Each week, I plan on reviewing a different one of Madame D’Aulnoy’s fairy tales. I will provide a summary, a writing sample (to give an idea of the writing style) and an analysis for each tale. This week I will be presenting and discussing one of Madame D’Aulnoy’s most well-known fairytales, “L’Oranger et l’Abeille” (The Bee and the Orange Tree.) In addition, I will be sharing an insightful article by Anne E. Dugan that examines the relationship between nature, culture, and feminist theory as they appear in this fairy tale. When I read the story, I was surprised to see that it was a good 35 pages, much longer than most of the works that are well-known today, from authors such as Perrault or the Brothers Grimm. I had read that the salonnières, Madame D’aulnoy in particular, wrote in an elaborate, baroque style that was at the same time conversational, and those qualities are certainly present in this work. Anyway, here is a summary of “L’Oranger et l’Abeille.”
The story begins when a newborn princess, whose family adores her so much that they name her Aimée (beloved), is shipwrecked after a violent storm interrupts a leisurely family boat ride. She is raised by a pair of evil, man-eating ogres, Tourmantine and Ravagio, who decide to raise her as a future bride for their son rather than eat her. Despite her upbringing, Aimée is far kinder and more sensitive than her adoptive family and displays much better taste. She often rescues stray sailors from being eaten by the ogres. Meanwhile, after searching for their daughter for 15 years, Aimée’s original parents give up and send to have the princess’s cousin Aimé sent to their island to become the heir to the throne of l’Île Heureuse. On the way over, he too is caught in a storm and finds himself stranded on the Ogres’ island, where he is rescued by Aimée. She keeps him hidden and hunts and gathers food for him. They quickly fall in love, although they have no language in common, and the prince recognizes from a locket around Aimée’s neck that she is the long lost princess of l’Île Heureuse.
Meanwhile, the Ogres Tormentine and Ravagio have arranged for Aimée to marry their oldest son. Aimée is disgusted at the thought of marrying the young orgre and is especially averse to the idea now that she has pledged her love to the prince. Shortly before the wedding, Ravagio finds and captures the prince and is about to eat him when Aimée intervenes. She convinces Ravagio that Aimé would be the perfect dish to serve at her wedding and that he should be placed in her custody so that she may fatten him up. Ravagio concedes, but Aimée worries that he will not be able to resist temptation should he get hungry during the night. While everyone else is asleep, she removes the crown from one of the ogre children and places it on Aimé’s head. Sure enough, Ravagio gets up for a midnight snack, but he accidentally eats one of his own sons. Aimée plays the same trick the next night, and Tourmantine is fooled into eating another one of her children. On the morning of the third night, the ogres wake up to see that the two lovers have fled.
Ravagio puts on his seven league boots to chase after them. Meanwhile, Aimée has stolen Tourmentine’s magic wand and granted herself the ability to speak French, so that she and Aimé can finally speak. When she sees Ravagio coming, she turns a camel that she has stolen from the ogres in to a lake, Aimé into a boat, and herself into a boatwoman. Ravagio is fooled by their disguise and returns empty handed to an angry Tourmentine. Aimée decieves Ravagio a second time when she turns the camel into a pillar, Aimé into a portrait, and herself into dwarf. Tourmentine, annoyed at her husband’s gullibility, goes off in search of the couple herself. This time, Aimée turns the camel into a box, Aimé into an orange tree and herself into a bee, and then proceeds to sting Tourmantine until she flees. Unfortunately, a passerby sees the magic wand on the ground and carries it away, leaving the lovers stuck in there current forms. Although they are devastated, Aimée and Aimé pledge that they will remain lovers. Aimé promises to provide the princess with sweet nectar, and she promises to protect him from harm.
Not far from the tree lives a princess named Linda who does not trust men and will not allow them in her palace. She comes upon the orange tree one day and tries to transplant it to her garden, but Aimée stings her. She snaps off a branch to defend herself, and human blood pours from the breakage point. Terrified, she calls on a group of fairies to examine the tree. Queen Trusio, the head faerie, arrives and turns the bee and the orange tree back into their original forms. Trusio takes them to l’Île Heureuse, where they marry and rule over the island.
A Writing Sample
« Elle s’était fait un habit de peau de tigre; ses bras étaient demi-nus; elle portait un carquois et des flèches sur son épaule, un arc à sa ceinture; ses cheveux blonds n’étaient attachés qu’avec un cordon de jonc marin, et flottaient au gré du vent sur sa gorge et sur son dos : elle avait aussi des brodequins du même jonc: en cet équipage elle traversait les bois comme une seconde Diane, et elle n’aurait point su qu’elle était belle, si le cristal des fontaines ne lui avait pas offert d’innocents miroirs, où ses yeux s’attachaient sans la rendre ni plus vaine, ni plus prévenue en sa faveur; le soleil faisait sur son teint l’effet qu’il produit sur la cire. Il le blanchissait, et l’air de la mer ne le pouvait noircir. Elle ne mangeait jamais que ce qu’elle prenait à la chasse ou à la pêche; et sur ce prétexte elle s’éloignait souvent de la terrible caverne, pour s’ôter la vue des plus difformes objets qui fussent dans la nature. «Ciel, disait-elle en versant des larmes, que t’ai-je fait pour m’avoir destinée à ce cruel ogrelet ! Que ne me laissais-tu périr dans la mer? Pourquoi m’as-tu conservé une vie que je dois passer d’une manière si déplorable? N’auras-tu pas quelque compassion de ma douleur?» Elle s’adressait ainsi aux dieux, et leur demandait du secours. »
She had made herself a dress of tiger skin; her arms were half-naked; she carried a quiver of arrows on her shoulder, a bow on her belt; her blond hair were attached only with a piece of seaweed, and floated at will in the wind all over her neck and back: her sandals were made of seaweed as well: in that get-up she walked through the forest like a second Diana, and she would have known she was beautiful, had the crystal waters not offered her a mirror, where she gazed without becoming more vain or inclined to admire her beauty; the sun affected her complexion as it does wax. It whitened it, and the sea air could not darken it. She only ate what she could capture when hunting or fishing; and on this pretext she often left the awful cavern to spare herself the sight of natures most hideous sights. “Heaven,” she said as she shed tears, “What have I done so that you have destined me for this cruel little ogre? Why did you not leave me to die in the sea? Why did you save my life only to let it pass so wretchedly? Have you no compassion for my sorrow?” She would plead to the gods likewise, asking for their help.