In Defense of the Fairies

Brief History: This story, most famously recorded by the French Charles Perrault, is about an awful woman with two daughters, one good, one bad. The younger, the good and beautiful daughter, met an elderly woman by the spring while fetching water. The younger daughter helps the woman to get a drink and the woman (who of course was a fairy) grants her the "gift" of spitting out diamonds and pretty flowers when she speaks. Yeah. . . that's what she does for mortals she likes. The awful mother of course insists that her equally awful daughter go get the same "gift", but when the older daughter arrives at the spring she finds a beautiful, richly dressed lady.  When asked for help to get a drink from the rich woman, the older daughter is very rude. This results in the lady (who is of course the same fairy) curses the older daughter with vipers and toads coming out of her mouth when she speaks. Mom decides that this is all her younger daughter's fault and the girl runs away before she could be beaten. A king's son found her, fell in love with all of the precious metals coming out of her mouth, and married her. Meanwhile, the elder daughter died alone in the woods.

Analysis: I know that the roses and jewels are supposed to be metaphorical of the kindness of the younger daughter, but I still say that the fairy was a jerk. How does the girl talk clearly? Would her spitting up of expensive shinies result in an economic inflation? What about the welfare of the snakes and toads coming out of the other daughter's mouth? Or would the number of reptiles being added to the forest population unbalance the ecosystem? The mind boggles.

Blame It on the Victorians: Once again, the Victorians shift the blame to the step-parents. In many later versions, the awful mother becomes the awful step-mother. Because the Victorians couldn't let dad's second wife have a break.

Last Thoughts: Seriously? How was that a gift? I think that fairy was the true villain. . . She's right behind me, isn't she?

*If you want know any of the places where some of my research comes from, just contact me.

In (Lack of) Defense of Patient Griselda

Brief History: This is a piece of European folklore that has been written down by Giovanni Boccaccio, Geoffrey Chaucer, and other big wigs of the Middle Ages. The version I’m focusing on was retold by Charles Perrault, but they are all pretty much the same. The story is about a rich marquis who decides to marry a poor woman named Griselda (which would have been the only tragedy of her life had she not met her husband). He decides to test this sweet lady various times including insisting that their children are taken away to be killed. Griselda, who promised to obey him, allows him to take her kids without any fight. He then forces her to live in exile for a decade or a so before announcing that he is going to remarry. Why does he tell Griselda this? Because he wants her to be a maid at the feast, of course. And wouldn’t you know it? His new bride is their twelve year old daughter (most versions make Griselda ignorant of this fact). Griselda continues to keep her mouth shut during all of the awfulness, never complaining or objecting to how she’s been treated. At last, her husband decides that she is worthy in his eyes. He restores Griselda as his wife, reveals that their kids are alive, and they all get to live in luxury with him. Some reward.

Analysis: First of all I haaaaaaaate this story. HATE IT! Why am I covering it within this blog, you may ask? To share my hate. Embrace how irksome this tale is. Let it feed you. Let it help you rally for equality and against the powers that be, whether your fight is social, gender, or economic woes.

Blame it on the Victorians: You know the Victorians liked this story. They were all about a woman’s value being based around what their husbands deemed important. It’s strange that a society ruled by a queen was so closed minded. Anthony Trollope, one of the lesser known Victorian novelists to us Yanks, used the theme of Patient Griselda in one of his novels in order to make some thinly veiled social commentary.

Last thoughts: HATE IT!!! HATE IT, I SAY!!!

*If you want know any of the places where some of my research comes from, just contact me.