Fairy Tales: A New History
Ruth B. Bottigheimer
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Overturns traditional views of the origins of fairy tales and documents their actual origins and transmission.
Where did Cinderella come from? Puss in Boots? Rapunzel? The origins of fairy tales are looked at in a new way in these highly engaging pages. Conventional wisdom holds that fairy tales originated in the oral traditions of peasants and were recorded for posterity by the Brothers Grimm during the nineteenth century. Ruth B. Bottigheimer overturns this view in a lively account of the origins of these well-loved stories. Charles Perrault created Cinderella and her fairy godmother, but no countrywoman whispered this tale into Perrault’s ear. Instead, his Cinderella appeared only after he had edited it from the book of often amoral tales published by Giambattista Basile in Naples. Distinguishing fairy tales from folktales and showing the influence of the medieval romance on them, Bottigheimer documents how fairy tales originated as urban writing for urban readers and listeners. Working backward from the Grimms to the earliest known sixteenth-century fairy tales of the Italian Renaissance, Bottigheimer argues for a book-based history of fairy tales. The first new approach to fairy tale history in decades, this book answers questions about where fairy tales came from and how they spread, illuminating a narrative process long veiled by surmise and assumption.
“Bottingheimer’s work is as always provocative and interesting.” — Journal of American Folklore
“The genius of this slender volume is not so much that it provides a totally ‘new history,’ but rather that it presents not only Bottigheimer’s research but also that of John Ellis, Heinz Rölleke, Nancy Canepa, and many others in cogent, persuasive, eminently readable prose … A fascinating study in intertextuality, this book includes a helpful list of the 77 tales discussed, categorized by the author.” — CHOICE
“Some scholars say that, whether or not one agrees with all of Bottigheimer’s conclusions, her work is a useful questioning of popularly held beliefs.” — Chronicle Review
“This book will forever change the way that scholars and readers view a genre—the literary fairy tale—that remains vital today.” — Suzanne Magnanini, author of Fairy-Tale Science: Monstrous Generation in the Tales of Straparola and Basile
class society. A literary paradox ensued. The tales that the Grimms garnered for Volume 1, the beginning of their literary effort to create German-ness, show by far a greater connection with tales that had entered Germany from France than they do with any tales of German origin.43 As the Grimm brothers began working on Volume 2 of their tale collection in 1813, conditions in Hesse-Cassel changed again within the politico-historical context of early nineteenthcentury Europe. In late 1813 Napoleon
Wedding” in the Nursery and Household Tales: A fox with nine tails feigned death to see how his wife would react. As soon as word got out that Herr Fox had died, suitors arrived to woo Frau Fox. When the first arrived, Frau Fox asked her maid if he had nine beautiful tails as had her dear departed husband. Only one tail, came the answer, so she rejected him immediately. The next had two, then came one with three, and so on. 46 FAIRY TALES Each was turned away until the ninth arrived, and he,
and “The Discreet Princess,” Mlle Lhéritier had—in 1695—reworked another tale that appeared both in Straparola’s collection and in Basile’s. She had turned to Straparola’s version of an enduringly popular medieval crossdressing tale, “Costanzo-Costanza,” for the immediate plot of her “Marmoisan.” Straparola’s tale details the experiences of a princess who made her way in the world by dressing as a man and entering the service of a foreign king. Alas for her, the king’s lascivious consort fell in
Opere poetiche di Gio. Battista Basile. Mantua: Aurelio & Lodovico Osanni fratelli. ———. 1634–1636; 1932; rpt. 1979. Lo cunto de li cunti. The Pentamerone of Giambattista Basile. Trans. and ed. Norman M. Penzer. Westport CT: Greenwood Press. 2 vols. ———. 1634–1636; 1986. Lo cunto de li cunti. Ed. Michele Rak. Milan: Garzanti. ———. 1634–1636; trans. 2000. Giambattista Basile. Das Märchen der Märchen. Das Pentamerone. Ed. and trans. Rudolf Schenda et al. Munich: C. H. Beck. ———. 1634–1636; 2007.
publishing history below will show. But the fact is, that there was never a single report of tellings of Straparola’s tales at the French court, only Mme de Sévigné’s account of mitonner, of telling tales about fairies and fairyland, of which no examples existed in Straparola’s much-printed book. SOCIAL HISTORY In now-famous studies like Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie’s Montaillou (1975) and Carlo Ginzburg’s The Cheese and the Worms (1975) social historians investigated the living conditions of humble