I spent the past two weeks reading over my old blog posts and trying to select the most notable ideas from which I could develop a thesis for my paper. I had trouble discerning any major ideas at first, because I found that there were no absolute statements that I could make about Madame D’Aulnoy’s writing. Continue reading
According to the Independent Seminar, one of the things I need for a successful final project is an authentic audience. To be honest, I have not given much thought to who my audience will be. The topic that I am researching is rather specialized and tailored to my own interested, which presents the challenge of finding a sizeable audience. I doubt very many people at Westtown would be especially enthusiastic about listening to me speak about an obscure group of fairytale authors from the 1600’s. However, I would consider doing an oral/visual presentation for the French 4 and 5 classes here at Westtown. French students’ linguistic knowledge grants them access to a wide variety of literature, film, music, and theatre, and my hope is that presenting my research to other French students will give them an example of the vast cultural resources that are available to them.
I was discussing this issue with my parents, and my father suggested that I collaborate with other French students to make video versions of a few fairytales. For example, I could adapt, “The Bee and the Orange Tree” into a 5 minute mini-film by writing a script in French and acting it out with some French students. I could make arrangements with their teachers to have the project be extra-credit for any students who participate.
Carrying out this idea would obviously entail a good deal of extra work and planning, and I would have to start planning right away. I would have to communicate with T. Dennis and T. Gary before break. I would have to find a camera and students willing to participate. These students would be mostly juniors and seniors and are bound to have a lot on their plate already. I would also have to balance all of this extra work on top of the paper that I am writing. For these reasons, I am afraid that any plans to make video adaptations of the fairytales could easily fall apart.
Video or no video, I want to present my research in way that will get the students interested and engaged. ‘After all,’ I asked myself, ‘Why should they care?’ The minute I asked my self this question I knew that not only will l have to answer it in order to create an interesting presentation, but to come up with a strong thesis for my paper. The real questions at stake are ‘Why should we care? What is it exactly about this topic that has been so exciting and fulfilling to me? What should my audience and I take away from all of this new information?’ If I can answer these questions, I can find a topic for my paper and develop a solid thesis.
Due to an upcoming a dance concert and several major projects, my research is going to be rather light this week. Instead of doing in –depth research on a new topic, I will be revisiting my past blog posts in order to determine what the most prominent themes are among the things I have been studying. Certain themes that have already stood out to me include the fairy as a symbol of female power and wisdom, the blurring of gender roles, and the relationship between nature and culture as it relates to mondain women. Continue reading
When Madame D’Aulnoy and her contemporaries began composing fairytales, the discussion of femininity and women’s behavior was ubiquitous in France and Greater Europe. The fin du siècle was marked by an effort to define “the woman” and her place in society. Known as the “grand renfermement,” this period saw the rise of moralist writings such as Satire X concerning the education as well as the public and domestic responsibilities of the female gender. Many writers exalted motherhood, claiming that a woman’s domestic duties were ordained by God, while rebuking the worldly mondain woman. As became increasingly active in intellectual spheres, scrutiny on their morals and duties intensified. Continue reading
Thus far I have been enjoying my work very much. When I first designed this project, all I knew was that I wanted to study some aspect of French fairytales. I was not aware of Madame d’Aulnoy or other salonnières, and I feel very fortunate to have fallen upon their work. Although very few people have written in depth about these women an their work, the scholarship of those who have is quite extensive and there are diverse perspectives and interpretations among this small community of scholars. Continue reading
I have spent the last few weeks looking at the female characters in Madame d’Aulnoy’s fairytales. This week, I have been examining her treatment of the male characters, nearly all of whom take on roles traditionally associated with male power (kings, princes, fathers, husbands, suitors, etc…). These figures are ubiquitous in folklore and often appear as the wise old king or the classic Prince Charming, but the men of the 17th century conte des fées are much more complex. Continue reading
I have been writing for the past few weeks about the feminist narratives of 17th century salonnière Madame d’Aulnoy’s fairytales and the use of storytelling for female empowerment. At the intersection of fairytales and feminism we inevitably fall upon the issue of marriage. In 17th century France, the institution of marriage constituted a reference point in the formation of a model for female behavior. Consequently, marriage was often at the center of popular folklore, used as a means of closure and the key to every ‘happily ever after.” It is therefore imperative to our study of the feminist fairytale to examine the conteuses’ position on love and marriage. Continue reading
I have mentioned several times in my previous posts the important role that fairies play in the work of the salonnières. Although we now almost always use the term “fairytale” when talking about folklore, fairies were a rare presence in storytelling until the conteuses began telling and recording folktales. Introducing the term “conte de fées” to 17th century French salon life, many salonnières wrote about magic-wielding fairies who guide and counsel the protagonist throughout the story. Fairies in French contes de fées were often maternal figures, providing the loving protection and care that one tends to associate with motherhood. Despite taking on a motherly disposition, these fairies resist the identity of the “wife.” In 17th century Europe, the roles of “mother” and “wife” were very much intertwined and virtually inseparable. Yet the fairies in the salonnières’ tales seem to exist in a realm separate from the conventions of French court life and have no attachment to a male power figure as women were expected to. They are at once both free from society and actively involved it, representing the nurturing, protective elements of motherhood without representing domesticity.
Fairies in Madame D’Aulnoy’s stories took on a variety of duties: upholding morality and disguising themselves to test a character’s virtue, acting as midwives and blessing (or cursing) newborn babies, granting wishes, bestowing powers, and simply offering advice. The stories feature both good and evil fairies, but the one thing the good fairies almost all have in common is that they help other women. The Prince Charming/Damsel in Distress theme is rarely present in the works of the conteuses. Rather, these stories frequently feature women helping women. This week, I thought I would present a few of my favorite fairies that I have encountered so far. Here they are!
La Fée Protectrice (The Fairy Protectress) –
In \ “Le Serpent Vert”(The Green Serpent), which is loosely modeled after the Greek myth “Eros and Psyche,” the Fairy Protectress comes to the aid of a princess who has found herself enslaved by the evil fairy Magotine. Magotine has cursed Princess Laideronette (Laide means “ugly” in French) at birth, condemning her to be ugly. She has also cursed a handsome prince, turning him into a hideous serpent. One day the serpent rescues the princess from drowning during a hurricane and takes her to his castle to make her his wife. He gives her everything she could ask for under the one condition that she may never lay eyes on him. When she grows curious and breaks her promise, the serpent is sent down to Hades while Laideronnette must work for Magotine. The invisible Fairy Protectress has been watching over the princess and helps her to complete Magotines impossible spinning tasks and to find and retrieve the “water of discretion” which she uses to restore her beauty and to revive the serpent from Hades and restore him to his human form.
In “La Bonne Petite Souris” (The Good Little Mouse), A pregnant queen finds herself imprisoned when a rival king kills her husband and locks her in a dungeon with her unborn daughter. A fairy notices the queen’s plight and takes the form of a mouse to test her goodness. Although she receives only three peas to eat a day, the queen always gives one to the little mouse who resides in her cell. One day, the fairy takes the form of an old woman and asks the queen to give her the mouse to eat, but the queen refuses. Impressed by the queen’s virtue, the fairy reveals her true form when the child is born, and offers to take care of the baby. As the fairy lowers the child out of the cell in a basket, the child is kidnapped. Meanwhile the evil king sends for the queen to hand over her baby. When the queen tells him that a fairy has taken it, he arranges to have her hanged, but the fairy makes her invisible and helps her escape. Fifteen years later, the fairy encounters a beautiful young turkeyherd named Joliette who must marry an ugly prince. The fairy speaks with her and recognizes her as the queen’s long-lost daughter. She dresses the girl in fine clothing and takes her back to the king’s castle. When the princess refuses to marry the king’s son, he locks her in a tower. The fairy becomes a mouse once again and sneaks into the king’s bedroom. She bites the king and his soldiers, throwing them into a fit of rage in which they all kill one another. She proceeds to rescue princess Joliette and make her the new queen.
La Fée Dormante (The Sleeping Fairy)–In the story “Fortunée” (The Fortunate One), the fairy both helps and receives help from a prince and an princess and arranges for them toA king forces his ugly son to find an ugly princess to marry, and when he refuses, the king locks him in a tower. He discovers a sleeping woman in one of the rooms of the tower, and an eagle brings him a golden branch and tells him to tap the woman with it. He does so and she awakes and tells him that she is a fairya and the eagle is her cursed lover, but her magic cannot change him back to his human form. She too had been cursed to remain in a deeps sleep, and she makes the prince handsome helps free him from the tower to thank him for waking her.
Meanwhile the evil king has found an ugly princess for his son to marry, but the tower guards tell him that his son has died in an effort to conceal his escape. Upon hearing this, the king locks the princess in the tower. There she meets the fairy, who is disguised as an old woman and who asks her to choose between beauty and goodness. The princess chooses goodness, and the woman leads her to a box, inside of which she is horrified to find a man’s hand. The woman tells her to give it to the eagle as soon as she sees him. She does so, and the eagle transforms into a man. The old woman transforms herself back into a fairy and is reunited with her lover. She makes the princess beautiful and frees her from the tower as well. The princess and the Prince meet and fall in love, but they are transformed into a cricket and a grasshopper by an evil fairy. Neither of them is aware of the fate of the other, and for a long time they wander the earth until they meet each other one day and discover they both can speak. Two princesses visit them in the form of mice and show them the way to the Golden Branch. They go and are restored. The fairy arranges for them to be married and changes the two mice back into princesses. She gives the prince and princess the Castle of the Golden Branch to live in for the rest of their days.
One of the most notable elements of this fairy tale is the relationship between the male and female protagonists. Aimée displays heroic qualities that were unprecedented among female characters at the time. Passages centered around Aimé, are often stunted in favor of those featuring his female counterpart, who plays somewhat of a “Prince Charming” role in respect to Aimé. Continue reading
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. Continue reading