[DWJ] Feeling sorry for Penelope (was Fire and Hemlock Question)

Paul Andinach pandinac at ucc.gu.uwa.edu.au
Tue Aug 22 21:08:16 EDT 2006

On Tue, 22 Aug 2006, Minnow wrote:

> I wonder slightly whether the person who did the modern retelling of
> the stories we think of as 'traditional fairy tales' always adds a
> major part to their message.  Cinderella is a Charles Perrault,
> isn't it?  along with The Sleeping Beauty and Little Red Riding
> Hood?  I think he was a bit of a sentimental old thing, and not
> inclined to be even a tiny bit feminist; his Cinders is a sweet and
> saintly brat who even offers to dress her nasty step-sisters' hair
> for them without having to be ordered to, and she just relies on her
> fairy godmother rescuing her, really, all very passive.  (And then
> she forgives everyone at the end!  Argh!)

I don't think Perrault was the least bit sentimental, and I have
always had the feeling that his tales were told with tongue wedged
firmly in cheek. Remember how his version of 'Cinderella' ends?

   moral: Without doubt it is a great advantage to have intelligence,
   courage, good breeding, and common sense. These, and similar
   talents come only from heaven, and it is good to have them.
   However, even these may fail to bring you success, without the
   blessing of a godfather or a godmother.

I defy anyone to tell me that he could have written that with a
straight face.

(There's another less popular fairy tale of his, in which an ugly but
witty prince and a beautiful but brainless princess meet and fall in
love, and magically the prince becomes handsome and the princess
intelligent - but Perrault in his version makes a point of leaving it
ambiguous whether this is real magic or just in the perception of the

Which is not to say that many of the retellings of Perrault's version
are not sentimental; it is ever thus. A similar fate has befallen the
fairy tales of A. A. Milne.

"Hold fast to the one noble thing."

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