Frontispiece, Contes de ma mere l’oye, 1695 manuscript

What if it was Sleeping Beauty who made eyes at a dumbstruck prince too mesmerized to kiss her?

What if Cinderella lied her way to the ball?

What if Puss used his boots to walk all over the old aristocracy?

They did in 1697 when Charles Perrault wrote them into tales for the entertainment not of children, but of worldly, witty adults. Fairy Tale Redux: Charles Perrault tells their stories.

Once upon a time in spring 2012, a group of students in Christine A. Jones’s French 4620 seminar at the University of Utah spent an entire semester rereading Perrault’s fairy tales on their merits. This site is devoted to our surprising discoveries.

A word of caution to the reader: This blog will not offer up jargony scholarly prose or appease casual readers looking for “the moral of the story”!

On the contrary, it is a dynamic extension of our university classroom—a space for the revelation of novelty and complexity, and the occasional long (and fascinating, we assure you!) digression into seventeenth-century French meanings.  We sought to make public conversaions about literature that would otherwise not make it it into “scholarly” print. They are fresh, sometimes raw, musings about what students found exciting in Perrault’s tales. They have been polished into edited prose, but not churned through the academic publishing mill. The words and passions are their own. In that sense, the blog provides a glimpse into the lively, and too often hidden, intellectual world of university students.

Our premise: the style and language and humor that gave Charles Perrault’s French fairy tales their local flavor has been diluted, lost to contemporary American readers. Read against the American versions of stories such as Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella that purport to contain simple, moral lessons about proper behavior (don’t talk to strangers, your prince will come), Perrault’s stories look highly creative, morally ambiguous, and gender playful. Hundreds of years of translation and comingling with other versions of similar plots, such as those by the Brothers Grimm and Walt Disney, have created an image of “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Cinderella” in America that bears little resemblance to the heroines, and heroes, that Perrault put to paper.

Several intellectual presuppositions informed our investigation and subsequent interpretation of these stories, and these are outlined by Conner Shaw in a brief introduction to the analyses.

We hope you enjoy the trip back to the fairy tale universe as it looked in 1690s Paris!

Read more about this site.

Read more about this class.

Read about Charles Perrault.

Special thanks to Professor Jennifer Schacker and the students of ENGL 3960 at the University of Guelph, who joined with us this semestser to blog about big questions facing fairy tale studies today. They helped us work through the ideas that appear on this website.

Profs. Jones and Schacker, longtime collaborators, are coeditors of Marvelous Transformations: An Anthology of Fairy Tales and Contemporary Critical Perspectives (Broadview Press, 2012). Prof. Jones is currently completing annotated translations of Perrault’s Mother Goose tales. Under advanced contract with Wayne State University Press as Mother Goose Revisited, the project’s completion has been funded by an NEH Summer Stipend. Look for it in 2013!

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