but those of Maturity, will also find in them uncommon Pleasure and Delight.17
In this statement we encounter, for the first time, praise for the "admirable Design and Execution" of the fairy tales. The way in which Perrault had "contrived" them, however, does not correspond to Perrault's original order of publication. The first story of the original manuscript and first edition was "Sleeping Beauty," not "Little Red Riding Hood." The sequence followed is that of the French edition of 1721, and the practice was often adopted in subsequent reprints, probably in order to suggest a sort of gradation. "Little Red Riding Hood" must have seemed the most childish tale, followed by "The Fairies," "Bluebeard," "Sleeping Beauty," and "Puss in Boots" ; afterward, the last three tales follow in the original order.
Samber ends his dedicatory letter with a witty criticism of English "Fabulists" who wrote for children at the time, the better to extol, by implied contrast, the virtues of Perrault: "they content themselves in venting some poor insipid trifling Tale in a little tingling jingle, adding some pretty Witticisms, or insignificant useless Reflection, which they call a Moral, and think they have done the Business."18 What he found in Perrault's text must have seemed to him the kind of narratives which adults and children of England had needed, as he wrote: "Strength and Beauty … uncommon Pleasure and Delight.19
As we read the English text we find amusing renditions of the original French. In "Little Red Riding Hood" the cakes of Perrault become custard pie, the woodcutters (bûcherons) become faggot-makers, and instead of using the expression "knock-knock at the door," Samber reproduces the French words used by Perrault: "Toc Toc." Whatever may have been his reasons for thus changing the text, the translator cannot be blamed for not using the word "woodcutter," which seems not only the most natural word to use, but also the most accurate translation: "woodcutter" probably did not then exist in the English language. Its first recorded use dates from 1774, in the Pennsylvania Gazette. In truth the word is an Americanism. In most English or American editions published since the beginning of the nineteenth century, the word "woodcutter" is used.
Other differences from the French text fall into three categories: they are either obvious mistakes in translation, examples of picturesque speech, or expressions of eighteenth-century English. Some mistakes are interesting. To translate the expression "elle ne se sentait pas de joie" (referring to Cinderella)—which means she was beside herself with joy—Samber wrote: "she appeared indifferent."20 Most mistranslations are not worth signaling, but an extraordinary one occurs in "Bluebeard" and refers to the terrifying moment when the unfortunate woman discovers the bodies of the previous wives. The passage in Samber's text reads: " … after some moments she began to observe that the floor was all covered over with clotted blood, on which lay the bodies of several dead women ranged against the walls"21 (our italics). Obviously the dead women could not at the same time "lay" on the floor and be "ranged" against the wall. This logical impossibility is the result of a careless translation. What the French text says is that the floor was covered with clotted blood in which were reflected (se miraient) the bodies of several women attached (or hanging) along the walls. The bizarre translation quoted above was reproduced in the first American edition (1794) and thus proves that the American publisher simply reprinted Samber's translation.
Some samples of picturesque speech, even footnotes to the translation by the translator, are significant. The wolf in "Little Red Riding Hood," "compère le Loup," becomes "Gossop Wolf," which is more accurate—a term certainly closer to the French meaning of the text than "Father Wolf," which we find in a 1912 English and American edition; it is certainly a more suggestive translation. In "Bluebeard" there is an oddly colloquial and modern question: "How comes this blood upon the key?"22 In the same tale, we find it quaint that the wife and her sister address each other with the archaic "thee" and "thou." The famous question—"Anne, ma soeur Anne, ne vois-tu rien venir?"—concerning the hoped-for arrival of the rescuing brothers, becomes: "Anne, sister Anne, dost thou see nothing coming?"23
In "Sleeping Beauty" and "Cinderella," the two tales which contain so many realistic details, the translator was at a loss to find expressions which would correspond to the original French and therefore nicely anglicized his text. The enchanted palace is guarded by Beefeaters and not by the traditional Suisses, the mercenary soldiers used by French kings for their personal protection. What we traditionally recognize as the famous "Hall of Mirrors," or the "Galerie des Glaces," then not too familiar in England, becomes the "Hall of looking glasses." There were occasions when the translator had to give explanations concerning items probably not yet familiar to his English readers. In 1729 this statement was added to the original text: "Now an Ogre is a giant that has long teeth and claws, with a raw head and bloody bones, that runs away with naughty little boys and girls and eats them up."24 Probably the most amusing extrapolation is a culinary note—the recipe for Sauce Robert—which the wicked mother-in-law orders for her dinner of Sleeping Beauty's daughter, Dawn (served as a royal stew): "Sauce Robert is a French sauce, made with minced onions, and boiled tender in butter, to which is added vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and a little wine."25 A few translations stand out like commentaries on the text of Perrault and with one more quote—without by any means having exhausted the subject—we will end our treatment of the first appearance of Perrault in English. After Sleeping Beauty and her prince charming were married—a few hours after her awakening—they went to bed. The French text simply says that "they slept little, the princess had no great need of it."26 The manifest meaning of the language used is clear: she did not sleep much, because she had slept already for one hundred years. The English translation, however, is more Gallic than the original, in that it suggests a latent or erotic meaning: "they slept very little; the Princess had no occasion"27 (our italics).
If we have dwelt at length on this first translation, it is because we know that what we are discussing is largely unfamiliar to the majority of our readers; our main intent is to show that there was a beginning to the tradition of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella in the English language: it started with a literary translation of Perrault. What happened afterward in England and in the United States is a story of constant change and adaptation, including bowdlerized versions—theater performances and film adaptations at all levels—adult or "childish." In this respect we should mention the Walt Disney film versions of "Cinderella" and "Sleeping Beauty," which have achieved world-wide diffusion without any acknowledgment of Perrault's authorship. In France the 1967 Jacques Demy film adaptation of Peau d'Ane with Jean Marais and Catherine Deneuve has been a great success.
Among the many translations which have appeared in this century, four stand out. The first is that of A. E. Johnson (1912), which has had a widespread "revival"28 through the attractive reprint (1969) reproducing the large, beautiful, and suggestive illustrations of Gustave Doré, which first appeared in 1867. The second translation of note, partial though it is—only "Puss in Boots," "Sleeping Beauty" and "Cinderella" —is the work of the American poet Marianne Moore.29 The quality of her translation is such that it lends plausibility even to her mistakes. She confuses the verb plaire ("to please") with the verb pleurer ("to weep"), with the interesting result that Sleeping Beauty and her prince "shed some tears" (after all, why not?), while all Perrault wrote was that the words of the prince-discoverer pleased (plurent) his paramour. This error is also present in the 1729 translation, and Marianne Moore may have made use of it. In general her text is imaginative and poetic: an "American" flavor pervades her versions. A magistrate becomes a "man with a great seal," and Puss wears his boots "like a general."
The translation of the English scholar of French literature, Geoffrey Brereton,30 is certainly the most accurate. At least there are no mistakes due to his misunderstanding of the French language. The morals are also included; they were omitted in the Marianne Moore translation.
But the best and probably most complete translation of Perrault is that of Anne Carter,31 who included the three verse tales. Her text is at least as careful as that of Geoffrey Brereton, and it is a pleasure to read Perrault's Donkey-Skin and Griselda in English. The illustrations are pleasant, but at times erroneous: Cinderella was not driven to the court ball in a carriage driven by mice.
The bibliography of translations of very popular works is not the kind of work frequently undertaken by literary scholars. However, for two stories of Perrault, "Puss in Boots" and "Cinderella," the bibliographical information can be found in the works of Denise Escarpit32 and Anna Birgitta Rooth.33 These books tell a tale of wide diffusion since the eighteenth century. Literature and popular traditions intermingle throughout the centuries.
VI. Perrault's Tales and Folklore and Literature
One of the most common misconceptions about fairy tales is that the majority of them are folktales, merely collected from oral traditions and rarely the work of authors. It is true that many fairy tales are also folktales with a long oral history: there is quite a flowering of fairy tales in Russia where they, as well as folktales, are still told and read today. This is apparently also the situation in French Canada. There is a lively oral tradition in both countries.
The narratives of Perrault have been so enormously popular in the English language that they have become accepted as native English stories, perhaps replacing similar ones in oral tradition. We do not, however, have examples of Perrault's tales in either English or French popular tradition recorded before the publication of Perrault's Contes de Ma Mère l'Oye. We could—for a moment—accept the notion that he simply jotted tales down upon hearing some peasant woman telling the stories to his children. In that case we would agree with Iona and Peter Opie that: "If only it had occurred to him to state where he had obtained each tale, and when, and under what circumstances, he would today probably be revered as the father of folklore."34 It is not Perrault who is revered as the father of folklore today but Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm who published their Kinder und Hausmärchen [Household Stories] in 1812-1815. They had bothered to state their "where and when and under what circumstances," even though they did not transcribe faithfully what they collected, but "improved" the style of folk informants.35
Perrault was, nevertheless, quite conscious of popular tradition. He referred to the success and wide distribution of chapbooks published in Troyes in the preface of his Apologie des femmes. In the Correspondance of the exiled Protestant writer Pierre Bayle, there is an interesting letter of the Abbé Jean-Baptiste Dubos concerning Perrault's research for Griselidis. He had read Boccaccio's version of the story (but apparently not that of Chaucer), and he also knew chapbook versions of Griselidis. 36 He mentions these as being printed on papier bleu ("blue paper"), the traditional color for chapbooks until the French Revolution. He was conscious of the tradition of the story before him, but we must not think of him in terms of a twentieth-century folklorist anxious to recapture the "soul" of the people. His chief source was Boccaccio, and not any specific folklore version. As was the custom of the time, he used the text of Boccaccio as a source of inspiration, and he wrote freely. One major difference of treatment in Perrault's text is that the daughter of Griselidis has a fiancé—a new character not found in Boccaccio.
For the other tales, notably the famous prose tales, Perrault has provided posterity with a long acknowledgment of his "popular" sources. The salient points of that statement were: the insistence of having "recorded naively [stories] the way he had heard them told in his childhood," the antiquity of the tales, and their moral value. Very few scholars have disputed that Perrault did not tell anything but the truth in these affirmations. It is possible, however, that such a statement reflects more a literary convention than it does the truth about the folk origin of the Mother Goose tales. Three hundred years ago nobody would readily admit authorship of children's stories such as fairy tales. They had to come, therefore, from some "infinite number of fathers, mothers, grandmothers, governesses and greatgrandfriends …" (Perrault's own words in the Mercure Galant, January 1697). Perrault, however, had also admitted having written these fairy tales in order to amuse his children.
The contradictory assumption—whether Perrault was the recorder of the tales or the writer of the tales—need not be defended: Perrault is both. There is no reason why he could not have used material from popular tradition—indeed, also from literary tradition before him—but he made all this material his own. Two examples from the realm of music will perhaps clarify this argument. Were not Chopin and Bartok inspired by Polish and Hungarian folksongs? And yet, all we know is their music, and there is a chance that the original folksongs they used as sources of inspiration may have become completely lost or forgotten. What we have is their music. And what we have are Perrault's stories.
Perrault's tales were so often reprinted and translated that they became very well-known not only in France but in the rest of Europe as well, and exerted a great influence on oral tradition. When the Grimm Brothers began gathering their German folktales for the publication of their famous collection, they found examples of all of the stories of Perrault in the German language. Some stories even had titles which were close translations from the French, such as "Rotkäppchen" [Red Riding Hood], "Blaubart" [Bluebeard], or "Aschenputtel" [Cinderella]. In the case of "Blaubart," the Brothers Grimm must have felt somewhat disturbed. The story, which was in fact printed in the first edition of 1812, disappears from all subsequent editions. That version of "Bluebeard" was in all respects similar to that of Perrault. According to Gilbert Rouger, "fearing that [it] could be nothing but a mere translation of Perrault's tale, they removed it"37 and used another similar story of German origin, "Fitschers Vogel."
Thus, even in stories collected from German oral tradition, a story of Perrault's literary text reappears almost verbatim. There could be no clearer example of the influence, or diffusion, of a literary text into the stream of oral tradition. What happened was that the stories of Perrault were told in French and retold by French governesses entrusted with the education of German children during the eighteenth century, a period during which practically all Europe was affecting French manners and worshiping French culture and institutions. The diffusion of Perrault's tales in Germany has been well documented in the article of Harry Velten.38 What is true of German tradition is even truer of English and American tradition, in which the stories of Perrault have achieved universal recognition while Perrault as their author is not very well known. Everyone has heard of "Sleeping Beauty" and "Cinderella," but who has heard of Perrault?
After the Brothers Grimm passed on, the science of folklore continued to flourish, culminating in the monumental Motif-Index of Folk-Literature,39 in which the very titles of Perrault's tales were found to be so universal that they reappear as subtitles in the basic folklore nomenclature. The oral stories collected by folklorists in this and the last century still reflect the influence of Perrault. Specialists of folklore have fully acknowledged the importance of Perrault in this respect: "Largely because of the influence of Perrault's collection of fairy tales, one of the best known of all stories of helpful animals is "Puss in Boots" …. Perrault's French version … has been of primary influence on the traditions of this tale."40 Another authority on folklore goes even further: "Perrault's version … has been taken as the version almost everywhere and has altered the detail of the older folk form everywhere that it has penetrated."41
The simple truth about Perrault is not that he was a collector of folklore material: he was a great inventor and artist, certainly inspired by popular tradition, but above all one of the greatest influences on the folklore of the western world. His contribution has resulted in the crystallization of a few images and types that have for some reason stuck in our "collective" imagination. The mention of Cinderella immediately elicits a few images: the persecuted stepchild, the kitchen maid, the fairy godmother, the ball, the pumpkin carriage, the glass slipper. Of all these images, the carriage, the slipper, and the idea of midnight "curfew" are probably the best known. We all too easily forget that the simplest, clearest, and most effective version was that of Perrault, and that it appeared over a hundred years before the version of the Brothers Grimm. Both versions have become immensely popular, at least in the United States, through numerous editions (accurate and "vulgarized"), including the famous film version of Walt Disney: the tale has become ubiquitous, truly part of the oral tradition of our century. Everyone knows, or thinks he knows, the story of Cinderella. But usually one confuses unknowingly Perrault and Grimm. Thus the carriage of Perrault's version is frequently remembered (as well as the pumpkin from which it was made), but it does not appear at all in the Grimms' text. But who really cares? It is characteristic of commonly accepted images that very few of those who use them know their origins. If an American adolescent says "after midnight I turn into a pumpkin," does she realize that she is inaccurately echoing Perrault's text?
To clarify the connection between Perrault and folklore, we will list below a few reference works (cited also in the bibliography). There is, first of all, Stith Thompson's The Folktale (1946), which suggests that much research needs to be done on the "stylistic interaction between the literary and the oral folktale,"42 while admitting the enormous influence of Perrault.
In France itself the central work is the comprehensive two-volume Catalogue du Conte merveilleux français [Catalogue of the French Wonder Tale, 1957-1964] by the late Paul Delarue and Marie-Louise Tenèze, in which we find Perrault's tales classified according to the international nomenclature of Aarne-Thompson's Motif-Index, as well as some interesting remarks on the influence of Perrault. Paul Delarue was a folklorist first and foremost. He believed that the oral "pure" folktale was superior to the literary fairy tale. Consequently, anything in Perrault which seems too refined and too widely imitated by other authors, he does not consider the authentic voice of the people. Delarue could not fully admire Perrault, and lamented his influence on the score of women fairy tale authors who published in the last ten years of the seventeenth century. He decried as well the enormous flowering of the fairy tale in the eighteenth century, resulting in the forty-one volumes of the Cabinet des Fées,43 published just before the French Revolution (1785-1789). But these authors and their collections belong to literature and not to folklore—even though it is sometimes difficult to distinguish one from the other.
We have ample evidence of the diffusion of Perrault in the "popular" stream through numerous reprints in chapbooks during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In our century, the French scholars Pierre Brochon, Geneviève Bollème,44 and Robert Mandrou45 have published well-documented volumes which attest once again to the influence of Perrault and the ubiquity of the fairy tale in all chapbook collections.
VII. The Moral and Psychological Import of Perrault
In previous pages we have mentioned the morals of Perrault's tales. The simple truth is that the moral message of the Mother Goose stories is rather pedestrian, utilitarian, and at times rather cynical. We see no profound ethical lesson in what happens in "Puss in Boots," "Bluebeard," or "Hop O' My Thumb." We do not find much inspiration either in the versified morals of these stories.
Yet Perrault, like La Fontaine, professed to be moral and offered his stories as educational tales for the betterment of the young. It is possible that both La Fontaine and Perrault believed that their fables and tales possessed an educational value. It is also pos- sible that in their days a lesson of opportunism might pass for a moral lesson. We profess a much broader ethical conception. For us there is ethical value in any narrative that becomes a classic. Such a narrative gives an impression of order and beauty, rhythm and elegance. Children, and a fortiori adults, become better human beings through the experience of beautiful narratives. Paul Hazard stated in Books, Children, and Men, one of the most suggestive books ever written about children's literature, that nursery rhymes do not seem "unconscious of the fact that by placing rhythm at the beginning of life they are conforming to the general order of the universe."46 The statement applies to the tales of Perrault, if we paraphrase it thus: fairy tales, by their recital of immemorial adventures told at the beginning of youth, tell the child that he belongs to the same universal order as that of heroes and heroines in the supernatural world.
The child perceives that fairy tales are symbolic narratives even if he does not understand them fully. For a child, "Little Red Riding Hood" is a story about the danger of wolves, a warning tale that has been well analyzed in semiological terms.47 But for an adult the story can be ironic because he reads the narrative as an allegory of sexual seduction. The "obscure" way in which the child may still have an awareness of the symbolic import of any kind of narrative is of enormous educational importance. For, if the child accepts a fairy tale at face value, there must be something wrong with his emotional makeup. It is through the fairy tale that he may first learn the difference between fiction and reality. He learns to accept fairy tales as beautiful fictions which enrich his innermost mind. Perrault understood this very well when he wrote that fairy tales are like "seeds that one throws, which first bring forth the emotions of joy and sadness, but which will inevitably bloom later in the form of worthy feelings."48
Furthermore, since fairy tales are first told or read aloud to children by parents or friends, they act as an emotional bridge between adult and young. Each enjoys the tale in his own way: the adult pretending to become young again and a believer of fairies, the child dreaming of supernatural powers like those of the wonder-tale heroes. But that emotional bridge is also an aesthetic bridge. When both an adult and a child pretend to believe in a fairy tale, not because it is absolutely convincing, but because it is beautifully expressed, they become "aesthetic accomplices?
In that large ethical and aesthetic sense, Perrault's fairy tales acquire a new dimension. They have been told and retold so often that they seem immortal: Sleeping Beauty, Puss in Boots, Cinderella are reborn with each new generation of children. Such characters have become legendary in our Western culture (and probably outside of it, in China or Japan as well). We fully agree with the statement of Mircea Eliade that the fairy tale has an initiatory function in our civilization: "Without realizing it, and thinking he is merely entertaining himself or escaping, modern man still enjoys the imaginary initiation which fairy tales bring to him."49
Eliade is here comparing the fairy tale to the legends and myths told the young in "primitive" societies. In the context of these cultures it is through the recital of the deeds of heroic ancestors that the young learn of their forefathers—whom they are urged to imitate. It might be argued that insofar as the fairy tales are concerned they do not contain any adventures or feats as heroic as those that can be found in such epics as the Iliad or the Odyssey. We do not agree. The characters of Perrault, because of their interesting combination of stylization and psychological appeal, are the kind of heroes whom the young—consciously or unconsciously—want to imitate. A young girl readily daydreams about the fate of Cinderella, a young boy might easily dream of owning such a wonderful "gadget" as the seven-league boots.
In those dreams reside the fulfillment of life, as Joseph Campbell beautifully expressed it: "… they are the heroes and villains who have built the world for us. The debutante combing her hair before the glass, the mother pondering the future of a son, the laborer in the mines, the merchant vessel full of cargo, the ambassador with portfolio, the soldier in the field of war—all are working in order that the ungainsayable specifications of effective fantasy, the permanent patterns of the tale of wonder, shall be clothed in flesh and known as life."50 In another passage, Campbell emphasizes the symbolic content of fairy tales: "The function of the craft of the tale … was not simply to fill the vacant hour, but to fill it with symbolic fare. And since symbolization is the characteristic pleasure of the human mind, the fascination of the tale increased in proportion to the richness of its symbolic content."51
The psychological import of Perrault's tales derives from their symbolic content. Each symbol has its corresponding psychological resonance. The recent book of Bruno Bettelheim provides explanations or rather a psychoanalysis of about fifteen fairy tales, most from the Grimms' collection, a few from Perrault's. Since his work has achieved a great popularity—and been translated into French—no analytical discussion of Perrault's fairy tales is now possible without referring to it. In many ways Bettelheim seems to have interpreted Perrault's stories in a thoroughly definitive way, as only a psychoanalyist and a child psychiatrist could. We will give an account of his interpretations. But we do not wish to suggest that we entirely agree with him.
To discern a symbol is to explain how we think, or vibrate inwardly with its message. In "Sleeping Beauty," Perrault articulated the idea of sleep as a symbol for the passive, introspective period of puberty: "This is how the symbolic language of the fairy tale states that after having gathered strength in solitude the young have now become themselves."52 Perrault emphasized the value of "sleep" as a period of learning when he told his audience not to be amazed if the princess was perfectly alert, pert, and articulate after her century of sleep: "she had plenty of time to think and learn through the many pleasant dreams her fairy had inspired in her."53 This remark of Perrault—which some may dislike or dismiss as an extraneous interpolation—is peculiar to his version.
"Bluebeard" is a story of sexual transgression. In her husband's absence the wife has been unfaithful. It is a terrifying story suggesting that on a "preconscious level the child understands from the indelible blood on the key and from other details that Bluebeard's wife has committed a sexual indiscretion."54 But he was wrong in seeking such a cruel revenge (death by beheading). The tale teaches deep down a higher morality, which Bettelheim finds expressed by Perrault himself in the second moral: "One can well see that this is a story of times past; / There are no longer such terrible husbands who demand the impossible / Even when they are dissatisfied or jealous, / They act gently toward their wives."55
We have no difficult in accepting Perrault's point of view as expressed above. But the explanation of Bettelheim that the key and the forbidden room symbolize sexual infidelity can be open to question. There is no doubt that the two motifs do suggest sex—as many dreams and stories have confirmed—but there is not the slightest reference within the story as told by Perrault that another man was present in any form in the life or the thoughts of Bluebeard's wife. Fairy tales are usually very explicit narratives, even though they may be highly symbolic. What disturbs us in Bettelheim's explanations is that he does not seem to grant the possibility that any story or element of a story can be interpreted in more ways than one (his own). Perhaps the story as told by Perrault is also valid as an allegory of infant curiosity and adult cruelty, including the possibility of sexual curiosity, but not excluding either Perrault's plainly manifest content and interpretation.
The tale which has been the most elaborately interpreted by Bettelheim is "Cinderella." We will not repeat all he wrote concerning the interpretation of Cinderella's slipper as a symbol for the vagina. We are, in fact, quite ready to agree with him. A ring or a slipper are common motifs in fairy tales, and easy to interpret as such. We disagree with him concerning the character of Perrault's heroine. He feels that she is passively "sugar sweet and insipidly good … and completely lacks initiative."56 No, the Cinderella of Perrault is, on the contrary, very alive, very spirited, and full of initiative. Any reader of this tale (in French or in an English translation) can see for himself: all he has to do is read the dialogues between Cinderella and her fairy godmother, or her conversations with her sisters, or the account of the ball at the royal palace, or the reference to the laughter of Cinderella pulling out of her pocket the other slipper which she had kept all along.
Another instance where we feel Bettelheim has failed to understand something essential—in fact, thoroughly missing a plausible interpretation—is the case of the famous carriage. The idea of the carriage itself he finds a useless addition to the story, as we have already shown. He explains at great length how the fairy scoops the pumpkin and transforms it into a beautiful carriage; then, following the opinion of Marc Soriano, he considers that in this episode Perrault treats the magical in an ironic way (he may well be right) which detracts from the beauty and wonder of the story (an opinion which can be debated).
Applying Bettelheim's own method of interpretation and analysis, we suggest the following. The carriage is essential for Cinderella. Dressed as she was in regal clothes, she could not—in her own social context of 1697—go to the ball on foot. Furthermore, she needed its protection and comfort. The thoughtful fairy wanted her ward to have some kind of parental protection, be it in the form of a carriage, to go "out in the world alone." We recall the act of scooping the inside of the pumpkin, transforming it into the golden carriage, and finally placing Cinderella inside of it and sending her along. This sequence begs for interpretation. Cinderella was a stepchild without a mother. What the fairy did was to create symbolically a womb (the pumpkin) in which she placed Cin- derella, who was reborn again inside of it, as a full blown woman ready to mate, ready to meet her prince. This obvious analysis seems to have escaped our analyst.
There is one other point about this tale we wish to make. Bettelheim insists that Perrault is too interested in clothes as an outward symbol of wealth, and that he does not pay enough attention to the character of Cinderella, where clothes are unimportant. We beg to differ. Here is a reference to the beauty "without clothes" of Cinderella: "Cinderella, notwithstanding her raggedy clothes, was a hundred times more beautiful than her sisters who were so luxuriously dressed."57 As to the fact that the prince or his entourage ought to have been able to recognize Cinderella after the ball when she was dressed in her usual ugly clothes (as is the fact in the Grimm version), we will simply recall that when the nobleman in charge of trying the slipper comes face to face with Cinderella, he disregards the sarcasms of the wicked sisters, and "having looked intently at Cinderella, and having found her quite beautiful,"58 proceeds with the famous slipper test.
We do not wish to "overargue" our case concerning Cinderella, but it so happens that, in preparing the Perrault Concordance, we have copied with our own hands the text of Perrault, and know almost by heart all the fairy tales. We have practically total recall of the text of our author.
In general the book of Bruno Bettelheim gives the impression of a "grammar of symbols," a sort of closed world in which symbols are explained once and for all. We feel that context is of the essence in the explanation of symbols. True, they may be a universal language, but only in a kind of dynamic dialectic sense, in the exchange that takes place between the story (or producer of the story) and its listeners or readers. It is all a question of psychic resonance within a given sociocultural context.
We will only briefly deal with "Puss in Boots." We agree that it is an amoral story. The hero's success is arranged through shameless deceit and effrontery. The same can be said about "Tom Thumb." In both these tales the youngest child, the most underprivileged, finally prevails, thanks to his resourcefulness. The function of such tales is not to give a choice between good and bad, but to give a child hope that even someone as small and as disinherited as he may be, can, like the peasant boy of "Puss in Boots," "Tom Thumb," or "Jack the Giant Killer," succeed in life.59 There is also in "Puss in Boots" a totemic element: the animal is here the protector-provider of his master, just as in American Indian tribal legend a certain animal is the totem or protector of the clan.
"Beauty and the Beast" is the last story which Bettelheim interprets. Perrault's variation of that theme is "Riquet à la houppe." Everything that Bettelheim writes on the subject seems quite relevant and correct. The beast as a sexual symbol is quite obvious, quite easy to discern from the various narratives he analyzes. "Riquet à la houppe" is not treated at length; it is the object of a long footnote.60 The story of Perrault can only be understood as a version of "Beauty and the Beast," within a tradition of tales originating with the myth of Cupid and Psyche. We presented (in 1960 and in 1975)—prior to Bettelheim—our analyses of both the myth and the fairy tale,61 and Bettelheim's interpretation coincides with our own.
Furthermore, on the question of "Riquet à la houppe," we feel that a fuller analysis is necessary. There are two stories by that name, that of Mlle Bernard, which appeared before Perrault's in 1696, and that of our author, published the following year. The main difference between the two stories consists in the fact that in Mlle Bernard's version Riquet marries his princess before the end of the tale; she tires of him and manages to have an affair with a friend she hides in the palace. Riquet punishes his wife in an unusual way: he transforms the handsome lover into his twin brother, with the result that the princess is condemned to live with two husbands, not knowing which of the two she should hate.
Perrault's version is much simpler. As we know, the princess has no lover. We recall that when she agreed to marry Riquet, he seemed immediately to be transformed into a handsome man. The clever explanation that it was love that made the princess find the ugly Riquet suddenly handsome is Perrault's refined way of suggesting discreetly that his story is a symbolic account of the power of sexual attraction. It is also clear that Perrault knew the previous version of his story, and saw fit to eliminate the lover. In his story the lover and the husband coincide. The moment Riquet is accepted as a sexual person he becomes attractive. But this acceptance of Riquet as a sexual companion is an expression of maturity: his wife welcomes him as he really is, and as adult wisdom demands according to psychological truth and custom.
In conclusion we must say that not all of Perrault's stories have been completely interpreted to our satisfaction. On the story of Donkey-Skin, with its obvious incestuous element of a father seeking to marry his daughter, we have not found any analytical criticism. We are also surprised that the Grimm Brothers' version of that tale (Allerleirauh, or Skin of all Animals), in which the father finally marries his daughter, is not even mentioned.62
A major work of synthesis remains to be written on the interpretation of all fairy tales, not only those of Perrault. This work would show that after myths, which are the easiest to interpret, the fairy tales offer the simplest structures and styles. Like dreams, myths and fairy tales are the royal road to the unconscious. Among authors of fairy tales Perrault seems to us one of the best, because of a style which is at once simple, or naive, and yet very refined in its gentle humor and irony. That combination of refinement and naiveté is not unique to Perrault. It is present in all the great authors of fairy tales: Mme. d'Aulnoy, Mme Leprince de Beaumont, Andersen and Lewis Carroll, to name but a few. Their literary charm enhances our world and constantly elicits interpretations wherein we find images of our complex psychic selves.63
Notes and References
1. Louis Marin, "Puss in Boots: Power of Signs—Signs of Power," Diacritics 7 (1977): 54.
2. Paul Delarue, Le Conte populaire français, Catalogue raisonné … (Paris, 1957), p. 30. The second volume (published by Marie-Louise Tenèze after Paul Delarue's death) appeared in 1964.
3. Mademoiselle, niece of Louis XIV, was the daughter of his brother Philippe d'Orléans and of his second wife, Elisabeth Charlotte de Bavière, known as the "princesse Palatine." The brother of Mademoiselle became regent after the death of Louis XIV. Mademoiselle (Elisabeth Charlotte d'Orléans) was nineteen years old and a person of some importance at the court. It was natural that a work of literature should be dedicated to her. In 1698 she married Leopold, duke of Lorraine. She became a widow in 1729. One of her thirteen children married Maria Theresa of Austria, whose daughter, Marie-Antoinette, became Louis XVI's unfortunate wife and queen of France. Mademoiselle died in 1744. There are many allusions to her and her family in the Mémoires of Saint Simon, attesting that she was rather vivacious, and greatly beloved at the court of the Sun King.
4. Barchilon, Tales of Mother Goose, p. 140.
5. Rouger, p. 125.
6. Ibid., p. 113.
7. Ibid., p. 139.
8. Jacques Barchilon (with E. E. Flinders, Jr., and Jeanne Anne Foreman), A Concordance to Charles Perrault's Tales, vol. 1, Contes de Ma Mère l'Oye; vol. 2, The Verse Tales, Griselidis, Peau d'Ane and Les Souhaits Ridicules (Darby, Penn., 1977-1979).
10. Rouger, Contes, p. 103.
13. Quoted in d'Alté A. Welch, A Bibliography of American Children's Books Printed Prior to 1821 (Worcester, 1967), p. 59.
14. Paul Bonnefon, "Pensées … de Charles Perrault," p. 535.
15. Rouger, Contes, p. 184.
16. Barchilon and Pettit, The Authentic Mother Goose (Denver, 1960).
17. Ibid., pp. 54-55.
18. Ibid., p. 56.
19. In further pages of this book we will again refer to this aesthetic principle in the fairy tale, which Robert Samber formulated so simply and effectively.
20.Authentic Mother Goose, p. 84.
21. Ibid., p. 23.
22. Ibid., p. 25.
23. Ibid., p. 26.
24. Ibid., p. 43.
25. Ibid., p. 51.
26. Rouger, Contes, p. 103.
27.Authentic Mother Goose, p. 48.
28.Perrault's Fairy Tales, with thirty-four full-page illustrations by Gustave Doré (New York, 1969).
29. Marianne Moore, Puss in Boots, the Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella (New York: Macmillan, 1963).
30. Geoffrey Brereton, The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault (Edinburgh, 1957).
31. Anne Carter, Perrault's Fairy Tales (London, 1967).
32.Histoire d'un conte, Le Chat botté en France et en Angleterre. Ph.D. dissertation (Aix: Université de Provence, 1979).
33. Anna B. Rooth, The Cinderella Cycle (Lund: Gleerund, 1951).
34. Iona and Peter Opie, The Classic Fairy Tales (London, 1974), p. 22.
35. André Jolles, Formes simples, pp. 175-79.
36. Rouger, Contes, p. 13.
37. Ibid., p. 120.
38. In his article Harry Velten prints side by side the French of Perrault and the text of Grimm for selected stories, showing how the German is seemingly a translation of the French.
39. Bloomington (1932-1936).
40. Thompson, The Folktale, pp. 58-59.
41.Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore (New York, 1950), 2: 913.
42. Thompson, The Folktale, pp. 459-60.
43. Reprinted partially (less the Oriental tales) under the title Nouveau Cabinet des Fées, 18 vols., introduction by Jacques Barchilon (Geneva: Slatkine, 1975).
44.La Bibliothèque bleue, littérature populaire en France (Paris: Juillard, 1971).
45.De la Culture populaire aux XVIIIesiècle (Paris: Stock, 1964).
46. Paul Hazard, Books, Children, and Men (Boston, 1947), p. 81.
47. Victor Laruccia, "Little Red Riding Hood's Metacommentary," Modern Language Notes 90 (1975): 517-34.
48. Rouger, Contes, p. 6.
49.Aspect du mythe (Paris, 1963), p. 244.
51. Ibid., p. 862.
52. Bettelheim, Uses of Enchantment, p. 226.
53. Rouger, Contes, p. 102.
54. Bettelheim, Uses of Enchantment, p. 302.
55. Rouger, Contes, p. 129.
56. Bettelheim, Uses of Enchantment, p. 251.
57. Rouger, Contes, p. 158.
58. Ibid., p. 163.
59. Bettelheim, Uses of Enchantment, p. 10.
60. Ibid., p. 304.
61. "Beauty and the Beast, from Myth to Fairy Tale," Psychoanalytic Review 46 (1960). See also, Le Conte merveilleux (1975), chap. 1.
62. This is the sixty-fifth story in the Brothers Grimm's collection.
63. This chapter has been enriched and inspired by many discussions with Dr. José Barchilon, clinical professor of psychiatry at Cornell University; among Dr. Barchilon's publications, his studies of Twain's Huckleberry Finn and Camus's The Fall (Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 1966, 1971) have been most useful.
Ségolène Le Men (essay date spring 1992)
SOURCE: Le Men, Ségolène. "Mother Goose Illustrated: From Perrault to Doré." Poetics Today 13, no. 1 (spring 1992): 17-39.
[In the following essay, Le Men examines various illustrated editions of the Mother Goose fables, including Perrault's Contes.]
"Once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversations?’" Lewis Carroll's famous sentence captures the need for a specific kind of book devoted to children, and it points to the importance of visual and verbal expressions in the child's perception of a book. Illustration, as a reading of the text, helps adapt a literary work to the child. In addition to fables, tales are one of the principal genres of children's literature, and ever since Charles Perrault's tales were first issued in 1697, a plethora of editions, often illustrated, has been published. This text is therefore an apposite case for examining the historical semiotics of illustrated children's books. Although a considerable amount of excellent criticism has addressed Perrault's tales, it is surprising to note that the issue of their illustrations has usually been neglected. Marie-Louise Teneze, who referred to the illustrations in her article "Si Peau d'Ane m'était conté … A propos de trois illustrations des Contes de Perrault" (Teneze 1957), is exceptional in this regard. For the most part, researchers have occupied themselves with myriad other questions: the authorship of the Contes (Bonnefon 1904); the sources of the tales and the question of popular versus high culture (Soriano 1968); the structural organization of narration (Escarpit 1985); the psychological function of tales in a child's development (Bettelheim 1976); the relevance of the tales to history and to rural everyday life in seventeenth-century France (Darnton 1984); and the integration of the tales into children's fairy-tale literature (Zipes 1983; Shavit 1986). All of these questions, starting with the authorship riddle, could also be addressed apropos of the illustrations which appeared in the first edition of the tales. That edition, published in Paris by Barbin in 1697, deserves attention because its illustrations have become visual archetypes. Indeed, it is possible to trace the evolution of the illustration process up to the end of the nineteenth century by means of one particular picture, the frontispiece of Mother Goose telling her tale. (Various versions of this illustration are reprinted in Escarpit .)
In a brilliant article, Catherine Velay-Vallantin (1987) shows how Perrault's Contes were integrated into French chapbooks; she views the illustrations as part of a general process of adaptation implied in the "bibliothèque bleue" editions. Although the questions she raises, arising out of Roger Chartier's seminar at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, are close to the ones we wish to address, the corpus we analyze is oriented toward children's literature, which achieved its autonomy in French literary history mostly during the nineteenth century. The famous Gumuchian Catalogue (1931) has been very helpful in attempting to trace the illustrated versions of Perrault's Contes, as has a recent article by Laura Noesser (1986) on the evolution of illustrations of tales over two centuries. Finally, this survey would not be complete without citing Louis Marin's seminal study of the Mother Goose frontispiece and of the illustrations for Les Fées. Originally a 1984 lecture in Chartier's seminar "Socio-histoire des pratiques culturelles," Marin's study, "La Trajectoire d'une illustration: Un conte de Perrault," has given rise to various articles, the latest one appearing in a special issue on Perrault of Europe (Marin 1990 ).
As a series of pictures, illustrations may be considered from two perspectives: one may study the sequence of images in a single edition (e.g., Perrault 1697); or one may investigate iconographic transformations in successive versions of the same episode (Hop o' My Thumb pulling on the ogre's boots, for instance; see Le Men and Renonciat 1989; Renonciat 1990) or in one key illustration (such as the scene of Mother Goose telling her tale). This last approach reveals changes in the reading and intended reception of the text. In fact, the ideal method is to combine the two, using both the syntagmatic and the paradigmatic axes in order to detect illustrative archetypes and trace their derivations as stereotypes. At the same time, this method reveals the role of the artist, who lends a new orientation to the illustrative chain as he transforms and recreates the standard iconography. The present article aims to examine in detail the illustrations of the original, Barbin edition of Perrault's tales, then to focus on the paradigm of the frontispiece—the scene of Mother Goose telling her tale—and to survey its transformations in succeeding children's books up to Doré's masterly interpretation of 1862.
The 1697 Edition
In searching for visual archetypes, the first step is to return to the original illustrated edition of a text, where the prototypes are often found. The art of illustration is extremely conservative and almost always alludes to earlier illustrated versions, which are sometimes made into vague, but strong, visual-image memories. This is also true of Perrault's tales. But the first illustrated edition of those tales also happened to be the original edition, despite the fact that for various reasons, business and financial, technical and editorial, one would have expected the original edition to appear without illustrations. Why?
In the late seventeenth century illustrated books were still unusual because the trade rules did not allow a typographer to issue prints, nor a print engraver a typographical text longer than a caption of a few lines (see Duportal 1914). Large books, which were more like portfolios of plates, and luxury editions with engraved frontispieces were almost the sole forms of the illustrated book. The only other exceptions were books on fortifications, architecture, geography, or botany, which relied mainly on figures and were, once the ten-year privilege was granted, under the protection of a well-placed person at court. One of the finest examples of a French seventeenth-century illustrated book is Les Hommes illustrés by Claude Perrault, adorned with 104 portraits engraved mainly by Edelinck, and released in 1696, one year before the Histoires, ou Contes du temps passé (1697). Apart from special traditions, such as emblems or some devotion books, intaglio techniques (engraving in relief), which entailed a printing separate from that of the typographical text, were used only in plates. The "pocketsize" duodecimo format of the latter was common to that period and usually had no illustrations or, at most, ornamental woodcuts. An edition of the tales in verse, printed in 1695, followed this standard; its only pictorial elements were ornamental woodcuts, such as the publisher's monogram on the title page and the headpiece and rubric of the preface. Peau d'Ane appeared without illustrations in that collection of tales and its first readers reproved it for this lack of visual impact.
Je n'ai aucune idée de Peau d'Ane dans son déguisement à quoi je puisse me fixer. Tantôt je me la représente barbouillée et noire comme une bohémienne avec sa peau d'âne qui lui sert d'écharpe, tantôt je m'imagine que la peau d'âne est comme un masque sur son visage et qu'elle y est tellement jointe que les spectateurs la prennent pour sa peau naturelle; quelquefois pour lui changer les traits et pour la rendre aussi dégoûtante que le veut l'auteur, je conçois qu'elle s'est fait un fard de laideur avec de la vieille graisse et de la suie de cheminée … le poète qui n'a pas pris soin de m'apprendre en quoi consistait le déguisement, détruit lui-même par quelques mots en passant tout ce que je tâche d'imaginer là-dessous.
(Lettres de Monsieur de* * à Mademoiselle* * * sur les pièces de Griselidis et Peau d'Ane [anonymous text published in the 1964 edition of the Moetghens collection of tales])
No such reproach was ever addressed to the subsequent collection of tales. Although introduced by Sébastien Le Clerc in the last quarter of the seventeenth century, the fashion of small-format books with vignettes only came into its own in the eighteenth century.
All these facts demonstrate that in Perrault's tales there was a special requirement for illustrations, which needs to be taken into account. The material reason is simple: not very long ago, it was discovered that the 1697 edition had been based on an illuminated manuscript dated 1695. The earlier manuscript, unexpectedly rediscovered in Nice in 1953 and acquired by the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, was edited by Jacques Barchilon (1956). The purpose of this manuscript seems to have been two-fold: it was a deluxe dedication copy intended for nineteen-year-old Mademoiselle Elisabeth Charlotte d'Orléans (niece of Louis XIV and daughter of his brother Philippe), and it was also the model, or mock-up ("maquette"), for publication. In this copy all the illustrations are placed just as they are in the subsequent 1697 edition. Here, too, they are pen and ink sepia drawings colored with gouache and include the frontispiece, the vignette for the opening page of the dedication, and the five vignettes for the opening pages of the following tales: La Belle au bois dormant (Sleeping Beauty ), Le Petit Chaperon rouge (Little Red Riding Hood ), La Barbe bleue (Bluebeard ), Le Maistre Chat, ou le Chat botté (Puss-in-Boots ), Les Fées (The Fairies, or Diamonds and Toads ). The last three tales—Cendrillon, ou la Petite Pantoufle de verre (Cinderella ), Riquet à la Houppe (Riquet with the Tuft ), Le Petit Pouçet (Hop o' My Thumb )—do not appear in the manuscript. Probably, they were not yet written.
The manuscript and the edition differ primarily in style, a function of the change to printed reproduction: the calligraphy became typographical letterpress, the gouaches black and white linear engravings, all in reverse, as required by the printing process. Except for the frontispiece and the vignette for Bluebeard, the design of each opening page in the manuscript and the edition is similar, with a superposition for the headpiece, title (completed by the word "conte" except for Bluebeard ), and the first lines of the text. The printed edition added only an ornamental rubric—usually an "I"—which draws attention to the recurrent opening phrase, "Il était une fois" ("Once upon a time"). Even the size of the drawings (4.2 x 6.2 cm) is identical to the size of the prints except for the frontispiece, which is slightly larger in the manuscript, in spatial proportion to the larger dimensions of the manuscript page. The three pictures added to the printed edition maintained that pattern.
The organization of the illustrated page shared by the manuscript and the edition may suggest the reason why Perrault's tales were illustrated in the first place. Tales belong to an emblematic tradition, as do fables. It is very likely that the visual strategy of the Barbin edition of Perrault's Contes was based on the earlier example of La Fontaine's Fables (also issued by Claude Barbin, in 1668), which included 118 engraved vignettes by François Chauveau placed between the title and the beginning of the text of each fable (see Bassy 1986, 1974). In his two articles, Alain-Marie Bassy uses the term "emblem" differently, in a strict sense (1986) and in a broader sense (1974). Here, we deal with the more general sense, as applied to the emblematic page setting. It is clear that the strict definition of the emblematic image, as used in emblem books, indicates a quasi-hieroglyphic image based on symbols and allegories that would not be appropriate to the illustrations of fables and tales. Emblems are a mixed medium rooted in the interplay between the concrete and the abstract, involving both text and image. They were invented by Alciati in 1531 and were in fashion for over two centuries (Praz 1939-1947; Klein 1970). The image appeals to the senses and emphasizes the concreteness of the text, that is, the story. The rhymed epigram, or "morality," belongs to the emblem's abstract aspect, its moral lesson. The motto is used to link image and text, and it has a double meaning: the first is related to the picture preceding the tale; the second is discovered with the "morality" at the end, which becomes integrated only upon a second reading. This format is indicative of how involved illustrations are in the reading and rereading process.
There is some evidence that Perrault was interested in emblematic language before 1697. His Recueil de divers ouvrages en prose et en vers, Le Labyrinthe de Versailles (Perrault 1675) is an important work related to the art of illustration (Wilhelm 1936; Bassy 1976). It was based on the Versailles maze, designed by Le Notre in 1664 and decorated between 1672 and 1674 with thirty-nine fountains inspired by Aesop's fables and their traditional iconography. Like a guide book, the text relies on external objects; like an emblem book, the title, or motto, on each page is used to connect the icon and the text. The Versailles maze took a literary subject, Aesop's fables, for its theme. Perrault reversed the illustration process, deriving a collection of textual emblems from the sculpture garden. (These were reproduced in the Imprimérie royale edition [Perrault 1677-1679] in the plates by Sébastien Le Clerc.) Le Labyrinthe de Versailles is testimony to Perrault's interest in mixed-media expressions, intersemiotic transpositions, and emblematic effects. The contrast between the prose "tale" and the "morality" in verse is already present.
Perrault's headpieces work as "shifters" or mediators between the title and the text, the story and its moral. For example, in Sleeping Beauty, the illustration of the princess asleep and about to be awakened by the prince is appropriate to the title and echoes the first epigram:
Attendre quelque temps pour avoir un Epoux,
Riche, bien fait, galant et doux,
La chose est assez naturelle,
Mais l'attendre cent ans, et toujours en dormant,
On ne trouve plus de femelle,
Qui dormit si tranquillement.
An emblem usually fits on a single page; a fable may cover two pages. Tales are longer, but Perrault's share the same binary verbal composition whereby the story is separated from the "morality." La Fontaine explained this structure with an image referring to the duality of human nature: a fable has a "soul" as well as a "body." In his 1668 preface La Fontaine insisted on the moral impact of fables, and, under the latter's influence, so did Perrault in the 1695 preface to his rhymed tales.
[Les gens de bon goût] ont été bien aises de remarquer que ces bagatelles n'étaient pas de pures bagatelles, qu'elles renfermaient une morale utile et que le récit enjoué dont elles avaient été enveloppées n'avait été choisi que pour les faire entrer plus agréablement dans l'esprit et d'une manière qui instruisît et divertît tout ensemble; dans les contes que nos aïeux ont inventés pour leurs Enfants, ils ont toujours eu un très grand soin que leurs contes renfermassent une moralité louable et instructive. Partout la vertu y est récompensée, et partout le vice y est puni. Ils tendent tous à faire voir l'avantage qu'il y a d'être honnête, patient, avisé, laborieux, obéissant, et le mal arrive à ceux qui ne le sont pas. N'est-il pas louable à des Pères et à des Mères, lorsque leurs Enfants ne sont pas capables de goûter des vérités solides et dénuées de tous agréments, de les leur faire aimer, et si cela se peut dire, les leur faire avaler, en les enveloppant dans des récits agréables et proportionnés à la faiblesse de leur âge.
The editions of La Fontaine's fables have exactly the same kind of page format as those of Perrault's tales, intertwining text and image. The emblematic device, based on pictorial pedagogy, had already been used by the Jesuits. In spite of this pedagogical and moralistic intent, though, it is clear that children are interested only in the story. They forget about the moral in the case of the fable just as readily as in the tale. To use Perrault's own metaphor, they take just "the honey" and reject "the medicine!" Their attention is drawn to the pictures, and they ignore the concluding morals, which are often not read to them, and in Per- rault's tales, not even addressed to them. Jean-Jacques Rousseau's complaint in L'Emile about the lack of morality in La Fontaine's fables was therefore irrelevant, even though it was repeated by authors such as Ratisbonne in La Comédie enfantine. In the last quarter of the eighteenth century, tales were criticized mainly for their lack of moral pedagogy, a requirement of the new children's literature of Berquin and Madame de Genlis. By the nineteenth century, however, children's editions of Perrault's tales had begun to be published without the morals, which, supposedly, were not intended for children.
Thus, there was a reason for the presence of illustrations with Perrault's text, that is, one linked to its inner nature. Even though Perrault was probably not responsible for the illustrations, they were part of the bookmaking ("mise en livre") of an emblematic text in both the 1695 manuscript and the 1697 edition.
How Perrault's Tales Were Illustrated
There are essentially two kinds of pictures in the original edition, the frontispiece and the in-text illustrations. (A third kind—the headpiece cartouche which adorns the dedication—I would like to set aside for the purposes of this discussion. It belongs to the motto genre, also a mixed-media expression based on the combination of one textual motto and a visual allegory.) The frontispiece played a commercial role comparable to that of a poster: it conveyed a picture to a selected audience. The in-text illustrations, namely, the headpieces, focused on the major scenes of the tales and were related to the narrative process. In subsequent editions the headpieces were used as visual equivalents of the titles and as visual signs of the tales. The distinction between the frontispiece and the headpieces also marked a way of organizing the tales within the book: the in-text illustrations emphasized the opening of each tale and played a role in the subdivision of the book, which is presented as a whole by the frontispiece.
The frontispiece depicts a night scene illuminated by a candle: an old woman with a cat is spinning close to a fireplace. She is telling a tale to three people. On the door behind her is a sign which reads "Contes de ma Mère l'Oye," following the title of the 1695 manuscript, later adopted by the English tradition (although it was replaced in the 1697 edition by Histoires, ou Contes du temps passé and shortened, in the French tradition, to Contes de Perrault ). This sign immediately raises the question of authorship, as does the transposition of folktales into written literature, symbolized by the book-poster. Facing the anonymous title page, the frontispiece attributes the tales to Mother Goose. Folklore scholars have interpreted the term "Mother Goose" as personifying the old storyteller associated with "contes de vieille," "contes bleus," and "contes de nourrice." She is linked to the oral transmission of popular culture from generation to generation in the rural setting of fireside evenings. The first description of the traditional "veillée" appeared in the Propos rustiques by Noël du Fail (1956 ; Darnton 1984: 251). If the old spinning woman is Mother Goose, then why should she appear at the opening of Histories, or Tales from Times Past ? And who is represented in her audience?
The gouache depicts three figures listening to the old woman. These may represent the Perrault children, according to Soriano (1968): two sons, twenty-one and nineteen years old, and a twenty-three year-old daughter. Seated in front, as a kind of foil, is one of the young men, probably Pierre Perrault, the son to whom Charles Perrault attributed the authorship of the tales. He acts as the scribe, or witness, who records the old woman's oral legacy. In the picture plane, he appears between the storyteller scene and the reader. Charles Perrault himself is not mentioned on the title page of the original edition, nor does he appear in the picture. There is no author writing a text, only a chain of transmission from the popular storyteller to the cultural intermediary, who may be compared to a folklorist in his role.
In print, the subtle chiaroscuro of the manuscript's gouache drawings is transformed into a very precise linear style. One detail is changed: the youngest boy standing near Mother Goose becomes instead a man kneeling in front of the storyteller. Other changes are the result of the publication process. The manuscript had a semiprivate circulation, so its readers would have been able to recognize whoever might have been represented in the gouache. Such identifications were lost on the wider audience of the printed version. The only remaining clue to the identities of the figures is the contrast between the elegant clothes of the three listeners and the rural costume of the spinner. The frontispiece thus highlights the confrontation between popular and high culture. From the drawing to the printed illustration there is a considerable shift implied in the subject matter, that is, from the fabrication to the reception of the text.
A frontispiece is usually meant to announce the content of a book. In the case of Perrault's tales, the frontispiece defines its own content as a literary genre: the tale—symbolized by the spindle, which represents the thread of oral discourse—comes into confrontation with the printed word, stressed by the book-poster. But the picture also includes a series of details from the tales themselves: The carefully closed door and its visible keyhole recall Bluebeard's cabinet; the kneeling posture belongs to the prince awakening Sleeping Beauty; the beautiful young woman represents all the beauties and princesses, just as the old woman is reminiscent of Little Red Riding-Hood's grandmother and the fairy, or "bonne femme." The old spinning woman heralds Sleeping Beauty —a tale in which the spindle is an important narrative feature. (This is treated as such in one tail-piece of the 1843 Curmer edition and is paralleled in the frontispiece scene of the 1862 edition illustrated by Gustave Doré.) Once the search for such details is started, even themes of the three tales absent from the manuscript but present in the printed version may be discovered in the picture. This proves the extent to which popular tales base their fantasy elements on everyday life: The fireplace conjures up the house of Hop o' My Thumb's parents as well as Cinderella, whose nickname "Cucendron" literally means "ass in cinders." The candle on the mantelpiece is similar to that held by the ogre's wife when Hop o' My Thumb and his brothers arrive at her house. The cat portends Puss-in-Boots. The kneeling boy's strange hat and the curl of his hair signal Riquet. Only the listener in the foreground, with whom the reader identifies, remains outside this preview of the tales. Consciously or not, the frontispiece is constructed exactly like a memory image, according to the rhetorical tradition, and it works as a visual summary of the collection of tales; its hidden complexity is quite different from the simple imagery of the headpieces.
All the headpieces stress the narrative nature of the tales and portray scenes, never portraits, landscapes, or still lifes. Each presents the main characters, either human or animal, including the hero of the tale. (This exemplifies the difference between conventional emblems, where the human figure was forbidden, and the illustration of tales, even though the latter belong to an "emblematic" text and image tradition.) The figures are linked by a single action, a major episode of the tale, which also often happens to be climactic: the prince kneels in front of Sleeping Beauty and the princess wakes up; the wolf lunges to devour its victim; Bluebeard raises his big knife over his wife as the two brothers/horsemen arrive; the cat speaks to the peasant holding his scythe; the younger daughter serves water to the fairy; Cinderella runs away as the prince picks up the slipper; Riquet presents himself to the princess and bows in front of her; and Hop o' My Thumb carefully pulls on the ogre's boots. These illustrations use the text as a sequence of scenic indicators for establishing their theatrical images; the figures, roughly sketched, are viewed from a distance, and textual indications of attitude, gesture, and setting are precisely adhered to: For example, in Sleeping Beauty, "il vit sur un lit, dont les rideaux étaient ouverts de tous côtés, … une Princesse … se mit à genoux auprès d'elle…. La Princesse s'éveilla." In Bluebeard, "puis la prenant d'une main par les cheveux, et de l'autre levant le coutelas en l'air, il allait lui abbattre la tête."
Although the pictures do use theatrical conventions in many ways, they also transgress the codes of classical drama. They depict events which, with respect to the three unities of time, action, and place, as well as the code of propriety, would never be represented on the stage. For instance, the illustrations for Little Red Riding Hood and Bluebeard both portray moments prior to murder and death. In each case it is the imminent danger and not the crime itself which is pictured, as baroque pictorial conventions would dictate. As Lessing later explained in his 1766 work, Laokoon, which draws parallels between literature and the visual arts, the climactic effect is better achieved when not the climax itself, but the instant before it, is represented, leaving the imagination to remain free. Four of the headpieces (Bluebeard, Pussin-Boots, Cinderella, and Riquet with the Tuft ) are based upon the conjunction of different actions, whose hierarchy is conveyed through oppositions in size. In Bluebeard, the picture is evenly split into two parts in order to show two settings and actions simultaneously: Bluebeard and his wife vis-à-vis the galloping horsemen; the inside vis-à-vis the outside of the castle. This dual vision is typical of children's drawings. Other features of the illustrations also recall children's drawings: there are no individual characterizations (which makes it difficult to distinguish Little Red Riding-Hood from her grandmother), and the relative sizes of pictorial elements are determined by their importance, not by perspective. This conceptual composition of an image is common to both children's drawings and medieval representations (Shapiro 1973). Even when there is an attempt at spatial perspective through the representation of a path (Puss-in-Boots ), a forest (Diamonds and Toads and Riquet with the Tuft ), or a ballroom (Sleeping Beauty ), the space is flat and the motifs look like cutouts placed in front of the picture plane. This is particularly true of the first headpieces, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, and Bluebeard. The engraved version of Sleeping Beauty shows the bed curtains floating in the air, in a manner which is absent from the drawing. There is, in general, more subtlety in the drawings than in the engraved illustrations, a difference obvious in the backdrop for Puss-in-Boots. However, the last three pictures (those which do not appear in the manuscript) have a less "naive" composition, and in the frontispiece the spatial composition is well mastered. On the other hand, the violent scenes of Bluebeard and Little Red Riding Hood, expressed with simple gestures, are close to the style of popular broadsheet imagery.
The manuscript has other features in common with medieval art and children's drawings. Illuminated manuscripts are a relic of the Middle Ages. Colorful illustrations, elsewhere restricted to a court audience, were an important ingredient in children's art and children's books. The cheerful, bright colors of Perrault's manuscript disappeared from the engraved version and did not reappear until the tales were again colored according to children's taste, first in popular imagery and only later in book form. Meanwhile, children sometimes colored the black and white prints in the engraved version themselves. All this suggests that the "naiveté" described by Perrault in his 1695 preface is as much a property of the illustrations as the text, as Sainte-Beuve later acknowledged:
Le Conte de Peau d'Ane est ici raconté
Avec tant de naiveté,
Qu'il ne m'a pas moins divertie,
Que quand auprès du feu ma Nourrice ou ma Mie
Tenaient en le faisant mon esprit enchanté.
The folkloric quest is paralleled by the semi-popular, semi-childlike style of the illustrations.
The illustrations transcend theatrical conventions, entering the realm of fantasy with scenes of strong emotional impact. In the drawing for Little Red Riding Hood, the nocturnal apparition of the wolf between the bed curtains recalls the popular etymology of the word "nightmare"—the mare of the night. (The pre-Romantic artist Fuseli followed exactly the same archetypal iconography in a famous painting called The Nightmare.) And Hop o' My Thumb's pulling on the ogre's boots symbolizes the child's changing into an adult, in a confrontation resembling the iconography of David and Goliath often presented in children's Bibles. This image also prefigures the picture of Gulliver tied up by the Lilliputians. The structure of the illustrated book further accentuates the link between illustration and dream imagery: this connection has already been introduced by the night scene of the frontispiece; it then recurs in the "sleeping" frame provided by the bed motif and by the theme of sleep in the book's opening and closing tales and their illustrations. The first tale, Sleeping Beauty, uses both the bed motif and the theme of sleep; the following tale, Little Red Riding Hood, presents the bed in a nightmare context, while the last tale shows the ogre asleep.
Each tale is illustrated by a single picture. But four of the tales have pictures based on a recurring situation in the text. Repetition is known to be an important narrative feature of oral literature, both lending rhythm and effecting a crescendo-like expression of the transformations in the stories. The simple imagery of each tale's opening illustration remains with the reader, who may visualize it at various stages of his reading. The illustrated episodes may be easily identified by their specific details, but they deserve a second look (and a second reading!). In Cinderella, where the ball scene occurs twice, the illustration depicts the second night, when Cinderella loses her slipper. In Riquet with the Tuft the meeting between hero and princess both opens the tale and is repeated one year later. The setting of the banquet in a forest makes it clear that the illustration is of the second meeting. In Diamonds and Toads as well, the illustrated scene occurs twice in the text, but the illustration describes the first meeting, with the younger daughter. The fairy appears as a "bonne femme," not as a "Dame magnifiquement vêtue"; the daughter holds a "cruche," and not "le plus beau Flacon d'argent qui fût dans le logis." In each of these instances, the illustrated scene is the most important one in the tale. Only once is the illustration ambiguous, in Little Red Riding Hood. Who is the wolf going to eat, the grandmother or Little Red Riding-Hood? The wolf is not yet dressed in the grandmother's clothes, so perhaps it means to devour her; however, it seems to jump out of the sheets and, therefore, to have been already waiting in bed for Little Red Riding-Hood. The final choice is the reader's. Referring to the preparatory drawing, though, makes it clear that this ambiguity resulted from a misunderstanding on the part of the engraver. Perhaps he considered it impossible not to portray the hero, who gave her name to the tale, in the opening picture. The manuscript drawing shows the costume of a woman, with the wolf seeming to jump out of nowhere, from the darkness of the background through the picture itself. This extraordinary apparition has been pictorially clarified in the engraved version of the picture, which added the sheets, showing the wolf in bed. But this also made the meaning uncertain. Only much later, in the 1781 edition, was the picture's meaning clarified.
No one knows who drew these illustrations, even though the frontispiece was signed by an engraver named Clouzier. He was probably someone close to Perrault, as was the scribe of the manuscript. And, presumably, Perrault himself approved the illustrator's interpretations since he gave the illuminated manuscript to "Mademoiselle." The illustrations reflect the style of the tales, in both their naiveté and their maturity, their popular and their sophisticated nature. This dualism is also contained in the father/ son collaboration and in the conjunction of the names Mother Goose and Charles Perrault, the Academist. The particular appropriateness of the illustrations to the tonality of the text may explain their long success.
The Transformations of Mother Goose
Beginning with Perrault's tales, the evolution of the frontispiece takes on a special interest, as it implies transformations in the status of the tales. Just as the headpieces became individual pictorial emblems, the frontispiece, which began as an emblem for Perrault's tales in their entirety, later came to be a generic emblem for any collection of tales. The engraving for the first edition was reproduced in later editions of Perrault's tales. In the 1700 edition it was reversed and then reversed again in the plate of the 1742 edition, which was still in use forty years later, in the 1781 edition. This plate, however, includes an important change: the "witness," seated in front, has disappeared. The theme of collecting and recording tales has been completely eliminated. Otherwise, the general pattern of the plate remained unchanged.
But early in the nineteenth century, editions of Perrault's tales began to be produced exclusively for an audience of children. The frontispiece records this shift, allowing us to date and locate this phenomenon. It may be traced to England, circa 1803, in the juvenile edition produced by one of the first publishers of juvenile literature, Harris, Newbery's successor. In the quaint woodcut of this frontispiece, there are still three listeners, but now they have become children. Five years later, in 1808, this changed audience appeared in a French edition published by Duprat-Duverger, within a new compositional format: the scene has been placed on the title page and has been changed from the painterly frontispiece to the title-page vignette, showing silhouette figures in no specific setting. The only feature remaining from the fireside setting is Mother Goose's spindle. An audience of small children stands gathered around her, including one still dressed as a baby. The perspective is new, with the old woman no longer seen in profile. She faces both her audience and the reader, who implicitly becomes part of the audience.
Around 1815, in France, the title-page vignette registered another crucial change: the spindle was replaced by a book. The tales no longer belonged to an oral tradition but to the written language. Nevertheless, this caption still quoted the traditional opening of a tale—"Once upon a time there was a king"—in recognition of the written tales' oral origins. The scene itself depicts the oral mediation of the written page by an adult for an audience of children. Mother Goose is turned into a pedagogical figure, a governess or grandmother wearing eye glasses, which imply the advanced age of the storyteller. The scene evokes the study corner shown in many contemporary frontispieces of the French "libraires d'éducation." The picture also indicates for whom the book is intended. Various ages are represented, from the young boy and the little girl to the baby; the gender differentiation of role models is made clear by the early representation of the doll in the arms of the little girl, right in the center of the composition. The girl-and-doll group echoes the adult-and-child group on a smaller scale. The ability to read is shown as the distinguishing feature of being grown up. And the book is placed in the center of the title page, carefully highlighted in a void within the pictorial composition.
Publishers of the French Romantic period generally followed the new scheme, but with variations: the Langlumé and Peltier edition of 1830 returned to popular culture with a daytime, outdoor village scene. The nocturnal fantasies associated with the fireside have been replaced by a reassuring picture without any darkness. The image of the book remains a focal element in the composition, but the semi-written/ semi-oral genre of the tales is now conveyed by the two positions of the village woman's hands. One hand holds the book open on her knees, but she is not reading it; the other hand is positioned to recall the medieval code of gesture. The woman's index finger points in the digital gesture for the opening of discourse—a pictorial equivalent of the earlier caption, "Once upon a time."
Originally an exclusive feature of Perrault's tales, the iconography of the old woman telling a story became a generic pictorial reference for tales. In 1850, it appeared on the cover of Madame d'Aulnoy's Selected Tales. It was also used as a familiar device in adapt- ing foreign tales to a French audience. Although Tom Thumb had its own specific title-page imagery in British chapbooks dating back to the seventeenth century, the juvenile publisher Blanchard preferred to employ the familiar French pictorial archetype in adapting the story for a French audience. The frontispiece resembles the British one only in its caption, "La bonne femme racontant l'histoire de Tom Pouce." (The phrase "bonne femme" is borrowed from the beginning of Perrault's Diamonds and Toads. ) In contrast, the first French publisher of Grimm's tales did not hesitate in 1826 to issue a copy by the French engraver Ambroise Tardieu that was illustrated with etchings by the Englishman George Cruikshank, probably because that remarkable artist had, in 1823, created a witty version of the Perrault frontispiece, based on the fireside-corner iconography, and had already transferred it to Grimm's tales.
The frontispieces also record changes in the nature of children's books during the nineteenth century. During the Romantic period the notion of picture books as "toy books" arose. The traditional duodecimo format of the children's book evolved into an album to be placed on a corner of the drawing room table and flipped through by mother and child. (Here are the roots of the coffee-table book!) The picture equates reading with other nursery activities, such as building a castle with cards or playing with a doll. Children's literature then began to illustrate games. The little theater designed to be used by the family circle was depicted on top of the box containing it, in a vignette which serves as the pictorial equivalent of an explanatory notice. Mother Goose has now been replaced with the mother in the domestic space of the nursery.
Like Cruikshank, all major book illustrators were challenged by Perrault's frontispiece. The Art Nouveau designer Mucha created a symbolist version of it to illustrate Xavier Marmier's Contes des grandsmères. Reclining in an armchair, the grandmother tells her two grandchildren a story: one of them, long-haired and lying in bed, is attracted by the fantastic creatures in the tale and nightmarish figures emerge from the background, as in Goya's famous Capriccio 43, el Sueño de la razón produce monstruos. This rendering is also derived from the intersection of two prototypes from earlier illustrated books: for the background, the Romantic vignettes after Tony Johannot's (1843) Le Voyage où il vous plaira; for the foreground, the frontispiece by Doré to Contes de Perrault (Perrault 1862), both published by Hetzel.
Doré's interpretation was a brilliant synthesis of traditional motifs and new ones. Mother Goose became a grandmother with spectacles, sitting in a cozy armchair with children of various ages sprawled around her or sitting on her knees. Even the mother, positioned behind her like a guardian angel, is listening. The foreground is strewn with toys typical of a contemporary nursery: the theater is a metaphor of the illustration process, traditionally associated with the frontispiece iconography. But the importance of illustrations is underlined primarily by the painting on the back wall. It recalls the emblematic archetype of Hop o' My Thumb, picturing the scene where the hero pulls on the ogre's boots, which is also treated inside the book. The painting's ornamental gilt frame is a sign that, for Doré, illustrations are similar to paintings, individual works of art which do not need to rely on an accompanying text because their subject matter is accessible to anyone—the tales are universally known. Children look at picture books; they do not read them. Toy books and albums from the second half of the nineteenth century were based on that fact. These were the luxury books, published as New Year's gifts and designed as beautiful "frames" for the illustrators' visions. Doré's interpretation of Perrault's tales was the culmination of a slow process leading to the text's transformation into a classic of children's literature, on the one hand, and to the establishment of the tales as masterpieces of universal literature, on the other. During the second half of the century, the tales became the subject matter of Salon paintings: Cinderella and Riquet with the Tuft were painted by Gaston La Touche (1854-1913) in such works as Le Mariage de Riquet à la houppe (Musée d'Orsay); Hop o' My Thumb was the subject of a Gobelin tapestry (Abbeville Town Hall) by Luc-Olivier Merson (1846-1920). Millet illustrated the tales in two series of drawings for his children and grandchildren (Département des arts graphiques, Louvre). Perrault's tales had become so famous that the text was, paradoxically, no longer a necessary component of picture books. Each period added new pictures to the original group of single illustrations. In Doré's interpretation, some striking images of Little Red Riding-Hood and Hop o' My Thumb are placed in the preface, well ahead of the stories' positions. And within the body of the tales, his illustrations—which had so much impact on young readers, as George Sand later recalled—are displayed on independent plates grouped in pictorial suites. Doré's conception was consistent with the new definition of the picture book as a kind of armchair fantasy-film show.
The illustration of Perrault's tales provides an interesting case where the image is permanently present, from the manuscript to the printed edition and from edition to edition. The first edition was affiliated with the emblematic tradition, in which the vignette appeared between title and text. Within the familiar context of the fireside evening, the Mother Goose frontispiece included many details drawn from the tales (e.g., the keyhole, the candle, and the cat). The plate acquired the force of a kind of memory image, connected to the content of the tales but simultaneously stressing the issue of oral versus written culture. The transformations of the frontispiece mark the introduction of Perrault's tales into children's literature and register several changes in the culture of reading which evolved during the nineteenth century. Most surprising of all is a factor highlighted by Doré's version—the number and power of the images that finally evicted Perrault's text, replacing it with oral commentary suggested to child and adult by the images themselves. The picture ultimately restored the book to the oral culture initially displaced by the printed word, just as the poster of the frontispiece engraved by Clouzier revealed.
Barchilon, Jacques, ed. 1956. Perrault's Tales of Mother Goose: The Dedication Manuscript of 1695 Reproduced in Collotype Facsimile with Introduction and Critical Text (New York: Pierpont Morgan Library).
Bassy, Alain-Marie. 1974. "Du texte à l'illustration: Pour une sémiologie des étapes," Semiotica 2(4): 297-334.
1976. "Les Fables de La Fontaine et le labyrinthe de Versailles," Revue française d'histoire du livre (Fall).
1986. Les Fables de La Fontaine: Quatre siècles d'illustration (Paris: Promodis).
Bettelheim, Bruno. 1976. The Uses of Enchantment (New York: Alfred A. Knopf).
Bonnefon, Paul. 1904. "Charles Perrault. Essai sur sa vie et ses ouvrages," Revue d'Histoire littéraire de la France 11: 365-420.
Darnton, Robert. 1984. The Great Cat Massacre (New York: Basic Books).
Du Fail, Noël. 1956.  "Propos rustiques de maître Léon Ladulfi Champenois," in Conteurs français du XVIè siècle, 620-21 (Paris: Pierre Jourda).
Duportal, Jeanne. 1914. Etude sur les livres à figures édités en France de 1601 à 1660 (Paris: H. Champion).
Escarpit, Denise. 1985. Histoire d'un conte, le "Chat botté" en France et en Angleterre (Paris: Didier-Erudition, s.d.).
Gumuchian Catalogue. 1931. Les Livres de l'enfance du XVè au XIXè siècle (Paris: Librairie Gumuchian).
Johannot, Tony. 1843. Le Voyage où il vous plaira (Paris: Hetzel).
Klein, Robert 1970. La Forme et l'intelligible (Paris: Gallimard).
Le Men, Ségolène, and Annie Renonciat. 1989. Livres d'enfants, livres d'images (Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux).
Marin, Louis. 1990.  "La Trajectoire d'une illustration: Un conte de Perrault," Europe (November-December).
Noesser, Laura. 1986. "L'Illustration dans le conte merveilleux (1700-1940)," La Revue des livres pour enfants 107-8: 75-84.
Perrault, Charles. 1675. Recueil de divers ouvrages en prose et en vers, Le Labyrinthe de Versailles (Paris: Jean-Baptiste Coignard).
1677-1679. Imprimérie royale edition. Plates by Sébastien Le Clere.
1697. Histoires, ou Contes du temps passé (Paris: Barbin).
1862. Contes de Perrault. Frontispiece by Gustave Doré (Paris: Hetzel).
Praz, Mario. 1939-1947. Studies in Seventeenth-Century Imagery, edited by Fritz Saxl (London: Warburg Institute).
Renonciat, Annie. 1990. "Petit Poucet dans la jonchée des feuilles," Le Vieux papier (April): 205-18.
Shapiro, Meyer. 1973. Words and Pictures: On the Literal and the Symbolic in the Illustration of a Text (Paris and The Hague: Mouton).
Shavit, Zohar. 1986. Poetics of Children's Literature (Athens: University of Georgia Press).
Soriano, Marc. 1968. Les Contes de Perrault: Culture savante et Traditions populaires (Paris: Gallimard).
Teneze, Marie-Louise. 1957. "Si Peau d'Ane m'était conte … A propos de trois illustrations des Contes de Perrault," Arts et traditions populaires (April-December): 313-16.
Velay-Vallantin, Catherine. 1987. "Le Miroir des contes. Perrault dans les bibliothèques bleues," in Les Usages de l'imprimé, edited by R. Chartier, 129-85 (Paris: Fayard).
Wilhelm, Jacques. 1936. "Le Labyrinthe de Versailles," Revue de l'histoire de Versailles et de Seineet-Oise (January-March).
Zipes, Jack. 1983. Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion: The Technical Genre for Children and the Process of Civilization (London: Heinemann).
Elizabeth W. Harries (essay date June 1996)
SOURCE: Harries, Elizabeth W. "Simulating Oralities: French Fairy Tales of the 1690s." College Literature 23, no. 2 (June 1996): 100-15.
[In the following essay, Harries evaluates Perrault's fairy tale collections and those of other seventeenth-century authors as they relate to the role of women writers in oral storytelling.]
… we must give up the fiction that collects these sounds under the sign of a ‘Voice,’ of a ‘Culture’ of its own—or of the great Other's. Rather, orality insinuates itself … into the network—an endless tapestry—of a scriptural economy.
Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, 132
Fairy tales and orality seem intimately connected. We think of written tales as transcribing stories handed down orally for hundreds of years, as simply "putting into print" the traces of that long-standing tradition. Most writers of fairy tales have done their best to reinforce that impression: Charles Perrault's alternative title, Tales of Mother Goose, suggests a traditional, spoken origin; the Grimm brothers work hard to create a simple and naive narrative voice: Hans Christian Andersen's stories often begin with formulae like "now then, here's where we begin" that imitate oral story-telling. I don't mean to deny that many fairy tales had been (and continue to be) part of an ongoing oral, popular culture, but I do want to show that our sense of access to that culture through reading fairy tales is an illusion—an illusion carefully and deliberately created by many fairy tale collectors, editors, and writers.
We can become conscious of that illusion by looking at another strand in the history of written fairy tales—the tales written by women in the 1690s in France. Unlike Perrault, their contemporary, these women only occasionally appealed to the oral, popular tradition and never attempted to imitate an illiterate or uneducated voice. Rather, they simulated a different kind of orality—the conversation that animated the salons of the later seventeenth century. Most of the long, elaborate tales they wrote are set within a conversational frame, a frame that reproduces the milieu and the carefully formulated repartee that was part of salon culture.1
The frontispiece of the 1697 edition of Perrault's Contes [Histoires ou Contes du temps passé, avec des moralitez ]—a frontispiece that has become so familiar to us that we no longer see its full implications—defines one conception of the oral story-telling situation. Let's look at it again: the frontispiece gives us, in miniature, a version of what the traditional story-telling situation is traditionally thought to be. The frontispiece shows a fireside scene: three fashionably-dressed children seated by a fireplace, listening to a simply-dressed older woman, perhaps a nurse, tell a story.2 The fire and the candle suggest that the story-telling is taking place in the evening, as in the traditional viellée; the lock on the door and the cat by the fireplace underscore the intimacy and the comforting domesticity of the scene. The older title of the collection, the title that Perrault had used for an earlier manuscript edition of the Contes in 1695, appears as a placard affixed to the door in the background, just above the spindle that is traditionally associated with women's story-telling: Contes de ma Mere Loye [Stories of Mother Goose ].3 The writing on the placard is rather irregular and clumsy, compared to the elegance of the type used on the title-page, just as the title on the placard contrasts with the more elaborate and distanced formal title: Histoires ou Contes du temps passé, avec des Moralitez [Stories of Times Past, with Morals ]. In the physical set-up of the first edition, there is a subterranean tension between appeals to the aristocratic audience Perrault hoped to reach (as in the dedication to Louis XIV's niece, with its elaborate coat of arms) and appeals to a peasant story-telling tradition.
As Catherine Velay-Vallantin has pointed out, the frontispiece suggests the fictive reading situation that Perrault and his publisher wanted to prescribe, a simulation of oral tale-telling, or what she calls "factitious orality" (130).4 In his prose tales, Perrault mimes the voice of the peasant story-teller, always elegantly walking the line between the practices of writing and the supposed "oral" transmission "within a culturally more aristocratic mode of reading" (132). The frontispiece also suggests that the voice that Perrault is simulating is female. Women are often supposed to be tellers of tales: those anonymous, lower-class nurses and grandmothers who taught and entertained children by telling them stories. The murky legend of "Mother Goose" is an instance of this belief; Madame de Sévigné's letter of October 30, 1656, refers to it casually, as if this were part of the well-known lore about fairy tales:
Et si, Mademoiselle, afin que vous le sachiez, ce n'est pas un conte de ma mère l'oie,
Mais de la cane de Montfort
Qui, ma foi, lui resemble fort.
[And if, Mademoiselle, you must know, this is not a tale of Mother Goose, but of the drake of Montfort, there are strong resemblances between them.]
Perrault's frontispiece confirms the prevailing myth about the appropriate role for women in the transmission of fairy tales: as patient, nurturing conduits of oral culture or spinners of tales.
This belief has not really faded. As Trinh Minh-ha says, "The world's earliest archives were the memories of women. Patiently transmitted from mouth to ear, body to body, hand to hand…. Every woman partakes in the chain of guardianship and of transmission" (121).5 Trinh still imagines oral culture as literally handed down by women, in a particularly physical, intimate way ("from mouth to ear, body to body, hand to hand"). Women are still said to be the guardians of tradition, passing on to their children and grandchildren the stories of their culture. But, as folklorists like Linda Dégh have shown, women are and were not the only, or even the primary, story tellers in most oral cultures.6 The myth of the anonymous female teller of tales, particularly strong in the legend of Mother Goose, is just that: a myth—but a myth that has several important functions and corollaries. If women are the tellers of tales, story-telling remains a motherly (or grand-motherly) function, tied (to use the language of the French feminist critics) to the body and nature, as we see in the quotation from Trinh. Stories are supposed to flow from women like milk and blood. And if women are thought of as tellers of tales, it follows that they are not imagined as the collectors or writers of tales. As fairy tales moved from oral tales to "book tales" (Buchmärchen, or tales that have been written down) to written, invented tales (Kunstmärchen), women were subtly relegated to the most "primitive" stage. Perrault's frontispiece may have been an attempt to etch his female writing competitors out of existence.
The frontispieces of volumes of tales the women wrote in the 1690s tales often seem to be designed to contest the ideological force of Perrault's. In the frontispiece of early editions (1698 and 1711) of Marie-Catherine le Jumel de Barneville, Baronne d'Aulnoy's Contes nouveaux (reproduced in Gabrielle Verdier's recent article about the conteuses), a woman dressed as a sibyl is writing the title of one of Aulnoy's tales, "Gracieuse et Percinet," in a large folio or book, again with children as her audience, but children dressed in rather the same way and probably of the same class as the story-teller. The story-teller is not represented with a spindle, but rather with the flowing robes and turban-like headpiece usually associated with a sibyl. There's a fireplace, but the fire is out. Instead of the locked door, there is a window opening out on a summer country scene. Instead of the domestic cat, there is an exotic monkey—again perhaps a reference to one of Aulnoy's tales, "Babiole"). This mirror effect—the reflection of some of the tales in the introductory picture—heightens the conscious articiality of the scene and of the tales that follow.
The frontispieces of a 1725 Amsterdam edition of Aulnoy's Nouveaux contes des fées also work against the image of the woman as lower-class story-teller. The frontispiece of Volume I shows a fashionably dressed women seated on an elevated dais, gesticulating as she speaks to an audience, similarly dressed, that seems to be primarily adult. Far from an enclosed, domestic, fireside scene, this is a large room with classical columns and an open window that looks out on a faintly classical landscape with obelisks and a tower. The decorative rocaille around the title at the top of the page underscores the aristocratic milieu of this story-teller. The frontispiece of Volume II again represents a woman writing: we see a woman with a helmet on her head—probably Pallas Athena, since she is accompanied by an owl—writing on a large tablet with a quill and apparently speaking at the same time. In the foreground there is an audience of fashionably dressed adults, in the background a scene that might represent, in miniature, the plot of one of Aulnoy's tales. The frontispieces used for the conteuses' tales, then, usually represent them as sibyls, or aristocratic story-tellers, or as Greek goddesses, not as spinning peasant women.7 In another paradoxical illustration of the interweaving of the oral and the written, they often are represented as "writing to an audience," inscribing words on a tablet or folio in front of a listening group.
Because women have been perennially associated with the telling of tales—in nurseries, in spinning and weaving circles, in quilting bees, by the fireside—it has been difficult for them to think of themselves, and to be thought of, as fairy-tale writers. As Joan DeJean points out in Tender Geographies, France was the only country where "the written transcription of fairy tales was not totally controlled by men" (233n), at least until the nineteenth century. It was not primarily the traditional passivity of most female protagonists of fairy tales that made it difficult for women to take the active step of writing them down and inventing them, but rather the pervasive notion that women were the designated oral transmitters of those tales. But the women who wrote tales in the 1690s chose frontispieces and created narrative structures that contested this limiting prescription. The tales the women wrote—again in contrast to Perrault's—are full of references to a feminine, aristocratic, listening audience: "Perhaps you are going to think, Madame …"; "Isn't it true, Countess, that …"; "I'm sure you have heard, Madame…." The typographical forms in which their tales were printed rarely reflect any interest in suggesting popular origins for the tales; rather they tend to be identical to those forms in which the many novels and "nouvelles" of the late 1600s were printed. Perrault's tales in his 1697 volume always have a crude illustrative engraving on the first page; the tales in the women's collections usually have only the same decorative stylized headpieces that they use for their other writing. The tales embedded in the women's novels are sometimes not set off from the rest of the text at all, as in Aulnoy's "Ile de la félicité" (usually considered to be the first written fairy tale in France, included in her 1690 novel Hipolyte, Comte du Duglas); sometimes they are separated by a chaste and simple border of florets. The conteuse's words do not appear "in costume" to delight children or to simulate popular orality;8 their fairy-tales are primarily documents of an ongoing (though perhaps fading) salon practice.9
To trace the tales written in the 1690s by women, then, is to trace a practice based on a very different conception of the "oral" from Perrault's dominant model. The conteuses do sometimes write stories based on traditional material; they also occasionally echo traditional formulae that seem to define women as the oral conduits of popular culture. For example, both Perrault, in his verse tale "Peau de l'âne" (1694), and his niece Marie-Jeanne L'Héritier, in her tale "Les enchantemens de l'éloquence" (1696), include almost identical verses:
Ils ne sont pas aisez à croire:
Mais tant que dans le monde on verra des enfants.
Des meres & des mere-grands,
On en gardera la memoire.
[These stories are not easy to believe, but as long as there are children, mothers, and grandmothers in the world, they will be remembered.]10
These lines, and other similar ones, occur once in a while in the women's tales, linking the written stories to an ongoing tradition of story-telling and marking that tradition as transmitted by women to children. But, much more often, and usually simultaneously, the conteuses place their tales in the complex and playful ambience of salon conversation. The "oral" for them is not primarily naive and primitive, but rather a highly-charged, high-cultural event.
We still tend to identify the oral with peasant, illiterate, or "folk" culture; like the Grimms, we tend to think of the oral as coming before the written, or as part of the origins of culture. But, as Alan Dundes has pointed out, there are many different kinds of "folk" and illiteracy is not a requirement.11 Walter J. Ong has pointed to a different kind of orality: the residues of ancient rhetorical practices that continued to be taught in schools for boys throughout the seventeenth century.12 In his book Orality and Literacy, Ong makes an interesting guess about women's leading role in the invention of the novel:
A great gap in our understanding of the influence of women on literary style and genre could be bridged or closed though attention to the orality-literacy-print shift … early women novelists and other women writers generally worked from outside the oral tradition because of the simple fact that girls were not commonly subjected to the orally based rhetorical training that boys got in school…. Certainly, non-rhetorical styles congenial to women writers helped make the novel what it is: more like a conversation than a platform performance.
It seems to me, however, that Ong's guess about the relationship of early women writers to orality is off the mark, at least in France. Or rather, his primary conception of secondary orality (orality that persists after the introduction of writing) is in fact a very narrow, academic, and elite one—and not very "oral" at all. The women who wrote fairy tales were interested in simulating another kind of oral transmission, a practice that Ong never mentions. He suggests, at the end of the passage I've quoted, that women's writing tended to be based on "conversation" rather than on platform rhetoric—but he never acknowledges that conversation, including the ritualized conversation of the salons, is after all an oral practice, too. In his laudable attempt to think about women in relation to orality and writing, he in fact defines the oral tradition in a way that excludes them.
I think we need to develop more nuanced categories of the oral—categories that will permit us to see the ways oral practices that do not derive from the ancient techniques of rhetoric taught in schools continue to leave their traces in written texts. The nostalgia for the oral that permeates most written narratives can take on very different forms. The orality that has left its marks in many fairy tales is rarely the disputational "harangue" of Ong's school-based oratorical rhetoric, and not always the pseudo-folk situation that is sketched in Perrault's frontispiece. Rather the women of the 1690s attempted to reproduce the conversational ambience of the salons that had formed them as writers. As Joan DeJean has shown in Tender Geographies, "the conversational style … is originally a female concept, invented in the salons and reinscribed in prose fiction when, following Scudéry's example, women found a new power base in the republic of letters" (47). While her claim seems too broad, forgetting the conversational basis of earlier texts like Plato's dialogues or the Decameron, DeJean rightly emphasizes the importance of conversation in women's writing of the later seventeenth century in France.
Like the earlier novels by Scudéry or Villedieu, the conteuses' tales grew out of the competitive, scintillating dialogues that were an integral part of the salons. First fairy tales were a diversion in the salons, one of the many collaborative "divertissements" that formed part of salon culture, like riddles, metamorphoses, portraits, and "maximes d'amour"; then they were written down. But both practices seem to have continued simultaneously throughout the 1690s; as Roger Chartier has said, "the opposition of oral and written fails to account for the situation that existed from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century when media and multiple practices still overlapped" (170).13 This was true in popular culture, where evening tale-telling coexisted with the publication of fairy tales in chapbooks and colporteur literature. And, I believe, it was equally true in the aristocratic practices of the salons. Tale-telling and tale-writing went on simultaneously, as many of the frontispieces suggest.
Like all oral cultures, the culture of the salons is difficult to recover. We know much more about it than about many other oral cultures, because the participants were literate; they wrote about what went on at the salons in their letters, memoirs, even novels. But it was fluid, ephemeral, constantly changing. The evidence we have of the ways stories were told and received is spotty and unreliable—found mostly in letters like Sévigné's and novels like Segrais's Les Nouvelles françaises ou les divertissements de la princesse Aurélie (1656), about the group around the Grande Mademoiselle during her exile at Saint-Fargeau, or La Force's Jeux d'esprit (1701), about the "divertissements" that the Princesse de Conti promoted during her exile at Eu in the early seventeenth century. Madame de Sévigné, in her letter of August 6, 1677, suggests all the artificiality and the incongruities of a fairy-tale-telling scene at court—as well as its links with the opera—in order to establish the oral situation in which it took place:
Mme de Coulanges, qui m'est venue faire ici une fort honnête visite qui durera jusqu'à demain, voulut bien nous faire part des contes avec quoi l'on amuse les dames de Versailles: cela s'appelle les mitonner. Elle nous mitonna donc, et nous parla d'une île verte, où l'on élevoit une princesse plus belle que le jour: c'étoient les fées qui souffloient sur elle à tout moment.
(August 6, 1677: 320)
[Mme de Coulanges, who has come here to pay me a gracious visit that will last until tomorrow, wanted to acquaint us with the stories that are currently amusing the ladies of Versailles: that is called cajoling them. She cajoled us then, and told us about a green island, where a princess more beautiful than the day was being brought up; it was the fairies who breathed on her at every moment.]
Sévigné, with her usual clear-eyed irony, is not much amused by the fantastic fairy-tale, which lasts "une bonne heure" [a good hour]. She makes use of the neologism mitonner in order to mock the tone and flavor of the storytelling.14 In 1677, neither Mme de Coulanges, her court source, or Mme de Sévigné herself thinks of fairy tales as written, but rather as part of a concrete social milieu—far from the homely, domestic milieu sketched in Perrault's frontispiece.
Recently several writers have attempted to look at the conversation of the salons in its relationship to French intellectual and artistic life in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.15 While acknowledging its elusiveness, they have brought out some of its crucial features: the allusive word-play, the emphasis on repartee and collaborative exchange, the emphasis on improvisation, the absence of weighty "sujet." Erica Harth believes that the salons became "a discursive dead end for women" (17)—and, if one is primarily interested in women becoming recognized as philosophers, this is probably true. But I see the discourse or, to use a less weighty term, "talk" of the salons as a literary proving ground—not only for the novel, as DeJean has shown, but also for fairy tales. Just as salon talk influenced the suggestive brush-strokes of Watteau's canvases, it also provided the airy framework for the castles and enchanted islands that were staples of the fairy tales women wrote.
And here I mean "framework" in a rather literal way. Though Perrault often used the dialogue form in his more "serious" works—the Parallèle des anciens et des modernes (1692), for example—he abandoned it when he wrote his Contes, preferring to create the naive, solitary voice of "Ma Mère Loye" [Mother Goose]. His women contemporaries, however, saw in the give and take of salon dialogue a useful way to introduce and frame the stories they were writing. Though they may not have collaborated on individual stories (I have found no evidence that they did), they situated themselves and their stories in this sparkling, collaborative interchange. Both Raymonde Robert and Lewis Seifert argue that the framing device was primarily to give a nostalgic illusion of "social cohesion" or class solidarity.16 I want to argue here, however, that the frames had another, narrative function.
Reading tales like L'Héritier's "The Adroit Princess" (1696) in their original form, in fact, we discover that most later editions and translations have wrenched her tales out of their conversational frame. "The Adroit Princess" is dedicated to Mme de Murat and begins as if L'Héritier were carrying on a dialogue with her:
Vous faites les plus jolies Nouvelles du monde en Vers; mais en Vers aussi doux que naturels: je voudrois bien, charmante Comtesse, vous en dire une à mon tour; cependant je ne sai si vous pourrez vous en divertir: je suis aujourd'huy de l'humeur du Bourgeois-Gentilhomme; je ne voudrois ni Vers, ni Prose pour vous la conter: point de grands mots, point de brillans, point de rimes; un tour naif m'accomode mieux; en un mot, un récit sans façon et comme on parle….
[You create the most beautiful "nouvelles" in the world in verse, but in verse as sweet as natural: I would like, charming Countess, to tell you one in my turn; however, I'm not sure it will amuse you: today I feel like [Molière's] Bourgeois Gentilhomme; I don't want to use verse or prose to tell it to you: no grand words, no startling effects, no rhymes; a naive tone suits me better; in a word, a story ["récit," which retains the aura of the oral] told without any ceremony and as one speaks….]
There are lots of interesting things here, particularly L'Héritier's claim that she has used a language that's simple and "naive," a language that is not formal but rather is written "as one speaks." Simplicity, a key word for both Perrault and these women writers when they talk about the language of their tales, is never a pure transcription, but rather a constructed and carefully pruned version of actual speech. Like Perrault, L'Héritier is creating a special, stripped-down language for her tales. Unlike Perrault, however, she does not claim to be reproducing the voice of a peasant story-teller. Rather, she is interested in recapturing the elegant simplicity of the language current in the salons, always characterized as "naive" even at its most artificial and constructed. In his recent chapter, "Origins of the Fairy Tale," Jack Zipes describes the rhetoric of the conteuses this way: "they placed great emphasis on certain rules of oration such as naturalness and formlessness. The teller of the tale was to make it ‘seem’ as though the tale were made up on the spot and did not follow prescribed rules" (21). This assumed "naiveté" and simplicity is a crucial feature of the language promoted in the salons.
And we do not hear this language as a monologue, the uninterrupted voice of a single story-teller. L'Héritier speaks of telling a story in her turn; that is, she conceives of story-telling as an exchange. She imagines a situation rather like the situation in the Decameron or in Marguerite de Navarre's Heptaméron, or in Basile's Pentamerone, in which the characters in the frame tell stories. This seems to have been the way fairy-tales played a role in the salons: members of the group took turns, often adding to and elaborating on the tales others had just told. L'Héritier echoes this reciprocal, sometimes competitive, sometimes collaborative story-telling (a version of what Joan DeJean calls "salon writing") in her written tales.17
In the earliest novels that included fairy tales—Aulnoy's Hipolyte, Comte de Duglas (1690) for example—the tale is always told by a character in the novel, sometimes in very contrived situations. The hero of Aulnoy's novel tells the tale of the "Ile de la Félicité" to an abbess to distract her while her portrait is being painted. He is in disguise as the painter's assistant; his beloved Julie is quasi-imprisoned in the abbey. The tale—a long story that mingles classical references and motifs that the hero remembers from the "contes des fées" he has heard on his travels—seems in part to be a retarding moment, designed to build up the suspense that leads to the lovers' reunion. But it also establishes the convention that many of the later writers of fairy tales follow (though significantly not Perrault): the creation of a conversational frame for the tales.
At the height of fairy-tale production, five years later, the tales become a more motivated and "natural" part of the action. In Catherine Bernard's novel Inés de Cordoüe (1696), two contrasting fairy tales are told by rival ladies at the Spanish court of the late sixteenth century, each trying to outdo the other. Since the Queen of Spain, Elizabeth, is French—a point that the novel underlines—she has preserved the custom of holding "conversations" for four or five hours a day, and is always thinking up new amusements for the group that gathers in her "cabinet" (6-7). Bernard carefully establishes Elizabeth's salon as the place where the court could escape the legendary severity of Philip II, a retreat to French "galanterie" and arts.18
In this milieu, the heroine Inés tells the story of "Le Prince Rosier," a story that features appearances of fairies in miniature chariots of ivory and princes transformed into rosebushes, but that is essentially about the impossibility of unchanging true love. Her rival Leonor responds by telling the story of "Riquet à la Houppe," a story that Perrault also retold; this is also, unlike Perrault's, a tale in which no one lives "happily ever after." Like "Le Prince Rosier," her version of the tale runs counter to the form we expect fairy tales to take. Both women tell stories that are marked by the marvelous: in "Le Prince Rosier" a guardian fairy and miraculous transformations; in "Riquet à la Houppe" fairies and a subterranean realm occupied by gnomes. Though the decor is fantastic, the emotional climate is in fact quite grimly realistic: in both "le mariage, selon la coustume, finit tous les agrémens de leur vie" (43) [marriage, as is the custom, ended all the pleasures of their lives].
These stories suggest some of the distinctiveness of the tales the women wrote, their tendency to work against the "happily ever after" we now expect as an ending. But, in the context Bernard provides for them, they also show us the way the tales grew out of salon culture, its diversions and rivalries. Inés's tale, for example, is praised by the Queen and many other members of the court; her rival Leonor, however,
fit à Inés plusieurs questions sur ce conte avec autant de malice que d'aigreur. Inés y répondit avec une douceur qui acheva de la faire paroistre une personne parfaite.
Le lendemain Leonor se prepara à conter une Fable, & n'oublia rien pour l'emporter s'il se pouvoit sur Inés….
[asked Ines several questions about the story with as much malice as animosity. Ines answered with a sweetness that had the effect of making her seem to be a perfect person.
The next day Leonor got ready to tell a Fable, and did everything she could to make it superior to Ines's….]
To tell a fairy tale well is a way to shine in the salon; Leonor is unable to attract the attention of the Marquis de Lerme, who clearly prefers Inés's story, "Prince Rosier." The entire plot of the novel—incredible though it often seems—is driven by Leonor's jealousy of Inés and her desire for revenge; the tale-telling sessions in the Queen's salon mark the beginning of the conflict between the perfect Inés and her most imperfect competitor.
When they begin writing fairy tales down, then, Aulnoy and Bernard and L'Héritier set them in an oral situation, but an oral situation that is far from the supposed Ur-situation that Perrault evokes in his frontispiece. Aulnoy continues to frame her tales; in the Nouveaux Contes des fées (1697), for example, the stories are set in a double frame: first a conversational milieu at Saint Cloud, then a Spanish "nouvelle" Dom Gabriel Ponce de Leon.) As the Madame D … of the preface (a transparent stand-in for Aulnoy herself) says,
Voici un cahier tout prêt à vous lire; & pour le rendre plus agreable, j'y ai joint une nouvelle Espagnolle, qui est très-vraye & que je sçai d'original
[Here is a notebook ready to read to you; and to make it more charming, I have connected to it a Spanish novella, which is very true and also I think original.]
The fictionalized "author" of the tales, after being visited by a nymph, offers to read her tales aloud to her listeners; again reading and orality are explicitly invoked together. The conception of the oral that pervades the tales written by women is not the "factitious orality" that Perrault created, the simulation of the supposed stripped-down language of the "folk." And their tales were even less designed for children than Perrault's. Rather their written fairy tales grew primarily out of an aristocratic oral culture, a culture that, though often in opposition to the official culture of the court, always distinguished itself from the culture of the "menu people" as well.19
This leads to a final series of paradoxes: Perrault in his Contes manipulates conventions of the book, both typography and illustration, in order to create the il- lusion of "folk orality"—in the frontispiece, on the title-page, and in the crude illustrative headpieces of the tales. L'Héritier and the other women writers of the earlier 1690s, on the other hand, rely on the apparent transparency or neutrality of current print practices to carry on what seems to have been a living oral tradition. Instead of surrounding their tales with all the typographical signals of folk origins, they frame them in a conversational setting, a setting that marks their tales as part of an aristocratic and highly literate milieu.
Perrault, like the king in the Arabian Nights, pays apparent homage to the skills and cultural power of the female story-teller. He pretends to reproduce her voice, in a peculiar kind of narrative cross-dressing. But he appropriates that voice and that female figure for his own purposes—and, at the same time, represents her as unable to write.20 The story-teller is female, but the story-writer is male.
Perrault attempts to create the illusion that he is reproducing story-telling as it existed in the oral popular culture of his day; his simulation of its practices became the dominant style and ideology of the fairy tale, as we see in the Grimms' prefaces and most writing on the fairy tale up to our time. But the women who also participated in the invention of the written fairy tale in France created a very different illusion—the illusion that the story is told within the conversational space of the salons. All these writers try to give the impression that the stories are being told aloud. They all simulate oralities, but the oralities they simulate are radically different and their methods of producing the illusion of orality even more so. Perrault simulates the oral by imitating (or inventing) the language and world of the folk and the image and voice of the woman tale-teller. Aulnoy, L'Héritier, and Bernard, however, reject the models of orality and of femininity that Perrault both accepts and promotes. By framing their tales with traces of salon conversation, they represent their tales as part of an aristocratic oral culture. By writing their tales down, they contest the notion that women can only tell the tales that men transcribe and transmit. And, in a final paradox, these women include traces of the oral as part of their attempt to create a new model of femininity: the woman who not only talks—by the fireside to children or in the salon—but also writes.21
1. Marina Warner's book From the Beast to the Blonde, which pays considerable attention to these women writers, appeared only after this article was completed. I haven't been able to take full account of her arguments—and my disagreements—here. But I think she is wrong to say that writers like Aulnoy ever assumed the persona of "the lower-class older woman" (166).
2. See Maria Tatar's discussion of various imitations of this scene in Germany and England in the nineteenth century, and the accompanying illustrations (Figures 8-14), in The Hard Facts, 106-114. She notes that the middle-class grandmother replaced the lower-class nurse in later illustrations, and that she is sometimes represented then as reading from a book. Caveat: the frontispiece in Marina Warner's new book is said to be the Perrault 1697 frontispiece. But it isn't; it must be from a later edition.
3. For a particularly interesting instance of this traditional association, see the discussion of Les évangiles des quenouilles [The Gospel of the distaffs], a fifteenth-century MS divided into viellées, about the tale-telling and talk of an exclusively lower-class women's group, in Danielle Régnier-Bohler's "Imagining the Self: Exploring Literature." (See also Warner 36-39 and passim.)
4. See her essay "Tales as a Mirror," particularly 95-97 and 128-32. Louis Marin's analysis of the frontispiece, in "Les Enjeux," also suggests the ways it plays into Perrault's literary strategies in designing his collection. See also Verdier's article, "Figures de la conteuse."
5. Trinh's chapter "Grandma's Stories" is a remarkable treasure-trove of myth about female story-telling. But see also Karen E. Rowe's "To Spin a Yarn: The Female Voice in Folklore and Fairy Tale," in which she explores—and accepts as a cultural given—the association between women's spinning, weaving, and story-telling. Her argument is more nuanced than many, however, since she recognizes that many stories allegedly told by women are controlled by male "editors" and collectors.
6. See Dégh's Folktales and Society, particularly Chapter 6.
7. Occasionally, as in the volume of tales by La Force in the same edition, the publishers use Perrault's frontispiece for tales by the conteuses. It seems impossible to determine who chose the frontispieces—publisher or author—and why. But I think that Perrault's frontispiece became a kind of counter or default position—if you can't find another frontispiece, slap it on any collection of tales—while the other, more unusual frontispieces I have discussed above were consciously selected to show a different kind of tale transmission.
9. Gabrielle Verdier, in her "Figures de la conteuse," has studied the frontispieces of later works by Aulnoy in order to show that she rejects the model of the story-telling woman with the spindle in favor of a Sibyl-like figure. But her contention that these frontispieces show women writing seems too simple. (They often seem to be writing and speaking at the same time.) And she does not discuss the traces of salon conversation and practices that are present in the tales written by women.
10. See Perrault, Contes 75, and L'Héritier, Oeuvres meslées 163-4 (also reprinted in Perrault, vol. 239.
11. See his essay "Who are the Folk?" in Interpreting Folklore and Roger Chartier's analogous redefinitions of "popular culture."
12. In his essay "Latin Language Study as a Renaissance Puberty Rite," Ong makes it clear that "oral memory skills" and Latin were taught almost exclusively to boys. But, as far as I can tell, he does not see how narrow—and by the seventeenth century, how un-oral—his definition of "orality" is.
13. See also Ruth Finnegan in Oral Poetry: "In practice, interaction between oral and written forms is extremely common, and the idea that the use of writing automatically deals a death blow to oral literary forms has nothing to support it" (160). She gives examples from British and American balladry, Irish songs, and American cowboy laments, as well as modern Yugoslavia.
14. The new word "mitonner" derived from cookery, where it means to simmer slowly. (It's related to the word "mie," the soft part of a loaf of bread, the non-crusty part—a word that was also used in seventeenth-century France for a governess, though that is usually thought to be short for "amie.") The word tends to have connotations of flattery, buttering someone up so that that person will do something for you. (Examples Furetière gives in his Dictionnaire of 1693 include "This nephew mitonne his uncle, so that he will make his heir," and "this cavalier mitonne the old woman, so that she will give him her daughter in marriage.") But the word here seems to have slightly different connotations: the story-tellers at court seem to be treating their audience, the ladies of Versailles, as governesses treat spoiled children, catering to their wishes (perhaps in order to get into their good graces).
15. These include Erica Harth's study of women in the Cartesian tradition and Mary Vidal's work on Watteau. Benedetta Craveri summarizes their efforts and others' in her essay "The Lost Art."
16. See Robert 330-335 and Seifert, "Marvelous Realities" 1. Armine Kotin Mortimer also emphasizes the frame primarily as a representation of a closed and exclusive society.
17. See Tender Geographies, 22-24, 71-77. For a brief account of the way these practices affected the transmission of fairy tales, see Jack Zipes's introduction to Beauties, Beasts, and Enchantment, particularly 2-4, and his recent "Origins of the Fairy Tale" 20-23. Renate Baader also is helpful in understanding the role fairy tales played in the salons
18. This may be a camouflaged reference to the function of the salons in the late years of Louis XIV's reign, when he was increasingly influenced by the puritanical practices of Mme de Maintenon. See Dorothy R. Thelander's article, "Mother Goose and her Goslings," for a discussion of the "muffled aristocratic disaffection" (493) that the tales reveal.
19. In the dedication to Louis XIV's niece, Perrault argues that he has included tales that show what goes on "dans les moindres familles" [in the least important families] to give her and other potential rulers some idea of what the life of their subjects is like. L'Héritier, on the other hand, explicitly distinguishes her tales from popular ones: she says that tales told and retold by the folk must have picked up impurities, much as pure water picks up garbage as it flows through a dirty canal: "if the people are simple, they are also crude (grossière)" (Oeuvres meslées 312-3).
20. As Karen Rowe says, often "a male author or collector attributes to a female the original power of articulating silent matter. But having attributed this transformative artistic intelligence and voice to a woman, the narrator then reclaims for himself … the controlling power of retelling, of literary recasting and of dissemination to the folk." (61)
21. My thanks to Margaret Higonnet and Ulrich Knoepflmacher, for their encouragement when I began work on these problems, and to Ruth Solie, for her help in bringing them to a conclusion, however paradoxical. I also learned a great deal from the participants in a Guthrie Workshop at Dartmouth on French and Italian fairy tales (March, 1995).
Aulnoy, Marie-Catherine le Jumel de Barneville, Baronne de. Histoire d' Hipolyte, comte de Duglas. 1690. Geneva: Slatkine, 1979.
———. Nouveaux contes des fees. 1697. Amsterdam: Estienne Roger, 1725.
Baader, Renate. Dames de Lettres: Autorinnen des preziösen, hocharistokratischen und ‘modernen’ Salons (1649-1698). Stuttgart: Metzler, 1986.
Barchilon, Jacques. Le conte merveilleux français de 1690 à 1790. Paris: Champion, 1975.
Bernard, Catherine. Inés de Cordoüe: Nouvelle Espagnole. 1696. Geneva: Slatkine, 1979.
Certeau, Michel de. The Practice of Everyday Life. Trans. Steven Rendall. Berkeley: U of California P, 1984.
Chartier, Roger. "Texts, Printing, Reading." The New Cultural History. Ed. Lynn Hunt. Berkeley: U of California P, 1989. 154-175.
Craveri, Benedetta. "The Lost Art." New York Review of Books (December 2, 1993): 40-43.
Dégh, Linda. Folktales and Society: Story-Telling in a Hungarian Peasant Community. Trans. Emily M. Schossberger. 1962. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1969.
DeJean, Joan. Tender Geographies: Women and the Origins of the Novel in France. Gender and Culture Series. New York: Columbia UP, 1991.
Dundes, Alan. Interpreting Folklore. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1980.
Finnegan, Ruth. Oral Poetry: Its Nature, Significance, and Social Context. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1977.
Harth, Erica. Cartesian Women: Versions and Subversions of Rational Discourse in the Old Regime. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1992.
La Force, Charlotte-Rose Caumont. Les Jeux d'Esprit ou la Promenade de la Princeses de Conti à Eu. Ed. de la Grange. Paris: Auguste Aubry, 1862.
L'Héritier de Villandon, Marie-Jeanne. Oeuvres meslées. Paris: Guignard, 1696.
Marin, Louis. "Les Enjeux d'un frontispice." L'Esprit Créateur 27 (1987): 49-57.
Mehlman, Jeffrey. Walter Benjamin for Children: An Essay on His Radio Years. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1993.
Mortimer, Armine Kotin. "La clôture féminine des Jeux d'Esprit." L'Esprit Créateur 23 (1983): 107-116.
Ong, Walter J. "Latin Language Study as a Renaissance Puberty Rite." Rhetoric, Romance, and Technology: Studies in the Interaction of Expression and Culture. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1971.
———. Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. London: Methuen, 1982.
Perrault, Charles. Contes. Ed. Gilbert Rouger. Paris: Garnier, 1967.
Régnier-Bohler, Danielle. "Imagining the Self: Exploring Literature." A History of Private Life. Ed. Philippe Ariès and Georges Duby. Trans. Arthur Goldhammer. Vol. 2. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1985.
Robert, Raymonde. Le Conte de fées littéraire en France de la fin du XVIIIe à la fin du XVIIe siècle. Nancy: Presses Universitaires de Nancy, 1982.
Rowe, Karen E. "To Spin a Yarn: The Female Voice in Folklore and Fairy Tale." Fairy Tales and Society: Illusion, Allusion, and Paradigm. Ed. Ruth B. Bottigheimer. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1986. 53-74.
Seifert, Lewis. "Marvelous Realities: Toward an Understanding of the Merveilleux." Unpublished paper.
———. "The Time That (N)ever Was: Women's Fairy Tales in Seventeenth-Century France." Diss. University of Michigan, 1989.
Sévigné, Marie Rabutin-Chantal, Marquise de. Correspondance. Ed. Roger Duchêne. Paris: Gallimard (Pléiade), 1972-78.
Stewart, Susan. Crimes of Writing: Problems in the Containment of Representation. New York: Oxford, 1991.
Tatar, Maria. The Hard Facts of Grimm's Fairy Tales. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1987.
Thelander, Dorothy R. "Mother Goose and Her Goslings: The France of Louis XIV as Seen through the Fairy Tale." Journal of Modern History 54 (September 1982): 467-496.
Trinh T. Minh-ha. Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1989.
Velay-Vallantin, Catherine. "Tales as a Mirror: Perrault in the Bibliothèque Bleue." The Culture of Print: Power and the Uses of Print in Early Modern Europe. Ed. Roger Chartier. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1989. 92-135.
Verdier, Gabrielle. "Figures de la conteuse dans les contes de fées feminins." XVIIe siècle 180 (1993): 481-99.
Warner, Marina. From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and their Tellers. New York: Farrar, 1995.
Zipes, Jack. Introduction. Beauties, Beasts, and Enchantment: Classic French Fairy Tales. New York: Meridian, 1991.
———. "The Origins of the Fairy Tale." Fairy Tales as Myth/Myth as Fairy Tale. The Thomas D. Clark Lectures. 1993. Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 1994.
Lisa Brocklebank (essay date fall 2000)
SOURCE: Brocklebank, Lisa. "Rebellious Voices: The Unofficial Discourse of Cross-dressing in d'Aulnoy, de Murat, and Perrault." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 25, no. 3 (fall 2000): 127-36.
[In the following essay, Brocklebank interprets the confusion of gender identity in Perrault's fairy tale "The Counterfeit Marquise" as a critique of social standards.]
Titles such as "Cinderella," "Sleeping Beauty," "Little Red Riding Hood" and "The Yellow Dwarf" often call to mind contemporary or at least post-eighteenth-century interpretive versions of their original counterparts. Some Disney films, for example, have contributed to the cultural homogenization of the fairy tale genre. In effect, consciously or otherwise, we tend to perceive and evaluate these narratives as children's tales, as stories primarily designed for and consumed by young people. In recent years, for instance, much invaluable criticism has been directed toward the often chauvinistic representation of women within these tales and their possible detrimental effect on today's young readers or viewers.1 However, in determining the signification and weighing the significance of such literary fairy tales, it is essential that we situate them within their historical and social-cultural milieu—in effect, evaluating the tales in light of the specific discursive formations out of which they arose and with which they were in dialogue. The original reading community of seventeenth-century French fairy tales was not children, but rather adults. More specifically, they were members of court society for, as Henriette-Julie de Murat reveals in her fairy tale "Starlight": "all the intelligentsia of the country spent their time reading nothing else" (159).
These tales, then, deserve examination as prominent and incisive literary and social discourse because they were one of the more popular and prevalent forms of expression during the latter decades of the ancien régime. It seems necessary to examine the dynamics behind canon formation: why have these tales come to be regarded as only for the nursery, when their original audience was highly sophisticated members of the French court? It is my contention that the authors of these wonder tales used the "genre" of children's stories not only as a vehicle for the instillment of normative social codes of conduct, but also as a means of voicing an implicit and often explicit social critique. As such, these tales can be regarded, instead, as valuable examples of socio-political commentary.
From the motif of cross-dressing that surfaces in some of the fairy tales produced during this period arises significant statements, challenges, and—most crucially—queries about the nature of the social order. I will examine three non-canonical tales: "The Counterfeit Marquise," attributed to the collaborative efforts of Charles Perrault and Francois-Timoléon de Choisy; "Starlight," by Henriette-Julie de Murat; and "Belle-Belle ou le Chevalier Fortuné," by Marie-Catherine d'Aulnoy. All of these tales employ the cross-dressed figure as a touchstone to contest official order and socially constructed representations of power. In effect, they launch a potent critique of the status quo that begins with an examination of gender norms. I would contend that these tales, by highlighting the performativity of gender and gender relations, also call into question the production of other modes of power that claim a "natural" status to sanctify their existence and dominance. As Judith Butler has revealed in her influential study: "gender is the repeated stylization of the body, a set of repeated acts within a highly rigid regulatory frame that congeal over time to produce the appearance of substance, of a natural sort of being…. Gender is a construction that regularly conceals its genesis" (Gender Trouble 33, 140).
As the body is synechdotal of the social system, "its boundaries can represent any boundaries which are threatened or precarious" (Douglas 115). The ancien régime, in particular, relied heavily upon the symbolic equation between the body politic and the individual body—more specifically, the king's body. Representations of these bodies, moreover, relied upon the audience for whom they were created to imbue them with signification (Outram 4). In this sense, then, it seems plausible to argue that representations of the body within the ancien régime were highly performative.2 To critique the performativity of gender, then, would be tantamount to critiquing all socially constructed identity posited as "natural"—from gender, to the family, to the state. I propose that within the three tales I will examine, the cross-dressed figure functions to indicate a "category crisis" 3—not only of gender, but of the construction and perpetuation of a social order reliant upon the stylistic construction and representation of the Sun-King.
The reign of Louis XIV set in motion the deliberate and elaborate creation of a kingly image or representation, an official narrative of glory and power that held order in place. However, the permeation of this official narrative gave birth to a secret, shadowy sub-narrative that was in direct opposition to its parent discourse and that was bent on its overthrow. With the apotheosis of the Sun-King and the creation of the theater-state came the clandestine filtering of anti-images—texts, hostile to the monarchical system of representation. Unofficial newspapers, burlesque gazettes, erotic novels, secret histories, satires and songs, epigrams and epitaphs all challenged the monarchically willed and controlled representation of power (Hoffmann 148).
The attacks grew more concentrated as Louis XIV's reign progressed. In the 1660s, four subversive political pamphlets came into print; in the 1670s, six; in the 1680s, sixteen texts circulated; and the 1690s brought forth thirty-five anti-monarchical pamphlets (Burke 146). The creators of these dissenting images remained either anonymous or pseudonymous. Peter Burke identifies two kinds of dissenters: those individuals who presented themselves as loyal subjects making gentle fun of the court and those who openly declared themselves enemies of the king and his regime (146). The literary tactics varied between direct attacks and the implications of "secret histories" revealed to private eyes. The tone of the pieces varied as well, ranging from the moralizing to the cynical. The main subjects included the king's ambition, his lack of moral scruples, his tyranny, vanity, intellectual weakness, and his military and sexual impotence (136-37). Such varied themes combined to form an anti-representation or a dissenting image of the king.
These counter-texts most often concentrated on the military and sexual weakness of the king. The narratives, moreover, closely linked the two themes, so that war became a metaphor for sex, or sex, conversely, became a metaphor for war. In deliberate contrast to the official representation of the royal hero, the unofficial narratives represented Louis XIV as battle shy or as an impotent old man, unsuccessful both in the sexual and military field. The spectacle of impotence hence replaced the potent image of battle (Burke 142). Hoffmann argues that this symbolic emasculation or castration of the Sun-King transformed the monarchy from "omnipotent head to impotent phallus" (7). Thus, the anti-narratives and counter-representations directly disabled and disempowered—at least imaginatively—the representative of social order and, consequently, the order the king represented.
I would argue that the evolution of the French literary fairy tale is intimately connected with these dynamics of representation and counter-representation. Although neither Hoffmann nor Burke even considers the possibility of the fairy tale as one of these anti-images, I would argue that it shares a similar origin, production, and purpose, and therefore expresses equal, if not greater, political dissatisfaction and insidious revolt. The fairy tales first came into print in the mid 1690s at the point Burke defines as the proliferative height of unofficial texts. These fairy tale texts present a fantastic unofficial discourse to counter official discourse. The writers speak from the margins, beyond the reach of official reprimand, eluding censors by encoding their alternative representations in the language of wonder. They build on a heritage of protest, encompassing within their discourse various strains of dissent and subversion to challenge not only the monarchy but also the inequalities of the entire system.
The first writers of fairy tales inherited the reformist vision of the précieuses and continued their subversive expression of rebellious instincts.4 In the mid-seventeenth century, the interest of the salonières in manipulating language and meaning through riddles and word games led them to folklore; as a result, they turned to folk-tales as an innovative means of expressing their desires and championing their views (Anderson and Zinsser 22). As they told these stories to one another, the narratives of metamorphosis and wondrous change began to shift and metamorphose themselves, assuming, with each telling, hues of the teller's own life, the shapes of her own monsters and ogres, and visions of her own wishful resolutions. The salonières began to tell tales that questioned the standards that governed their lives, continuing the themes of préciosité such as freedom of choice in marriage, fidelity, and justice. Through the disparity between the ideal world of the tales and the world from which the tales arose, the salonières expressed their discontent with the status quo. In these tales, then, the fantastic and the political often became inextricably linked, and the ideological bent of the tales is either quietly or overtly subversive.
By the 1690s, these salon fairy tales were so prevalent and popular that the tellers began to write them down for public consumption, thus effectively transforming the oral tale into the literary tale and transferring it from the private sphere of the salon to the public sphere of society (Zipes, Beauties 3). Zipes links the publicization of the fairy tale to the tenuous political situation of the time. In 1688, France entered a period of severe political crisis. The policies of Louis XIV caused an increase in debt, taxation, and poor living conditions that, in turn, resulted in a more austere manner of life for the aristocracy and bourgeoisie, as well as increasing the abject conditions of the peasants. Concomitantly, Louis XIV became more and more despotic and absolutist. The combination of these two factors produced a situation ripe for backlash and protest, but also effectively silenced any protest before it was even voiced (5-6). Since censorship disabled writers from directly criticizing Louis XIV, the fairy tale became a means of voicing dissatisfaction and projecting hopes while evading punitive repercussions.
The liminal space that the fairy tale occupied resulted not only from its political marginality but also from its generic marginality. It occupied the as yet undefined area between oral popular culture and literary tradition (Canepa 12). This status enabled the tale to become a means of expressing social criticism that the censors would not have tolerated in more canonical genres. The literary aesthetics that the précieuses and their inheritors developed in their narratives—be they romance novels or fairy tales—were distinctly anti-classical (Zipes, Beauties 4). The salonières thus wrote their tales both on the margins of the literary establishment and in direct opposition to the predominant aesthetic and literary canon. Hence, in the contemporary literary and aesthetic debate known as the Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes, the women writers of the wonder tales implicitly situated themselves on the side of the Modernes (Seifert 7).
These women writers also continued in the path of the précieuses through their reappropriation of language and of a distinctly gendered storytelling tradition. By recalling the oral connection of the tales, they invoked the original dynamics of the genre that pitted common people against established authority. In this vein, by writing under the alibi of "old wives" or "governesses" they spoke in a type of ventriloquy through the mouths of those either at the bottom of or outside the social order. From this position on the outside (which only magnified their own position) they could direct their criticism against society while remaining safely disguised. Significantly, the writers assumed female spokespieces, entitling their collections "contes de quenouilles" [tales of the distaff], "contes de vieilles" [old wives' tales], and "contes de ma mère L'oye" [Mother Goose tales]. This appropriation of female voices served two purposes. First, it set up the image of a mother or nurse telling tales to children, contributing further to the evasion of censors by disguising adult material as children's stories of allegedly peasant origins. Second, it created and provided access to a conventionally "female" realm of language, wisdom, and knowledge.
Significantly, these writers who appropriated a marginalized form and adopted the voice of outsiders were themselves marginalized. Mme Murat, author of "Starlight," was born Henriette Julie de Castelnau in 1670 in Brittany (Barchilon 170). At the age of fifteen, her father gave her in marriage to the comte de Murat, and she moved to Paris. Although she embraced (some thought with reckless abandon) the life of the French court, Murat remained strongly influenced by the traditions and folklore of her native Brittany. On more than one occasion, she caused a sensation by wearing a traditional Breton costume in court (Zipes, Beauties 129). Her wit, independence, and nonconformity soon won her enemies. Indeed, her own husband and family denounced her for her unruly behaviour, including the charge that "elle aime un peu trop sa semblable" ["she's rather too fond of her own kind"] (Barchilon 71). In 1694, Murat published a political satire targeting Louis XIV's liaison with Mme de Maintenon. Consequently, the King exiled her from Paris, sending her to the Loire Valley, where she remained under house arrest until just before her death (Warner 8). Undaunted by exile, she organized her own salon and began telling her own version of the tales she recalled from her childhood in Brittany. She then proceeded to record these tales in written form, as well as to invent and write original tales. Significantly, then, only after exile did she commence her engagement with tales. Hence, Murat—forced against her will at a young age into an unhappy marriage, demonized by her own husband and family for her "unruly" behavior and threatening sexual proclivities, and exiled by the King for her political criticism—turned to the marginalized fairy tale as a means of expressing her subversive views and opinions. Literally placed outside of the social system, she appropriated a form outside of the literary system to direct criticism against those mechanisms that perpetrated her exclusion.
Mme d'Aulnoy also began writing fairy tales while in exile. Marie-Catherine d'Aulnoy was born in Normandy in 1650. Her mother and her aunt both played influential roles in her formative years by encouraging her to live as independently as possible and by telling her folk-tales (Zipes, Beauties 296). At the age of fifteen, she married the Baron d'Aulnoy (De France 13). She lived with the baron at the French court until 1669 when, with the help of her mother and their respective lovers, d'Aulnoy tried to implicate her husband in a crime of high treason against the King, hoping that he would receive the normative punishment of execution. However, their plan backfired; the baron managed both to extricate himself and reveal the perpetrators at the center of the fiasco. As a result, the lovers faced an execution that d'Aulnoy and her mother narrowly escaped by fleeing to Holland, then England, and finally Spain. In 1685, they received the King's permission to return to Paris, where d'Aulnoy proceeded to establish a literary salon that soon became the most popular and highly-frequented salons. In 1690, d'Aulnoy began her literary career, and in 1696 she published Les Contes de Fées, which catapulted the fairy tale to an unprecedented height of fashion among its proponents. From this point forward, d'Aulnoy relegated her mischief-making and her issues with patriarchal constraints chiefly to imaginary realms (De France 14 and Zipes, Beauties 294-95).
The writing of subversive tales was not, however, limited solely to women. Charles Perrault, whose tales (albeit modified) have achieved a canonical status denied his female counterparts, also wrote précieux tales. Author of the highly successful Contes du temps passé, published in 1697, Perrault championed the cause of the contes de fées (Zarucchi 16). Although readers and scholars alike have traditionally interpreted Perrault's excessive moralizing as "‘Victorian prudishness’" (Barchilon and Flinders 81), I would argue that his sardonic jocularity mocks the very conventions it purports to uphold. In this vein, although the epigrammatic morals at the end of his tales seemingly fulfill the conventional pedagogical imperative, they in fact interrogate the very precepts that they ostensibly uphold. Perrault could thus evade the censors by disguising his criticism as fatherly moral and social advice for young ladies of the court. He did, however, publicly enlist himself as a supporter of women through his publication of Apologie des Femmes (1694) which, in the form of a father advising his son to marry, gives an impassioned defense of women (Barchilon and Flinders 54-55).
Interestingly, Perrault also borrowed the female figure as a spokespiece. The frontispiece of his Contes de ma Mère l'Oye portrays a peasant woman spinning and telling stories to a group of children sitting by the fireplace (Barchilon 90). By thus imaginatively assuming the role and voice of a woman to tell his tales, Perrault positioned himself in line with the female writers, both on the outside, looking in, and at the bottom of the hierarchy, criticizing those at the apex. Although "The Counterfeit Marquise" has never been included in a Perrault collection, past scholarship has persuasively argued for the plausibility of his collaboration on the tale with its accepted author, the Abbé de Choisy—a libertine priest, courtier, historian, deputy ambassador to Siam, and an infamous transvestite whose memoirs chronicle his adventures in cross-dressing.5
The authors themselves cross-dress by assuming a female narrative persona in "The Counterfeit Marquise" : "Nowadays it is the fashion for women to display their wit in print and I have no wish to be behind the times" (123). By establishing such a narrative persona, they draw upon the oral aspects of the literary fairy tale in both its folk background and its salon setting. They evoke the atmosphere of women telling stories to other women in stories that comment upon their society and express a utopian vision. Perrault, in his other fairy tales, also transvestizes himself under the name Ma Mère l'Oye. I would argue that it is not unfeasible that he may have intentionally borrowed the name, and hence the persona, of Mère Folle from the "Abbeys of Misrule." In French cities, men often played the part of the unruly woman officer of Misrule during these carnivalesque festivals. Men used this disguise to draw upon the symbolic power of the unruly woman, employing her license to inveigh against unjust rule. In addition to providing access to this role, the disguise validated their riotous behavior and freed them from responsi- bility for their actions (Zeamon Davis 139). Perrault and de Choisy's use of the female narrative persona thus draws upon a long tradition of protest and misrule while at the same time dissociating them from it.
Their narrative persona evokes, as well, the relationship between the storyteller and audience by giving "lessons" and addressing herself to "ladies" (123). Most significantly, however, the creation of a teller-audience relationship enables the narrator of "The Counterfeit Marquise" to specify that she has exclusive and eye-witness access to secret knowledge: "do not begin to doubt what I am going to tell you. I saw it all, heard it all, know it all; I witnessed these events myself" (124). Through this claim, the authors seem to indicate that the tale belongs to the unofficial literature of "secret histories" that purported to contain inside information revealed to private eyes. The tale thus aligns itself with the unofficial discourse aimed at creating an anti-image of the king and the monarchy. The drag voice then positions itself on the margins from where it can challenge the status quo. It mocks socio-political conventions, representations, and images, suggesting that they are just as artificial as "she" is. "We women all have our little mannerisms. Femininity betrays itself beneath the stiffest of styles…. The attentive reader is sure to detect a certain softness, a characteristic frailty, which we are born with and lapse into repeatedly. Too much is not to be expected of us" (123). This deliberately satirical parody of "femininity"—voiced by a male—undermines the precepts it purportedly conveys and shows how constructed it is. It thus presents a paradox: femininity, rather than being something "which we are born with," is but a "style." Through drag, the narrator highlights the stylization of gender, and underscores the ostensible moral of the tale: "you still know only by appearances, which are often deceptive" (139).
During a great Carnival ball in "The Counterfeit Marquise," the handsome Prince Sionad appears dressed as a woman. The tale extends this temporary instance of officially sanctioned cross-dressing, bringing the carnivalesque disruption of masking, hidden identity, and festive disregard for all propriety into the daily realm. It tells the tale of little Marianne—born a boy but raised a girl. Her mother, the Marquise de Banneville, loses her husband in battle and fears the same fate for her yet unborn child, should it be a boy. Her fears prove correct, for her child is, indeed, a boy. She determines to correct "nature," however, and tells everyone that her baby is a girl. She teaches the child "everything a girl of noble birth should know: dancing; music; the harpsichord" and, since she possesses "so fine a mind," proceeds to teach her the "male" subjects of "languages, history, even modern philosophy" (125). The marquise teaches her daughter so well that no one, not even Marianne herself, suspects her identity. The tale thus emphasizes the fact that gender behavior, far from being innate, results rather from learning and acculturation.
Marianne happily lives her life as a female, and only when she falls in love with the handsome Marquis de Bercour does her mother reveal the truth: she was born a male although "habit has given [her] a different nature" (141). Marianne decides to marry the Marquis anyway. However, the potentially explosive nature of their marriage is defused when the Marquis reveals that he, in fact, is a female in disguise. Yet although they may resolve their incongruities by both resorting to their "natural" gender, they so enjoy their customary gender that they decide to maintain the facade and so happily sustain a double cross-dressed marriage.
Throughout the tale, Perrault and de Choisy indulge in a fetishistic detailing of clothing, adornments, and toilette. Through their concentration on the semiotics of clothing, they highlight the performativity of social roles by implying that not only gender itself, but also the social order upheld by prestige consumption, is a representation and charade. When Marianne enters young adulthood, her male sex still remains unapparent for "she had been a little constricted from infancy with an iron corset, to widen her hips and lift her bosom" (125). The text proceeds to elaborately enumerate Marianne's toilette. Her suitors voyeuristically watch her literally "making herself up," "putting herself together," and "painting her face" (126). These phrases, in addition to the following, point to the artificiality of the processes by which we distinguish gender or, for that matter, power relations in general:
Her chambermaids would do her hair, but she would always add some new embellishment herself. Her blonde hair tumbled over her shoulders in great curls…. She would herself, with exquisite grace, put pendants in her ears, either of pearls, rubies, or diamonds—all of which suited her to perfection. She wore beauty spots [and] when putting them on she made a great show of consulting now one suitor, now another, as to which would suit her best.
Her mother, observing the toilette, congratulates herself on her ingenuity: "he is twelve years old" (126).
Significantly, the descriptions of the Marquis de Bercour do not differ greatly from those of Marianne. When Marianne first sees him, his "dazzling diamond earrings and three or four beauty spots" immediately attract her (132). Ironically, Marianne's mother expresses objections to his appearance: "he is too conscious of his looks, and that is not becoming in a man. He might as well dress as a girl" (132). Marianne responds that "these days young men are always doing themselves up like girls" (133). This exchange highlights the importance of clothing to the distinction of sex and illuminates how tenuous is our ability to distinguish. The clothing styles of different sexes often converge during times when gender roles are in question. Gender uncertainty thus becomes reflected in the similarity of clothing. As Majorie Garber remarks in her discussion of sumptuary legislation, the monitoring of gender and class through dress codes becomes fraught with anxiety during periods of social unrest (21-40). It therefore seems highly probable that de Choisy and Perrault, despite the glib jocularity of their narrative, may have in fact intended their tale to be interpreted on a deeper level as social commentary. For through their portrayal of cross-dressing, they highlight the dependence of gender construction upon sumptuary laws and the performance of pre-established roles.
Moreover, in the cultural milieu of the ancien régime, to play with sexual signifiers threatened to disrupt much more than gender binaries. Seventeenth-century France saw the elaborate cultivation of outward appearances as a tool of social differentiation and as an indispensable instrument in maintaining social position. The display of rank through outward form shaped, regulated, and controlled court life, and became the visual and material site of struggle for status and prestige (Elias 63). The more elaborate and significant the classifications and differentiations of dress, the more vested social identity and signification became in clothing and the easier it became to interrogate these classifications via transgression. Any confusion of this classification system threatened to collapse the very structures that maintained social order. For a woman to appropriate the signifiers of masculinity, or vice versa, would call into question specifically gender categories and more generally the entire social system of categorization that included gender, class, race, and the divinely sanctioned status of the monarchy itself. Therefore, in the tales of the French writers, the cross-dressed figure holds the potential to thwart socio-political authority.
Henriette-Julie de Murat's "Starlight" similarly exploits the topsy-turvy potential of clothing by showing how the wearing of a "uniform"—either by those who are not fulfilling their role or by those who are not acting according to the definitions imposed by this dress—can be a means of questioning the behavioral assumptions associated with it and of protesting its necessity. Through her portrayal of the extraordinary customs of the fairy tale world, Murat mocks the conventions of her own society. Indeed, the tale draws attention to itself as a source of social criticism. When a fairy, disguised as a cat, addresses Starlight—the imprisoned heroine—the narrator intervenes, explaining that the reader should not be surprised that Starlight "didn't faint" when she heard a talking cat (159). She is unfazed, the narrator proceeds to reveal, by the phenomenon of a talking cat because she had "greatly improved her mind by reading fairy-tales" (159). Through this aside, Murat both emphasizes the oral aspect of the tale (in terms of the dynamic relationship between teller and audience), thus aligning herself with the rebellious peasant tellers, and establishes the connection between the other world and the "real world." By reading tales, the heroine of her tale improves her life and transforms her situation.
Through this depiction of the interrelationship between the primary and secondary worlds within the text itself, Murat creates a mirror representation of the effects she sees her text having on the reader and, through the reader, on society. Hence, the narrator posits the fairy tale as a source of valuable wisdom and knowledge and advises the reader to pay attention: this tale extends beyond its surface role of amusement—embedded within lies a significant message. By insidiously voicing her comment through the mouthpiece of a character in the narrative, Murat can champion the subversive nature of the tale while eluding the political censors. The narrator adds that "all the intelligentsia of that country spent their time reading nothing else" (159). This second allusion serves a three-fold purpose: first, it illuminates the status and role of the fairy tale within France at the time; underneath its guise as a harmless tale for children, it addresses an adult readership of a distinctly elite class, namely the members of the court. The seemingly frivolous, escapist fantasies therefore served an ulterior purpose and held as their mandate the creation of a counter-culture, or subculture. Second, the allusion imbues the fairy tale world with the same characteristics as the French court, hence, implying that any satirical/critical portrayal of events in the otherworld reflects and com- ments directly upon the conditions of the "real" world. Third, the textual comment situates the tale on the side of the Modernes, in the Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes. This "Modern" partisanship occurs yet again within the tale in the description of the courtiers' reaction to the ambiguous remarks of a centaur:
it was soon being said that he was amazingly clever. Those who understood him least praised him most; some fools learnt his sayings by heart, and bigger fools wrote them down. That is the origin of all those books that people only pretend to understand, and of the form of speech that was later called persiflage, a word no academy so far has been able to define.
Within this comment lies a fairly explicit jab at the elitism of the Académie, at their denial of higher education to women, and at their denigration of vulgar and local writing in favor of Greek and Latin.
The plot of the tale—that of star-crossed lovers fleeing the conditions impeding their union, overcoming various obstacles, and reuniting happily in the end—borrows from the précieux romantic plots of improbable adventure in the quest for tendresse. As well as the conventional narrative depiction of tendresse—or perfect, unconquerable love—the tale espouses the précieux social concerns with arranged marriages and male-female relations. It adds to the roster of these concerns a more overriding social criticism of war and the monarchy. Thus, through the fairy tale Murat takes issue with this "time of madness when the fools set the tone" (168).
The dangers of forced and unhappy marriages abound in the tale. The tale opens with the dilemma of unfortunate lovers. Prince Izmir's father prohibits him from marrying the girl he loves because she is but a captured slave. The two lovers flee together; however, when a storm capsizes their ship, the sea separates the lovers, carrying Starlight to the shore of an unknown city. The king of the country comes to her rescue and bring her back to the palace where he and the queen treat her as if she were their own daughter—as, indeed, she is. It comes to light that Starlight is their long-lost daughter, abducted by the enemy army that sacked their city many years ago. Unfortunately, the happiness of their family reunion proves short-lived. When the king discovers Starlight's secret identity, he arranges a politically advantageous marriage between her and a neighboring emperor. Starlight explains that she has promised to be faithful to Izmir and cannot belong to another. The callous king ignores her tears and protestations. Although the queen sympathizes with Starlight's plight, she "could think of no remedy: Starlight must obey" (184). Only through fairy intervention does Starlight escape this imprisoning marriage. In these two instances, the tale criticizes the inability to choose one's marriage partner freely and the arranging of marriages for political or economic benefit.
"Starlight" offers a fairly unambiguous portrayal of the sexes. Through the fantastic portrayal, the tale seeks to imaginatively rectify the inequalities of male-female relations in the primary world. The power relations between Prince Izmir's parents presents an inversive vision that disrupts not only the prescribed roles within a marriage, but also the prescribed roles within a state. King Peacemaker yields to the greater authority of his wife. The queen, in fact, commands more force and power than the king and controls his decisions and actions; she can "easily persuade her husband to allow her to do as she wished" (152). The male/female relationship within marriage—as an expression of service, rule, and sovereignty—serves as an icon for other similarly hierarchical relationships, such as master/subject, sovereign/subject and public/domestic (Zeamon Davis 129). These dynamics imply that the microcosm of the domestic sphere stands as an icon of the state, so that an "ordered" relationship between the sexes within the home stands for order in the state. The potential disruption of gender roles on this small scale would then threaten to disrupt the stability of the state as a whole. Moreover, Peacemaker's subservience to the Queen suggests a political as well as a sexual impotence. It is the Queen who grips the scepter and wields the phallic tongue. Curiously, the tale seems to undermine its own subversive portrayal by depicting the Queen in demonic terms—relegating her to the role of evil, jealous (prospective) mother-in-law, underscoring her acerbic and conniving traits, and painting her as "naturally arrogant and ill-tempered" (152). Perhaps her demonization serves as a deliberate mask or cover-up, for to portray a man in service of his wife, or a king in service of a powerful and politically ruthless woman, would hold too many overtly incendiary possibilities.
Indeed, all the men in the tale exhibit barbaric natures to varying degrees. Starlight, inadvertently finding herself in the Forest of the Centaurs, at first expresses alarm at finding herself amid "such creatures" (164) but then decides to trust them, rationalizing: "Men have schemed to destroy me … and the only man I might turn to is not in a position to help me; so why not put these creatures to the test? They are perhaps less barbarous" (164). Her rationalization proves correct, for the half man-half beast centaurs prove far more gracious, refined, compassionate, competent, and peaceful than any other "fully human" males the story portrays. The human men are beastly in comparison.
Their beastliness manifests itself chiefly in the arena of warfare. The kingdom of King Peacemaker is constantly at war with that of King Warmonger. King Peacemaker's actions fail to live up to the promise of his name. Each year, King Warmonger asks King Peacemaker to honor certain treaties he had agreed to, and each year King Peacemaker refuses. Notably, not only does King Peacemaker fail to fulfill the kingly role denoted by his title, but he also fails to embrace the opposite. In deliberate contrast to the official image of king as warrior-hero, the tale presents Peacemaker as battle-shy. The aging king can no longer fight his own battle; he must have the young, virile Izmir act as his substitute sword/(phallus). He disapproves of Prince Izmir's falling in love because it has caused him to lose all interest in his reputation as a "warrior-prince" (149). The use of this term indicates the inextricable link—a least in this secondary world—between war and monarchy, and the crucial role war plays in both the maintenance of power and the self-imaging and self-representation of both the monarchy and masculinity. War serves as a means of accruing honor and as a means through which masculinity is inscribed and upheld: "‘the eyes of the whole world are upon you; posterity will hold you responsible for your actions; what will they say of your honor?’" (150). Through battle, the warriors carve out a public image, a representation of themselves which they then present to the public gaze. These comments reveal the performativity of state identity by highlighting the construction of self-representation and imaging and their role in the establishment of power and of the consolidation and ratification of that power through the creation of an iconic object held up to the admiring gaze of the public or the "eyes of the world." Sexual prowess and violence are inextricably connected to the formation of masculinity and this, in turn, plays itself out in a public spectacle. The public, visual nature of Izmir's performance thus suggests that his own sense of masculinity can only exist as such when confirmed by an audience. When Izmir agrees to fight in return for Starlight, he dons "a magnificent suit of armour … all shining with gold, rubies, and diamonds" (155). In battle, the "incomparable Izmir" is a sight "fell and terrible to behold" (156). Rampaging through the field in battlelust, he "swoops like an eagle … cutting the arms off some, running others through, and sending heads flying through the air" (156). The vocabulary of war, in this unofficial fantastic representation, serves to ridicule, as opposed to attesting to its power and glory. Although the spectacle of violent bloodshed proves Izmir's "valour and strength" (156), the tale points to the artifice which underlies and upholds this proof. Despite Izmir's recuperation of his masculine and royal identity, King Peacemaker reneges on his promise. Izmir and Starlight therefore flee the country. The lovers become separated when a sea-storm catches their ship and the two fall overboard.
Izmir washes up on the shores of Quietlife Island, so called because not a sound was to be heard there: "everyone spoke in whispers and walked on tiptoe. There were no quarrels and hardly any wars" (173). The utopian world within the fairy tale realm, Quietlife Island reveals the travesties and inadequacies of the tale's world, and thus of French society. It is the World Turned Upside Down—the topsy-turvy land where "normal" social behavior is inverted, not only in terms of war, but in terms of gender norms as well: "When it became absolutely impossible to avoid engaging in combat, only the ladies fought, throwing crab-apples from a distance. The men kept well away: they slept until midday, plied their spinning wheels, tied pretty bows, took children for walks, and made their faces up with rouge and beauty spots" (173). Quietlife Island, therefore, reverses Izmir's idea of socially proper gender behavior, as male and female roles reverse both within marriage and within the state. The amazonian wives are "hunters" and "masterful women," while the men occupy themselves with spinning wheel and bows (174). Izmir, the manly hero and prototype of his society, gallantly offers the women jewels. They, however, take no interest in them, but pass them on to their husbands. When Izmir shares with the men his tragic love story, they cry "their eyes out"; the women, conversely, show a muted sympathy, marked with "firmness" and "severity" (174).
Much disconcerted, Izmir proceeds to the palace, where he hopes to find his terms of reference restored to their proper order. Instead, though, he encounters the king, who lies at ease on a canopy bed, surrounded by perfumes, "listening to his chancellor read him the story of Bluebeard" (175). Meanwhile, his ministers absorb themselves in the all-important task of "teaching the baby princess to walk" (174).
The monarch explains to Izmir that he is resting while the queen occupies herself at war. This "unforgivable" inversion of norms shocks and revolts the manly Izmir (175). To Izmir, war serves as a means of defining masculinity/monarchy. For a woman to enter the battlefield and usurp this terrain not only robs him of this means, but "feminizes" and disempowers him in relation to her "masculinization" and empowerment. He cannot face the challenge which the inhabitants pose to his conceptual paradigm of reality and to his very identity. Hence, he launches a brutal attack on the king—an attack which possesses all the undertones of a rape scene. Izmir tries to reinscribe his threatened sense of masculinity by assaulting the "effeminate king" with his (phallic) "stout lance" (175). His assault achieves the desired result: "The poor king, crying his eyes out, swore to do anything Izmir wanted: he was afraid he would get a second dose of that terrible lance, which Izmir was brandishing" (176). Izmir forces the king to promise to "abolish" their "absurd customs" and to "go to war like other kings" (176). Izmir thus represents the violent conforming impulse of his patriarchal society. He beats the deviants into submission, forcing them to fit the mold. Paradoxically then, to conform to Izmir's sense of order, the king cross-dresses in the queen's armor and rides out to battle with Izmir.
The foreign prince inflicts himself upon the humane "battle" of the islanders. While they throw harmless crab-apples, he lays waste with the aforementioned phallic lance. Horrified by this spectacle, the islanders beg him to cease his slaughter: "Stop, for goodness sake. You can't kill people like that without mercy! All we wanted to do was to chase them away" (177). This passage explicitly critiques the violence of a military and patriarchal society. Society is more peaceful, harmonious, and humane when men act as "women" and women assume the authority usually wielded by men.
Izmir calls their way of life "absurd customs," but to the islanders, his behavior is just as absurd and incomprehensible. To the king of Quietlife Island, their behavior accords with their "laws and customs" and has been the norm since "time immemorial" (175). The "norm," therefore, results from the process of socialization. Whatever is ratified by law and custom, whatever is habitual and known, becomes the accepted way, or the way "things should be." Anything or anyone who deviates from the long-standing tradition is regarded by those who uphold the tradition as the corruption of an inherent value or condition.
Izmir then asks why the king's palace has no staircase. The king responds that his predecessors never had one, and that it was the way things always were. Izmir reacts with characteristic belligerent indignation: "A fine reason for maintaining such a stupid inconvenient custom!" (177). Through her mockery of the ignorant hero, Murat satirizes and comments upon the blindness of her own society. Though Quietlife Island is subversive in its festive aura of a World Turned Upside Down, Murat points out that although its behavior and customs are diametrically opposed to those of the so-called "Upright" world, it still adheres to the same conditions of fixed socialization and ossified concepts of binarism. Through the juxtaposition of the two worlds and two systems, she emphasizes foremost that the disparate behavioral roles of the sexes are primarily a social construct. The different patterns of different societies suggest that gender roles, behavioral norms, and state/political systems are not inherent and prototypical. By thus contesting the precept of a natural and divinely sanctioned order, Murat opens a crack through which dissension and dissatisfaction may filter.
D'Aulnoy also expresses dissatisfaction with both normative gender and political paradigms. "Belle-Belle ou le Chevalier Fortuné" utilizes a cross-dressed amazonian figure to challenge gender orthodoxy. The title of the tale, by including both the heroine's female and male identities, draws attention to the inseparability of seemingly mutually exclusive characteristics and d'Aulnoy's attempt to deconstruct fixed gender binaries. Even before she assumes the outward signifiers of masculinity, Belle-Belle, the eponymous heroine, exhibits traditionally "masculine" behavior through her "extraordinary courage" and her habit of "hunting every day" (d'Aulnoy 566). Once she becomes, outwardly at least, a male, she still retains those qualities prized as the quintessence of feminine virtue, such as politeness, consideration, and charm. While retaining her "feminine" qualities, she epitomizes knightly virtues, earning herself the title of "flower of all chivalry" (581). As a male, Belle-Belle excels at all the duties of a chivalrous knight: "He won the prize at all the tournaments. He killed the most game when he went hunting. He danced at all the balls with more grace and skill than any other courtier. In short, it was delightful to watch him and hear him speak" (577).
Moreover, Belle-Belle accomplishes a series of tasks supposedly exclusive to the male sphere: she travels freely and unharassed, assumes leadership of a motley crew of social outcasts, serves as the king's am- bassador, defeats a dragon and, finally, restores to the king his lost possessions. She restores his goods and, through this action, saves his kingdom, accomplishing what the king failed to achieve himself. The tale thus interrogates the construction of gender—not only in terms of "femininity," but also in terms of "masculinity" as well. Of greater implication, however, is that in its questioning of "masculinity," the tale questions, as well, the role of the king, who is the nominal representative of masculine identity.
Like "Starlight," "Belle-Belle" opens with a depiction of the king's inability to fulfill his role. Just as King Peacemaker fails to keep the peace, or even to participate in the war, the monarch in "Belle-Belle" is "besieged" and "conquered" by the enemy emperor, who "took possession" of his "treasures" and "ravaged" his kingdom (564). His military defeat thus bears the distinct connotations of a sexual defeat depicted, as it is, in terms of rape and emasculation. His military inability comes under scrutiny yet again further on in the narrative. He neglects to even attempt to conquer the dragon that threatens his kingdom or to regain his lost possessions from the enemy emperor. Rather than undertaking these missions himself, he sends his page, the chevalier Fortuné (Belle-Belle), who successfully accomplishes these tasks and who, moreover, is a woman.
In one particularly emblematic scene, the chevalier places the dragon which "he" captured at the feet of the king, so that the monarch can strike the final blow himself. The king then "drew his sword and terminated the existence of one of his most cruel enemies" (585). This public performance of sovereign power draws "shouts of joy" from the crowd of spectators (585). The spectacle of the king plunging his phallic sword into the breast of his enemy highlights the dynamics of the construction of power both within the tale and within the ancien régime. This act of valor and strength restores the king's potency and recreates a public image of supreme unvanquishable glory and might. This public image, in turn, maintains the stability of the social order. However, d'Aulnoy has a woman, dressed as a man, orchestrate the whole deliberate performance. In so doing, the author reveals the elaborate construction behind the king's image and the dependence of order upon the upholding of this representation. Additionally, she discloses that the power that places the king at the apex depends directly upon those at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Without this rigid hierarchicalization, the nebulous aura of gloire surrounding the king would dissipate. Yet, by having a cross-dresser as the orchestrator, d'Aulnoy not only deconstructs the very order that this image supposedly upholds, but also shifts the seat of power from the male to the female and from the king to the peasant, thus emasculating the male king and empowering the female peasant.
Hence, it becomes apparent that d'Aulnoy, like Murat and, less overtly, Perrault and de Choisy, utilizes the cross-dressed figure to combine a critique of gender roles with a critique of normative socio-political paradigms. By thus attacking the monarchical system of representation, these ostensibly children's tales reveal themselves as belonging to the unofficial discourse of anti-monarchical texts. Or do these tales necessarily hold such an unequivocally incendiary potential? Perrault and de Choisy, for example, were undeniably invested in the very culture they rebelled against. De Choisy, for one, served as an integral part of Louis XIV's entourage, accompanying the king to Siam and attending the coronation ball of Pope Innocent XI—albeit dressed as a woman (Ackroyd 9). Perrault, in turn, began his literary career as a public poet, lauding the monarch in official texts that contributed to the construction of the image of the Sun King (Barchilon and Flinders 24). Could "The Counterfeit Marquise" —or either of the other tales—in fact function in the service of official culture? Perhaps they could serve as safety-valves by providing a vehicle through which audiences could express their discontent in imaginary realms, diffusing the possibility of taking action in reality. The cross-dressed figure, moreover, shares the same ambiguous discursive space as the tales. Both the text of the body and the text of the tale seek to rewrite reality through alternative representations yet, paradoxically, ones which seem categorically dependent on that which they seek to subvert. While attempting to contest the official, they still derive from and imitate its language in terms of narrative, gender, and politics. Ultimately however, while these tales of cross-dressing may not succeed in overtly subverting the status quo, they do at least open up space for the interrogation of hegemonic laws surrounding both gender and monarchy.
The author wishes to offer thanks to Kieran Kealy, Matt Farish, and two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments on this essay.
1. Examples of such critiques can be found in the essays in the list of Works Cited by Marcia K. Lieberman, Karen E. Rowe, Kay Stone, and Jack Zipes, "Breaking the Disney Spell."
2. I use "performative" in Butler's sense of the term, whereby performativity acts as "the reit- erative and citational practice by which discourse produces the effects that it names" (Bodies 2).
3. Marjorie Garber argues that the presence of a cross-dressed figure in a text can testify to a "category crisis" or a failure of definitional distinction, i.e., conceiving of gender in binaric modes (16).
4. The précieuses were a group of subversive women writers and intellectuals dedicated to a revolt against dominant culture. During the reign of Louis XIII the précieuses instituted the salon to provide a milieu in which a woman could develop her intellectual talents and where she would receive acceptance and encouragement. The salon came to provide an intellectual shelter for dissident views and opinions, thus placing itself outside the court and often in opposition to it. For further discussion of the précieuses see: Ian Maclean's Woman Triumphant and Wendy Gibson's Women in Seventeenth-Century France.
5. "The Counterfeit Marquise" was first published in the February 1695 issue of the Mercure galant under the title L'Histoire de la marquise-marquis Banneville. A year later, the February 1696 issue of the Mercure published Perrault's "La Belle au bois dormant" with the preface that: "On doit ce petit ouvrage à la même personne qui a écrit l'histoire de la Petite Marquise" ["we owe this little piece of work to the same person who wrote the story of the ‘Petite Marquise’"] (qtd. in Van der Cruysse 346). Jeanne Roche-Mazon, while acknowledging the possibility of Perrault's involvement in the authorship of the text, speculates that he transmitted the manuscript to the editor of the Mercure galant as a favor for his friend, the Abbé de Choisy, neither confirming nor denying that he was the author. (See J. Roche-Mazon 513-42.) In seeking to expand the Perrault canon to include this tale, I cite Foucault's argument regarding the necessity of suspending unities such as the oeuvre, for "the oeuvre can be regarded neither as a certain unity, nor as a homogeneous unity" (The Archeology of Knowledge, 24).
Ackroyd, Peter. Dressing Up: Transvestism and Drag: The History of an Obsession. Norwich: Jarrold and Sons, 1979.
Anderson, Bonnie S., and Judith P. Zinsser. A History of their Own: Women in Europe from Prehistory to the Present. Vol. 1. New York: Harper, 1988.
Barchilon, Jacques. Le conte merveilleux français de 1690 à 1790: cent ans de féerie et de poésie ignorées de l'histoire littéraire. Paris: Librarie Honore Champion, 1975.
Barchilon, Jacques, and Peter Flinders. Charles Perrault. Boston: Twayne, 1981.
Burke, Peter. The Fabrication of Louis XIV. New Haven: Yale UP, 1992.
Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, 1990.
———. Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex." New York: Routledge, 1993.
Canepa, Nancy L. Out of the Woods: The Origins of the Literary Fairy-Tale in Italy and France. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1997.
d'Aulnoy, Marie-Catherine. "Belle-Belle ou le Chevalier Fortuné." Beauties, Beasts, and Enchantment: Classic French Fairy Tales. Ed. and trans. Jack Zipes. New York: New American Library, 1989. 564-98.
De France, Anne. Les contes de fées et les nouvelles de Madame d'Aulnoy (1690-1698): L'imaginaire feminin a rebours de la tradition. Geneve: Librairie Droz, 1998.
de Murat, Henriette-Julie. "Starlight." Trans. Terence Cave. Wonder Tales: Six Stories of Enchantment. Ed. Marina Warner. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1996. 149-87.
Douglas, Mary. Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. London: Routledge, 1966.
Elias, Norbert. The Court Society. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1983.
Foucault, Michel. The Archaeology of Knowledge. New York: Pantheon, 1972.
Garber, Marjorie. Vested Interests: Cross-dressing and Cultural Anxiety. New York: Routledge, 1997.
Gibson, Wendy. Women in Seventeenth-Century France. New York: St. Martin's, 1989.
Hoffmann, Kathryn A. Society of Pleasures: Interdisciplinary Readings in Pleasure and Power during the Reign of Louis XIV. New York: St. Martin's, 1997.
Lieberman, Marcia K. "Some Day My Prince Will Come: Female Acculturation through the Fairy Tale." Don't Bet on the Prince. Ed. Jack Zipes. New York: Routledge, 1987. 185-200.
Maclean, Ian. Woman Triumphant: Feminism in French Literature, 1610-1652. Oxford: Clarendon, 1977.
Outram, Dorinda. The Body and the French Revolution: Sex, Class, and Political Culture. New Haven: Yale UP, 1989.
Perrault, Charles, and Francois-Timoléon de Choisy. "The Counterfeit Marquise." Trans. Ranjit Bolt. Wonder Tales: Six Stories of Enchantment. Ed. Marina Warner. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1996. 123-47.
Roche-Mazon, J. "Une collaboration inattendue au XVIIe siecle: l'abbé de Choisy et Charles Perrault." Mercure de France (Feb. 1928): 513-42.
Rowe, Karen E. "Feminism and Fairy Tales." Folk and Fairy Tales. 2nd ed. Ed. Martin Hallett and Barbara Karasek. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview, 1996. 325-45.
Seifert, Lewis C. Fairy-Tales, Sexuality, and Gender in France, 1690-1715. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996.
Stone, Kay. "Things Walt Disney Never Told Us." Women and Folklore. Ed. Claire R. Farrer. Austin: U of Texas P, 1975. 42-50.
Van der Cruysse, Dirk. L'Abbé de Choisy: Androgyne et mandarin. Paris: Librairie Artheme Fayard, 1995.
Warner, Marina, ed. Wonder Tales: Six Stories of Enchantment. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1996.
Zarucchi, Jeanne Morgan, ed. Charles Perrault: Memoirs of My Life. Columbia: U of Missouri P, 1989.
Zeamon Davis, Natalie. Society and Culture in Early Modern France. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1975.
Zipes, Jack. Beauties, Beasts, and Enchantment: Classic French Fairy-Tales. New York: New American Library, 1989.
———. "Breaking the Disney Spell." From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Ed. Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1995. 21-42.
Ruth B. Bottigheimer (essay date 2002)
SOURCE: Bottigheimer, Ruth B. "Misperceived Perceptions: Perrault's Fairy Tales and English Children's Literature." Children's Literature 30 (2002): 1-18.
[In the following essay, Bottigheimer traces the publication history of eighteenth-century children's literature, contending that Perrault's fairy tales reached their peak popularity much later than originally supposed.]
The place of Charles Perrault's fairy tales in the development of English children's literature has been both misunderstood and overrated. This view of Perrault's role in children's literature has a history. In the libraries I've scoured for books written for and read by children in eighteenth-century England, Perrault's fairy tales have been more an absence than a presence. This observation, however, is not enough to support so fundamental a redefinition of the early history of English children's literature. What can—and does—support my argument is book history, whose perceptions and methodologies I use here.
Let me offer one example of how book history is able to correct misperceptions that have arisen from the way books are listed in published library catalogs. Catalogs take their data from title pages, but title pages can be misleading. For example, what if one publisher, after a year of dismal sales, sold his books to another publisher, who then inserted a new title page and sent the books newly titled but otherwise unchanged out into bookshops? The catalog would record two dates of publication for one printing. Book history, in contrast, would use its resources to identify the book's text and its title page and to recognize that only one printing had, in fact, taken place. This is not an imagined example; it actually happened with a 1764 printing of Perrault's tales.
Unraveling an eighteenth-century printing practice like the reissue of 1764/65 requires a methodology and a vocabulary uncommon in the study of children's literature. "Printruns," "sheets," and "fingerprints" all play a role in explicating the relative popularity of individual books in the eighteenth century. The argument that follows has a slow pace, and for that I apologize. I am urging a fundamental change in long-held views, and I want to build my case carefully and persuasively.* * *
With clockwork regularity literary anthologies and course textbooks imply, suggest, or assert that eighteenth-century English children's literature was rooted in fairy tales, specifically those of Charles Perrault. Harvey Darton, whose richly documented history of English children's literature has provided the guiding direction for countless other accounts, wrote that Perrault's tales "have been naturalized citizens of the British nursery" since they were translated by Robert Samber in 1729 (88). In Classics of Children's Literature, John Griffith and Charles Frey put five of Perrault's tales—"Sleeping Beauty," "Little Red Riding Hood," "Blue Beard," "Puss in Boots," and "Cinderella" —front and center and claim that they "grew steadily in popularity" once they were translated into English (3). Little wonder that Geoffrey Summerfield could comfortably state without further proof or elaboration that "these tales of Perrault soon passed into England, and in Robert Samber's translation were frequently reprinted throughout the eighteenth century" (44). Summerfield's easy acceptance of the Perrault paradigm characterizes both lay and scholarly perceptions.
The chronology of the publishing history of Perrault's tales in England would appear to substantiate such claims. Translated by Robert Samber and published in London in 1729, those tales preceded the 1740s printings of children's books by London's Thomas Boreman, Mary Cooper, and John Newbery by a good ten to fifteen years. But this simple chronological sequence has made it all too easy for generations of literary historians to leap directly to the conclusion that Perrault's prior appearance represented a point of origin. Exploring late seventeenth- and early- to mid-eighteenth-century English children's literature presents a disturbing disjunction between scholarly claims of Perrault's precedence and the mood evident in the literature itself.
Over the past several years I have undertaken a journey of discovery to research libraries in the United States, Canada, and England. My study of hundreds of books published for children between 1670 and 1770 has led, among other things, to a sense that it is necessary to revise fundamentally the place that Perrault's fairy stories occupy in the early history of English children's literature. The history of fairies and fairy literature in England encourages such revision; scholarship in such newly emerging fields as book and publishing history supports it; and most significantly, the evidence of children's literature itself requires it.1
The fairies of Charles Perrault's Histories [Histoires ou Contes du temps passé, avec des moralitez were preceded by centuries of England's own imps and phantoms as well as by decades of Mme d'Aulnoy's supernaturals (Palmer, Palmer and Palmer, Verdier). By the time Perrault's supernatural protagonists arrived on English soil in such fairy tales as "The Fairy," "Sleeping Beauty in the Wood," and "Cinderilla" ["Cinderella" ] [sic], they represented England's third generation of fairies,2 one which eventually overlaid both England's native fairy population (calendared by Reginald Scot) and Mme d'Aulnoy's successfully imported and disseminated fairy traditions. Perrault's tales provided the basis for the modern canon of fairy tales. That is not in doubt. But the ultimate success of Perrault's fairy tales has blinded generations of scholars to the fact that they conquered the field with near-glacial slowness. The reasons for Perrault's tardy success implicate genre and gender, while more far-reaching explanations rest on patterns of book consumption and book marketing.
Perrault's fairy tales differed fundamentally from the traditional fairy fictions of Mme d'Aulnoy. Unlike her tales, Perrault's stories generally obfuscated sex. And differing even more fundamentally from a dystopic tale like Mme d'Aulnoy's "History of Adolphus," in which Time brutally strangled the hero in the concluding paragraphs, Perrault's (rare) violence was wrought only upon the wicked. ("Red Riding Hood" is, of course, not a fairy tale but a warning tale.) Best of all for late-eighteenth-century propriety, every one of Perrault's fairy tales had a hero or heroine who was virtuous, at least in formal terms, and ended with a clearly set out moral. The morals themselves were sometimes wry, sometimes ironic, and always worldly, yet on the surface they and the fairy tales' endings regularly stressed the importance and utility of goodness. Whatever internal contradictions might on occasion disturb the smooth flow of a moral, the overt message of the majority of Perrault's tales was that happy endings crowned virtuous lives.
Mme d'Aulnoy further explored the narrative consequences of human intrusions into fairyland and of fairy entries into human life in stories like "Graciosa and Percinet," "The Fair One with Golden Locks," and "The Hobgoblin Prince." Perrault, in contrast, examined the social life of human beings, the obstacles to whose easy success were swept away either by earthly kings or by fairy magic. In his stories a fairy made roses, pearls, and diamonds fall from the mouth of a kindly but ill-treated daughter ("The Fairy" ); a fairy godmother created a coach from a "pompion" ("Cinderilla" ); and another fairy made the hideous Riquet appear handsome and transformed his beloved but stupid Princess into a sensible woman ("Riquet a la Houpe" ). Only one of Perrault's fairy tales—"Sleeping Beauty in the Wood" —resembled Mme d'Aulnoy's stories in that a good fairy and a malevolent one pitted their magic against one another in a contest of wills that produced repercussions in the lives of the tale's human protagonists.
The date of Perrault's first translation into English, 1729, is generally cited as the moment of its initial success in England. It is easily demonstrated that Perrault's tales were translated and published in London in 1729, but many important facts in conjunction with its fallaciously claimed success have been eagerly, perhaps willfully, overlooked. To explore the question of the popularity of Perrault's tales, we need to return to the world of print as it existed in publishing centers in Paris, the Lowlands, and London at the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth centuries.
Within a few months of the January 1697 appearance of Perrault's fairy tales in Paris, his stories had been pirated by the Amsterdam publisher Jaques [sic] Desbordes. Desbordes's book claimed to be a faithful copy of the French edition ("suivante la copie a Paris"), yet its publisher misspelled the author's name ("Perreault") even as he added Perrault's illustrious title ("de l'Academie François"). Desbordes's book sold well enough on the Continent to justify a second printing in 1700 and a third in 1708. In 1711 Estienne Roger, another Amsterdam publisher, produced a six-volume compendium of French fairy fictions and fairy tales. Volume 5, entitled Les Chevaliers Errans par Madame la Comtesse D***, included Perrault's tales and five others by Mme D'Auneuil;3 the sixth volume bore the title of Perrault's oeuvre, Histoires ou Contes des Temps Passé, and was attributed to "Perreault," but with an insouciant disregard for authorship, it contained not a single one of Perrault's tales!
Perhaps it was volume 5, Les Chevaliers Errans [Les Chevaliers Errans par Madame la Comtesse D*** ], in Estienne Roger's set of fairy tales that caught Jaques Desbordes's eye and led him to calculate that Perrault's tales could be made even more attractive by adding a traditional and lengthy fairy fiction. Whatever his reason, in 1716 Desbordes added "L'adroite Princesse ou les aventures de Finette," which had been written by Perrault's niece, Marie-Jeanne L'Héritier de Villandon. Desbordes finally spelled Perrault's name correctly and published Histoires ou Contes du temps Passé, Avec des Moralitez. Par M. Perrault. Nouvelle Edition augmentée d'une Nouvelle, à la fin. Suivant la Copie de Paris. His successor firm republished it in 1721 and 1729.
In 1729 Robert Samber's word-for-word translation of Perrault's tales appeared in London. It included, in the printer's fanciful typography, "The Little Red Riding-Hood," "The Blue-Beard," "The Fairy," "The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood," "The Master Cat: or, Puss in Boots," "Cinderilla: or, The Little Glass Slipper," "Riquet a la Houpe," and "Little Poucet, and His Two Brothers." Samber worked from Desbordes's Dutch edition, similarly including Mlle L'Héritier's "Discreet Princess; or, the Adventures of Finetta. A Novel."4 Mlle L'Héritier had originally addressed "L'adroite Princesse" to another French author of fairy fictions, Mme de Murat. Samber's Englishing of the book extended to the novel's dedicatee, and so on the separate title page that preceded the "novel," he addressed "The Discreet Princess" to "The Right Hon. Lady Mary Montagu," daughter of John, Duke of Montagu.
Perrault's own tales are so familiar that I needn't repeat their plots here, but Mlle L'Héritier's "Discreet Princess" has fallen from the canon and requires a brief retelling so that modern readers may understand the full reach of Samber's book as it appeared in London in 1729:
Once upon a time there were three princesses, idle Drone-illa, prattling Babillarde, and virtuous Finetta. After their mother's death, their father feared both for his daughters' well-being and for their virtue, and so having had a fairy make a glass distaff for each of his daughters that would break if its owner acted dishonorably, he locked them all into a high tower and forbade them to receive guests. Lazy Drone-illa and prattling Babillarde were distraught at their isolation, but Finetta spent her days contentedly, reading and sewing.
One day Drone-illa and Babillarde hauled up a wizened old woman who had begged entry to their tower. The "old woman" was, in fact, the crafty Prince Riche-cautelle, who easily seduced first Drone-illa and then Babillarde. The virtuous Finetta, however, repulsed his advances and defended herself with Boccaccian trickery, dropping him into a stinking sewer. To avenge his honor, Riche-cautelle had Finetta kidnapped and carried to a mountaintop, down which he proposed to roll her in a barrel studded with knives and nails. Instead, Finetta kicked him into the barrel and rolled him down the slope. When Finetta returned home, she found that her two sisters had each given birth to a son born of her "marriage" night with Riche-cautelle. To conceal her sisters' shame Finetta, dressed as a man, carried the two children in boxes to the capital, and left them behind as "ointment" for the prince's wounds. Once again bested by Finetta, Riche-cautelle made his noble brother, Prince Bel-a-Voir, Swear to marry Finetta and kill her on their wedding night.
Finetta, whom a fairy had warned to always be on her guard because "distrust is the mother of security" (141), substituted a straw dummy for herself in the marriage bed. From a hiding place she saw her husband stab it murderously, even though in so doing he lamented his act and declared that he intended to kill himself afterward. Finetta hindered his suicidal resolve, and they lived long and happily together.
Robert Samber claimed that the story, "though entirely fabulous … wrap[s] up and infold[s] most excellent morality, which is the very end, and ultimate scope and design of Fable" (140). At its conclusion, he repeated his warm approval of the novel's "great deal of good morality," for which reason, he said, it "ought to be told to little children in their very infancy, to inspire them betimes with Virtue" (201-2). A strange sort of morality, we may well conclude.
Few London parents, however, seem to have told, or read, these stories to their infants, as the following publishing history will demonstrate. Montagu and Pote, the book's publishers, took twelve years to issue a second English-language edition; a third appeared nine years after that, in 1750.
To counterbalance a century's baseless claims, it is worth carrying out a simple mathematical calculation based on reasonable numbers and rational assumptions. In the eighteenth century a print run of 1,000 books was the general maximum for the commercial market. Smaller print runs were common, but larger print runs were generally reserved for subsidized Bible printings and the like. Rational commercial practices dictated that publishers would not and did not reissue a book while stocks remained unsold on their shelves. Conversely, publishers quickly reprinted sheets when they had sold out.
Based on the commercial premises that guided publishing and republishing, we may reasonably conclude that 1,000 copies of the English-language edition of Perrault's Histories were sold between 1729 and 1741. That works out to about 83 books of Perrault's fairy tales sold per year over a twelve-year period (1729-41). Between 1741 and 1750 the rate of sale increased slightly to 111 books per year. Before declaring this a bestseller, however, one must remember that England's population numbered approximately seven million with large numbers of English-speakers in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Perrault's book in its English translation reached a very small fraction of England's population, approximately 1/3,500. When James Hodges, at the Looking Glass, facing St. Magnus Church, London-Bridge, reissued Histories or Tales of Passed Times in 1750, his sales of all-English Perrault tales plummeted. It took average sales of 52.6 copies a year to clear the shelves to make way for another such edition nineteen years later, in 1769!
Perrault's Histories had a second publishing history in England as a dual-language textbook. England had long had a market for dual-language textbooks, of which Johan Amos Comenius's Orbis Pictus is perhaps the most famous representative. In England his Latin-English catalog of the (principally) secular world was one of several Latin-English textbooks on the market for Latin-learning English pupils. However, with the increasing popularity of a grand European tour to crown eighteenth-century aristocratic boys' education, French displaced Latin as the language of choice in dual-language schoolbooks in England, and new French-English books like Faerno's Fables and Hübner's Youth's Scripture Kalendar found a market there.
It was to England's dual-language textbook market that England's first publishers of Perrault's tales turned in 1737 to repair their financial damage when commercial sales of the English-only edition evidently failed to cover their printing costs. They restored Perrault's French to create a dual-language book, "very proper to be read by young Children at Boarding Schools, that are to learn the French Tongue, as well as in private Families." Unlike the single-language English translation of Perrault's tales, the textbook flourished. If they printed 1,000 copies per print run, then the dual-language textbook sold three times as well as the English-language children's book, at a gratifying average rate of 250 copies per year, sales that justified reprinting it four years later, in 1741.
The surviving books of Perrault's tales, with their scribblings and signatures, suggest yet another consideration, gender. In the English-language and dual-language editions of Perrault's tales that I have inspected, my tally to date hints that girls more often owned English-language editions, boys French or dual-language ones. The evidence, though sparse, is tantalizing, because it corroborates the publishing history of Mme Leprince de Beaumont's girl-centered Magasin des Enfans, whose English translation swiftly supplanted and far outsold the French original in England.
In 1741 and after, however, sales of Perrault's dual-language Histories apparently slowed down, because the book was not reprinted again until 1750. In that year Montagu and Pote yielded their rights for Per- rault's Histories to James Hodges, who supposedly printed an edition "in French and English. Price Bound 2s. 6d" (according to an advertisement in his 1750 English edition). But Hodges's 1750 dual-language edition of Perrault's Histories must have sold even more slowly than had the ones published by Montagu and Pote in 1735 and 1741, if indeed the dual-language edition was ever published at all. If it was not published, then the overall sales for Perrault's tales in dual-language editions fall even lower. A summary of this publishing history is listed below.
Publisher and Year Average Sales
Montagu and Pote, 1729 83/year
Montagu and Pote, 1741 111/year
James Hodges, 1750 ?
B. Collins, 1763 ?
Publisher and Year Average Sales
Montagu and Pote, 1737 250/year
Montagu and Pote, 1741 111/year
James Hodges, 1750 71/year
J. Melvil, 1764 (= Van Os 1765) very few
One may well wonder why Perrault's tales lost market appeal in both their English- and dual-language editions. Because sales dipped when James Hodges took over publication, it is tempting to conclude that his books were in some way inferior. But, in fact, they differed very little from the Montagu and Pote editions in paper quality, and they had exactly the same illustrations. One explanation lies in the differing manner in which textbooks and children's books are used over time. Textbooks have a way of saturating the market because students hand their books on. That observation is consistent with the textbook's diminishing sales between 1737 and 1764. But why are sales of the English-language edition also so low? These books addressed a leisure market, in which a book was a present, something to be treasured and kept, something that one purchased anew to give as a gift. For this market, it is likely that the changing temper of the times had a powerful effect on book choice: after 1750 strong anti-French sentiment animated an English public exasperated by continuing conflicts with France.
After Perrault's fairy tales foundered as a textbook at mid-century, a publisher with access to provincial markets, J. Melvil of London and Exeter, took up Perrault's Histories and brought out a dual-language edition in 1764. His sales must have been poor, too, because a publisher with offices in London and The Hague, Van Os, ended up with Melvil's unillustrated, and unsold, sheets, that is, the large pieces of paper with several pages printed on each, which, when folded, produce a fascicle, or section of a book. That Melvil's 1764 sheets were reissued by Van Os in 1765 can be demonstrated by identifying the printing's "fingerprint," the letters that appear directly above a designated marker, usually A2 or A3. Van Os substituted roughly executed and reversed copies of previously published illustrations, inserted them between the pages, and provided Melvil's sheets with a new title page, Mother Goose's Tales, a title first given Perrault's tales by another Dutch publisher, Jean Neaulme, twenty years before. Melvil's disposal of his unsold sheets was probably an act of desperation. But what readers should note is that sales for Perrault's Histories were low for the English editions and steadily declined for the dual-language textbooks from 1729 to the 1760s, that is, during precisely the period in which English children's literature was beginning to assume its modern form.
James Hodges, as mentioned earlier, also brought out an English-language edition of Perrault's Histories in 1750. This edition should be investigated carefully because there is evidence that in 1763 B. Collins published Mother Goose's Tales in Salisbury, with provincial sales augmented by a Mrs. Maynard in Devizes, and with London sales managed by W. Bristow in St. Paul's Church-Yard.5 The question to be raised here is whether Hodges's and Collins's sheets are one and the same, as were Melvil's and Van Os's (a bellwether for sluggish sales) or whether the two books represent separate print runs (and hence higher rates of sale). If Bristow's London sales were successful, then they would have set the commercial possibilities of fairy tales before the very eyes of John Newbery, a point to which I will return later.
Chapbooks are another possible place to search for tales from Perrault's Histories. It is far easier, however, to find assertions in histories of children's literature that Perrault's tales were widely disseminated by the chapbook trade to England's children by the mid-eighteenth century than it is to actually locate chapbook copies of those tales. It is true that Perrault's Histoires were common in France's chapbooks, the Bibliothèque bleue, between 1725 and 1775. But it wasn't until well after 1750 that isolated tales from Perrault's oeuvre begin to turn up in the Dicey Brothers' chapbook printing catalogs from Aldermary Church-Yard in London.6 Gilles Duval, a French historian of English chapbooks, carefully assessed eighteenth-century chapbook content and characterized Perrault's tales as Johnny-come-latelys ("adaptées tardivement").7 In so doing he flatly contradicted generations of assumptions and assertions about the role of Perrault's tales in the originary years of English children's literature in the first half of the eighteenth century.
Diehard defenders of the hypothesis that Perrault's tales were preeminent would probably explain the absence of Perrault's fairy tales from English chapbooks as the result of his tales having been so beloved that they were read to shreds. Book history, however, demolishes that argument: avid eighteenth-century chapbook collectors left no Perrault tales in collections that they assembled before 1750. Nor are Perrault's tales found in the records of eighteenth-century circulating libraries in child-friendly formats. Instead, as Matthew O. Grenby found, they were "designed for an adult market … in multi-volume editions costing several shillings."8
Miscellanies for children offer a final potential entry point to be investigated in an analysis of the role of Perrault's tales in the emergence of English children's literature. We don't expect to find fairy tales in such books as Every Youth His Own Moralist (J. Shatwell, 1771) or Vice in Its Proper Shape (Francis Newbery ). But to modern minds there is at least the hint of a promise of fairy tales in books with titles like A Christmass[sic]-Box for Masters and Misses (London: Mary Boreman, 1746), The Amusing Instructor: or, Tales and Fables in Prose and Verse (W. Harris, 1769), Mrs. Lovechild's Golden Present, to all the little Masters and Misses, of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America (Francis Newbery ), or Don Stephano Bunyano's Prettiest Book for Children; Being the History of the Enchanted Castle (J. Coote, 1770). The magic and the otherworldly characters that these books introduced, however, drew not at all on Perrault's fairies and fairy tales but on England's old heroes and giants.9 John Newbery flirted with fairy tales in Short Histories for the Improvement of the Mind (1760)—not Perrault's, however, but the highly moralized ones by François Fénelon.
One other miscellany remains to be investigated, Mme Leprince de Beaumont's Magasin des Enfans (1756). Soon translated into English as Magasin des Enfans, or, The Young Misses Magazine, it retained its half-French, half-English title for decades and was published well into the nineteenth century. Alternating fairy fictions and moral tales with geography, ancient history, and Bible histories, the book valorized history (histoire) over tale (conte) in both structure and commentary. When it came to magic transformations in the service of love, Mme Leprince de Beaumont substantially revised Perrault's "Riquet a la Houpe" and then composed her own highly moralized and still popular story of female beauty and male hideosity, "Beauty and the Beast." In other words, she too rejected Perrault's oeuvre.
When John Newbery copublished B. Collins's Pretty Book for Boys and Girls in 1743, he associated himself with a book in which both the warning tale "Red Riding Hood" and the fairy godmother of "Cinderilla" appeared, as Elizabeth Johnson reports in her catalog description of the Ball Collection of Children's Literature at the University of Indiana. Both tales were still in the 1756 Pretty Book, touted as "the seventh edition," along with "Fortunatus" and "The Effect of Good Nature. A Family Tale," a retelling of Perrault's "Diamonds and Toads," a quintessentially normative narrative of good behavior rewarded.
Several questions arise in connection with the B. Collins book of 1743 and following editions. Was "the seventh edition" really a seventh edition, or was that an early example of an advertising device meant to suggest market success and therefore desirability, something that one often finds in eighteenth-century publishing? Scholarly inquiries like these make A Pretty Book for Boys and Girls an avenue to explore.
It is at this point that John Locke's often-cited disapproval of fairy tales becomes relevant. If we accept the evidence of the Collins provincial imprint, then we are led to the inevitable conclusion that both early and late in his publishing career Newbery's Lockean anti-fairy inclinations were directed more against England's own fairies than against French imports. The second, and equally inevitable, conclusion is that if Newbery, a canny publisher as John Buck has demonstrated, had believed before 1767 that Perrault's fairy tales would have sold well as a whole, then he would have offered them for sale. The possibility that he went in with Collins in 1743 on a book that included "Cinderilla," but that he himself didn't turn towards Perrault again until more than twenty years later suggests that he assessed England's market for such literature and concluded that Perrault was unprofitable.
What is verifiable is that Perrault's "Puss in Boots," the quintessential modern rags-to-riches fairy tale, appeared in a commercially successful miscellany (commercially successful by my definition means successive editions within a few years of each other) in 1767, when John Newbery included it in his gaily harum-scarum The Fairing.10 Schooled as we all are to understand John Newbery as the ultimate Lockean producer of rationally based and socially useful books for children and as a publisher who doubted the suitability of fairy tales for children, we scarcely expect to find Perrauldian magic instead of Lockean literacy leading to wealth in one of Mr. Newbery's books. As an aside it is worth noting that Newbery invited one of England's own supernaturals, Queen Mab, to advertise his Lilliputian Magazine in 1750 (Pickering, 1981, 223), but during his entire publishing career he otherwise staved off the English imps and gnomes whom Locke had excoriated. Another London publisher, John Marshall, did the same thing. Samuel Pickering Jr. has interesting things to say in this regard. He tells us that Marshall assured buyers that his children's books were entirely divested of the prejudicial nonsense of hobgoblins, witches, and fairies.11 The fact that Marshall eventually published Perrault's tales demonstrates that he too distinguished between England's fairy population and those in Perrault's fairy tales.
John Newbery's use of Queen Mab as a spokesperson tells us a lot about the market he addressed. Not a profound innovator, Newbery was rather an improver and popularizer of existing genres and characters, as Buck's thorough study of Newbery's literary merchandising makes clear. Consequently, his turning to Queen Mab early in his career tells us that she was a stock figure whose familiarity to his readers made her a useful advertising vehicle.
Newbery's 1767 introduction of Perrault's "Puss in Boots" into The Fairing was, however, a far more significant inclusion than Queen Mab, and it is legitimate to wonder why Newbery finally took this significant step. Although he had worked together with Collins over the years, he had not been part of the 1763 Collins-based consortium that brought Perrault's fairy tales to Mr. Bristow's shop in St. Paul's Church-Yard. But he could hardly have missed either knowing that Mr. Bristow was selling Mother Goose or seeing little customers walking out of Mr. Bristow's shop with copies of the book in their hands. And so if Mother Goose was a commercial hit at Mr. Bristow's shop just across the way, it would have been a natural move for Mr. Newbery, who habitually added to his list from genres that were in popular demand (Buck, passim), to tap into Perrault's tales for his own books.
The year 1767 thus represents the point at which it may be asserted that Perrault's tales entered the ranks of mainstream (i.e., London produced and distributed) English children's literature. The year 1767 postdates the 1744 publication of A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, usually cited as the beginning of modern English children's literature, by more than twenty years. In the context of the history of children's literature as a whole, the late date (at the end of John Newbery's publishing career) at which fairy tales became a mainstream constituent in children's literature means that we need to think of the emergence of the genre as a generation-long process. It was, above all, a process that responded to market opportunities and market tastes. It can be said to have begun with Newbery's little primers and to have achieved much of its potential with Newbery's acknowledgement of Perrault.
Two years later, in 1769, Perrault's Histories or Tales of Past Times, Told by Mother Goose with Morals was finally both printed and published as a children's book in London. (Earlier B. Collins editions had been printed in Salisbury in the provinces and distributed, i.e., published, in London.) Gone now was the sexually problematic "Discreet Princess," which leads to the conclusion that London's middle and upper-middle classes really did not want their children to know about Prince Riche-cautelle's "pernicious pleasure" (1729 161), or about Droneilla's immoral welcome of the knavish Riche-cautelle "for her husband … [with] no greater formalities than those which are the conclusion of marriage" (163), or about Riche-cautelle's caddish bedding of Drone-illa at night and Babillarde in the morning (168). Perrault's tales must have become far more attractive to middle-class English book buyers when the repellent images, affronting references, and negative examples of Mlle L'Héritier's "novel" disappeared from its pages. It is certainly noteworthy that the disappearance of Mlle L'Héritier's novel coincided exactly with an increased sales rate of Perrault's fairy tales.
By 1769, forty years after its first appearance in England, both Perrault's book and the times had changed. John Newbery had died and his heirs had taken over his publishing firm. Even at this late date, the publishers of Perrault's fairy tales were still giving signs of skittishness about the financial risk of their venture: three firms—John Newbery's successor firm Newbery and Carnan, B. Collins from Salisbury, and S. Crowder of London—carefully spread the risk by joining together in the undertaking.
Successful production of Perrault's fairy tales as a whole (rather than as individual stories) in England can be said to have begun in Salisbury in 1763 with B. Collins's Mother Goose and to have continued in London in 1769 with the Newbery-Carnan-Collins-Crowder team. From this point onward, Perrault's tales began their spectacular commercial ascent, blazing glory and trailing success. Whatever concerns Newbery, Carnan, Collins, and Crowder might have had about the market acceptability of Perrault's fairy tales in 1769 must have been dispelled by subsequent developments. Perrault's stories captured imaginations and markets, and chapbook editions of individual Perrault tales abounded in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.12
Why has Perrault's point of impact on English children's literature been misdated? One reason is that research tools available for the study of children's literature, although improving, still remain limited: reference books often repeat predecessors' views; catalog information is incomplete in such long-standard references as the pre-1956 National Union Catalog; and even the British Library's far more inclusive catalog presents another stumbling block by utilizing eighteenth-century title page practices. Meant to enhance the public's perception of a book's success, eighteenth-century publishers often misleadingly and intentionally numbered the printing of different kinds of books sequentially. With reference to the publishing history of Perrault's fairy tales in England, James Hodges called his 1750 reissue of Montagu and Pote's Samber 1729 English translation not the third edition, which would have accurately reflected the real situation, but "the fourth edition," because he counted in two dual-language schoolbook editions as second and third editions.
The nineteenth century mythologized fairy tales and saw in them expressions of nationhood, evidence of unbroken connection with the childhood of mankind, and proof of a sacred social cohesion that transcended class boundaries, with nursemaids telling children stories from time immemorial. Few nineteenth- or twentieth-century scholars have questioned this set of beliefs, and, as a consequence, what has become firmly embedded in histories of children's literature is not evidence itself but beliefs about evidence.
This exploration of English, French, and Englished French fairy tales in conjunction with the development of books for English children in the first three quarters of the eighteenth century leads to two fundamental revisions to the history of English children's literature.13 First, Perrault's tales became "popular" in London's print trade only in the 1760s. Second, our old friend John Newbery did not eschew fairy tales to the end of his life. On the contrary, he introduced Perrault's magic when he saw that it sold. In both cases, market profitability took precedence over Lockean ideology in an increasingly mercantile world of publishing.
Postscript: Matthew O. Grenby of de Montfort University in England, who has recently investigated children's literature in eighteenth-century English lending libraries, has also noted a general absence of fairy tales in this period. Grenby's work will be published in a forthcoming issue of Book History.
1. Space does not permit me to include here my research on Mme d'Aulnoy. In brief, however, the d'Aulnoy material was first marketed to economically and socially privileged buyers, later to merchant readers, and finally to artisanal and child readers. As the collection of tales moved downmarket in social and/or economic terms, its prose was altered to address the consumers its publishers sought.
2. For a learned and lively discussion and a broad sample of seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century sentiment about fairies, fairy fictions, and fairy tales, see Samuel Pickering Jr., John Locke and Children's Books, chap. 2. Broader access to popular publications of this period in the last twenty years has required modifying some of Pickering's conclusions.
3. "Les Chevaliers Errans," "La Princesse Zamée," "Le Prince Elmedor," "Zalmayde," and "Le Prince de Numidie."
4. Justin Schiller says that Samber worked from the 1716 Desbordes edition published in Amsterdam (Schiller, Entry no. 17), but Samber could have used the 1721 or 1729 Desbordes editions.
5. This information comes from Carpenter and Prichard, Oxford Companion to Children's Literature, 251, but I myself have not seen such a volume, nor do I know of any documentation of its contents, i.e., whether it included or excluded "The Discreet Princess."
6. Nicholas Tucker alludes to (undated) fairy tales' chapbook associations in "Fairy Tales and Their Early Opponents," 107-8.
7. Duval, Littérature de colportage, 68.
8. Matthew O. Grenby, "Children's Books in British Circulating Libraries, 1748-1848," Book History (forthcoming).
9. Although it is not his purpose, Andrew O'Malley describes the same result in "The Coach and Six" (2000 passim), which is devoted to book size and contents in what he terms "transitional" books of the eighteenth century. Duval, of course, treats eighteenth-century English chapbook content far more extensively.
10. "Puss in Boots" may have appeared even earlier than 1767 because the 1767 edition, according to its complete title, is a "new edition," i.e., the publisher claims that it had also appeared previously. But the complete title also claims that it has "additions," and so we can't be sure that "Puss in Boots" appeared before 1767 until we can examine an earlier edition.
11. Pickering, John Locke and Children's Books, 41.
12. See Schiller, "Charles Perrault and His ‘Contes des Fées,’" Entry no. 36.
13. The evidence here also reveals that the popular (as opposed to textbook) emergence of Perrault's tales seems to have originated in the provinces and thus to have reversed the usual direction, from London outwards. This is, in itself, worthy of note in the history of the book.
Note: The fingerprint for some books has been included after basic bibliographic information.
Aulnoy, Marie Catherine Jumelle de Berneville, Comtesse d'. The History of Adolphus, Prince of Russia; And the Princess of Happiness. By a Person of Quality. With a Collection of Songs and Love-Verses. By Several Hands. London: R. T. near Stationers-Hall, 1691.
———, [and Chevalier de Mailly]. The Diverting Works of the Countess D'Anois, Author of the Ladies Travels to Spain. Containing I. The Memoires of Her own Life. II. All Her Spanish Novels and Histories. III. Her Letters. IV. Tales of the Fairies in three Parts Complete. Newly done into English. London: Printed for John Nicholson at the Kings Arms; And John Sprint at the Bell in Little Brittain, Andrew Bell at the Cross Keys and Bible in Cornhill; and for Samuel Burows [sic], 1707.
Comenius, Johann Amos. Orbis Sensualium Pictus. Trans. Charles Hoole (1610-67). Reproduction of 1727 (text) and 1728 (title page) London editions. Syracuse: C. W. Bardeen, 1887.
Darton, F. J. Harvey. Children's Books in England: Five Centuries of Social Life. 3d ed., rev. by Brian Alderson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982.
Duval, Gilles. Littérature de colportage et imaginire collectif en Angleterre à l'époque des Dicey (1720-v. 1800). Talence: Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux, 1991.
[Faerno, Gabriello]. Fables in English and French Verse. Trans. Charles Perrault. London: Davis, 1741.
Griffin, John, and Charles Frey, eds. Classics of Children's Literature. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1995.
Hübner, Johann. Youth's Scripture Kalendar: or, Select sacred stories for every Sunday throughout the Year in French and English: The Former, By the Reverend I. P. Aubaret, Maitre de Langues at the Prussian Court; And the Latter, By a gentleman of Oxford, To Which is annexed a succinct Historical account, in Both Languages, of the Four Most Holy Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the Whole Calculated for the use of schools. London: T. Caslon, 1759.
Johnson, Elizabeth L. For Your Amusement and Instruction: The Elisabeth Ball Collection of Historical Children's Materials. Bloomington, Ind.: Lilly Library, 1987.
Leprince de Beaumont, Marie. Magasin des Enfans, ou dialogues entre une sage gouvernante et plusieurs de ses élèves. London: J. Haberkorn, 1756. Rare Books Collection, University of California, Los Angeles (hereafter UCLA).
———. Magasin des Enfans, or, The Young Misses Magazine containing Dialogues between a Governess and Several Young Ladies of Quality. London: B. Long and T. Pridden, 1759. UCLA.
[Newbery, John?] The Fairing: or, A Golden Toy for Children of all Sizes and Denominations. In which they may see all the Fun of the Fair, And at home be as happy as if they were there. Adorned with Variety of Cuts, from Original Drawings. A New Edition, with Additions. London: J. Newbery, 1767. UCLA.
Newbery, John, ed. Short Stories for the Improvement of the Mind. London: J. Newbery, 1760. Cotsen Collection of Children's Books, Princeton University (hereafter Cotsen).
O'Malley, Andrew. "The Coach and Six: Chapbook Residue in Late Eighteenth-Century Children's Literature." Lion and the Unicorn 24.1 (2000): 18-44.
Opie, Iona, and Peter Opie, eds. The Classic Fairy Tales. London: Oxford University Press, 1974.
Palmer, Melvin. "Mme d'Aulnoy in England." Comparative Literature 27.3 (summer 1975): 237-53.
Palmer, Melvin, and Nancy Palmer. "English Editions of French Contes de Fees Attributed to Mme d'Aulnoy." Studies in Bibliography 27 (1974): 227-32.
———. "The French Conte de Fée in England." Studies in Short Fiction 11 (winter 1974): 35-44.
Perrault, Charles (by date)
———. Histoires ou Contes du Temps Passé. Avec des Moralitez. Par le Fils de Monsieur Perreault [sic] de l'Academie François. Suivante la Copie a Paris. Amsterdam: [Jaques Desbordes], 1697. Cotsen.
———. Histoires, ou Contes du temps passé. Avec des Moralitez. Par le Fils de Monsieur Perreault [sic] de l'Academie François. Suivant la Copie a Paris. Amsterdam: [Jaques Desbordes?] 1700. Cotsen.
———. Contes de Monsieur Perrault Avec des Moralitez. Paris: Chez la Veuve Barbin, 1707. Cotsen.
———. Histoires, ou Contes du tems [sic] passé. Avec des Moralitez. Par le Fils de Monsieur Perreault [sic] de l'Academie François. Suivant la Copie a Paris. Amsterdam: Jaques Desbordes, 1708. Cotsen.
———. Les Chevaliers Errans par Madame la Comtess D***. Amsterdam: Estienne Roger, 1710. Houghton Library, Harvard University.
———. Histoires, ou Contes du tems [sic] passé. Avec des Moralitez. Par M. Perrault. Nouvelle Edition augmentée d'une Nouvelle, à la fin. Suivant la Copie de Paris. Amsterdam: Chez Jaques Desbordes, 1716. Cotsen.
———. Histoires ou Contes du tems [sic] Passé, Avec des Moralitez. Par M. Perrault. Nouvelle Edition augmentée d'une Nouvelle, à la fin. Suivant la Copie de Paris. Amsterdam: Chez la Veuve de Jaq. Desbordes, 1721.
———. Histoires ou Contes du tems [sic] passé, Avec des Moralitez. Par M. Perrault. Nouvelle Edition augmentée d'une Nouvelle à la fin. Suivant la Copie de Paris. Amsterdam: Jaques Desbordes, 1729. fingerprint A2 = _bob, A3 = _la_. Cotsen.
———. Histories, or Tales of Past Times. With Morals. By M. Perrault. Translated into English. London: Printed for L. Pote and R. Montagu, 1729. [Morgan]
———. Histories, or Tales of Passed Times. With Morals. Written in French by M. Perrault, And Englished by R. S. Gent. The Second Edition, Corrected. Histoires ou Contes du Tems [sic] Passe. Avec des Moralitez. Par M. Perrault. Augmentée d'une Nouvelle, viz. L'Adroite Princesse. Troisieme Edition [sic] London: Printed for R. Montagu at the Book WareHouse, that End of Great Queen-Street, next Drury Lane, and J. Pote, at Eton, 1737. fingerprint B3 = ceefst. Cotsen.
———. Histories, or Tales of Passed Times. With morals. Written in French by M. Perrault, And Englished by R. S. Gent. The Third Edition. Corrected. With Cuts to every Tale. London: Printed for R. Montagu, at the Book Ware-House, that End of Great-Queen-Street, next Drury-Lane, and J. Pote, at Eton, 1741. fingerprint B2 = *iffer. Cotsen.
———. Contes De Ma Mere L'Oye. Mother Goose's Tales. The Hague: Jean Neaulme, 1745. Cotsen.
———. Histories, or Tales of Passed Times. With Morals written in French by M. Perrault, And Englished by R. S. Gent. The Fourth Edition, Corrected. With Cuts to every Tale. London: For James Hodges, at the Looking-Glass, facing St. Magnus Church, London-Bridge, 1750. Morgan Library, New York.
———. Contes De Ma Mere L'Oye. Ornée de neuf belles Figures de Cuivre. Sixieme Edition. The Hague: Pierre Van Os, 1759. fingerprint A2 = ron_A3 = *t_de. Cotsen.
———. Mother Goose's Tales. Salisbury: B. Collins; Devizes: Mrs. Maynard; London: Mr. Bristow, 1763. See note 6, above.
———. Tales of Passed Times by Mother Goose. With Morals. In French by M. Perrault, And Englished by R. S. Gent, To which is added a New one, viz. The Discreet Princess. The Sixth Edition, Corrected, and adorned with fine Cuts. London: Printed for J. Melvil, Bookseller in Exeter change in the Strand, 1764. fingerprint A4 = pero. Cotsen.
———. Mother Goose's Tales, in French and English, with Morals. Written in French by M. Perrault, and Englished by R. S. Gent. To which is added aNew One, viz. The Discreet Princess. The Sixth Edition, Corrected, and adorned with fine Cuts. Hague: Printed for Van Os and Sold by J. Pridden at the Feathers in Fleetstreet, London, 1765. fingerprint A4 = pero. Cotsen.
———. Histories or Tales of Past Times, told by Mother Goose. With Morals. Written in French by M. Perrault, and Englished by G. M. Gent. The Fifth Edition, corrected. Salisbury: Printed and sold by B. Collins, also by [London:] Newbery and Carnan in St. Paul's Church-Yard; and S. Crowder, in Pater-Noster-Row, . fingerprint A3 = ich_. Cotsen.
———. Tales of Past Times, by Old Mother Goose with Morals. London: W. Osborne & T. Griffin, [ca. 1780].
Pickering, Samuel Jr. John Locke and Children's Books in Eighteenth-Century England. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1981.
A Pretty Book for Children, 7th ed. London: J. Newbery, J. Hodges, and B. Collins, 1756. fingerprint B3 = plig. Cotsen.
Schiller, Justin. "Charles Perrault and His ‘Contes des Fées’: Rare and Collectible Editions Published between 1691-1826 with Related Publications of This Genre, Being Contributions Toward a Bibliography Assembled 1977-1994 as the Personal Library of Justin G. Schiller." Kingston, N.Y., 1995. Xeroxed typescript. Cotsen.
Scot, Reginald. The discouerie of witchcraft, Wherein the lewde dealing of witches, and witch mongers is notablie detected, the knauerie of coniurors, the impietie of inchantors, the follies of soothsaiers, the impudent falshood of cousenors, the infidelitie of atheists, the petilent practice of Pythonists, the curiosities of figure casters, the vanitie of dreamers, the beggerlie art of Alcumystrie, the abhomination of idolatrie, the horrible art of poisoning, the vertue and power of naturall magike, and all the conueniences of Legerdemaine and iuggling are deciphered, and many other things opened, which have long lien hidden, howbeit verie necessarie to be knowne. Heerevnto is added a treatise vpon the nature and substance of spirits and diuills, Ec.: all latelie written by Reginald Scot Esquire. London: William Brome, 1584.
Summerfield, Geoffrey. Fantasy and Reason: Children's Literature in the Eighteenth Century. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1985.
Tucker, Nicholas. "Fairy Tales and Their Early Opponents." In Mary Hilton, Morag Styles, and Victor Watson, eds., Opening the Nursery Door: Reading, Writing, and Childhood 1600-1900. London: Routledge, 1997. 104-16.
Verdier, Gabrielle. "Comment l'auteur des ‘Fées à la mode’ devint ‘Mother Bunch’: Métamorphoses de la Comtesse d'Aulnoy en Angleterre." Marvels and Tales 10.2 (1996): 285-309.
"CENDRILLON OU LA PETITE PANTOUFFLE DE VERRE" (1697; "CINDERELLA, OR THE LITTLE GLASS SLIPPER")
Timothy C. Murray (essay date December 1976)
SOURCE: Murray, Timothy C. "A Marvelous Guide to Anamorphosis: Cendrillon ou La Petite Pantoufle de Verre." MLN 91, no. 6 (December 1976): 1276-295.
[In the following essay, Murray investigates the significance of voyeurism, sexual desire, and memory in "Cendrillon ou la petite pantoufle de verre."]
The voyeur. A spectator of desires. One who is lured to a certain class of literature for contemplation, comprehension, and satisfaction. The body of literature particularly suited to his wants: the merveilleux. The fairy tale, for instance, opens to its viewer a supernatural world of dreams and visions, some desirable and enticing, others grotesque and repulsive, but all compelling and enchanting. The merveilleux seduces the voyeur with striking and seemingly illogical visions which nevertheless, as Marie Françoise Christout lucidly perceives, "possède en fait sa propre logique intérieure qui n'est pas celle de la vie courante, et conserve le souci d'une vraisemblance personnelle, base de son pouvoir suggestif, volontaire ou non."1 The fairy tale is a manifestation of the voyeur's projections of unrealized possibilities of existence—unknown to the voyeur in their extraordinary form, but akin to his desires in their verisimilitude. The voyeuristic reading of a fairy tale, a veritable consumption of an unreal but satisfying universe, is indeed a manifestation of "la tension extrême de l'être … conjonction de la réalité et du désir." The voyeur of the merveilleux amuses himself by means of "l'imagination subjective delivrée par des états exceptionnels et l'imagination objective créant spontanément le mythe, le conte."2 A private vision of the extraordinary narrative of a fairy tale, Christout implies, allows for the fulfillment of unknown desires; the unconscious is revealed; the desired perception is realized. The merveilleux itself is an object of desire. It is an indirect vision of elementary patterns of the unconscious through which desire is structured and verified by the voyeur.
Anamorphosis, the particular vision suitable for voyeurism, distorts the fairy tale's narrative structure so that particular objects of perception may be isolated for the close observation of the voyeur. The objects of isolation range from proper names to moments of narrative action. As a group these objects create a distorted textual image unrecognizable unless viewed by the proper restoring device. Yet, the voyeuristic reader is enticed by the isolated objects whose naked forms remain suspended from the narrative's supportive context. As Jurgis Baltrusaitis explains in his illuminating discussion of anamorphosis in art, the voyeur is fascinated by the anamorphic "incertitude des choses visibles."3 The attraction of such uncertain images is a dominant topic in Jacques Lacan's Le Séminaire XI. In his brief discussion of Baltrusaitis and anamorphosis, Lacan explains that these anamorphic forms are uncertain because they stand out as signifiers of the voyeur's dreams and wants, as "quelque chose de symbolique de la fonction du manque."4 Through close evaluation of the seductive objects that assume the form of his dreams, the voyeur is able to make sense of his unconscious projections. The voyeur's successful decoding of his projections restores the distorted image of the text and satisfies the desires that enchanted him to experience the merveilleux.
The central role of anamorphosis in the reading of a fairy tale is best discussed in terms of a specific tale. A text ideally suited for this purpose is Perrault's "Cendrillon ou La Petite Pantoufle de Verre" in the 1697 edition of Histoires ou Contes du Temps Passé. 5 My critical reading of "Cendrillon" will first delineate the two narratives of transformation and kinship that convey the logic of the merveilleux. Only after presenting these structures as crucial in establishing for the reader the tale's "souci d'une vraisemblance personnelle," will I emphasize their acute inadequacy as objects of the viewer's desire. Cendrillon will then be shown to invite a voyeuristic mode of reading. For the tale is structured to isolate ambiguous objects of vision for the seduction of the voyeur. The repeated surfacing of these objects forces the viewer to acknowledge his attraction to their seductive images. The form of "Cendrillon" is anamorphic, one that elicits and structures projections of desire. Furthermore, "Cendrillon" will be shown to verify Todorov's contention that "ce qui distingue le conte de fées est une certaine écriture, non le statut de surnaturel."6 The writing of "Cendrillon," like that of this essay, not only depends on the inadequacy of its own logical structures, but also instructs the voyeur how to become aroused and satisfied through its reading.
Seduction of the reader is the task of all bodies of writing. The narrative of any fairy tale has a particular logic contributing to the allure of the merveilleux. Marc Soriano and Michel Serres have presented insightful explications of the logic found in the narrative of "Cendrillon." 7 Soriano emphasizes "Cendrillon" 's rational tone, which is exemplified by the scene in which the Marraine readies Cendrillon for her first ball. The preparatory spells highlighting this scene follow a strict and logical correspondence: the six mice are transformed into "six chevaux, d'un beau gris de souris pommelé," and the rat, chosen for his "maîtresse barbe," becomes a large coachman "qui avait une des plus belles moustaches qu'on ait jamais vues." The visual correspondance between the objects, before and after metamorphosis, contributes to a metonymical fluidity in the narrative. However unreal the spells may seem, the contiguous relation between, say, the rat and the coachman establishes a clear visual image of the logic underlying the marvelous process of metamorphosis. This metonymical fluidity is enhanced on a philological level. Serres emphasizes the correspondance between certain original objects—citrouille—their latin synonyms—cucurbita—and the synonym's reference to the transformed objects: "currus-véhicule à courir-cucurri, de curro." The contiguity of the language of metamorphosis adds to the clarity of the visual image of metamorphosis. Visual and verbal structures of metonymy facilitate a smooth narrative movement from element A to element Ā, from mangy mouse to dapple-grey horse. The interior logic of "Cendrillon," then, provides the framework through which a clear perception of the merveilleux can be enjoyed by the viewer.
Vladimir Propp asserts that the primary function of "folk-logic" is to order the narrative in such a way that the individual characters and episodes are "defined from the point of view of [their] significance for the course of action."8 The subordination of "Cendrillon" 's various episodes to their role in effecting the end point of the narrative is aided by an element common to the logic of the merveilleux: the "effet du miroir." The process of mirroring duplicates a certain character or episode for the sake of narrative economy. Mirroring clarifies the object of duplication and catalyzes the narrative away from concentration on the object. For instance, Soriano describes the narration of "Cendrillon" 's balls in terms of the "effet du miroir." While there are two balls, only the first receives a unique narration. However, this one episode is retold twice—once from Cendrillon's perspective, and again from the viewpoint of the resentful stepsisters. The narration of the second ball is but an expanded repetition of the account of the first ball. In this case, mirroring both contributes to character development for the sake of pathos ("le fils du Roi en était fort en peine") and moves the focus of attention away from striking moments of narrative caesurae ("Il se fit alors un grand silence"). Mirroring is a constant element of narrative logic in "Cendrillon." Whether the object of reflection comprises a small section of metonymic structure—the Marraine's first "coup de sa baguette"—or a large segment of narrative—the first ball—the logical effect is the virtual negation of any textual element as valuable in itself.
The "effet du miroir" and the metonymic structures of logic contribute to a clear outline of "Cendrillon" 's form, but neutralize any particular moments within the text. A closed form results. Although the viewer is attracted by the exposed form of an elongated textual body, the synchronic narrative works to shield particular areas of fascination from the desirous eyes of the voyeur.
The voyeur, however, is charmed by the moral appendage attached to the body of "Cendrillon" 's narrative. While the morality is an integral part of any tale in Perrault's collection, it is remarkably different from the structure of the narrative proper. Unlike the prose of the narrative, the morality's verse does not encourage a causal progression of images, an elongation of text. Instead, it trains the eye on a vertical moment of poetry. Nor is the verse a mere addition to the form of "Cendrillon" 's narrative. The morality is a projection onto form—the manifestation of a "translator's" desire for interpretation. Perrault's morality works to insert private meaning into the synchronic narrative. In Louis Marin's words,
La moralité nous donne à lire le récit comme un text chiffré dans lequel l'événement est plus et autre chose que lui-même … surtout après le récit, elle appartient à un autre ordre de lecture … qui, en donnant son sens, induit à une relecture: celle-ci doit permettre de vérifier la moralité, de décoder le récit selon le code que la moralité nous donne. Nous ne lisons plus le récit, nous le traduisons.9
Perrault's code for translation suggests an alternative to the priorities established by Cendrillon's synchronic narrative. Although the first morality appears to confirm a central concern with Cendrillon's transformation—" La bonne grâce est le vrai don des Fées," the other morality suggests that all persons are the natural recipients of bonne grâce which "on reçoit du Ciel en partage." Here, the matter of kinship, "Ou des parrains ou des marraines" takes precedence over Cendrillon's individual transformation. A rereading of the narrative, directed by the morality's code for translation, results in a contraction of the elongated narrative. The voyeur is treated to the accentuation of previously disguised structures. The text reveals an alluring diachronic narrative: Cendrillon's realization of the elementary structures of kinship.
The opening narrative of "Cendrillon" outlines a specific structure of kinship. "Un Gentilhomme" marries "une femme, la plus hautaine et la plus fière qu'on eût jamais vue." The man's entrance into a matrilineal household strips him of all rights to authority "parce que sa femme le gouvernait entièrement." The wife's dominant character of "mauvaise humeur" is imitated by her two daughters who "lui ressemblaient en toutes choses." Virtual castration of the husband/father by the wife underlines the axis of matrilineal filiation that the text introduces. Such a matrilineal structure, writes Lévi-Strauss, "ne reconnaît aucun lien social de parenté entre un enfant et son père; et dans le clan de sa femme—dont ses enfants font partie—il est lui-même un ‘visiteur’, un ‘homme-du-dehors’ ou un ‘étranger’."10 The father is alienated from his stepdaughters and from Cendrillon, his daughter from a previous marriage. Although Cendrillon appears to descend from a family of matrilineal filiation ("elle tenait cela de sa Mère") her new maternal family cannot accommodate a young girl "d'une douceur et d'une bonté sans exemple." Cendrillon's tenderness represents a maternal image which challenges the arrogant demeanor of her stepmother ("sa mère … la meilleure personne du monde" as opposed to "une femme, la plus hautaine …"). Adoption of Cendrillon into the family would render the two sisters, the stepmother's doubles, "encore plus haïssables." Exogamic alliance is forsaken for Cendrillon's humiliating bondage. The initial kinship structure of "Cendrillon" excludes alliance for consanguinity, exogamy for endogamy, masculinity for femininity, compassion for "mauvaise humeur."
The diachronic opening up of a closed synchronic narrative first reveals a closed system of endogamic kinship. Yet, Perrault's insistence on the role of "ou des parrains ou des marraines" points to the existence of two more patterns of kinship which displace the first. From the moment of the Marraine's appearance in the text, the stepmother disappears from the narrative. The Marraine enters the narrative as the substitute for Cendrillon's "positive" mother. The seventeenth-century marraine, according to Furetière, was responsible for the maintenance of "une alliance spirituelle entre la marraine et son filleul."11 In addition, Furetière defines the responsibilities of the marraine to be synonymous with those of the parrain. In the context of Cendrillon's original matrilineal environment, the Marraine serves both the function of substitute mother and that of maternal uncle.12 While the Marraine's maternal function is to insure the spiritual protection of Cendrillon, her avuncular role is to make available those primary elements missing in the narrative's initial kinship structure: exogamic alliance and masculinity. The Marraine as mother and uncle joins the King in consenting to the exogamic marriage of Cendrillon and the Prince. Cendrillon's bondage to a nefarious matrilineal household is eradicated by her acceptance into a society of balanced kinship in which masculinity and tenderness are endorsed.
Although the stepmother of "mauvaise humeur" disappears from the text with the introduction of the Marraine, the two stepsisters, the doubles of the stepmother, continue to stand outside of the new exogamic structure illustrated by Figure 2. However, the marriage of Cendrillon catalyzes a third pattern of kinship incorporating the stepdaughters into the exogamic/patrilineal society. Just as the stepmother is replaced by the Marraine, the Marraine's role is adopted by Cendrillon at the time of her marriage. It is now Cendrillon who plays the double role of mother and uncle to the stepsisters. Cendrillon, the maternal figure "les priait de l'aimer bien toujours." Cendrillon, the maternal uncle "les maria dès le jour même à deux grands Seigneurs de la Cour." Figure 3, then, illustrates the end point of the diachronic narrative. Cendrillon fulfills her role as mother/maternal uncle by joining the fils du Roi as go-between in the marriage of her two stepsisters. Exogamic alliance and patrilineal filiation "de bon coeur" reign as the ultimate diachronic structures in "Cendrillon."
The diachronic narrative provides the voyeur with particular areas of visual concentration. The three main narrative segments present differing attitudes of parental affirmation or negation and varying structures of sexual alliance. Yet, we might still question the effectiveness of the diachronic narrative in catalyzing the voyeur into a realization of his subjective visions. Although the diachronic structures are present in the text for visual consumption, the logic of their presentation works to deny the voyeur's personal realization of the various kinship forms in the narrative. The diachronic narrative is, like the synchronic narrative, dependent on the logic of the "effet du miroir." Figures 1-3 provide an illustration of the repetitive and contiguous relationship between the three kinship structures in the text. As it works in the synchronic narrative, the "effet du miroir" establishes the diachronic narrative as the unfolding of the action up to the end point of Figure 3. Particular moments of the diachronic narrative self-consume upon completion of their metonymical function. The movement of both narratives, then, shows the voyeur structures of closed form—those elongated in the synchronic narrative, and those contracted in the diachronic narrative. In both cases, only the final narrative segments signifying the end point of the tale receive narrative emphasis. Consequently, "Cendrillon" presents the voyeur with parallel narratives whose particular interior meanings are subordinated to the structural emphasis on narrative progression. The logic of the narratives works to frustrate voyeuristic concentration on the separate moments that attract the viewer.
But what are these "particular interior meanings" and why are they so essential to the observance of "Cendrillon" ? Would it not suffice to conclude this article with the following statement: Perrault's code for translation enables the voyeur to penetrate the elementary structures of kinship signified by "Cendrillon" 's synchronic narrative; the diachronic narrative, furthermore, implies a "positive" sexual fulfillment that, according to Christout, "conserve le souci d'une vraisemblance personelle, base de son pouvoir suggestif, volontaire ou non"? In my opening remarks, I suggested that the merveilleux is most appealing to the voyeur because it presents and isolates particular signifiers that assume the form of his desires. The voyeur, however, is not seduced by the end vision, the image of superimposed layers of narrative structure—a synchronic signifier and a diachronic signified. What fascinates the voyeur is the marvelous surfacing of specific moments of signification in the text. New signs of desire constantly surface between "Cendrillon" 's two narratives of transformation and kinship. These are projections that remain isolated outside of the metonymical movement of the narratives. As projections, they are clear to the voyeur in form, but unclear in meaning. While the tex- tual isolation of such a sign as, say, the proper name Cendrillon attracts the eyes of the voyeur, its ambiguous connotations challenge the certainty of the voyeur's vision. By grafting from Lacan, we can say, for instance, that the proper name Cendrillon functions as a "colophon du doute." "Le colophon, dans un vieux texte," Lacan reminds us, "c'est cette petite main indicative qu'on imprimait dans la marge, du temps où l'on avait encore une typographie. Le colophon de doute fait partie du texte."13 The colophon is doubtful because its significations are constantly multiplied and challenged. As will be demonstrated, the voyeur's attention remains focused on such ambiguous signs of desire. A narrative of signification results that oscillates between a clear presentation of the signs of desire and an emphasis on the uncertainty of their inconstant meanings. The two super-imposed narratives relying on the "effet du miroir" reflect a third narrative of anamorphosis.
To the voyeur, the text is reducible to the simultaneous vision of various forms of signification. The difficulty lies in his structuralization and verification of these forms as lasting manifestations of the unconscious. Interestingly enough, "Cendrillon" is structured to aid the voyeur in this process. While presenting its viewer with vascillating objects of fascination, the text instructs its reader in modes of vision for the comprehension of the merveilleux.
The text assists the voyeur by stressing introductory signs that function as indicators of the narrative of anamorphosis—le colophon des colophons de doute. This colophon is isolated in the title: "Cendrillon ou La Petite Pantoufle de Verre." As colophon, the title signals a motivated anamorphic viewing of the text. It is the keyhole through which we see the various colophons de doute. While this was shaped by the translator, Perrault, for the voyeur's entrance into the text, it is a very sophisticated device. Easy entry is deterred. Because experience is most often the best aid in the manipulation of a tricky lock, we might discuss the function of the title in terms of a previously established theory of signification. Roland Barthes, for example, might refer to this keyhole as "the outline of an economy of signification." The initial shape of the keyhole, comprised of language material, "introduces a certain order at the level of the first (significant) articulation."14 The order of the first signification, or the shape of the keyhole is relatively clear. Upon viewing the title, our immediate response might be to search for the key marked "Cendrillon" that is shaped to open the traditional text concerning "la jeune fille sacrifiée par ses parents au profit de soeurs injustement choyées."15 Yet, closer observation of the keyhole will disclose a more elaborate lock. It requires a key shaped both for the tumbler "Cendrillon" and for the tumbler "La Petite Pantoufle de Verre." This double title must be clarified in order to attain clear vision through the keyhole. Leading questions must be answered: Why does the "Pantoufle de Verre" receive textual prominence? What is the significance of the juxtaposition of "Cendrillon" and "Pantoufle"? Why are the signs "Cendrillon" and "Pantoufle" equated by the conjunction ou? As these questions indicate, the first articulation of the text introduces an order of ambiguity—the outline of anamorphic signification.
While this outline is ambiguous, its purpose is to aid the voyeur in seeing through the keyhole. The motivation provided by the title "Cendrillon ou La Petite Pantoufle de Verre" can be appreciated by considering a certain function of the sign of signification. In Elements of Semiology, Barthes moves beyond Saussure to posit the signification's power of motivation:
from signified to signifier, there is a certain motivation in the (restricted) case of onomatopoeia … and also every time a series of signs is created by the tongue through the imitation of a certain prototype of composition or derivation.16
In choosing his title, Perrault outlined a series of onomatopoeic significations. In addition, these significations point to the composition of the text—its oscillation from one narrative to another—and to its derivation—the main characters' projections of desire that are the foundation of the narrative. We will now profit from a detailed analysis of the outline "Cendrillon ou La Petite Pantoufle de Verre."
Let us begin with "Cendrillon," the sign and the jeune fille. Who is the jeune fille in Perrault's text? We receive little information about her background. We know her only as a girl without a name, without a mother, without a father, without a family. But more importantly, she is a girl without a Self. Her exceptional gentleness and kindness are virtues inherited from her mother, the best person in the world. The jeune fille is an image, a form of beauty, but one lacking a reflective interior. The proper name Cendrillon, assigned by a stepsister, signifies the jeune fille who lacks sense, who has never known herself, or who has forgotten herself: cendres-y-ont. Cendres, as Furetière indicates, "se prend … pour la mort … ou la memoire de la personne."17 Cendrillon is a living ghost. She must remember her repressed identity for revivification.
The process of remembrance is discussed by Lacan in "Du reseau des signifiants." He informs us that remembrance depends on "le système perceptionconscience." By confronting memory with "les traces de perception," the subject revitalizes structures of desire that lay forgotten. Recollection, however, can only occur by means of the subsequent erasure of perception which deprives memory from the "other" that has rekindled it.18 A "certitude" of vision is replaced by a doubt of perception. However, it is not the perception itself that is doubted, but the conscience, the recollection of "tout ce qu'il en est du contenu de l'inconscient." Yet, doubt isolates and verifies the signs of the unconscious:
c'est là que Freud met l'accent de toute sa force—le doute, c'est l'appui de sa certitude. Il le motive—c'est justement là, dit-il, signe qu'il y a quelque chose à préserver.19
Repetition of the process perception-conscience-doute clarifies a "forme qui n'est pas claire." Remembrance, says Lacan, is contingent on repetition.20 It is through the repetition of perception-conscience-doute that Cendrillon becomes certain of her name—the signification of both her mort and her memoire.
Cendrillon sits in the ashes because she "n'osait s'en plaindre à son père." Her condition of loss—both of her family and of her Self—is emphasized by this motif of isolation. In contrast, Cendrillon's interaction with her stepsisters facilitates the process of remembrance. The first instance of Cendrillon's verbal contact with the stepsisters occurs when "elles [les deux soeurs] appelèrent Cendrillon pour lui demander son avis, car elle avait le goût bon. Cendrillon les conseilla le mieux du monde." Cendrillon's helpful advice provides "les traces de perception" that stimulate the remembrance of her Self. The activation of her memory is underlined by her offer to "les coiffer." Furetière indicates that coeffer meant "s'entêter, se preoccuper en faveur de quelque chose, se coeffer de nouvelles opinions."21 Cendrillon's aggressiveness in offering advice, suggested by this play on coeffer, points to an initial surfacing of her advisory capacity as mother/avunculate. However, her identity as a counselor is denied by the stepsisters: "vous vous moquez de moi"—"Tu as raison." This negation of Cendrillon's worth stimulates the interior process of remembrance. The traces de perception in the form of a spoken dialogue disappear. But the "raison" for doubt remains. Cendrillon's spoken dialogue is continued by an interior dialogue that ponders her reality as marraine.
I would like to suggest that such a pondering is implied in Perrault's narrative insertion: "Une autre que Cendrillon les aurait coiffées de travers; mais elle était bonne, et elle les coiffa parfaitement bien." This reassertion of Cendrillon's worth as coiffeuse signifies the process of remembrance. It not only suggests the act of advising which provides the traces de perception, but it also implies the subsequent doubt and conscience resulting from the sisters' negation of Cendrillon. The Petit Robert lists the following definition "par analogie" of coiffer: recouvrir, surmonter. In Cendrillon's case, recouvrir is to conceal again, to doubt her identity as marraine. Surmonter is the potential overcoming, surmounting of doubt. The act of coiffant stands out in the text as a striking colophon de doute. It is a sign of Cendrillon's sense which she and the voyeur must verify.
A second instance of Cendrillon's remembrance is provided by her first interaction with her Marraine. Cendrillon renews her efforts to coiffer by offering advice to her Marraine. It is Cendrillon who suggests that a rat would make a suitable coachman. She literally assumes the role of marraine by excelling in the logic peculiar to "ou des parrains ou des marraines." The importance of this moment is stressed by Perrault's subtle shift in the use of possessive pronouns. Up to the time of Cendrillon's suggestion, her Marraine is consistently referred to as "Sa Marraine." After the Marraine's affirmation of Cendrillon's identity as marraine, the Marraine loses her possessive pronoun. She becomes "la Marraine," or "la Fée." This grammatical shift suggests that Cendrillon has, for the moment, come into her own as marraine. Furthermore, the Marraine's affirmation of Cendrillon's identity—"Tu as raison"—is particularly poignant because it is the same phrase with which the stepsisters negated Cendrillon's identity as coiffeuse. The anaphoric use of this phrase isolates it as a colophon de doute. It is used to signify both recouvrir and surmonter. In fact, Cendrillon's raison is again the catalyst of doubt.
Her vocal discomfort concerning "mes vilains habits" thrusts Cendrillon back into the dependence on her Marraine. At this moment in the text, the passive pronoun returns. "Sa Marraine" outfits Cendrillon in "des habits de drap d'or" that allow her entrance into the exogamic court. The Marraine also issues the proscription "de ne pas passer minuit." This proscription can easily be described as the act of signification symbolized by the ambiguous ou in the title. On the one hand, Cendrillon is provided with "une paire de pantoufles de verre." These slippers of vair (a Re- naissance term for coat of arms) suggest Cendrillon's preordained place in court. The proscription, however, requires Cendrillon to return to her home of cendres. She must continue the process of remembrance. Although Cendrillon's remembrance of her Self depends on her liberation from endogamic bonds, she must return to her family to enact her obligations as marraine. The proscription, then, is the colophon signifying the ambiguity inherent in the juxtaposition and equation of "Cendrillon ou La Petite Pantoufle de Verre."
Because remembrance is contingent on repetition, neither Cendrillon nor the voyeur can fully realize the sense of the proscription without repeated visions of its ambiguous signification. At the first ball, Cendrillon successfully maintains her position of mediation. She arouses the desire of the Prince and she watches over the sisters by offering "mille honnêtetés…." However, her behavior at the second ball provides the viewer with a prime example of poor voyeuristic perception. Cendrillon centers all of her attention on her new object of desire: "Le fils du Roi fut toujours auprès d'elle … la jeune Demoiselle ne s'ennuyait point." She is obsessed with a physical body that lacks full sense outside of the context of her kinship responsibilities. Consequently, Cendrillon forgets both the proscription and her identity as marraine. She regains the air of a lost Paysanne: "rien ne lui étant resté de toute sa magnificence qu'une de ses petites pantoufles."
As a result of this latest loss of memory, the "jeune fille fort mal vêtue" truly personifies "Cendrillon ou La Petite Pantoufle de Verre." While she resumes the role of Cendrillon at home, her lost slipper is the object of attention at court. The oscillation between Cendrillon's appearance at home and at court is temporarily suspended. She now remains visible to the voyeur in both societies. The quality of vision depends on the flexibility of the voyeur's gaze.
The Prince, for instance, is deprived of Cendrillon, the visual object of his desire. The intensity of his desire is not fully apparent until the disappearance of those traces de perception signifying Cendrillon. Only after the Prince loses Cendrillon ("Le Prince la suivit, mais il ne put l'attraper") does the realization of his desire occur: "qu'assurément il était fort amoureux de la belle personne à qui appartenait la petite pantoufle." This desire is realized through a displacement of vision. The Prince ignores all the mundane objects of perception around him in order to gaze in wonder at the pantoufle de verre. This slipper is the anamorphic glass through which the Prince can now see all that he misses: "il n'avait fait que la regarder pendant tout le reste du Bal." "La" is the heart of the slipper, Cendrillon. Cendrillon is the sign of the Prince's cendre. According to Furetière, "on dit figurément, qu'une coeur est réduit en cendre; pour dire, qu'il est consumé d'amour."22 The Prince's anamorphic vision signifies the recognition of his love for Cendrillon. Furthermore, this gazing at the shoe is a phantasm of the marital consummation of this love. As a phantasmic image, the pantoufle de verre/vair (fourrure) assumes the fetishistic quality of the foot which is described by Freud:
the foot or shoe owes its preference as a fetish to the circumstances that the inquisitive boy peered at the woman's genitals from below, from her legs up; fur and velvet … are a fixation of the sight of the public hair, which should have been followed by the longed-for sight of the female member.23
The sexual act is represented by the Prince's anamorphic gaze at this shoe. Prolonged anamorphic vision "dans sa fonction pulsatile et étalée," Lacan suggests, is the projection of "le symbole phallique, le fantôme anamorphique."24 This voyeuristic penetration of Cendrillon's vaginal shoe is a concrete sign of the Prince's suppressed desire. His realization of this desire results in his exogamic marriage to Cendrillon.
"La petite pantoufle de verre" is also the sign of Cendrillon's dual role as mother and maternal uncle. The fact that Cendrillon's reunion with "la petite pantoufle" represents her motherhood requires no reiteration. Yet, Cendrillon cannot experience exogamic motherhood unless her avuncular responsibilities are simultaneously fulfilled. This remembrance is contingent on Cendrillon's anamorphic understanding of her own pantoufle. While watching her sisters fail to fit the shoe, Cendrillon "reconnut" the significance of her slipper. Her penetration of the slipper fulfills the liberating task for which the sisters are impotent: "elle y entrait sans peine, et qu'elle y était juste comme de cire." This penetration of her own vagina signifies Cendrillon's remembrance of her Self as both mother and uncle. Through the sharp vision and penetration of her shoe, Cendrillon attains her longed for moment of anamorphic insight which, according to Baltrusaitis, "est muable et flexible comme la cire."25 Signifying both mother and uncle, "Cendrillon ou La Petite Pantoufle de Verre" opens the household to flexible exogamic relations.26
Cendrillon's exogamic wholeness facilitates the stepsisters' appropriation of anamorphic insight. By viewing Cendrillon's symbolic act of hermaphroditic copulation, the stepsisters are struck by a tableau that expresses their repressed kinship to Cendrillon. Cendrillon fulfills their wishes for a compassionate mother and a responsible father. These desires make their first textual appearance in the form of the proper names which the sisters assign to the "pauvre fille": "Cucendron," "Cendrillon." These names are unrealized articulations of the sisters' unconscious longing for a balanced and liberating exogamic kinship. The psychological significance of name-giving is discussed by Lévi-Strauss in The Savage Mind:
At one extreme the name is an identifying mark which, by the application of a rule, establishes that the individual who is named is a member of a preordained class (a social group in a system of groups, a status by birth in a system of statuses). At the other extreme, the name is a free creation on the part of the individual who gives the name and expresses a transitory and subjective state of his own by means of the person he names … The choice seems only to be between identifying someone else by assigning him to a class or, under cover of giving him a name, identifying oneself through him.27
The name Cucendron designates the jeune fille to be a member of a family not accepted by those who assign her this name. Cucendron is the mark of the jeune fille's death or separation from her proper family. Furthermore, this name which is "si malhonnête" reflects the antagonism of the name-giver towards the class represented by the named. The name Cucendron expresses the stepsisters' hostility towards outside lineages. It also expresses a defensive attitude towards "les bonnes qualités de cette jeune enfant" and towards Cendrillon's potential authority as avunculate. The more affectionate name Cendrillon, however, refers to the entirely different "transitory and subjective state" of the cadette who assigns the name. The cadette suffers from the joint loss of Self and compassionate parentage implied by the name Cendres-y-ont. Like the jeune fille, the cadette must realize her suppressed desire before she can be freed from the state of her endogamic death. The cadette's enunciation of this desire is also the articulation of the Ainée's desire. Being doubles, the sisters' thoughts and actions are inter-referential. The stepsisters oscillate between their antagonism signified by the name Cucendron and their desired kinship expressed in the name Cendrillon. At one moment in the text, their unconscious dependence on Cendrillon is expressed when "elles appèlerent Cendrillon pour lui demander son avis." Yet, they maintain their barrier of antagonism towards Cendrillon's potential avuncular authority as coiffeuse: "on rirait bien si on voyait un Cucendron aller au Bal." At a later point in the text, the stepsisters narrate their unrealized vision of Cendrillon's maternal/avuncular position: "il y est venu la plus belle Princesse … elle nous a donné des oranges et des citrons." However, their defensive antagonism hinders their interpretation of this vision. They react negatively to Cendrillon's suggestion that she borrow her sister's house robe. Were Cendrillon to wear or appropriate this garment, a sign of the sister's shallow identity, she would literally transform the signification carried by the robe. For the transference of this garment from a stepsister to Cendrillon would be a sign of reciprocal exchange in return for the gift of prized fruits. The act of a willing exchange would signify a mutual feeling of compassion, kinship, and obligation between the three women. The possibility of the stepsisters' realization and purging of their cendre is denied by their reversion to the use of Cucendron: "Pretez votre habit à un vilain Cucendron comme cela: il faudrait que je fusse bien folle." The stepsisters' repetitive failure to appropriate the significance of their name-giving provides another textual example of the aberration of sense. On the other hand, their increasing familiarity with the forms of behavior associated with "Cucendron" and "Cendrillon" serves as a referent through which they can clarify these names as signs of desire.
The stepsisters' remembrance is finally achieved as a result of their vision of Cendrillon's recognition and penetration of her slipper. The stepsisters are unable to fit the liberating shoe. Although their thwarted attempts represent an actualization of their desires for exogamic kinship, the fact that "elles ne purent en venir à bout" certifies their lack of avuncular power. They themselves can neither realize nor effect their kinship desires without the aid of an avuncular mediator. They are bound to their endogamic heritage of mauvaise humeur. The responsibility of mediation belongs to Cendrillon the coiffeuse. Her successful penetration of the shoe posits Cendrillon's authority over the inept sisters. This striking vision of her power as mother and uncle thrusts the sisters into a realization of their own positions. They are dependent both on Cendrillon's power as advisor and protector and on her maternal compassion represented by "la belle personne qu'elles avaient vue au Bal."
The stepsisters realize the subjective significance of the proper name Cendrillon. In recognizing "Cendrillon" as a symbol of desired kinship, they express their willing submission to her avuncular authority. "Elles se jetèrent à ses pieds pour lui demander pardon de tous les mauvais traitements qu'elles avaient fait souffrir." This act of penitence represents the complete actualization of the desires expressed in either the name Cucendron or Cendrillon. As well as referring to death, forgetfulness, and burning love, cendre means to "faire penitence; se mortifier."28 Through the assignation of proper names, par don, the two sisters express their desire for pardon. To go one step further, I might suggest that in name-giving, the two sisters unconsciously assume the role of marraine. "C'est d'ordinaire," writes Furetière, "la marraine qui nomme les filles."29 By the illegitimate undertaking of the marraine's duties, the two sisters express their desire to be the recipients of a marraine's "bonne grace." Remembrance allows the two sisters to satisfy these repressed wants. Anamorphic vision makes clear their desires for protective parentage, exogamic marriage, and balanced sexuality.
For the Prince, Cendrillon, and the two sisters, the realization and the satisfaction of sexual and kinship desires depends on their anamorphic vision of the signs of desire: "Cendrillon ou La Petite Pantoufle de Verre." These signs appear in many different forms throughout the text. The success of anamorphic vision depends on the voyeur's ability to attribute sense to a collection of oscillating and seemingly contradictory signs of signification. The fairy tale "Cendrillon ou La Petite Pantoufle de Verre" presents a striking illustration of the process of anamorphic remembrance described by Baltrusaitis:
toute une série de phénomènes curieux où les objets se doublent, se déforment et se déplacent, comme dans les mains d'un prestidigateur, sont réunis autour d'une grande idée … Ils rendent certaine l'incertitude et, par cela, ils appartiennent à un réseau de témoignages sur la nécessité de réviser les conceptions et les valeurs.30
An anamorphic approach to the reading of "Cendrillon ou La Petite Pantoufle de Verre" requires the voyeur to challenge the form of the text. The meaning of this fairy tale does not consist of two superimposed layers of logical narration. The value of the narrative is thrown into question by a plethora of ambiguous signs and moments that stand outside of the causal/metonymic movement of both the synchronic and diachronic narratives. These moments are all projections of unrealized possibilities of existence—for the characters of the tale as well as for the voyeur looking into the tale. The allure of the merveilleux lies in the voyeur's potential remembrance of these uncertain visions. Attempts to clarify the many textual significations found in "Cendrillon ou La Petite Pantoufle de Verre" may confuse and frustrate the voyeur. However, such doubt, as we have seen in our analysis of the tale, works to isolate and structure significations of suppressed desire. Through such structuralization, the voyeur verifies and satisfies his desires. Ils rendent certain l'incertitude.
The intriguing sense of "Cendrillon" —sens-drilleont (meanings have a text)—consists in the tale's mode of instructing the voyeur how to see anamorphically. The text is constructed to remind the voyeur what it is that he wants to see. He is not so much fascinated by bodies of narrative as he is seduced by isolated and enticing structures of desire: la petite pan-touffe de vers (the small excerpt [print-bunch] of verse). He is teased by visions that he longs to experience: scenes of manipulation, sexual fantasies, kinship roles, moments of remembrance. The best method of appropriating these visions is illustrated by textual examples of poor and insightful anamorphic observation. Most importantly, the text's presentation of the process of remembrance constantly instructs the voyeur that his visions are projections of his own desires.
Perrault's edition of "Cendrillon ou La Petite Pantoufle de Verre" stands out as an example of "le vrai don des Fées." "Pour engager un coeur, pour en venir à bout," the text is both an illustrated guide to anamorphic vision and an exercise book that encourages the student to practice his lessons in voyeuristic reading. Moreover, Perrault reminds his students of their dependence on his instruction. In the autre moralité, he insists that the possession of intelligence, courage, and good sense are worthless traits "si vous n'avez, pour les faire valoir, Ou des parrains ou des marrains." Perrault is the parrain who instructs the reader in methods of projecting their own sense onto the foreign and meaningless form of "Cendrillon ou La Petite Pantoufle de Verre." He provides the voyeur with moralities pointing to the different shapes of the textual body. The anamorphic order of these shapes is outlined in Perrault's title that serves as the index for his tale of instruction. Attentiveness to Perrault's lesson is the prerequisite to an exogamic relationship with the text. The subsequent anamorphic reading is "muable et flexible comme la cire." The voyeur satisfies his desire for the merveilleux.
1. Marie-Françoise Christout, Le merveilleux et le "théâtre de silence" (La Haye: Mouton, 1965), p. 11.
2. Christout, p. 7.
3. Jurgis Baltrusaitis, ANAMORPHOSE ou magie artificielle des effets merveilleux (Paris: Olivier Perrin, 1969), p. 70.
5. Perrault, Histoires ou Contes du Temps Passé avec des moralités in Contes (Paris: Garnier, 1967). Any emphasis of excerpts is mine.
6. Tzvetan Todorov, Introduction à la littérature fantastique (Paris: Seuil, 1970), p. 59.
7. Marc Soriano, "Cendrillon" in Les Contes de Perrault: culture savante et traditions populaires (Paris: Gallimard, 1968), pp. 141-147.
Michel Serres, "Traduction mot à mot: Cendrillon" in Hermes I: La Communication (Paris: Minuit, 1968), pp. 214-218.
8. Vladimir Propp, Morphology of the Folktale, trans. Laurence Scott (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1968), p. 21.
9. Louis Marin, Études Sémiologiques (Paris: Klincksieck, 1971), p. 300.
10. Claude Lévi-Strauss, Les Structures Élémentaires de la Parenté (La Haye: Mouton, 1967), p. 120.
11. Antoine Furetière, Dictionnaire Universel, Tome III (La Haye: 1727).
12. Lévi-Strauss analyzes "the problem of the avunculate" in "Structural Analysis in Linguistics and Anthropology," Structural Anthropology, trans. Claire Jacobsen and Brooke Grundfest Schoepf (New York: Basic Books, 1963), pp. 39 ff.
13. In referring to Freud, Lacan writes that "il nous invite à intégrer au texte du rêve ce que j'appellerai le colophon de doute … Cela nous indique que Freud place sa certitude, Gewissheit, dans la seule constellation des signifiants tels qu'ils résultent du récit, du commentaire, de l'association, peu importe la rétractation." Séminaire XI, p. 45.
In Écrits I (Paris: Seuil, 1966), p. 274, Lacan appears to describe the colophon de doute when writing that "… la structure métaphorique, indiquant que c'est dans la substitution du signifiant au signifiant que se produit un effet de signification qui est de poésie ou de création, autrement dit d'avènement de la signification en question."
15. Such is the description of "le personnage de Cendrillon" offered by G. Rouger in his foreword to our edition of "Cendrillon ou La Petite Pantoufle de Verre," p. 154.
16. Barthes, Elements of Semiology, pp. 50-51.
17. Furetière, Tome I. My emphasis.
18. In "Du reseau des signifiants," Séminaire XI, p. 46, Lacan writes:
Freud déduit de son expérience la nécessité de séparer absolument perception et conscience—pour que ça [les traces de perception] passe dans la mémoire, il faut d'abord que ça soit effacé dans la perception, et réciproquement.
19. Lacan, "Du sujet de la certitude," Séminaire XI, p. 36.
20. Lacan, "Du reseau des signifiants," p. 50.
21. Furetière, Tome I.
24. Lacan, "L'anamorphose," Séminaire XI, p. 83.
25. Baltrusaitis, p. 69.
26. Perrault emphasizes this realization by means of the final deletion of the Marraine's possessive pronoun. Cendrillon is equal with "La Marraine" as one of the number of "des parrains ou des marraines."
27. Lévi-Strauss, The Savage Mind (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1966), p. 181.
28. Furetière, Tome I.
29. Furetière, Tome III.
30. Baltrusaitis, p. 69.
Bonnie Cullen (essay date 2003)
SOURCE: Cullen, Bonnie. "For Whom the Shoe Fits: Cinderella in the Hands of Victorian Illustrators and Writers." Lion and the Unicorn 27 (2003): 57-82.
[In the following essay, Cullen maintains that Perrault's version of "Cinderella" became more popular than other renditions because it was easier to adapt to the pantomime performances of nineteenth-century England.]
"Cinderella" is a story we all know. Despite a range of oral tales from many cultures, and some distinctly different literary incarnations, one "Cinderella" eclipsed the others in English. In 1950, Disney Studios produced this version in cinematic form. In this way it is now perpetuated globally.
Fixed in print, a folktale becomes a different creation, losing the nuances of performance and gaining the literary conventions of its day. When illustration is added, another level of interpretation is formed and perpetuated.
The narrative now popularly known as "Cinderella" was published originally with only one picture—Cinderella fleeing from the ball, leaving her slipper behind. As it was propagated in English books during the nineteenth century, this tale began to acquire what we might call signature images.1
Studying surviving editions of "Cinderella" dating from the eighteenth through the early twentieth century in the British Library and the Victoria and Albert Museum's National Art Library, I discovered a great variety of treatments. Nevertheless, in many English versions, both writers and illustrators seem to be constructing an ideology that was also being developed in visual art and in the popular press.2
By the early twentieth century, a fairly standard form of "Cinderella" had emerged in most English editions—an adaptation of the French tale written by Charles Perrault and published in 1698: "Cendrillon ou la Petite Pentoufle de Verre." Perrault's tale had been addressed largely to an adult and highly sophisticated audience. By the late eighteenth century, however, it had been watered down in English cheap editions, or chapbooks, read by adults and children alike. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, it entered the realm of popular entertainment in pantomime theater.
Why Perrault's story, above all others? Considering its origins, there were many contestants for the dominant tale. "Cinderella" is really a large family of tales first analyzed by folklorists in the nineteenth century. Studying more than 300 related narratives from Europe and Asia, Marian Roalfe Cox identified Cinderella stories according to the presence of certain themes: an abused child, rescue through some reincarnation of the dead mother, recognition, and marriage.
The earliest known Cinderella story is actually a literary version from ninth-century China. Already it has the familiar elements. Yeh-hsien (Cinderella) has lost both her father and mother and seeks consolation from a pet fish. Her cruel stepmother eats the fish and buries the bones. A man comes from the sky advising her to find and save the bones—she will get whatever she wishes for.
When her stepmother and stepsister leave for a festival, Yeh-hsien follows them in a cloak of kingfisher feathers and gold shoes. She loses a shoe, the shoe is found, and given to a king. A search for the foot small enough to fit the shoe ensues. Yeh-hsien is finally shown to be the rightful owner and marries the king (Ting 4-5).
In most early Cinderella tales, the dead mother hovers protectively, reincarnated as a cow, a fish, or a tree. Her relationship with the grieving daughter is as significant as the girl's triumph. Occasionally the protagonist is male. The shoe is not always the means of identification, although it is extremely common, as is the use of some magic garment (Philip).
By the sixteenth century, Cinderella appears in print in the West.3 One major debut is in Basile's seventeenth-century collection, Il Pentamerone (Lo cunto de li cunti), as the feisty "Gatta Cenerentola" or "Cat Cinderella." Zezolla (Cinderella) kills her wicked stepmother with the help of a governess, but when the governess marries Zezolla's father, the girl is mistreated again. A fairy in a tree supplies magic clothes and a coach for a feast where Zezolla captures a king's heart.
In Basile's tale, the dead mother is no longer a significant presence, although she might be vaguely identified with the fairy. While close to some oral versions, his bawdy narrative is full of intricate metaphors and clearly written for an adult audience (Canepa 14-15). The book was published in Neapolitan dialect, which probably limited its dissemination in print (Canepa 12; Opie and Opie 20-21), although Basile's stories may have passed into the oral repertoire and traveled in other languages.
During the ancien régime of Louis the XIV, folktales were transformed into a new literary genre, the fairy tale. Narrated as a kind of conversational game in the salons of the précieuses, by the end of the century they were being written down (Zipes, Beauties 1-9; Warner 167-70). Two distinct versions of "Cinderella" issued from the pens of Charles Perrault and the Countess d'Aulnoy.
Marie-Catherine Le Jumel de Barneville, Baronne d'Aulnoy,4 was a feminist and writer, the first to publish her stories as "fairy tales," or literary versions of popular folktales. Her Cinderella, "Finette Cendron," is both altruistic and spirited. When their parents abandon Finette and her sisters, she engineers daring escapes for all three. They plot against her, but Finette remains loyal. With a godmother's help she finds some magnificent clothing and triumphs at the ball. She loses a shoe and gallops back to claim it, but refuses to marry the prince until her parents' kingdom, which they lost, is restored (d'Aulnoy, Fairy Tales 227-45).
Perrault's "Cendrillon" ["Cendrillon ou la petite pantoufle de verre" ] is quite a different lady. He dubs her chief virtue "la bonne grace," i.e., in the face of adversity she is generous, long-suffering, charming and good-humored; the ideal bride, from the gentleman's perspective.
A bland protagonist perhaps, but Perrault exhibits his wit. Cendrillon plays her own tricks on the sisters, asking one if she can borrow a dress to see the mysterious princess at the next ball. He also writes tongue-in-cheek. The slipper, evoking female virginity, is made of glass in his tale. Not only is it fragile and extremely pure, but Perrault hints that visual proof will be necessary.
Perrault's position as a member of the French Academy may have led him to adopt this tone for tales of the peasant class (Warner 168-70). He also shifts the spotlight to the fairy godmother, giving her a dominant role. In the ancien régime, fairies were equated with powerful women at court (232-34). D'Aulnoy's fairy is sympathetic and dignified, asking Finette to be her lady's maid and comb her hair. Her magic is in providing the necessary items, whether or not she is present. Perrault's elaborate description of rat-and-pumpkin tricks is a spoof: his fairy godmother is a witch.
D'Aulnoy called her stories Les Contes des Fées or "tales about the fairies," evoking those powerful women with whom they were so popular. Perrault published his as Contes de Ma Mère l'Oye, or Mother Goose Tales. Warner, who argues that fairy tales were originally a women's genre, says in doing so he distanced himself from the tales, and related the salonières to the "old wives" who originally told them (18, 234).
Was this more than an amusing literary duel? Both Zipes and Warner describe these devotees of the fairy tale as disaffected aristocrats and haute bourgeoisie couching their malaise in children's stories as Louis XIV grew oppressive and distant. Tales of the folk, their misfortunes reversed by magical transformation, were inherently subversive and utopian. Retold by the literati, they also served to undermine the bias toward classical literature maintained by the French Academy (Zipes, Beauties 1-8; Warner 168-69).
As a cover, both writers appended concluding morals in verse form. On the surface, this invoked tradition: folktales for children also served a didactic function. D'Aulnoy exhorts her readers to "overpower" the selfish with kindness (Fairy Tales, 245). Perrault's verses, by contrast, are the final coup in his ironic development. First he advises: much better than beauty (of which, nonetheless, "we can never tire"), is "la bonne grace" in order to "win a heart, and conquer a Ball," concluding that "Without it you've nothing; with it, all." Then he parries with: it's all very well to have shrewdness, wit, good breeding, talents, and so forth, but unless you have a "willing godmother, or godfather" who can "spread your talents further," you'll never get ahead (Philip 15-16). Or in other words, it's not what you know, it's who you know. Hiding as "Mother Goose," then, Perrault effects a subtle male coup within the circle of fairy tale devotees, most of whom were women.5
When literary Cinderellas began to appear in English in the eighteenth century, it was Madame d'Aulnoy's story that took the lead. Several translations of her works preceded the first appearance of "Finette Cendron" in A Collection of Novels and Tales, Written by that Celebrated Wit of France, the Countess d'Anois (1721-22). Perrault's Contes did not appear in English until 1729.
By the nineteenth century, the tables had turned, apparently. Only seven English editions of d'Aulnoy's tales survive in the British Library; not all contain "Finette." There are over thirty editions of Perrault's "Cinderella" as a separate volume, besides its inclusion with the tales. Perrault's story was also adapted for pantomime and plays.
Perrault's version faced new competition, however. Searching for an antidote to bourgeois life—the stale "getting and spending," as Wordsworth put it—Romantics turned to nature. Might not the oral tales of country folk contain some primal wisdom? How closely they transcribed their originals is debated, but the Grimm brothers believed they were collecting rather than writing stories as they prepared their editions of Die Kinder- und Hausmärchen in 1812 (Warner 188-93). Their "Cinderella," "Aschenputtel," is indeed close to folk versions such as the Scottish tale, "Rashin Coatie" (Opie and Opie 117-18).
Mourning and revenge underlie "Aschenputtel": the heroine plants a tree on her mother's grave and tends it lovingly. A bird in the tree answers her calls for help. She begs for a dress, attends the feast and attracts the prince. The sisters cheat at the slipper test, cutting off parts of their feet, but birds reveal their deceit and at the wedding, peck out the sisters' eyes.
"Primal" tales had their opponents. With the first English translation, in volume two of German Popular Stories (1826), the brutal eye-pecking disappeared. During the previous century, the market for printed tales had expanded through chapbooks, devoured by a new audience of young readers as well as adults. By the end of the eighteenth century there was a movement in England to sanitize children's literature. Mrs. Trimmer, reviewing children's books for middle-class families, argued that the often brutal tales "excite … groundless fears" and "serve no moral purpose" (2: 185-86). This explains the intrusion of religious motifs, such as praying and church architecture, in chapbook illustration from the early nineteenth century, and the relative scarcity of expensive editions at the time.6
Fairy tales would not go away, however. Those who wanted to imbue them with bourgeois morality faced equally vociferous champions of "pure" tales. "A child," Ruskin wrote, "should not need to chose between right and wrong. It should not be capable of wrong …" Innocent, children could be "fortif[ied] … against the glacial cold of selfish science" with the "inextinguishable life" of the folk tradition (83). As Zipes points out, arguments about fairy tales became part of the greater "Condition of England" debate on the effects of the Industrial Revolution (Victorian Fairy Tales xvi-xxix).
In the case of "Cinderella," it was a somewhat revised Perrault that prevailed in Victorian England. Illustrated editions abound, and while improvising textually and creating a cycle of pictures, they retain his major motifs. Nor did two new editions of Basile, by Taylor in 1847, and Sir Richard Burton, in 1893, affect the dominance of Perrault's story.
By studying how English writers and illustrators contributed to the discourse that produced this "Victorian Cinderella," I hoped to discover why Perrault's tale is the one that has prevailed, and what lay behind the "messages" woven into it during the nineteenth century.7
When Perrault's "Cendrillon" first appears in English in 1729, it is in a complete volume of his stories giving both French text and the translation. The engravings—one per tale—are copied from the original Contes, and repeated for the English text. They stage the ball scene, with Cinderella running away, looking over her shoulder at the prince, who kneels to pick up the slipper.
This edition is reissued with slight changes, but Perrault's tale is not particularly prominent during the eighteenth century. Enterprising chapbook publishers see a market for more extensive illustration, however. The Choice Gift: Containing the Story of Princess Fair-Start, and Prince Cherry and Cinderella (c. 1775-99) from Dublin has several pictures for Cinderella, although they are generic woodblocks not designed specifically for the story.
By the early nineteenth century Perrault's "Cinderella" appears to be a big hit. Publishers invest in lavish illustration. The earliest example, an engraved booklet with captions and foldout flaps, is curious. Dated February 24, 1804, Cinderilla: or, the Little Glass Slipper adds a dose of classical mythology. It opens at the court of Venus where the Prince, struck by Cupid's arrow, sees "chaste Diana." The familiar Cinderella tale follows, enhanced with more classical motifs, including a Roman matron (the fairy godmother) in a Pompeian landscape.
The book's specific date is as unusual as its classical elements—many nineteenth-century books have no date at all. The explanation must be Cinderella's new popularity in pantomime theater. "Cinderella" was first performed at Drury Lane, 10 January, 1804.8A Program of the Overture & Songs to the Allegorical Pantomimic SPECTACLE from Drury Lane (1804) combines the same elements: Venus, Diana, the Prince, and the Cinderella story.
This is not so odd a melange as it first appears. Early pantomime was a hodgepodge of mythology, harlequinade and chapbook tales (Hartnoll, Oxford Companion to the Theatre 625). Occasionally, "panto" scenes drift into other editions of Perrault's text, as in an 1816 Cinderella from the New Juvenile Library with engravings showing a Roman-looking fairy godmother and theatrical settings.
Chapbooks convey quite a different tone, introducing religious elements. One from Banbury, The Interesting Story of Cinderella and Her Glass Slipper (c. 1814), follows Perrault's text fairly closely but opens with a woodcut of Cinderella praying.9 Another from York, Adventures of the Beautiful Little Maid Cinderilla; or, The History of a Glass Slipper … (c. 1820), adds a frontispiece depicting feminine primping and a verse about sin, pride and dress.
Despite this new emphasis on moralizing, Perrault's concluding verses disappear from English versions at the beginning of the nineteenth century, although they persist in some French and Spanish editions.10 Clearly, his tongue-in-cheek remarks to the French court did not suit the wider audience of English readers.
One very significant change to Perrault's original is the treatment of the stepsisters. Perrault never describes them as ugly (Whalley 54). Although he confides Cinderella is "a hundred times" prettier than her sisters, he focuses on nobility of being as her superior quality.
It was the English, apparently, who first portrayed the sisters as old hags. An Evans chapbook (c. 1810) calls them "deform'd and ordinary," adding that they can scarcely read or pray. The crude woodcuts drive the point home. Some expensive editions also try this formula. One from John Harris (c. 1828)11 with hand-colored prints and a verse text opens, "What females are these …?" beneath a cut of ugly stepsisters gesturing to Cinderella. The fairy godmother appears as a tiny witch floating on a cloud.
The "ugly stepsisters" theme does not take hold until about 1870, however. Most illustrators show three ladies (also the norm in French and Spanish editions); Cinderella is often distinguished by gesture and dress.
During the '30s and '40s, chapbooks continue to follow Perrault's story fairly closely, but sometimes a preachy conclusion is appended. The wording in this edition "Corrected, and Adapted for Juvenile readers By a Lady" and published by Dean and Munday is typical:
The amiable qualities of Cinderella were as conspicuous after as they had been before marriage, by means of which she retained the love of her husband, and gained the esteem of the court, and the good-will of all who knew her.12
Woodcuts now show the godmother as a witch, but the stepsisters are not usually distinguished as ugly. A fairly standard cycle of scenes is established by this time: Cinderella by the hearth; Cinderella doing the sisters' hair; the godmother's appearance; the ball and/or Cinderella running from the prince; the slipper trial, and marriage.
At mid-century, writers and illustrators take fresh approaches in expensive editions. Cruikshank revamps the entire story for his 1854 Fairy Library edition, adding temperance sermons and describing the wedding in detail, as if for a society newspaper. He opens with the family suffering hard times. The stepmother is a gambler and Cinderella's father is in debtor's prison.
An adaptation for young thespians by Julia Corner with engravings by E. H. Forrester entitled Cinderella and the Glass Slipper, or, Pride Punished … (1854) shows the heroine as a Victorian lady seated before a rather grand fireplace with caryatids. Fairies become a preoccupation of the Victorian age around this time, and one might expect a reinterpretation of the godmother. With a few exceptions, her portrayal as a witch persists.13
The most significant changes around mid-century involve Cinderella herself. Perrault's is the least active of the early Cinderellas—Finette is a virago, feisty Zezolla kills her stepmother, and Aschenputtel tends her mother's grave and asks for help. Yet Cendrillon has a sense of fun, as well as some ideas—she suggests using a rat when the fairy godmother cannot think how to produce a coachman.
Whatever vivacity she may have had, at mid-century it has been purged by most English illustrators and writers. Early nineteenth-century pictures show her and the prince gaily dancing; she now averts her eyes as she takes his hand and physical contrasts between them are accentuated, as in the 1852 edition illustrated by "M. J. R."14 Cruikshank's lively lass is one exception—but such a consummate caricaturist could hardly produce a bland protagonist.
Writers leave out both her joke and her suggestions to the godmother. Chapbooks insert new phrases emphasizing her marital state. Wording in The History of Cinderella and the Little Glass Slipper (c. 1850) is typical: "Cinderella made a most excellent wife, … universally loved and respected for her sweet temper and charming disposition."
Most extreme is the Cinderella in the 1854 Home Treasury series, a veritable Madonna praying by the fire. Sir Henry Cole, who wrote the text and commissioned the illustrators, was the first Director of the Victoria & Albert Museum, an institution dedicated to improving public taste. His text includes an injunction from the dying mother: bear everything, and you will be happy. His fairy godmother is an old beggar woman whom Cinderella feeds—noblesse oblige. Discreetly, Cole used a pseudonym.
That Cole got into the act with his own editions suggests the popularity of the fairy tale genre as a means of instilling middle-class values, including aesthetic ones. In a handwritten notice inserted into one of the Home Treasury volumes, Cole states that "one object" of the series "was to place good pictures before my own and other children," explaining that he got Royal Academicians to produce lithographs for the first editions.15
In the 1840s, pictorial reportage took off with the debut of Punch and the Illustrated London News. Caricature and social satire were enormously popular, and illustrators forged considerable reputations. Painters like the Pre-Raphaelites also worked on books, and as the century progressed, some improvised so much that their imagery seems to be either independent of, or leading the text (Vaughan).
Banking on the popularity of illustrators, publishers began producing "toybooks" for children. These were paperbacks with elaborate imagery accompanied by narrative captions. Developments in woodblock printing made colored illustration on a large scale feasible and relatively cheap. Toybooks were marketed in collectible series often featuring the artist.
Walter Crane's 1873 toybook Cinderella is a Pre-Raphaelite beauty. The sisters have graying hair and irregular features, although they are not called ugly in the captions. The text concludes with the sisters vowing to work harder:
We'll work ourselves, and never have another kitchen
We have been idle all our lives,—we'll try another
And be industrious instead—it really seems to pay.
This is also a line from a Victorian pantomime, suggesting again a crossfertilization between panto and books.
In later nineteenth-century versions, some illustrators exploit the "ugly stepsister" theme. An elaborate 1892 satire by Lieutenant-Colonel Seccombe (who also worked for Punch) caricatures the sisters as bald hags who draw and sing horribly. Cinderella, by contrast, is demure and pretty, blushing when she enters the ball where "she hoped to have joined the gay party unseen." Their milieu looks distinctly middle-class, and the sisters, returning from the ball, dispute the cab fare.16
Two notable exceptions to this trend involved women in production: an expensive Warne picture book from 1878, written by Laura Valentine and illustrated by Weir and Gunston; and an Arts & Crafts-style book from 1894 edited by Grace Rhys.
By the early twentieth century, Cinderella's youthful beauty, rather than her behavior, is her chief asset in most editions. Books open with such phrases as "Cinderella was a pretty girl … and she had a slim figure and very, very nice feet and ankles…." Millicent Sowerby, who wrote this lavishly illustrated edition around 1910-15, adds that the sad heroine dries her eyes because sobbing spoils her looks.17 Rackham presents a energetic young girl ironing vigorously, her short hair tied up in a scarf; the stepmother is an overbearing matron with lorgnette. The sisters adopt ungainly postures, their noses, hands and feet exaggerated through his use of silhouette technique.18
For this deluxe 1919 edition (aimed at both the English and American markets), the publisher, C. S. Evans, rewrites the story. He follows the basic plot, fleshing out details and developing its emotional possibilities. Cinderella remembers her mother, for example, and there is a scene in which she and the prince spy each other years before the ball. Rackham's frontispiece (in rags, she gazes wistfully through a window) recalls the melodramatic style of contemporary silent films.
A far cry from Perrault's witticisms! Why the shift from "la bonne grace" and moral rectitude to beauty, and what was so compelling about the ugly stepsisters?
During the nineteenth century, two theories about human appearance were circulating. Physiognomy, developed by Johann Lavater (1741-1801), held that character is revealed in facial features. Similarly, phrenology argued that "faculties" such as benevolence reside in recognizable portions of the skull. Developed by Frans Joseph Gall (1758-1828), this pseudoscientific system was popularized in art circles by George Combe's Phrenology applied to Painting and Sculpture (1855) (Cowling 44-45).
Although somewhat discredited among educated thinkers later in the nineteenth century, phrenology and physiognomy were common beliefs in Victorian society, underlying the popularity of caricature in illustrated magazines like Punch (Cowling 25-39, chapter 4). Even Dickens fell prey to these theories for a time, according to Michael Hollington.
The Evans chapbook published around 1810-20 was apparently taking this line, linking the sister's deformity (in both text and pictures) with their inability to read or pray. Lectures on phrenology were popular early in the century among the self-educated working classes in such venues as the Mechanics' Institutes (McLaren 86-97). The same audience would have formed a significant part of the chapbook market. The similar treatment in the more expensive Harris edition suggests the concept was circulating among the middle classes at an early date as well.
By the 1850s, art critics were reading "beauty of face and form … as a badge of respectability," according to Cowling (350), who examines the application of these theories in Victorian painting. Considering such ideas prevailed in "high art" during the 1850s, as Cowling demonstrates (232-44) with Frith's Derby Day (1858) (London, Tate Gallery), it is hardly surprising that illustrators followed suit, particularly those aiming to corner the "polite" market.
Cole's 1859 "Cinderella" spelled it out for the middle classes: Cinderella grew more beautiful, while the sisters' "temper and cruelty … marked their features with ugliness" (102); his illustrator used the more subtle approach of academy-style drawing rather than the caricature favored in the popular press.
With color printing and the expansion of the market through toybook editions in following decades, imagery had an even greater impact. What had been subtle at mid-century was often exaggerated. Pantomime fed the appetite for comic spinsters. The ugly stepsisters made their theatrical debut in the 1860s.19 They became as popular as "Cinders" in the show, now called Cinderella; or, the Lover, the Lackey, and the Little Glass Slipper.
That Perrault's tale entered pantomime at the beginning of the century indicates its appeal to English nineteenth-century audiences. Its popularity as public entertainment helps explain its continued prominence in books. In fact, the genres were feeding each other: in this case the ugly stepsisters, debuting in print and illustrations in the first half of the century, were put on stage in the second half.
As for Cinderella, her idealized features and passive poses of the 1850s were the visual equivalent of a contemporary poem about the perfect fiancée:
She came, and seem'd a morning rose …
And, with a faint, indignant flush,
And fainter smile, she gave her hand,
But not her eyes, then state apart,
As if to make me understand
The honour of her vanquish'd heart …
In a study of Victorian imagery, Lynda Nead argues that definitions of domesticity and gender, propagated in art, fueled the middleclass drive for hegemony in Britain during the 1850s. Establishing class identity through a code of respectability was part of the process.
According to this code, men act; women respond, or as Ruskin put it, order and praise. Further, a man's realm is the public sphere, whereas women are naturally suited to the home. Laws regulating marriage, the national census, imagery and literature all served to define a woman's ultimate role as wife and mother, her pleasure, self-sacrifice and devotion (Nead 12-47).
Whether or not Henry Cole imagined he was reviving traditional lore in designing the Home Treasury series,20 his conception was purely Victorian: "[Cinderella] was most happy in the love of her husband, the esteem of the court, and the good will of all who knew her." His illustrators expunged all active portrayals, excepting the moment when she hears the clock. The image is strikingly reminiscent of Holman Hunt's Awakening Conscience (1853) (London, Tate Gallery), an exposition of temptation and denial.21
Another change during the century, interesting in this context, is that the slipper test is offered not just to the gentry, as in Perrault's text, but to all ladies of the realm. This implied that all marriageable women were potential Cinderellas.
That Cinderella came to signify a Victorian ideal of "femininity" is revealed in an argument Dickens had with Cruikshank in 1853. Cruikshank, ever the teetotaler, decided to plead the cause by writing and etching his own editions of fairy tales, beginning with "Hop 'o my Thumb." Dickens, a "purist," was livid.22 Dickens retorted with a parody of "Cinderella" in his magazine, Household Words. Lampooning both teetotalers and feminists in the story, he concluded with a morose vision:
She [Cinderella] also threw open the right of voting,
of being elected to public offices, and of making the
to the whole of her sex; who thus came to be always
gloriously occupied with public life
and whom nobody dared to love …
adding a Wordsworthian plea for the "pure" fairy tale:
The world is too much with us, early and late.
Leave this precious old escape from it alone.
Dickens's parody of Cinderella as a suffragist is revealing, particularly when he becomes sarcastic and emotional: women active in public life are unlovable.
At that moment, their ranks were growing and a feminist movement was underway (Thompson). In 1865, women were granted the legal right to own property, and by the 1870s, some were getting involved in local politics (Levine 19, 57).
The suffragist wave was also cresting. By 1919 (the date of Rackham's edition), women in England got the vote. It is possible that the popularity of Cinderella's ugly stepsisters in both books and pantomime during the second half of the nineteenth century related to a growing displeasure with women not disposed (or able) to emulate the ideal associated with Cinderella. That displeasure might also turn to threat. Increasingly, the sisters age. Perrault's conclusion, in which the sisters are married off, disappears from several editions of the story.24 Whether the ugly stepsisters invoked feminists, suffragists or merely "old maids" would have depended on individual readers. The equation of female beauty with success, and ugliness with defeat, was a subliminal message difficult to avoid.
As for the fairy godmother, Perrault gives no physical description, although he associates her with witchcraft through her magic spells. A great majority of English illustrators pick up on Perrault's implications, portraying her as a witch, or at least an old woman with a stick. Her appearance is never threatening. Some artists use her for a dash of comedy—Cruikshank's tiny witch, orchestrating a parade of mice and lizards, is a brilliant example.25
For readers at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, Perrault's step-by-step delineation of fairy technology must have been compelling. With a stroke, he demystifies magical powers for the modern world, and gets a good laugh, too. In fact, one reason Perrault's tale prevailed was its suitability for a modern audience. During the nineteenth century, the market for literary fairy tales in England was increasingly urban and middleclass. Perrault focuses on the social sphere, rather than the forest.26 He delineates hairdos, costume, behavior at the ball and reactions to Cendrillon's appearance with the ironic tone of a society reporter.
D'Aulnoy's Finette is busy slaying ogres and galloping through the mud, while in "Aschenputtel" there is blood from the sisters' mutilated feet. Romantics like Ruskin favored the rugged terrain of folktales, but as Mrs. Trimmer's remarks indicate, "polite" readers were concerned about "improving" young minds to function effectively in society.
More important, perhaps, Perrault's tale prevailed in English because it was the best vehicle for Victorian notions of femininity. D'Aulnoy's heroine liberates herself though female power, both magical and human. Folk Cinderellas like Aschenputtel also take action, advised by incarnations of their lost mothers. Perrault's Cendrillon is the least active, and he shifts the spotlight to her fairy godmother, whose magic is as amusing as it is powerful.
Whether or not the oral fairy tale had been a female genre, as Warner argues, by the nineteenth century the fairy tale in print was increasingly dominated by male writers and illustrators in an industry controlled by male publishers. That even some women writers followed the "party line" with canonical Cinderellas shows how powerful a formula it was for the middle-class market of nineteenth-century England.
It is interesting to note that Disney's revival of "Cinderella," which repeats the Victorian interpretation of Perrault's story, came out in 1950: a time when women, indispensable in the workforce during the war years, were being urged back home with imagery of ideal wives and mothers. There have been attempts to reclaim the tale in recent years in both print and film. Yet the canonical tale, with its Victorian ideology, persists.
Whether Perrault would have liked the self-abnegating heroine in the Disney film, he might have enjoyed this update of his vision: Cendrillon triumphs through a rather complicated process of fairy technology. Pumpkin, lizard and mice are transformed, while her identity is enhanced, like a digital capture adjusted with imaging software. Only her body and the glass slippers are material.
At the stroke of midnight, her virtual reality dress, coach, and attendants all vanish, while the slippers remain. The question arises: who is the real Cinderella—the domestic drudge, or the simulated princess? Is the servant, an identity forced upon her, more real than the woman so perfect her foot fits the slipper?
In the end, it is the simulated princess, not the drudge, who captures the prince's heart. Of the author, Angela Carter, Marina Warner writes, "Her crucial insight is that women … produce themselves as ‘women,’ and that this is often the result of force majeure, of using what you have to get by. The fairy tale transformations of Cinders into princess represent what a girl has to do to stay alive" (195).
In the twenty-first century, producing and projecting oneself with technology is becoming the modus oper- andi for both genders. Simulation through computer technology is the latest form: the coach and finery that can mutate or dissolve instantaneously on the screen.
With no material substance behind an image or configuration, simulation produces a new "crisis of substance," or lack of faith in any identity beyond appearances. Or as Baudrillard put it, we are living an "‘aesthetic’ hallucination of reality" (Woolley 209). Perrault's little joke—"Prospects grim? Get a fairy!"—is even funnier today.
1. Illustrators may invent tabulae rasae, of course; they may also, as some cheap editions with woodblocks indicate, recycle generic pictures. But popular narratives that are frequently illustrated tend to generate a cycle of pictorial motifs. Kurt Weitzmann examined this phenomenon in Illustrations in Roll and Codex. He was concerned with classical and early Christian illustration, but the process can be observed into the twentieth century for certain well-known narratives. Modern editions of "Cinderella" often depict the same scenes—Cinderella losing her slipper, the fairy godmother transforming the pumpkin, and so forth.
2. I am taking the position that art and literature actively construct rather than merely reflect meaning in cultures. See Nead's discussion regarding the visual arts (4-5) and Zipes's analysis of current literary theory and the fairy tale genre (Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion ch.1).
3. Zipes (Oxford Companion 95) names Bonaventure des Périer's Les Nouvelles Recréations et joyeux devis (1558) as the first. Warner shows a German illustration from the early sixteenth century but doesn't discuss it (204).
4. Also known as La Mothe in some English editions. See the discussion of her work and life in Warner (284-86), Zipes, Beauties (introduction), and Opie and Opie (14-15).
5. Perrault employs an ironic tone when depicting older women in some of his other contes as well. Knoepflmacher analyzes his barbs at female sexuality and matriarchal figures (14-19).
6. Whalley and Chester suggest chapbooks were instrumental in preserving fairy tales during this period of middleclass disapproval (94). Andrew O'Malley analyzes this trend toward "sanitization" in depth, identifying "hybrid" works that contain elements of "plebeian culture" alongside middle-class pedagogy.
7. Meaning in folk and fairy tales is problematic, however. Similar stories appear in many different cultures, and folktales also appear to have common structures, as Propp pointed out. There may well be universal messages encoded in them. Bruno Bettelheim argued that fairy tales guide children through difficult stages in personality development, for instance. In his view, "Cinderella" is about losing one's nurturing mother and Oedipal issues.
Bettelheim did note that emphasis varies with different narrators. One "Cinderella" theme he identified is "striving for higher goals." The version that prevails in English editions ridicules this notion by showing that influence makes the difference; hence its popularity in what he called our "cynical age" (262).
Whatever archetypal messages "Cinderella" may hold, I shall be concerned with the meanings constructed by specific narrators and illustrators during a specific period in time. Warner critiques Propp's approach with regard to "Cinderella" (238), and Zipes summarizes the issues surrounding an historical versus a "universal" approach to fairy tales, in The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales (xvii-xix).
Current theory would also argue that despite the narrative, audiences are not monolithic. One story may console an ill-treated stepdaughter while entertaining misogynists: reception generates ever more "Cinderellas of the mind." I do not address the problem of audience reception in this paper.
8. Information kindly supplied by Keith Ludwick, the Theatre Museum, London.
10. They survive in the 1836 edition of the Contes illustrated by N. Thomas and the 1867 edition illustrated by Gustave Doré, as well as the 1883 edition from Barcelona.
11. Date from notes by J. I. W., in the facsimile of an identical edition by the Scolar Press, Cinderella; or The Little Glass Slipper, London, 1977.
12. Similar wording appears in the Edinburgh Cinderella (c. 1840) and the 1889 edition illustrated by W. Gibbons.
13. One notable example with a fairy for the godmother is the 1852 edition illustrated by "M. J. R." On the popularity of fairy painting, see the excellent catalogue to the 1997 Royal Academy exhibit, Victorian Fairy Painting.
14. The demure heroines in the 1854 edition illustrated by Forrester and the Routledge edition written by "Aunt Mavor" should be compared with the dancing cinderellas in the Banbury chapbook and the John Harris edition. Chapbooks at mid-century sometimes repeat the earlier formula, however. Later French illustrators such as Doré (1867) and Gerbault (1898) also portray a more subdued heroine than Thomas's pumpkin-toting girl in the 1836 Contes.
15. The process proved expensive and in later volumes he had to resort to colored woodblocks "with inferior results," according to a note dated 16 January, 1880, and signed "Henry Cole" in an 1846 edition of Traditional Nursery Songs of England now in the British National Art Library collection.
16. Other depictions, varying in subtlety, appear in Cole's edition, on the cover of the Cassell Story Book edition (c. 1869), and in The Cinderella Nursery Story Book (1878) and The Surprising Adventures of Cinderella (1889). Gerbault's illustrations for the 1898 French edition also contrast an attractive Cinderella with disagreeable stepsisters and a domineering stepmother.
17. Similar treatments are used for the versions published by W. Collins, 1903, Blackie & Son, c. 1904, and the French edition from Librairie Renouard, 1898.
18. Rackham may have got the idea for the stepmother from Gerbault's illustrations in the Librairie Renouard Contes.
19. The ugly sisters were introduced at the Royal Strand Theater, December 26, 1860 according to Pickering's Encyclopaedia of Pantomime.
20. A view taken by Alison Lurie and Justin Schiller in Classics of Children's Literature, 1621-1932.
21. Cole's Home Treasury series began in 1843 but the volume with "Cinderella" is dated 1859.
22. While Dickens helped develop a new type of literary fairy tale as an indictment of industrial society, he was also a protector of traditional tales. Zipes suggests he had personal as well as political reasons—fairy tales were a consolation in his sad childhood (Victorian Fairy Tales xx-xxi). Harry Stone studies Dickens's relationship to fairy tales in Dickens and the Invisible World.
Dickens's objections may have been as much artistic as anything. Cruikshank was a consummate illustrator, but his sermonizing in the text was extremely crude.
23. Cruikshank forged ahead with Cinderella. He neither idealized the heroine nor parodied the sisters in his etchings, but continued teetotaling in the text, defending himself with "Notice to the Public" at the end of the book. Their friendship never recovered.
24. Among them, Cole's and Crane's versions, and the Cassell and Ward editions. Rackham includes it, however.
25. The priestess-like figure from early pantomime style versions disappears quickly, and at mid-century some editions leave the godmother out of the imagery altogether, putting the focus on Cinderella and the social realm. Those illustrators who interpret her afresh show an angel, a fairy, or an ancient dame with a wimple.
Powerful women as positive agents are not common in nineteenth-century imagery, except where their power involves sacrifice—Joan of Arc, for instance. Dangerous women like Morgan le Fay, and the femme fatale type grow popular toward the end of the century, but the original model for the godmother—the précieuse—is absent from the scene.
For fairy interpretations see the edition illustrated by "M. J. R." and published by Addey & Co. around mid-century, as well as Crane's toybook edition; the Routledge toybook shows an ancient dame in medieval settings.
26. I am grateful to Will Vaughan for his suggestions regarding the social appeal of Perrault's story for a Victorian audience.
Bibliography of Folk and Fairy Tales
[Arranged chronologically; editions designated V&A are in the National Art Library, BL in the British Library.]
Perrault, Charles. Contes de Ma Mère l'Oye, Histoires ou Contes du Temps Passé (Par le Fils de Monsieur Perreault). Paris: 1698. (BL C.57.a.20).
d'Aulnoy, Marie-Catherine, Countess. A Collection of novels and tales, written by that celebrated wit of France, the Countess d'Anois. London: W. Taylor and W. Chetwood, 1721.
Perrault, Charles. Histories, or Tales of Passed Times … With Morals. By M. Perrault. Translated into English. London: J. Pote + R. Montagu, 1729.
Perrault, Charles. Stories or Tales of passed times, with morals. Written in French by M. Perrault, and Englished by R. S. Gent. [Trans. Robert Samber] The Second Edition, Corrected. Trans. Robert Samber. London: R. Montague & J. Pote, 1737.
Perrault, Charles. Tales of passed times by Mother Goose. With Morals. Written in French by M. Perrault, and Englished by R. S. Gent. To which is added a new one, viz. The Discreet Princess. Trans. G. Miege. London: printed for T. Boosay, 1796.
The Choice Gift: Containing the Story of Princess Fair-Start, and Prince Cherry and Cinderella … Dublin: Wm Jones, 1775-99. (V&A Renier MB.CHOG.JO0).
Cinderilla: or, The Little Glass Slipper. London: G. Thompson, November 22, 1804. (V&A 60.Z.497 (g)).
Cinderella; or, The Little Glass Slipper. London: John Evans, [c. 1810, n.d.]. (BL CH. 800/276 (6)).
The Interesting Story of Cinderella and Her Glass Slipper. Ill. George Cruikshank [?]. Banbury: J. G. Rusher, [c. 1814, n.d.]. (V&A M.B.CIND RU0).
Cinderella; or, the Little Glass Slipper. London: New Juvenile Library, 1816. (BL 12202.aa.26).
Adventures of the Beautiful Little Maid Cinderilla; or, the History of a Glass Slipper: To Which is Added an Historical Description of the Cat. York: J. Kendrew, c. 1820. (V&A Renier MB.CIND.KE.10).
Cinderella, or, the Little Glass Slipper. Glasgow: William Gage [c. 1825-40, n.d.]. (V&A MB.CIND.GA0).
Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. German Popular Stories. Trans. Edgar Taylor. vol. 2. London: J. Robins, 1826.
Cinderella; or, the Little Glass Slipper. London: John Harris, [c. 1828, n.d.]. (BL 012806 ee. 31. (1). Fac. ed. London: Scolar P, 1977.
Cinderella; or, the Little Glass Slipper … a New Edition, Corrected, and Adapted for Juvenile Readers By a Lady. London: Dean and Munday, [c. 1820-40, n.d.]. (V&A Renier ren.coll.O).
Contes de Perrault. Ed. Paul L. Jacob. Ill. N. Thomas. Paris: L. Mame, 1836. (BL 12430.g.13).
Cinderella; Or, The Little Glass Slipper. Edinburgh: William Gage, [c. 1840, n.d.]. (V&A MB.CIND. TU0).
The History of Cinderella. England: Otley, 1840 [?]. (V&A Renier MB.CIND.YO0).
Basile, Giambattista. The Pentamerone, or the Story of Stories, Fun for the Little Ones. Tran. J. E. Taylor. London, 1847.
The History of Cinderella and the Little Glass Slipper. London: W. S. Johnson, [c 1850, n.d.]. (V&A Renier EC.CIND.18505.JO0).
Contes des Fées. Paris: Chez Aubert, 1850. (V&A 60.A.63).
History of Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper. New And Improved Series No. 45. Glasgow: n.p., 1852. (V&A 60.R.Box 11 vii).
Cinderella or the Little Glass Slipper. Ill. "M. J. R." London: Addey and Co., 1852. (BL 12806. g. 12).
Cruikshank, George. Cinderella and the Glass Slipper. Edited and Illustrated with Ten Subjects, Designed and Etched on Steel by G. Cruikshank. G. Cruikshank's Fairy Library. London: D. Bogue, 1854. (V&A 60.X.163).
Corner, Julia. Cinderella and the Glass Slipper, or, Pride Punished. An Entertainment for Young People. By Miss Corner, and Embellished by Alfred Crowquill, Esq. [Ill. E. H. Forrester]. London: Dean & Son, 1854. (V&A 60 F. 122).
D'Aulnoy, Marie Catherine, Countess (also La Mothe). Fairy Tales by the Countess D'Aulnoy. Trans. J. R. Planché. London: 1855.
Mavor, Aunt. Cin-der-ella and the Lit-tle Glass Slipper. London: G. Routledge & Co., [c 1855- 60, n.d.]. (V&A 60.R. Box 5).
Summerly, Felix [Sir Henry Cole]. "Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper." The Home Treasury of Old Story Books. Ill. J. Absolon. London: Sampson Low, Son, and Co., 1859. (V&A 60.X.122).
Les Contes de Perrault. Illus. Gustave Doré. Paris: J. Hetzel, 1867.
Cinderella; or the Little Glass Slipper. Cassell's Fairy Story Books. London: Cassell, Petter & Galpin, [c. 1869, n.d.]. (V&A 60.y.154).
Cinderella; or the Little Glass Slipper. Routledge's Shilling Toy Books. London: G. Routledge, [c. 1870, n.d.]. (V&A 60.W.274).
Crane, Walter. Cinderella. Walter Crane's Toybooks. London: G. Routledge & Sons, 1873. (V&A 60.R.Box XIV (viii)).
The Cinderella Nursery Story Book. London: Ward, Lock & Co., 1878. (BL 128 œ08.d.9).
Valentine, Laura. Aunt Louisa's Favourite Toy Book. Ill. Harrison Weir and W. Gunston. London: Warne, 1878. (V&A Renier B.LB.WARN.1878).
Seccombe, Thomas Strong. The Good Old Story of Cinderella Re-told in Rhyme … Ill. Thomas Seccombe. London: F. Warne, 1882. (BL 12810.d.14).
Cuentos de Hadas por Carlos Perrault. Barcelona: Libreria de Juan y Antoni Bastinos, 1883. (BL 1609/1961).
The Surprising Adventures of Cinderella. Ill. W. Gibbons. London and Sydney: Griffith, Farrar, Okden & Welsh, 1889. (BL 12800. f. 45/7).
Basile, Giambattista. The Pentameron. Trans. Richard Burton. 2 vols. London, 1893.
Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper. Banbury Cross Series. Ed. Grace Rhys. Ill. Robert Anning Bell. London: J. M. Dent, 1894. (BL 012808.ee.51).
Les Contes de Perrault. Ed. Henri Laurens. Ill. H. Gerbault. Paris: Librairie Renouard, 1898. (BL 12430.l.28).
Cinderella. Ill. W. G. Miller. London and Glasgow: W. Collins Sons & Co., 1903. (BL 12812.c.12).
The Old Nursery Stories and Rhymes. Ill. John Hassall. N.p.: Blackie & Son Ltd., c. 1904. (BL 12812.c.41).
Sowerby, Millicent. Cinderella. London: Humphry Milford, [c. 1910-15]. (V&A 60.cc.39).
Evans, C. S. Cinderella. Ill. Arthur Rackham. London: W. Heinemann, 1919. (BL 12410.r.5).
Basile, Giambattista. The Pentamerone of Giambattista Basile. Trans. Benedetto Croce. Ed. and Trans. N. M. Penzer. Vol. 1. London: John Lane, 1932.
Bettelheim, Bruno. The Uses of Enchantment. New York: Knopf, 1976.
Canepa, Nancy L. From Court to Forest. Giambattista Basile's Lo Cunto de li Cunti and the Birth of the Literary Fairy Tale. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1999.
Cowling, Mary. The Artist as Anthropologist. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989.
Cox, Marian Roalfe. Cinderella: Three Hundred and Forty-five Variants. Publications of the Folk-lore Society (no. 31). London, 1893.
Dickens, Charles. Household Words 184. 1 Oct. 1853: 97-100.
Hartnoll, Phyllis, ed. The Oxford Companion to the Theatre. 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1983.
Hollington, Michael. "Dickens, ‘Phiz’ and Physiognomy." Imagination on a Long Rein, English Literature Illustrated. Ed. Joachim Möller. Marburg: Jonas, 1988. 125-35.
Knoepflmacher, U. C. "Repudiating ‘Sleeping Beauty’." Girls, Boys, Books, Toys: Gender in Children's Literature. Ed. Beverly Lyon Clark and Margaret R. Higonnet. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1999. 11-24.
Levine, Philippa. Victorian Feminism 1850-1900. London: Hutchinson Education, 1987.
Lurie, Alison, and Justin Schiller. Classics of Children's Literature, 1621-1932. New York: n.p., 1977.
Maas, Jeremy, Charlotte Gere, et al. Victorian Fairy Painting. London: Royal Academy of Arts, in association with Merrell Holbertson Publishers, 1997.
McLaren, Angus. "Phrenology: Medium and Message." Journal of Modern History 46.1 (Mar. 1974): 86-97.
Nead, Lynda. Myths of Sexuality: Representations of Women in Victorian Britain. London: B. Blackwell, 1988.
O'Malley, Andrew. "The Coach and Six: Chapbook Residue in Late Eighteenth-Century Children's Literature." The Lion and the Unicorn 24.1 (Jan. 2000): 18-44.
Opie, Iona, and Peter Opie. The Classic Fairy Tales. Oxford: Book Club Associates by arrangement with Oxford UP, 1992.
Patmore, Coventry. The Poems of Coventry Patmore. Ed. Frederick Page. London: Oxford UP, 1949.
Pearson, Edwin. Banbury Chap Books. London, 1890.
Philip, Neil. The Cinderella Story. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1989.
Pickering, David, ed. Encyclopaedia of Pantomime. Andover: Gale Research, 1993.
Program of the Overture & Songs to the Allegorical Pantomimic SPECTACLE. London: Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 1804.
Propp, Vladimir Y. Morphology of the Folktale. Trans. L. Scott. 2nd ed. Austin: U of Texas P, 1968.
Ruskin, John. "Fairy Stories." Ed. Lance Salway. Signal (May 1972): 81-86.
Stone, Harry. Dickens and the Invisible World. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1978.
Thompson, Dorothy. "Women, Work, and Politics in Nineteenth-Century England: The Problem of Authority." Equal or Different: Women's Politics 1800-1914. Ed. Jane Rendall. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987.
Ting, Nai-Tung. The Cinderella Cycle in China and Indo-China. F. F. Communications no. 213. Helsinki: Suomalainen, 1974.
Trimmer, Sarah. The Guardian of Education. 5 vols. London: J. Johnson, 1801-05.
Vaughan, William. "Incongruous Disciples: The Pre-Raphaelites and the Moxon Tennyson." Imagination on a Long Rein, English Literature Illustrated. Ed. Joachim Möller. Marburg: Jonas, 1988. 148-60.
Warner, Marina. From the Beast to the Blond. London: Vintage, 1995.
Weitzmann, Kurt. Illustrations in Roll and Codex. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1947.
Whalley, Irene. "The Cinderella Story." Signal: Approaches to Children's Books (May 1972): 49-62.
Whalley, Joyce, and Tessa Chester. A History of Children's Book Illustration. London: Murray, 1988.
Woolley, Benjamin. Virtual Worlds: A Journey in Hype and Hyperreality. Oxford: Blackwell, 1992.
Zipes, Jack David. Beauties, Beasts, and Enchantment: Classic French Fairy Tales. New York: New American Library, 1989.
———. Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion: The Classical Genre for Children and the Process of Civilization. New York: Wildman Press, 1983.
———. The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000.
———. Victorian Fairy Tales: The Revolt of the Fairies and Elves. New York: Methuen, 1987.
"LE PETIT CHAPERON ROUGE" (1697; "LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD")
Bill Delaney (essay date winter 2006)
SOURCE: Delaney, Bill. "Perrault's Little Red Riding Hood." Explicator 64, no. 2 (winter 2006): 69-71.
[In the following essay, Delaney traces the literary origins of Perrault's version of "Little Red Riding Hood."]
"Little Red Riding Hood" began as an oral folk tale and continued to be told to children for centuries before being published in a French version by Charles Perrault in 1697, and then in 1812 in the German version by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
Over the years, scholars have piled an entire cosmos of meanings on this small girl's shoulders. Some call her tale a seasonal myth, an allegory of the sun swallowed by night, or the personification of Good triumphing over Evil. Her basket of wine and cakes, it's said, represents Christian Communion; her red cape stands for menstrual blood. Some see the tale in Freudian terms as the Ego overcome by the Id; others see it as symbolic of the relationship between Man and Woman. And inevitably the tale has been a vehicle for imparting sexual ethics in keeping with the social fabric of the times. Tellers have consciously and subconsciously manipulated the plot to portray a seduction by a temptress, the rape of a virgin or the passage of a young girl into womanhood.1
It is hard to believe that the anonymous creator of the tale would have had the slightest notion of what Freudians, Jungians, anthropologists, deconstructionists, and others have read into it. The story is worth examining because it reveals the genius of the original storyteller. It is noteworthy that Catherine Orenstein assumes that Perrault's version "must be a truncated, fragmentary version of the original oral tale."2 The same applies to the version by the brothers Grimm because it was derived from Perrault.3
Much has been made of the fact that the little girl wears a red riding hood. This is undoubtedly because it seems odd that a peasant child whose wardrobe is probably limited to one faded dress should own such a luxury garment as a cloak intended to be worn for riding. Her mother would be lucky to own a cow, much less a horse. No father is mentioned. We suspect that this is an exceptionally poor family. It is highly unlikely that, as Perrault suggests, her mother would have made her daughter such a garment. The mother would have made something more practical if she had had the material to make anything at all. More probably in the original oral version, the little girl was given the red riding hood by some local Lady Bountiful whose daughter had outgrown it, and the little girl wears it all the time because she has never owned anything so beautiful before. When she wears the garment she probably fantasizes that she is rich and is riding her very own pony.
In analyzing a story, as in analyzing a dream, it is often the most incongruous element that can be the most revealing. The most incongruous element here is the fact that a little peasant girl who might not even own a pair of shoes, nevertheless, owns a scarlet hooded cloak, possibly lined with silk. If the red riding hood symbolizes anything, it suggests that the girl lives in a fantasy world, which explains why she does not hear her mother when she is told to go straight to her grandmother's house and not to talk to strangers.
The story is called "Little Red Riding Hood," and the little girl is called Little Red Riding Hood because she wears that famous garment all the time. It is extremely important to note that her name is certainly not Little Red Riding Hood. She is called Little Red Riding Hood by those who know her, and this name keeps appearing in the story from the title to the last scene in the story. We can assume that no one outside her immediate circle knows her unusual nickname. When she meets the wolf in the forest, it is natural for him to ask her name. In trying to start a conversation with a small child we still ask, "What's your name?" and "How old are you?" The wolf obviously could not know her or her nickname, although both Perrault and the brothers Grimm take it for granted that he does. The fact that she does not recognize the wolf as a wolf proves they have never met before. Furthermore, if they had met before, he probably would have eaten her on the spot, and there would have been no story, or at least a different story.
The little girl has been cautioned not to talk to strangers, but she has not really listened because she lives in a fantasy world in which she is a rich girl riding her own pony. She naïvely tells the wolf that she is called Little Red Riding Hood. With this information, the wolf hurries off to the grandmother's house while the little girl, who did not hear her mother's other piece of advice, "amused herself by gathering nuts, running after the butterflies, and making nosegays of the wild flowers which she found."4 This, of course, gives the wolf plenty of time to get to the grandmother's cottage where what transpired is well known.
An old woman who lives all alone in a forest inhabited by wolves is likely to be frightened and suspicious. When the wolf knocks at her door, her dialogue writes itself—which is another aspect of the genius of the original storyteller, quite probably a grandmother herself. The timid old lady asks, "Who's there?" Because the little girl has given the stranger a vital piece of information, the wolf easily gains entrance. He disguises his voice and says, "It is your granddaughter, Little Red Riding Hood." The nickname acts like a secret password, as the grandmother naturally assumes that no stranger would know it. The words "Little Red Riding Hood" take on an ominous tone which should send chills down the spines of children listening to the tale.
Thus, the little red riding hood and the nickname Little Red Riding Hood are a brilliant device to impress the hearer with the principal moral of the tale: Do not talk to strangers because you never know what you might say that can be used against you. Many grownups have learned to their regret that it is not only children who need to be reminded of this moral.
Now, as then, 'tis simple truth—
Sweetest tongue has sharpest tooth!5
1. Catherine Orenstein, Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale (New York: Basic, 2002) 4.
2. Orenstein 3.
3. Orenstein 3.
4. Charles Perrault, "Little Red Riding Hood," Little Red Riding Hood: A Casebook, ed. Alan Dundes (Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1989) 5.
5. Perrault, "Little Red Riding Hood," Orenstein 19.
Dundes, Alan, ed. Little Red Riding Hood: A Casebook. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1989.
Grimm, Jacob, and Wilhelm. The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. Trans. Jack Zipes. New York: Bantam, 1987.
Orenstein, Catherine. Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale. New York: Basic, 2002.
Perrault, Charles. Perrault's Complete Fairy Tales. Trans. A. E. Johnson. Harmondsworth, Eng.: Kestrel, 1962.
CINDERELLA: AND OTHER TALES FROM PERRAULT (1989)
Karen Little (review date February 1990)
SOURCE: Little, Karen. Review of Cinderella: And Other Tales from Perrault, by Charles Perrault, illustrated by Michael Hague. School Library Journal 36, no. 2 (February 1990): 84.
Gr. 1-4—In these eight familiar tales, [Cinderella: And Other Tales from Perrault, ] the uncredited translations follow the French closely, except for a few deleted passages, retaining much of the formal, literary style of the originals. Each tale bears an emblematic title page and one or two full-page paintings illustrating standard moments: the Prince discovers the Sleeping Beauty, a simpering Red Riding Hood meets the wolf in the wood, Master Cat confronts the Ogre, Cinderella flees down the palace steps. The ink and watercolor paintings bear Hague's trademarks: the rich dusky palette filling the page, the misshapen figures and their placement in the foreground, and a tendency to overembellish, in this case with a repeated stylized floral border whose bright color and crisp style clash with the romanticized pictures.
CINDERELLA, PUSS IN BOOTS, AND OTHER FAVORITE TALES (2000)
Nina Lindsay (review date August 2000)
SOURCE: Lindsay, Nina. Review of Cinderella, Puss in Boots, and Other Favorite Tales, by Charles Perrault, translated by A. E. Johnson. School Library Journal 46, no. 8 (August 2000): 174-75.
K-Gr. 4—New translations of often-adapted Perrault tales, first published in 1697 as Histoires ou contes du temps passé avec des moralités. [In Cinderella, Puss in Boots, and Other Favorite Tales, ] Johnson provides a fresh look at "Little Red Riding Hood," "The Fairies" (also known as "Diamonds and Toads" ), "Puss in Boots," "Blue Beard," "Cinderella," "Ricky of the Tuft," "The Sleeping Beauty," and "Little Tom Thumb." Children may have forgotten, or may never have known, that Little Red Riding Hood gets eaten by the wolf and that Sleeping Beauty's awakening is only the beginning of her story. Perrault's morals in verse also allow readers to rethink the tales. Each story is illustrated by a different French artist on partial spreads and in spot art on every page. The large text and use of white space add to the sense of elegance in the design. A short introduction lends some context to the translation, although John Bierhorst's The Glass Slipper: Charles Perrault's Tales from Times Past (Four Winds, 1981; o.p.) provides a much more intriguing and informative afterword and bibliography. As it contains the same eight tales, libraries that already own that book may not need this new one even though it is colorful and enticing. Libraries without such a collection should easily find use for this bright new translation of long-ago stories.
April Spisak (review date December 2005)
SOURCE: Spisak, April. Review of Cinderella, by Charles Perrault, retold and illustrated by Barbara McClintock. Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 59, no. 4 (December 2005): 197.
McClintock's adaptation of Cinderella is faithful to the Charles Perrault version of the tale: Cinderella is dutifully principled: she obeys her elders, resists the temptation to respond unkindly to the cruelties of her stepfamily, and forgives all (even playing matchmaker for her stepsisters) after her virtue is rewarded with the requisite happy ending. However, this is not an exact replication, and distinctive touches abound in the text and illustrations: the fairy godmother's outburst of "Foomus Baloomus" is an unexpected magic phrase, and McClintock's own cat Pip puts in an appearance on almost every page. The art is reminiscent of the era of Kate Greenaway, Walter Crane, and Randolph Caldecott, brimming with old-fashioned charm. Exquisite details in the illustrations draw from historical Paris with extravagantly opulent costumes, stunning castles, and the quiet tree-lined streets of the middle class. The divergent lives of Cinderella and her stepfamily are established through the judicious use of white space that literally shrinks the world of the beleaguered heroine and contrasts with double-page spreads that draw from an elegantly colorful palette to portray the world of the privileged nobility. Cinderella has been adapted and retold around the world for hundreds of years, but the sumptuous artwork, elegant retelling, and reliable source references make this notable version a necessary purchase.
Beckett, Sandra L. "Recycling Red Riding Hood in the Americas." In Interdisciplinary and Cross-Cultural Narratives in North America, edited by Mark Cronlund Anderson and Irene Maria F. Blayer, pp. 7-28. New York: Peter Lang, 2005.
Assesses Perrault's influence on the history of the "Little Red Riding Hood" fairy tale.
Johnson, Sharon P. "The Toleration and Erotization of Rape: Interpreting Charles Perrault's ‘Le Petit chaperon rouge’ within Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century French Jurisprudence." Women's Studies 32, no. 3 (April-May 2003): 325-52.
Analyzes "Le Petit chaperon rouge" from a philosophical perspective.
Koch, E. R. Review of Seeing through the Mother Goose Tales: Visual Turns in the Writings of Charles Perrault, by Philip Lewis. Choice 34, no. 8 (April 1997): 1344.
Lauds Philip Lewis's book as "a landmark work that presents both a new vision of 17th-century intellectual history and also important new readings of Perrault's tales."
Menninghaus, Winfried. In Praise of Nonsense: Kant and Bluebeard, translated by Henry Pickford. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999, 257 p.
Explores arabesque and nonsensical imagery in Perrault's "Bluebeard."
Roth, Elizabeth Elam. "From the Beautiful to the Sublime: Postmodern Transformation in The Sleeping Beauty." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 23, no. 4 (winter 1998-99): 210-13.
Examines a Royal Ballet Company production of The Sleeping Beauty designed by Maria Bjørnson.
Ruddick, Nicholas. "‘Not So Very Blue, After All’: Resisting the Temptation to Correct Charles Perrault's ‘Bluebeard.’" Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 15, no. 4 (2004): 346-57.
Discusses Perrault's "Bluebeard" in the context of seventeenth-century French literature.
Additional coverage of Perrault's life and career is contained in the following sources published by Gale: Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults, Vol. 4; Children's Literature Review, Vol. 79; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 268; Guide to French Literature, Beginnings to 1789; Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800, Vols. 2, 56; Literature Resource Center; Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults, Eds. 1, 2; Reference Guide to World Literature, Eds. 2, 3; Something about the Author, Vol. 25; and Writers for Children.
"Charles Perrault." Children's Literature Review. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 16, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/children/academic-and-educational-journals/charles-perrault
"Charles Perrault." Children's Literature Review. . Retrieved November 16, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/children/academic-and-educational-journals/charles-perrault
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