Madame d’Aulnoy and The Island of Happiness (Announcement)

Okay fairy tale admirers: in case you missed it, The Guardian Books published a piece yesterday (December 21st) highlighting the 17th-century French writer Madame d’Aulnoy, an upcoming release of a collection of her fairy talesThe Island of Happiness—, and one tale that will “be published in English for the first time in more than 300 years.”

I’m excited about this for a couple of reasons. First, I love fairy tales, and have been closely reading and occasionally studying the history of this genre for a couple of years now (this does not include the time I spent reading fairy tales as a child). So a publication of a collection like this interests me greatly. Second, Madame d’Aulnoy is given credit for creating the term “fairy tale”—conte de fée in French—thus (in addition to her stories) making her a significant pioneer of the genre. And third, as Alison Flood for The Guardian Books writes, “today her work rarely appears outside of anthologies.” Unlike, say, the work of Charles Perrault (her contemporary), Hans Christian Andersen, and the Grimm Brothers.

Through my Reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales project, I’ve learned a lot about how the Grimm Brothers collected their tales. In Clever Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales by Valerie Paradiž, the women in Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s lives made substantial, almost entirely uncredited, contributions. And we know that the most infamous fairy tale collections give credit and are attributed to the men who compiled them. So for this collection of Madame d’Aulnoy’s to be brought to life (by Princeton Press), the genre gains an important, generally accessible facet and perspective.

To expand on the significance of this publishing announcement, Alison Flood included a few quotes describing this collection and Madam d’Aulnoy’s writing from Jack Zipes, a renowned fairy tale scholar who translated this collection and wrote the introduction.

“D’Aulnoy’s tales, he said, ‘placed women in greater control of their destinies than in fairytales by men. It is obvious that the narrative strategies of her tales, like those she told or learned in the salon, were meant to expose decadent practices and behaviour among the people of her class, particularly those who degraded independent women.

‘What interested her most of all was the status of women, the power of love, ethical behaviour, and the tender relations between lovers. Without love and the cultivation of love, she believed the ideal and just society could not exist.’”

Alison Flood also included additional information about Madame d’Aulnoy, whose early teenage years and those following were fraught with inappropriate relationships (married off at thirteen), illegal schemes (plotting, with her mother, to kill that husband), and how her writing took off. I will certainly be using the time up to the publication date to seek out more information about Madame d’Aulnoy.

The Island of Happiness: Tales of Madame d'Aulnoy Book Cover | Drawings by Natalie Frank

The Island of Happiness: Tales of Madame d’Aulnoy (Book Cover) | Drawings by Natalie Frank

Princeton University Press will be printing the collection—due out on March 16th, 2021—which includes illustrations (yay!) by artist Natalie Frank. You can learn more about the book here, and I highly recommend reading The Guardian Books article I have featured in this post—“Pioneering fairy tale author Madame d’Aulnoy back in print after centuries” by Alison Flood—, as well as learning a little more about Madame D’Aulnoy. And in case it isn’t clear, this is my most anticipated book for 2021; whether you’re a fairy tale lover or casual reader I hope you’ll be excited for this collection too.

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