Although some men composed the popular fairy novellas, they were mostly the work of women. Originally, just like Perrault’s Fairy Tales, the works of the fairy writers were meant to be read aloud or told from memory like folktales. Stock situations, such as that of a beautiful maiden being forced to marry against her will, were elaborated upon and interwoven with other elements to produce stories that took an hour or more in the telling. Many of these narratives were eventually published, either individually or in collections. Judging from those that were published, storytellers would often compliment their friends or comment on recent events through oblique references within the story; in addition to such commentary, the authors primarily strove for wit, satire, playfulness, and graceful language. The most famous and successful of these adult fairy writers was Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy. Her Contes de Fées (1690) and Les Fées à la mode (1695), translated together as Fairy Tales by the Countess d’Aulnoy (1856), are still widely read in French and are occasionally retold for children in English. The best known of these tales in English are “The White Cat” (“La Chatte blanche”) and “The Yellow Dwarf” (“Le Nain jaune”), both of which were popular in the nineteenth century.
Charles Perrault, as a moralist, drew upon such works as Aulnoy’s vehicles for philosophical examinations of human behavior and...
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