"D'Aulnoy's most popular tales often featured enterprising, clever girls whose lives were tyrannized by wicked kings and fathers-very different from the stories of the better-known Charles Perrault, whose heroines are marked by their modesty, obedience, and reliance on the ingenuity of a prince to save them from the spell of a wicked stepmother or witch." -Susan Bordo* (emphasis mine)
Hmm...what do you think of this quote? I admit I'm not as familiar with Madame D'Aulnoy's fairy tales as a whole, but I do love tales of hers like "Green Snake" which is an unusual example of an ugly heroine desired by a Prince-a tale you probably wouldn't find being invented and told by a man. For while we know that Perrault was part of a feminist group of writers, we can't forget that he was still a man and had a different voice.
the moral seriously, Perrault took a folk tale in which the heroine cleverly rescues herself (and sometimes her sisters), and turned her into a helpless heroine who had to wait to be rescued and served as a later cautionary tale against the evils of female curiosity.
And yet...although people generally interpret the heroine marrying a Prince at the end as sexist (meaning she needs a man to rescue her), I don't necessarily view marrying a Prince that way. Fairy tale endings generally satisfy human cravings for companionship (marriage) and stability (wealth), which often means marrying a beautiful royal, regardless of which gender the main character is. And if you look at tales like Perrault's "Cinderella," the Prince isn't the agent of change, but the prize. Cinderella's rescue is engineered by her (female) fairy godmother (and in other versions, the spirit of her dead mother). And, if you compare Perrault's "Cinderella" to D'Aulnoy's "Finette Cindron," if anything Perrault's character is more clever for letting her shoe drop on purpose, and Finette's Prince is creepier for having a small shoe fetish.
Also, in Perrault's "Donkey Skin," that heroine really saves herself-she leaves a horrible situation, alone (very brave, especially for a woman to be travelling alone at the time), again with the help of her godmother. She then puts herself in a position to be discovered by the Prince, rather cleverly dropping her ring in his cake.
And yet, there's still the fact that Perrault chose to rewrite "Griselda," an already well-known tale (published by Boccaccio and later included in Canterbury Tales) about how women must endure all kinds of abuse from the men in their lives all for the ultimate ideal of being loving and obedient. Even if you read it as a satire/parody, it's still pretty upsetting and I wonder why he chose that tale out of all the stories he could have chosen...
*Source-The Creation of Anne Boleyn by Susan Bordo
Antique copy of D'Aulnoy's tales
Russian Children's Book
Donkeyskin by Nadezhda Illarionova