may_lily: (Beauty and the Beast Love)
may_lily ([personal profile] may_lily) wrote2012-12-27 06:48 pm

Forgotten women writers of popular fairy tales

From my tumblr.

Nearly all of the fairy tales that are best known today were written by Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and to a lesser extent Joseph Jacobs and Asbjørnsen and Moe. What do these writers have in common? They’re all men.

Many women were writing fairy tales at the time of Perrault. The best known of these is Madame d’Aulnoy. But her stories don’t get constant picture books and big-budget movies. There were women fairy tale writers around the time of the Brothers Grimm as well, but I know less about them.

Three fairy tales written by women have managed to achieve fame: ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Rapunzel’, and ‘Snow White and Rose Red’. Of these, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is the only one regularly credited to a woman (when it’s not being erroneously credited to a man), albeit to the woman who wrote the adaption rather than the woman who wrote the story in the first place. ‘Rapunzel’ was first written by Charlotte-Rose de la Force as ‘Persinette’, and ‘Snow White and Rose Red’ was written by Caroline Stahl as ‘The Ungrateful Dwarf’.

‘Beauty and the Beast’ was first written as a very long, complex story by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve. I’ve already written quite a bit about it: see Serpent Fairies, Disguise, and Princess or Peasant. Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont took this story and simplified it. It’s this simplified version that gained popularity.

Several of Madame de Beaumont’s other fairy tales have been translated into English over the years, but I have been unable to find a website that makes them easily available. None of them ever gained the popularity that ‘Beauty and the Beast’ did. It seems that there is something in the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ story that captures the imagination in a way that her original stories didn’t.

Coming soon: my thoughts on Persinette/Rapunzel and Snow White and Rose Red.