Salon Tales Essay

1110 words - 4 pages

Contrary to popular literary studies, French fairy tales may not accurately depict the lives of 17th century peasantry. In Dorothy Thelander’s “Mother Goose and Her Goslings,” she argues that these stories are actually a mixture of “folk literature and high literature” (Thelander 35). Better suited to the name “Salon tales” (Thelander 34), these stories have both peasant and bourgeois elements and are more representative of the environment in which their authors wrote. Because authors such as Perrault and d’Aulnoy came from the bourgeois class, their versions of traditional fairy tales reflect the social values found within aristocratic literary salons, not the hardships and taboo issues of peasants.
The presence of folk origins is prevalent in Salon tales. Elements such as plots, characters, and motifs often run similarly through peasant and Salon versions. For example, both the peasant and Perrault’s versions of “Little Red Riding Hood” share similar characters (the young girl, the grandmother, and the wolf), motifs (only the strongest and the wittiest survive), and plot lines (the young girl goes to grandmother’s house and a wolf wants to eat the young girl). Disregarding the difference in endings, as the Wolf eats Little Red Riding Hood in Perrault’s version, the major characteristic that sets Salon tales apart from those of peasants is the intended audience. Written for sophisticated adults, Salon tales represent the social concerns of the bourgeois class, including love, marriage, and advancement (Thelander 35). This can be seen in Perrault’s “Little Red Riding Hood.” Not only is Little Red the prettiest village girl in the world, she also wears a red hood, an indication of a wealth and luxury (Perrault 55). The attention to detail, particularly to clothing and appearance, is another element unique to the aristocratic nature of Salon tales. Because the bourgeois were more concerned with dressing to match their social status, the same attention to detail in literary fairy tales reflects those Parisian ideals. Thelander states, “the tales cannot be used to prove the high culture of the noble French peasant or the greater culture of the elite who adopted them for their own purposes” (Thelander 36). They are, instead, more indicative of the high society environment that shaped the style of the authors’ writing.
As Salon tales reflected social values more so than culture, these stories do not bother with making bold political and religious statements. In regards to government, the only element that the authors include that may depict 17th century French culture is the presence of a monarchy. All the Salon tales have kings, queens, princes, and princesses, but these characters just play generic roles. The value that Salon environment places on monarchs can be seen through the different representations of the king. Good kings are marked by their decisiveness and acceptance of counsel, while bad kings gain power through fear. Majority of Salon...

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