may_lily: (Rapunzel's hair)
may_lily ([personal profile] may_lily) wrote2013-06-08 11:52 am

Persinette and the Oedipus Prophecy

From my tumblr.

It’s the eternally puzzling question: why did the witch lock the maiden in the tower?

Neither Rapunzel nor Petrosinella offer any explanation. La Force’s Persinette, however, does, though it raises more questions.

Before Persinette reached the age of twelve, she was a marvel to behold, and since the fairy was fully aware of what fate had in store for her, she decided to shield her from her destiny.

But what was Persinette’s fate? Possibly unwed pregnancy. Once the fairy realises that Persinette’s pregnant, she says:

“You’ve made a great mistake, and you’re going to be punished for it. Fate has had its way, and all the precautions I took were in vain.”

Was Persinette actually unmarried though? Here’s the prince once he makes his way into the tower:

Finally, he became bolder and proposed to marry her right then and there, and she consented without hardly knowing what she was doing. Even so, she was able to complete the ceremony.

Is this just a euphemism for sex, or were they genuinely married? I know that in some times and places, all that was required was the two participants declaring that they were married. I don’t know if that was the case in 17th century France. Aulnoy’s The White Cat has a similar scene with the prince and the princess declaring marriage in a tower, with the princess’s pet dog and parrot as witnesses.

I wonder if the fairy foresaw something more in Persinette’s fate? Perhaps she saw that Persinette’s suffering would begin with her falling in love with a man. Once she got pregnant, her lover was no longer with her, and she had to raise the children all on her own.

When Oedipus was born, there was a prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother. Every attempt to avert this failed - his parents exposed him, but instead of dying he was adopted. Unaware that he was adopted, he learned of the prophecy and determined to leave his parents in order to avoid it. He fought and killed a stranger that turned out to be his father, and married a woman who turned out to be his mother.

I wonder if, similarly, the fairy tried to avoid Persinette’s suffering, and ended up bringing it about instead? She tries to keep her away from men, knowing that one will be the cause of her suffering. She takes her away from the man she believes is fickle, and punishes him. In the end, seeing the love between the couple, and that he is prepared to remain with her even under the threat of death, she relents and allows them to be together. Could it be that she realised the prophecy had already come to pass?

Undoubtedly there are other explanations for the fairy’s motivation, but I find this one to be interesting. I think she’s a really fascinating character.

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