Mediating Girls’ Imaginations and Identities
Chapter Twelve: Dedicated to Princesses: The Marriage Market and the Royal Revelations of Ancien Régime Fairy Tales
Once upon a time, fairy tales were written for princesses, and authors of fairy tales lived in close proximity to those princesses. During the reign of the Sun King, Louis XIV, a vogue for fairy tales swept the salons and the court itself. Fairy tale authors such as Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy, Catherine Bernard, Henriette-Julie de Murat, Marie-Jeanne Lhéritier de Villandon, and Charles Perrault wrote about princesses to an almost obsessive degree. They wrote about beautiful princesses, ugly princesses, wise and cunning princesses, passive and rather stupid princesses. While at court, a princess was a political commodity, one with little agency in a royal marriage market. In the tales, however, a princess might subvert her political objectification and become the centre of her own narrative, whether or not that narrative had a happy ending.
Many fairy tale authors of this period of the Ancien Régime were female. Their tales are generally longer and more socially complex, contain extensive detail about fashions and politics of the time, and focus on the agency of female characters, whether princesses or powerful fairies, the latter wielding more authority than kings. Yet, the tales of women writers failed to make the fairy tale canon and have been obscured by the works of male authors, including their contemporary, Charles Perrault, and later authors and collectors including Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, Andrew Lang, and, eventually, Walt Disney and his studio.1 The gradual exclusion of women writers from the...
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