Beauty dines with the Beast in an illustration by Anne Anderson (Photo credit: Wikipedia
My last two posts were an analysis of a fable by Jean de La Fontaine, “L’Ours et l’amateur des jardins,” “The Bear and the Gardener.” The corresponding fable by Æsop is entitled “The Bald Man and the Fly,” but the fable reflects Le Livre des lumières ou La Conduite des roys, fables by Bidpai.
You may remember that I could not find the fable’s Perry Index number. I simply forgot that Aesop’s corresponding fable was entitled “The Bald Man and the Fly.” It is numbered 525 in the Perry Index. For information on fables,Laura Gibbs’Bestiaria Latinais the site one visits. Æsop and his numerous followers are Laura’s area of specialization.
Animals in Literature: a Project
This post is a progress report. Several years ago, I had to prepare a course on animals in literature during a sabbatical leave I was devoting to my book on Molière. I taught the course and have continue researching the subject, but the effort ended my career.
However, I have written so many posts on Animals in Literature that they should be listed on a page. There are gaps to fill. As for the texts, many are on the internet, such as the collections of fables I listed on 2 March 2017. Would that there had been an entry on Beast Literature or Animals in Literature, when I prepared my course.
Fables and Fairy Tales: Anthropomorphism and Metamorphoses
Our starting-point will be a clarification of the concept of anthropomorphism. Animals in literature are human beings in disguise. I have already written a post on this subject, but it has been refurbished. But metamorphoses, many of which were told by Roman poet Ovid, are also central to both fables and fairy tales. Ovid’s Metamorphoses has been the source of a large number of literary works.
I have read several Amerindian “fairy tales.” Shapeshifting is a recurrent motif or “constant” in Amerindian tales. Shapeshifting is often a trickster’s device, but also an attempt to discover the truth and to protect oneself. It is survival through deceit, such as playing dead.
Before Sequoya (1770 – 1840), the gifted Cherokee who created a syllabary, it is reported that Amerindians could not write. Once Sequoya invented his syllabary, literacy among the Cherokee surpassed the rate of literacy among the white. Sequoya, who may have been a Métis, developed 86 syllables, borrowing from several alphabets.
According to Wikipedia, in order to convince other Cherokees to use his syllabary, he wrote down what they were saying and called his daughter, to whom he had taught the Sequoya syllabary. She read her father’s text, and Cherokees recognized that it was what they had said.
John Ross, Cherokee Chief(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sequoya moved to Oklahoma and may have done so voluntarily. But Scots-Cherokee Chief John Ross left Georgia unwillingly. Yet he organized the removal, at least part of it. He bought 12 wagons, the same wagons as the ones used to carry the white west, but each of which carried a total of 1,000 persons. I do not understand the full logistics of the removal. Some Cherokees travelled by boat, but many also walked during part of the 2,200-mile journey (3,218 km). It was a true “trail of tears.” Reports vary, but it appears 6,000 Cherokees died on their way to Oklahoma, one of whom was Chief John Ross’ first wife.
According to James Mooney, 4,000 lives were lost. (See Myths of theCherokees, Gutenberg [EBook #45634].) In all, the population was “16,542 Cherokees, 201 inter-married whites, and 1592 slaves (total: 18,335 people).” (See Cherokee Removal, Wikipedia.)
Let me return to the Cherokee’s account of a deluge. It begins with the formulaic “A long time ago:”
(A long time ago a man had a dog, which began to go down to the river every day and look at the water and howl.) This formula tends to reinforce the fictional character of a story. It happened a long time ago and, if possible, elsewhere.
The formulaic “A long time ago… ” may be James Mooney’s wording. He is the person who took the tale away from an oral tradition to insert it in a learned, i.e. written, tradition. Yet it could be that storytellers have long used this kind of wording, if only to get attention.
“House [below] built in early 19th century by John McDonald, maternal grandfather of John Ross. Now called the ‘John Ross House,’ it was occupied by Ross’ daughter and her husband, Nicholas Scales. It is located in Rossville, Georgia.” (Caption and photo credit: Wikipedia)
Thumbelina came to live with the Field-Mouse. (Gutenberg [EBook #19993])
Fairy Tales and Fables: a Page
Yesterday, I had every intention of posting a short article on Anansi, a folktale character black slaves brought to the Americas. However, I thought I should first provide a list of posts on fables and fairy tales. It turned into a lengthy process because I had not kept a list of RELATED ARTICLES for most posts on fairy tales.
The page I posted yesterday is therefore incomplete. I will add a list of fables later. I kept a record of these posts, but must add the date on which each was published. I have a list of posts of fables, but each post needs a date. It seems that posts do not exist unless they are listed.
Childhood Favorites and Fairy Stories
However, I would like to invite you to take a peek at the Project Gutenberg’s EBook#19993. It is a collection of literary works for children and it includes poems, limericks, the words to songs, and fables and fairy tales originating from several countries.
The copyright was obtained in 1909, but the book was published in 1927 by the University Society of New York. By 1927, its editors had died. These are HamiltonWright Mabie, Edward Everett HaleWilliam Byron Forbus. William Byron Forbus died in 1927. All three editors are well-known authors, but we may have forgotten them. Today is the day we remember them.
In this collection, the art work is not always attributed to a specific illustrator, which is the fate of the image featured at the top of this post, that of Thumbelina. It’s a little gem. But the illustration contains initials: O. A.. The editors have indicated that “[m]any of the illustrations in this volume are reproduced by special permission of E. P. Dutton & Company, owners of the American rights.”
Several authors are represented in this collection, including Shakespeare. However, I have chosen to end this short post using a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. It’s a lullaby.
“SWEET AND LOW”
Sweet and low, sweet and low,
Wind of the western sea,
Low, low, breathe and blow,
Wind of the western sea!
Over the rolling waters go,
Come from the dying moon, and blow,
Blow him again to me:
While my little one, while my pretty one, sleeps.
Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,
Father will come to thee soon;
Rest, rest, on mother’s breast,
Father will come to thee soon;
Father will come to his babe in the nest,
Silver sails all out of the west
Under the silver moon:
Sleep, my little one, sleep, my pretty one, sleep.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
With warm greetings to all of you.♥
Childhood Favorites is told by LibriVox on YouTube.
Alexander Zick illustrated Cinderella with the doves, inspired by the Grimms’ version. (Caption and photo credit: Wikipedia)
As I mentioned in a post entitled “How the Bear lost its Tail,” published on 4 August 2015, I pressed the “Publish” button instead of the “Save Draft” button. As a result, I published an incomplete post. The above image was also published before the post was complete.
The Brothers Grimm
Kinder- und Hausmärchen (1812)
Cinderella “the persecuted heroine” AT type 510
the lesser success of Grimm’sFairy Tales (1812)
(Unless otherwise indicated, links refer to a Wikipedia entry.)
I reread my post and did not modify it substantially. However, I introduced the BrothersGrimm:Jacob (1785–1863) and Wilhelm(1786–1859). In 1812, they published Children’s and Household Tales(Kinder- und Hausmärchen) or Grimm’s Fairy Tales in the hope of finding cultural similarities between the inhabitants of German-language lands, a quest that did not prove altogether successfully, but created a discipline, first named folkloristics.
It is in this regard that mentioning the Brothers Grimm was essential. The Brothers Grimm’s goal was to find cultural similarities between the yet-to-be unified German-language lands, an undertaking which required them to go from town to town and hamlet to hamlet collecting folklore. As I wrote above, this huge effort proved a lesser achievement than they had anticipated. Grimm’s Fairy Tales was a bestseller, but it would eventually come to light that the tales of Germany had variants in other countries.
As the 19th century turned into the 20th century, a new discipline evolved, which could be called the above-noted folkloristics, and would lead to the development of related disciplines such as ethnology, linguistics, archaeology, all of which could be included under an umbrella discipline we know as anthropology: the “study of humanity,” to quote Wikipedia. (See Anthropology and History of Anthropology).
In the case of the Brothers Grimm’s collection, it led to an international classification of types and motifs which was first published in 1910 by Finnish professor Antti Aarne and which would become the Aarne-Thompson Classification System. For instance, Cinderella had variants and different titles in various lands, but Cinderella is AT type 510: “the persecuted heroine.” There was universality to a large number of fairy tales, fables and other folktales. It was as though these had travelled from Europe to the Orient and vice versa as Venetian Marco Polo and other merchants traced the silk road.
As for their specificity, it resided in the variants, either the type (i.e. tail-fisher) or the motif (i.e. the severed tail).
Kinder und Haus: Märchen, volume one of Grimm’s Fairy tales, 1812
Grimm’s Fairy Tales contains a Cinderella, entitled Ashenputten. We have a coarse stepmother, her two insensitive daughters who belittle Cinderella, a father who brings the two stepsisters the gifts they wish for, birds who provide Cinderella with the clothes she needs, three girls: the stepsisters and Cinderella, a three-day celebration, the slipper, and some mutilation, the removal of a toe and that of a heel. I doubt that mutilation would be allowed in a 17th-century French-language fairy tale, a time when bienséances (decorum) was observed in the literature, the theater in particular, of France.
In the German-language Ashenputten, we do not have a fairy godmother, nor a carriage, nor the fateful 12 o’clock, nor an extended search to find the owner of a glass or vair slipper, a mere slipper in German-language lands. Finally, the prince asks the father if perhaps he does not have a third daughter. The plot of Ashenputten is basically the same plot of as the 700 BCE story of Rhodopis “about a Greek slave girl who marries the king of Egypt” (see Cinderella, Wikipedia). However, Ashenputten differs from Charles Perrault‘s Cendrillon if only because it is a more intimate variant of Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon, which is not irrelevant, and because it features birds. So there is both specificity and universality between Cendrillon and Ashenputten. Fairy tales are “‘arrangements’ d’arrangements.”
Origins: the oral and written tradition and Literature
We have just seen that the plot of Cinderella is rooted in Rhodopis, a 700 BCE written story. In more recent centuries, this ancient tale has been the story of Cenerentole, written by Neapolitan Giambattista Basile (1566 – 23 February 1632). (See Cinderella, Wikipedia). But the tale was also written by Charles Perrault in 1697, at the end of the Grand Siècle, the age of Louis XIV.
In France, Cenerentole became Cendrillonand it is one of Charles Perrault’s Histoires ou contes du temps passé (Tales of Past Times),except that Giambattista Basile’s Cenerentole had already entered a “learned” tradition. Basile himself had introduced Cinderella into the “learned” (i.e. written) tradition. In Charles Perrault, however, Cendrillon was transformed into literature, a major transformation. Charles Perrault (12 January 1628 – 16 May 1703) was an affluent bourgeois, a perfect honnête homme (a gentleman), a frequent guest in the finest salons, and a writer.
A parallel can be drawn between Charles Perrault and La Fontaine, as both men transformed the material (the learned tradition) that constituted their sources into literary works of art and, in the case of La Fontaine, into masterpieces. I doubt, however, that Basile and Perrault knew Cinderella had been a work of literature as Rhodopis. It had perhaps returned to the oral tradition when Basile wrote his Cenerentole, in the early part of the 17th century.
The Brothers Grimm
The Brothers Grimm were philologists who attempted to create a past for the nascent Germany. Most civilizations created a mythology, a pourquoi tale. This process is now known as anamnesis (anamnèse), remembering, but not the religious anamnesis. They retrieved the folklore of German-language lands believing these lands shared a national heritage. Their project did provide the German-language countries with a past of its own. Although the plot of their stories were basically the same as in other countries, there were variants and these variants could not be could not be considered as inconsequential. Variants matter.
Cenerentole, Cendrillon, Ashenputten and Cinderella are rags-to-riches narratives rooted in a story written as Rhodopis in 700 BCE and classified as AT type 510, “the persecuted heroine,” in the Aarne-Thompson Classification System. More than two thousand years had passed.
Yet, such is life. Humans have always hoped for salvation even though their fate seems inescapable. That wish is universal, so it is not in the least surprising that the people inhabiting German-language lands should have adopted and molded an Ashenputten. They needed her.
Charles Robinson illustrated (art nouveau)Cinderella in the kitchen (early 1900s), from “Tales of Passed Times” with stories by Charles Perrault.
But let us return to our animals. We don’t know how a Reynard the Fox episode, the Tail-Fisher, went from Europe to the Black population of Georgia, US where Joel Chandler Harris wrote them down as Uncle Remus: his Songs and his Sayings (1881), using an eye dialect. I have suggested in an earlier post that deported Acadians, the Cajuns, told the Blacks of Georgia the tales they knew, before leaving for Louisiana, still a French colony in 1755, or before walking back north to the Atlantic provinces of Canada. Other tales, however, were brought to America by slaves packed like sardines in the hull of a ship.
As you have noticed,Bluebeardis reminiscent of many folktales and other works of literature, not all of which belong to what we now call children’s literature. Yesterday, we looked at Charles Perrault’s Bluebeard. Perrault’s first audiences were persons who gatheredin French seventeenth-centurysalons, a more refined and sophisticated environment than court: the Louvreand, later in the century, Versailles. Children may have been Perrault’s very last audience.
I also mentioned that in French seventeenth-century literature, one could not combine comedy and tragedy. Like comedies, fairy tales end well, but there may be a “happy ending” to a comedy that does not seem a real comedy. Such is the case with some ofMolière‘s comedies. The best examples are Le Misanthrope, TartuffeandDom Juan. Molière nearly broke the rules as didPerraultin his fairy tales. We know that Bluebeard’s young wife will be saved, but by the time her brothers arrive, we are out of breath. Would that a message-carrying dog had been sent to fetch the brothers!
However, Charles Perrault, a modernein the famousQuerelle des Anciens et des Modernes,has chosen riveting suspense. Here, rulesare being challenged by a member of theAcadémie françaiseitself. Other than the stained key, there is very little enchantment in Bluebeard, in which respect it resembles Puss in Boots. The young wife and Anne are clever girls, but where is the young wife’sfairy godmother?Well, she does not have one. Is this a fairy tale? One wonders.
A Fairy tale “bursting out,” but saved
As for motifs and instances ofintertextuality, seldom have they been as abundant than in Bluebeard. In fact, motifs and intertextualité seem to override genre. Although, “all’s well that ends well,” this is a fairy tale I would call “éclatée” or bursting out. Perrault is taking the new genre to its very limit. Moreover, there is something biblical about this fairy tale: the stain cannot be removed, except miraculously. That stain seems of remembrance of la tache [stain] originelle, the original sin. Moreover, the brothers arrive at the verylast-minute. So not only the young bride, but the genre itself, i.e. fairy tales, are saved. Thisis an “in extremis,” intervention.
As for Bluebeard, he is not the mean second wife who turns her husband’s beautiful daughter by a first marriage into a chimney sweeper. Bluebeard is more than an “animal,” he is a monster. He’s Goethe’s Faust: Mephistopheles.
Having written the above, I can say no more than I did yesterday: “All’s well that ends well.”
Both images are by Danish illustratorKay Nielsen(12 March 1886 – 21 June 1957)
For those of you who are students of folklore, I have provided Alishman’s extremely useful cross-referencing, complete with links to the tales he mentions. Motifs overlap in this surprisingly rich “fairy tale,” so I have listed them.
Particularly helpful is Alishman’s page devoted to the Grimm Brothers. It is entitled:Grimm’s Fairy Tales. The brothers Grimm have a classification system of their own: KHM.
Illustration in The Fairy Tales of Charles Perraultby Harry Clarke (1889-1931), illustrator. London: Harrap (1922) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Charles Perrault‘s (1628-1703) Bluebeard, La Barbe bleue (seeGallica.BnF), is an exceptionally rich source of motifs.InAarne-Thompson-Uther, Bluebeard is classified as ATU 312, ATU 312A:The giant-killer and his dog– Bluebeard. The U in ATU stands forHans-Jörg Uther.[i]Charles Perrault‘s Barbe bleue, Bluebeard,features a killer, butthere is no reference to a dog. However, Bluebeard is rooted in a popular and largely oral tradition. In the more traditional tales, a dog or a bird is sent to warn our heroine’sfamily, her brothers especially.[ii]This element has been removed by Perrault. However, ProfessorD. L. Alishman specifies that folktales classified as ATU 312 and ATU 312A are stories “about women whose brothers rescue them from their ruthless husbands or abductors.” Such is the case with Bluebeard. So, to begin with, the motif of Bluebeard is AT 312 and 312A .
Bluebeard is feared by most women. He owns many properties, in town and in the countryside, “gold and silver dishes, beautifully upholstered (embroidered) furniture and golden carriages: de la vaisselle d’or et d’argent, des meubles en broderie, et des carrosses tout dorés.” (Gilbert Rouger)[iii]However, his blue beard makes him so ugly and terrifying that women run away when they see him. Moreover, despite his blue beard, this colourful but brutal character has married several times, but every wife has disappeared. The moment Perrault reveals this fact, we enter the realms of mystery and suspense. What has happened to the former wives? There will be a moment of revelation.
Bluebeard’s neighbour, a Lady, has two beautiful daughters and is looking for suitable husbands. When they first see Bluebeard, the daughters find him repulsive. However, Bluebeard organizes a feast and invites the young women and a few of their friends (first image). As they go from pleasure to pleasure, the younger daughter begins to see Bluebeard as a less frightening man and marries him.
Bluebeard marries and goes on a trip: forbidden room
Once he has married the younger daughter, Bluebeard tells her he must go away on a trip, but to invite friends (second image). He then starts distributing keys and warns his wife not to enter a certain room yet gives her the key to this room. The telltale key and the forbidden room are motifs dating to the story of Adam and Eve. Eve is tempted by the serpent and bites into the forbidden apple. When collecting folktales, the Brothers Grimm were told the story of Marienkind, Mary’s Child, in which a girl enters a forbidden thirteenth room, sees the Trinity and is then burdened with a telltale gold finger. Marienkind will not confess that she did enter the forbidden room until she is condemned to burn at the stake. As the flamesstart engulfing her, she finally tells the truth and is saved. The motifs of that tale, the forbidden room and the telltale stain, link it to Bluebeard.
Disobedience: the stained key
Likethe archetypal Eve, women are considered curious and, despite their fears,they want to unlock forbidden rooms, closets and cabinets. Again, “folk versions of the tale do not fault the heroine for her curiosity?”[iv] Bluebeard’s young wife trembles, but she unlocks the hidden cabinet (third image). Here we think of the deceptive closet that leads to other rooms. That is another motif. Next, when the young wife sees the bloodstained floor and the bodies of dead women, she drops the key and it gets stained by the blood on the floor of the room. This element seems a variation on the “tache [stain] originelle,” or the original sin. Therefore, our main motif could well be that of the indelible stain. Babies are born “entachés,” stained with the original sin. The young wife cannot clean the key. It is, therefore, an enchanted key.
Bluebeard returns that very evening and is received with open arms. His bride hopes to delay the moment when he will ask for the keys to be returned, one of which is the stained key. The young bride therefore entertains her husband as doesScheherazade, the Persian Queen of theOne Thousand and One Nights who has studied sufficiently to know that fiction, entertainment in the form of storytelling, might save her from death, which it does.
However, the next morning, our poor young wife is asked to return all the keys her rich and ruthless husband has entrusted to her. He sees the stained key and tells her she will join the wives who have died due to their indiscretion. She, of course, falls to her knees begging for forgiveness. Bluebeard was testing her and she has failed the test. She is yet another Eve who has yielded to temptation.
Tests are a common element in fairy talesas are the three requirements that will turn a toad into a prince. But Bluebeard is a one-test, or trap, narrative that resembles the Pandora’s Box narrative. Pandora is given a jar named pithos which she is instructed not to open, but curiosity, the villain, is as irresistible as the serpent. She opens the jar and releases all the bad things in the world. Evil is born and women are to blame. They are the scapegoats.
Fortunately, Bluebeard’s young wife inhabits fairyland. Her sister Anne has not yet returned home. So the young bride has a stand-in, so to speak, and uses a common a ruse. She asks to be allowed to pray for one half of a quarter-hour and goes upstairs to alert her sister. This recourse is reminiscent of Shakespeare’sDesdemona‘s (Othello) request. This is yet another motif or, possibly, an instance of intertextuality, texts that mirror one another. Usually, folktales contain motifs, just as music contains themes. Shakespearean theater is otherwise classified, but the stained finger could be designated as a motif in the broader world of fiction. Our terrifiedhéroïne asks her sister Anne to go to a tower and to watch because their brothers have promised to visit and Bluebeard has returned earlier than expected. Anne is instructed to alert them from her tower. This is ATU type 312 and 312A.
Anne, ma sœur Anne, ne vois-tu rien venir ?
Bluebeard grows increasingly impatient, but the younger wife keeps asking her sister Anne whether or not she can see the brothers. This is a summit of suspense: Anne, ma sœur Anne, ne vois-tu rien venir ? Anne, my sister Anne, can’t you see anything coming? Anne answers twice. Je ne vois rien que le Soleil qui poudroie, et l’herbe qui verdoie. All I see are flurries of the Sun and grass turning green. The third time, however, Anne reports that she sees men on horseback riding in their direction. As you know, the number three is a common element of fairy tales.
At his wits end, Bluebeard starts screaming so loudly that the house shakes (fourth image). He goes upstairs and grabs his young wife by the hair, holding a knife. Once again, she asks to pray, but he will not let her pray. At this point, the reader or listener fears that all is lost, except that we are in fairyland. There has to be a savior, and there is.
Kairos: the opportune moment
At the opportune moment, kairos, the brothers make a racket at the door. The door is forced open and Bluebeard sees one brother, a dragoon, and the second, a musketeer. Bluebeard runs away from them, but the brothers catch him when he reaches the porch and they drive a sword through his body (fifth image).
The younger sister inherits her husband’s possessions. She provides her sister with the dowry that will enable her to marry a kind man she has known for a long time. She buys her brothers appointments as captains and, for her part, she marries a gentleman.
There are two moralités. One is the moral ofcautionary tales. It is anexemplum. The tale tells about the dangers of curiosity:
La curiosité malgré tous ses /attraits,Coûte souvent bien de regretsOn en voit /tous les jours exemples paraître.Curiosity, despite all its /appeal /Often costs many regrets /One sees /everyday examples appear. (literal translation)
However, Perrault uses a second moral that is not altogether a moral, but a form reassurance. He writes that those who have common sense know that this story happened a long time ago. There are no longer such terrible husbands, nor husbands who asks for the impossible, even when they are displeased or jealous, etc.
In other words, he tells readers that he has written a fairy tale.
Criticism of Bluebeard
There has been criticism of Bluebeard. For instance, help is so slow in coming that this fairy tale, nearly fails the “happy ending” rule fairy tales. However, Perrault’s suspense is acceptable in storytelling. It adds piquancy to the tale. In seventeenth-century France, one could not mix comedy and tragedy. Tragedy inspires pity and fear. Featuring a dog or a bird carrying a message would have lessened the degree of suspense, not to mention pity and fear. In more traditional tellings of Bluebeard, the heroine “insists on donning bridal clothes, and they prolong the possibility of rescue by recounting each and every item of clothing.”[v]
As mentioned above, curiosity is not a factor in more traditional tellings of Bluebeard.
Bruno Bettelheim[vi]situates Bluebeard in the animal-groom cycle (Aarne-Thompson), except that our heroine marries the animal before a curse is lifted that transforms him into a kind and beautiful person, which is usually the case in fairy tales. In Beauty and the Beast, Beauty learns to love Beast as Beast is, which lifts the curse. She marries a beautiful man, the appropriate ending of a fairy tale.
The indelible stain seems a particularly important motif. I have mentioned the Bible. Curiosity leads to the original sin, called stain in French: la tache. But it also reminds us of the stain on Lady Macbeth’s hand. It will not wash away: “Out, damn’d spot! out I say!” (Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 1, line 35). Lady Macbeth has killed and the stain on her hand is as permanent as the original sin. She must atone. In this regard, Bluebeard is reminiscent of William Shakespeare‘s Macbeth. But we are reading a fairy tale. The genre itself demands a happy ending, as do comic texts. Moreover, the indelible stain could be a motif, and the original sin, to which it can be compared, an instance of intertextualité.
The indelible stain motif also appears in Le Roman de Perceforest, a medieval narrative usually associated with SleepingBeauty. Blanchette’s fairy godmother has asked her not to touch Lyonnel. But she does, briefly and accidentally. The finger that has touched Lyonnel turns black.
In the Brother’s Grimm’sMarienkind,Marienkind opens the thirteenth door, or the forbidden door. It seems the number thirteen has long been an unlucky number, but the more important element, the motif, is that of the telltale stain.
Let it be short: “All’s well that ends well.” Tout est bien qui finit bien.
Sources and Resources
Perrault fairy tales are the Project Gutenberg [EBook #29021]
[i] The AT-number system was updated and expanded in 2004, the yearHans-Jörg Uther published his Types of International Folktales: A Classification and Bibliography.Hans-Jörg Uther calls types some of the elements formerly named motifs, but some motifs are types. The telltale stained key is a motif, but brothers saving a sister would be a type.[ii] Maria Tatar in Jack Zipes, editor, The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 2000).[iii]Gilbert Rouger, editor. Les Contes de Perrault (Paris: Editions Garnier, 1967).[iv]Op. cit.The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales.[v] Ibid.[vi] The Uses of Enchantment (New York: Vintage Books Edition, 1989 [1975, 1976]), p. 182.Franz Schubert (31 January 1797 – 19 November 1828; aged 31)Piano Sonata in B Flat Major, D. 960Alfred Brendel, KBE(born 5 January 1931,Wiesenberg)
A dying queen asks her husband to seek another spouse as beautiful as she is. The widowed king falls in love with his daughter who is as beautiful as her mother, hence the fairy tale‘s classification as “unnatural love.” However, Donkey-Skin seeks supernatural help provided by a fairy godmother. The princess is told that she must ask her father to provide her with lavish gowns, three as it turns out, and to kill his gold-defecating donkey. The father obliges and Donkey-Skin flees covered in the skin of the dead donkey.
After she escapes, Donkey-Skin starts working as a peasant. But a prince sees her through a key-hole when she is trying on one the lavish gowns her father has given her. This is an example of kairos, which means that the prince sees Donkey-Skin at the opportune moment. He falls in love to the point of being sick. In literature, French 17th-century literature in particular, writers have often depicted love as an illness.
The remedy that will heal the prince is not the skin of a wolf Isengrin’s age, but a cake Donkey-Skin has baked. She therefore bakes the cake and inserts her ring into the batter. So we now remember the foot-that-fits-the-shoe motif, Cinderella’s foot. The prince goes in search of the woman whose finger fits the ring and finds her. Donkey-Skin is returned to her regal self.
Réunion de dames by Abraham Bosse 17th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
At the time Perrault wrote his Tales of Mother Goose(Contes de ma mère l’Oye), children’s literature was in its infancy. Charles Perrault was an habitué (a regular) of Salons and fairy tales are associated with Préciosité‘s main objectives: the refinement of language and manners, and the “Querelle des Femmes,”the 17th-century debate about women. Woman considered themselves as “précieuses.” At first sight, it therefore seems puzzling that the story of a princess resisting the incestuous advances of her father should be accepted in literature befitting fine gathering places. But such is not the case.
The Debate about women and Perrault’s Style
According to the Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales, Donkey-Skin is, indeed, part of the “Querelle des femmes,” the debate about women. Donkey-Skin exposes an abuse against women, which may explain its acceptability. Salonniers and salonnières also enjoyed the suspense. Finally, the tale might owe its acceptability to the rules governing fairy tales. Fairy tales have a happy ending so readers know that Donkey-Skin’s plight will end. However, I should think that the manner in which the tale is told is its subject matter. Peau d’Âne is an exquisite versified tale. It is Salon literature.
In other words, although Donkey-Skin is pursued by an incestuous father, the tale is told by an excellent writer. Perrault (12 January 1628 – 16 May 1703) was born to a wealthy bourgeois family and elected to the Académie française, in 1671. For two decades, he worked at court as Jean-Baptiste Colbert’s secretary. He mingled in Salons with other honnêtes hommes,[i] gentlemen who, by and large, were as they seem[ii], quite an achievement in 17th-century France. Finally, at the close of the 17th century, Perrault would lead the Modernes in the famous Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes.[iii]
Yet, in the Aarne-Thompson-Üther classification system, Donkey-Skin is listed as type AT 510B, [iv] i.e. unnatural love, rather than a type that could be called the flayed animal, such as The Lion, the Fox and the Wolf (AT type 50). The incestuous love of a father for his daughter does not seem appropriate entertainment for small children or the audience of Salons. We have seen, however, that it is acceptable. Moreover, it mirrors other motifs and types style redeems it.
The Flayed Wolf
Let’s recall Reynard the Fox, rooted in the Sick Lion tale or The Lion, the Fox and the Wolf (AT type 50). Reynard has overheard Ysengrin the wolf tell the king that Reynard has failed to join other courtiers who are at their sick king’s, the Lion, bedside. Reynard visits the king later and tells Noble that he has travelled everywhere in search of a cure. To be cured the king must wrap himself into the skin of a wolf, the age of Ysengrin.
It would therefore seems reasonable to link tales where a character is covered in the skin of another animal with the tale Aarne-Thompson have listed as AT type 50: curing a sick lion. Tales intersect and may border on other types. Although the Aarne-Thompson index classifies Donkey-Skin under its unnatural love category, Peau d’Âne does mirror the flayed-animal type, under any name. In fact Peau d’Âne also mirrors Goose who laid golden eggs (Æsop’ Fables, Perry Index 87) and Jean de La Fontaine‘s “La Poule aux œufs d’or” (V.13). Like the goose, the king’s donkey is aurifère, an endless source of gold.
Also at play is tradition. Perrault’s Donkey-Skin is perhaps ageless. It was probably transmitted through an oral tradition and too widely known to be left aside. Before Peau d’Âne entered a learned tradition, i.e. a written form, a fairy tale was sometimes referred to as a “Peau d’Âne.”[v] Moreover, Jean de La Fontaine expressed his love of Peau d’Âne(VIII. 4) in his second recueil or collection of fables:
Si Peau d’Âne m’était conté,
J’y prendrais un plaisir extrême.
If one should tell that tale so queer
Ycleped, I think, “The Ass’s Skin,”
I should not mind my work a pin.
The world is old, they say; I don’t deny it;
But, infant still
In taste and will,
Whoever would teach, must gratify it.
According to Marc Soriano,[vi] Perrault used many sources before writing his Peau d’Âne in perfect verse. The tale is not altogether a rewriting of Giambattista Basile‘s (c. 1575 – 23 February 1632) l‘Orsa IT (The Bear), (Il cunto de li cunti overo le trattemiento de peccerille [The Tale of Tales or Entertaiment for Little Ones]) or Pentamerone. Nor is it a polished version of a tale by Giovanni Francesco Straparola (c. 1575 – 23 February 1632), the author of the Facetious Nights or Piacevoli Notti. It is Perrault‘s Donkey-Skin and one of the first fairy tales belonging to children’s literature. Perrault’s tales has set the tone. He has become the model.
So, eloquence and tradition have redeemed unnatural love. That would be my first conclusion. As suggested above, folktales enjoy a degree of immunity, not only as fiction but as part of a cultural heritage that has profound roots and crosses borders. Peau d’Âne is not altogether cleansed: the donkey is still “aurifère,” i.e. it defecates gold, and Peau d’Âne‘s father’s love remains a transgression. However, even in the most refined social circles, one does indulge, occasionally, i.e. a tad, in scatological humour, told correctly. Moreover, by the time Perrault wrote his fairy tales, Préciosité was no longer the ridiculous fashion depicted in Molière‘s Les Précieuses ridicules(1659). Finally, not only does Perrault’s Donkey-Skin mirror many texts, but it is pared down and presented in verses, not the easier prose. Style transcends “unnatural love.”
However, I will end this post by introducing a new element. Let me quote Donkey-Skin’s fairy godmother who suggests that Donkey-Skin not contradict her father while nevertheless refusing his advances: “Mais sans le contredire on peut le refuser,” (“[b]ut you can avoir the necessity without displeasing him”) which is what Donkey-Skin does, thereby displaying that, with a little advice, the worldly wisdom of fables, she can negotiate her way out of her father’s incestuous requests. Her fairy godmother tells Peau d’Âne that incest, without naming it, is a “great sin,” (une faute bien grande), but her entire statement reads as follows:
Écouter sa folle demande
Serait une faute bien grande,
Mais sans le contredire on peut le refuser. Peau d’Âne
“For, my dear child,” she said to her, “it would be a great sin to submit to your father’s wishes, but you can avoid the necessity without displeasing him.”
One is therefore reminded of Puss in Boots, a fairy tale in which a very clever cat takes his master from rags to riches using his savoir-faire, a more natural recourse than magic. Donkey-Skin will oppose her father “sans le contredire,” (without contradicting him), which is also savoir-faire, not to mention empowerment.
“Partly because of the influence of the salons and partly as a result of disillusionment at the failure of the Fronde, the heroic ideal was gradually replaced in the 1650s by the concept of honnêteté. The word does not connote “honesty” in its modern sense but refers rather to an ideal aristocratic moral and social mode of behaviour, a sincere refinement of tastes and manners.” (honnête homme, Britannica)
[ii] “honnête homme”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 23 May. 2013
<http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/271056/honnete-homme>. [iii] According to the Modernes, the literature of France had reached an apex and could now serve as a model. The Anciens, led by Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux, who, with François de Malherbe, shaped French classicism, versification in particular, did not share this view.[iv] Christine Goldberg, “The Donkey-Skin Folktale Cycle (AT 510B),” The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 110, No. 435 (Winter, 1997), pp. 28-46. [v] See G. Rouger, ed. Contes de Perrault (Paris: Classiques Garnier, 1967), p. 153. [vi] Marc Soriano, Les Contes de Perrault, culture savante et traditions populaires (Paris : Gallimard, coll. ‘Tel’, 1977 ), 113-124.
I also discovered that Wikipedia and other entries on fairy tales and fables are far more numerous and substantial then was the case when I first wrote about Puss in Boots and Beauty and the Beast.
First, I will write at greater length on the difference between fairy tales and fables a subject with which you are probably familiar. Second, I will make a few comments about Puss in Boots.
Childhood’s Favorites and Fairy Stories, Gutenberg [EBook # 19993]
Bruno Bettelheim on fairy tales and fables
In his book, Bettelheim suggests that fairy tales are helpful to unhappy children because characters such as Cinderella have a fairy godmother who saves them. Cinderella has no recourse. Her father’s second wife has transformed her into a servant and one of Cinderella’s tasks is to clean up the chimney. “Cinder” means “ash” (cendre). Fortunately, the reader knows that her good looks, albeit hidden, will free Cinderella from her stepmother, her father’s second wife. Cinderella is an archetypal rags-to-riches fairy tale. So is Puss in Boots.
In most fairy tales, beauty is a major asset, even in the case of Beauty and the Beast. Beauty and the Beast is an exceptional fairy tale because Beauty falls in love with Beast when he is Beast, which would be comforting to a child who feels ugly. By falling in love with Beast, Beauty returns Beast to his former beautiful princely self. Beauty sees beauty beneath unsightly appearances, which makes her into admirable character, but in the end she marries a beautiful prince. The moral of that fairy tale, for there is a moral, is that one should look beyond appearances. But next to the moral is a forthcoming princely wedding.
Let us return to Cinderella. Alone, it would be difficult for Cinderella to escape her sorry fate. She has sought her father’s help, but he does not want to upset his new wife who prefers to look after her own two daughters. However, a fairy godmother comes to Cinderella’s rescue, a familiar device in fairy tales. So, given that a helpless Cinderella is saved by her fairy godmother, it would be Dr Bettelheim’s opinion that fairy tales benefit children, a notion that has been extended to adults. According to Dr Bettelheim, fairy tales provide optimism, whereas fables are pessimistic. Such may indeed be the case.
In Puss in Boots, revisited, I listed characteristics of fairy tales in general and Puss in Boots in particular. What follows is therefore somewhat repetitive.
Fairy tales have a happy ending, which is comforting. In this respect, Puss in Boots is very much a fairy tale;
The intervention of a fairy godmother, who is a magician, is also a characteristic of fairy tales. There is no fairy godmother in Puss in Boots;
Beauty plays a role in fairy tales, including Charles Perrault‘s Puss in Boots; Puss asks his master to disrobe, tells him to throw himself into the water and hides the clothes. As a result, the King who happens to be passing by, gives him appropriate clothes. Using a ruse is not a common device in fairy tales;
The use of magic or the supernatural is common in fairy tales. Puss is a magical or magic cat, but he is not a magician (see Puss in Boots, Wikipedia);
The number three is also common in fairy tales. There are three main steps to Puss’ master’s rise to power: the land, the river, and crafty acquisition of the Ogre’s castle, which is typical of fairy tales;
Fairy tales and fables may be retold. New versions are called retellings, a perfectly acceptable practice. There are several versions of Puss in Boots. The version I am using is based on Charles Perrault’sPuss in Boots and does not differ substantially from the EBook provided by the Project Gutenberg, Mark’s version. In earlier versions of Puss in Boots the cat is a female;
However, the father of fairy tales, including Puss in Boots, is the above-mentioned Charles Perrault (12 January 1628 – 16 May 1703), a wealthy member of the French bourgeoisie who had worked at court (Louis XIV) and whose niece, Marie-Jeanne L’Héritier, had a salon. Perrault was familiar with salonniers and salonnières. In 1697, aged 67, Perrault published Histoires ou contes du temps passé, also known as Contes de ma mère l’Oye:Stories or Fairy Tales from Past Times with Morals or Mother Goose Tales. Note that the title includes a “with Morals.”
However, the fables we read to our children and which are read by our children are Æsop’s fables. Among translators of Æsopica into English, Sir Roger L’Estrange is the most colourful individuals. He published his Fables of Æsop, and other Eminent Mythologists: with Morals and Reflexions, in 1692. In the French language, many Æsopic fables were written by Jean de La Fontaine‘s (8 July 1621 – 13 April 1695). However, there have been many fabulists. Click on Fable to see a list of writers of fables.
Puss in Boots
Puss in Boots is a fairy tale written by Charles Perrault‘s (12 January 1628 – 16 May 1703). Yet it has two morals:
« […] L’industrie et le savoir-faire valent mieux que des biens acquis »: “Hard work and ingenuity are worth more than inherited [acquis: acquired] goods.” And
« […] C’est que l’habit, la mine et la jeunesse, pour inspirer de la tendresse, n’en sont pas des moyens toujours indifférents ». Clothes, good looks and youth are means of inspiring love or “mere appearances and civility can seduce women and society.”[ii]
However, these morals are not very “moralistic.” One hopes, nevertheless, that the third son of the miller has learned that Puss’ ingenuity has taken him, the third son, from rags to riches and that he was lucky to be well dressed, good-looking and young. So, although a parallel may be drawn between the education of the prince, the earliest vocation of fables, and Machiavelli‘s education of his prince, Machiavelli and his prince inhabit the ruthless world of the factious city-states of the future Italy. Besides, the lessons are presented without the “obliqueness” that characterizes speaking animals. Animals speak and do not speak.
Æsop’s fables are brief lessons wrapped in a story in which most actors are animals, which could also be said of Jean de La Fontaine‘s (8 July 1621 – 13 April 1695) retelling of Æsopic fables (Volume One, 1668) and, to a lesser extent, of his retellings of a wider range of fables, including Fables by Bidpai (Volume Two, 1768). (See Panchatantra, Wikipedia.)
Animal stories also teach ways of getting oneself out of difficulty. In one Reynard the Fox story, Reynard plays dead (“faire le mort”) to his benefit. We do not know every version of Puss in Boots, but Marc Soriano,[iii] the author of Les Contes de Perrault, culture savante et traditions populaires, writes that in one retelling Puss also plays dead. This is an old motif. (See Stith Thompson [March 7, 1885 – January 13, 1976] and Aarne–Thompson classification system, a classification by motif, and Vladimir Propp‘s [29 April 1895 – 22 August 1970] Morphology of the Folktale, a structuralist classification by narratives and functions.
As for Puss, and all animals in beast literature, he is anthromorphic. Talking animals are humans in disguise and when humans are disguised as cats, they often serve as magic wands, not because they are magicians but because of their ingenuity and, ironically, their eloquence. So Puss is the denizen of a fairy tale, yet his main toosl are the tools foxes use: ruse and barat, Reynard’s talkativeness. He possesses within himself the resources that make him a fairy godmother and an agent of change.
Not that Puss is “children’s literature’s” only magical cats. Fairyland has other magical cats. However, with magical cats, we are faced with a paradox. Puss’ ingenuity places him above the human beings he uses to raise his master to the highest social rank. In fact, Puss civilizes the third son of the miller in order to take him from rags to riches, which is extremely ironic. He could therefore be considered the master. Puss in Boots is entitled Le Chat botté ou le Maître chat, Puss in Boots or the Master Cat. We have entered the topsy-turvy world of beast literature. Puss has made himself a human being.
Therefore, with Puss in Boots, we are in fairyland, but also find ourselves in the upside-down universe of speaking animals. Fred Marcellino‘s last illustration shows two little mice looking at a portrait of Puss, fully and beautifully dressed. Not only has he proven an invaluable inheritance, but in transforming his master into the King’s son-in-law, he has educated the prince and has also metamorphosed himself into little less than an aristocrat.
[i] Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, (Vintage Books, New York, 1989 [1976; 1975]).
[ii] Jack Zipes, ed., The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).
[iii] Marc Soriano, Les Contes de Perrault, culture savante et traditions populaires (Paris: Gallimard, collection “Tel”, 1968), p. 176.
We are revisiting a post. It was first published on 9 November 2011 and it is about Puss in Boots, a “fairy tale” that may well be as old as the world, so to speak. A large number of fairy tales have come down to us either orally (the oral tradition) or in writing (the learned tradition). In fact, fairy tales and fables often weave their way in and out of both traditions, as do fables and they may be “retold.” So we do not now how old Puss in Boots is, and there are several versions of the tale.
As you probably noted, I have used quotation marks on both sides of fairy tale. The reason for my doing so will become clear as you read my humble blog. However, let me add a few comments.
Fairy tales have conventions: a few examples
Fairy tales have a happy ending and such is the case with Puss in Boots.
The use of magic is a characteristic of fairy tales. There is magic in Puss in Boots. The Ogre can transform himself;
A fairy godmother uses magic to take a Cinderella from rags to riches. There is no fairy godmother in Puss in Boots;
Most animals in fairy tales, are toads who return to their original princely self if certain conditions – usually three – are met. For instance, in Charles Perrault‘s Cinderella, a fairy godmother “turned a pumpkin into a golden carriage, mice into horses, a rat into a coachman, and lizards into footmen (see Cinderella, Wikipedia);”
In fact, animals are the denizens of fables, not fairy tales. But Puss in Boots is a fairy tale and it features a masterful cat in a genre considered “optimistic” compared to fables. Fables would be “pessimistic” because they are a story where animals are used to teach children a lesson.
The illustrations I used in my post dated 9 November 2011 are by Fred Marcellino‘s (October 25, 1939-July 12, 2001). Marcellino’s illustrations of Puss in Boots are delightful. To see other illustrations by Marcellino, see Images, Google. Unfortunately unlike medieval monks, modern illustrators seldom integrate image and text, nor can they reproduce the luminosity of illuminations, but Marcellino was, within the limits of modernity, an extraordinary illustrator. He truly deserved the Caldecott Medal for “the most distinguished picture book for children.” The illustrations of his Puss in Boots are beautifully.
Domenico Scarlatti (26 October 1685 – 23 July 1757) wrote a “Cat’s Fugue,” L.499/K. 30 (K for Ralph Kirkpatrick) which I enjoy playing, but in my post on Puss in Boots, I have used a Sonata by Scarlatti – one of his 555 sonatas – because it is beautifully played. It is Scarlatti’s Sonata L.366/K.1 (L for Alessandro Longo) played on the piano by Ivo Pogorelić (born 20 October 1958).
However, at the foot of this post, I have embedded a lovely recording of Scarlatti’s Cat’s Fugue, a sonata. As for Ivo Pogorelić, he is not in good health. So he goes to bed when the sun sets and rises at five-thirty in the morning.
I will stop here so you may read the above and my revised article. Next we will see the role a cat such as Puss plays in a fairy tale and ponder Bruno Bettelheim’s conclusions in The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. I will not contradict Dr Bettelheim, that would be silly. However I will use his conclusions, i.e. optimism (fairy tales) vs pessimism (fables), as a theoretical framework.
For the English text of Charles Perrault‘s (12 January 1628 – 16 May 1703) fairy tales, beautifully illustrated by Gustave Doré, click on fairy tales. For information on William Morris, click on Arts and Craftsor on William Morris.But if you click on this Cinderella, you will see that there are many retellings of Cinderella or Cendrillon. The Brothers Grimm’s Cinderella does not feature a fairy godmother, but Cinderella prays on her mother’s tomb and is helped by all the animals, birds in particular. They bring her the beautiful gowns she wears while dancing with the Prince. However, she does lose a shoe because the prince has put pitch on the steps. On the same website, you may also read that the story of Cinderella is almost as old as the world.
A Fairy tale
Cinderella is a fairy tale, so it belongs to a literary genre and genres share, to a lesser or greater extent, the same narrative structure. With fairy tales, the “hero” goes from rags to riches and does so through the timely intervention of a fairy godmother, or a clever cat. Therefore, the protagonist or hero, is at times rather passive, as is, for instance, Puss in Boots‘ disappointed master. As I pointed out in an earlier post, were it not for his cat, the third son of the miller might not have become a prince. It is the cat who takes him from rags to riches.
Traditionally, the protagonist of fairy tales, i.e. the third son or a Cinderella has a fairy godmother who appears at the opportune moment, i.e. kairos, to transform a Cinderella or some other character, into a beautiful person to whom the opportunity is given to be seen at his or her best. This could suggest a lack of resourcefulness in the central character of a fairy tale, a point we will discuss after writing a summary of the plot.
The Plot: rejected girl needs a fairy godmother, but the shoe fits
This is how the rags-to-riches narrative of Cinderella unfolds.
A widower who has one daughter marries a widow who has two daughters. In Charles Perrault’s version of the fairy tale, the widow’s two daughters are less attractive than Cinderella, so Cinderella is reduced to removing the ashes from chimneys and wears soiled clothes.
There is a ball to which the young women of the land are invited. In fact, in some versions of Cinderella (the Brothers Grimm), there are three balls, or three days of festivities, the number three being the most important number in fairy tales.
When Cinderella arrives in the carriage her fairy godmother has magically fashioned out of a pumpkin, just as she has magically fashioned the horses, the coach, and the magnificent gown Cinderella wears, she is stunning, not to mention the beauty and uniqueness of the slippers she wears, translated as glass but perhaps otherwise crafted: “vair,” a material, is pronounced the same way as “verre,” glass. This matter is one scholars have studied without reaching a consensus.
During the last ball, Cinderella is so enjoying herself that she forgets that midnight is approaching and that, at midnight, she will return to her station as the girl who cleans the ashes out of chimneys. She is running away so fast that she loses one of the slippers or shoes.
So Cinderella may be Cinderella again, but the prince has picked up the shoe and wants all the young women of the land to try it on. Whom will it fit? In Perrault’s version, when her sisters try on the shoe, Cinderella is her shabby self, but the prince has noticed her and he suspects beauty behind deceptive appearances. Cinderella is therefore asked to try on the shoe and the shoe fits. Cinderella is once again transformed into the beautiful young woman she was at the balls and will be the prince’s bride. Matters end the same way in the Brothers Grimm’s Cinderella except that birds blind her two sisters permanently, which is somewhat gruesome.
Origins of “Cinderella”
I will note later that Cinderella is rooted Rhodopis, 700 BCE, in which a slave girl marries the kind of Egypt, but tales often originate in India. However, as we know, the five stories that make up the Pañcatantra, were written in Sanskrit, by Vishnu Sharma and then, in 750 CE, they were translated into Arabic, as Kalīlah wa Dimnah, by Persian scholar Abdullah Ibn al-Muqaffa’.However there were other translations of the Pañcatantra, and other tales, before it was translated by Abdullah Ibn al-Muqaffa’. Furthermore, Vishnu Sharma may have taken his content, or subject matter, from an oral tradition. I will therefore be cautious as there may be a more ancient Cinderella, than Rhodopis.
But Perrault did not draw his material directly from an ancient source. Cinderella was part of the tales of Giambattista Basile(c. 1575 – 23 February 1632), the author of the Neapolitan Lo cunto de li cunti overo lo trattenemiento de peccerille, later entitled Il Pentamerone.Giovanni Francesco “Gianfrancesco” Straparola (c. 1480 – c. 1557) also wrote fairy tales, but he did not write a Cinderella.
As stated above, the point that needs examination is the extent to which Cinderella participates in her transformation. The short answer is that she needs help but is not as passive as she might seem. She has gone to her father to ask for his help but her father, who loves his new wife, has refused to intervene on behalf of his daughter, which is not very fatherly. However, had he intervened, he might have made matters more difficult for his daughter. Cinderella’s stepmother has two daughters whose looks could jeopardize their ability to find a spouse and her daughters come first.
Other factors may be at play. For instance, this is a fairy tale, not a comedy. Unlike the characters of comedies, Cinderella does not have a gentleman friend who can help her fight a heavy father, pater familias. Nor does she have clever servants who would assist her and her gentleman friend. That happens in comedies, not in fairy tales. Perrault’s Cinderella truly needs a fairy godmother and she is fortunate that the prince happens to see beauty beneath deceptive appearances. Despite their lovely gowns, the stepmother’s daughters have not been noticed by the prince who can see beauty in an unadorned Cinderella.
So I wonder whether Cinderella can do much for herself other than assist her fairy godmother by fetching a large pumpkin and helping her empty it of its contents so that it can be transformed into a princely carriage. But, by an large, other than fetching the pumpkin and performing little task, Cinderella is very much in need of a fairy godmother, not to say a miracle.
The Perfect Candidate
However, destiny, the fates, have given Cinderella a fairy godmother. But more importantly, destiny has given her beauty and grace. Other than an opportunity to be seen by the prince, an opportunity which a fairy godmother orchestrates, it could be that Cinderella has all that is required of her. Moreover, only she can wear the shoes, which is very much to her advantage. So the long answer may be that she cannot do much for herself, but that she has been so blessed by Lady Fortune that she really does not need to do much for herself. In other words, although she needs and has a fairy godmother who arranges for her to meet the prince, her beauty and grace make her the perfect candidate for victory. Besides, the prince notices her and the shoe fits.
So Cinderella does not rise from her own ashes, but she rises from ashes.