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Very few folklorists and critics have examined fairy tales from an evolutionary psychological perspective, despite the fact that fairy tales deal opulently with evolution of the human species under particular cultural conditions that often engender crises. All of these situations incite similar questions: What must an individual do to adapt to a new and unexpected situation?

Does a person become heroic through a special kind of adaptation? How will the heroine or hero survive? What does a person have to do to maintain power so that she or he can survive? How must one protect oneself in a dog-eat-dog world? Are there alternative ways of living and reproducing the species that do not involve the transgression of other bodies? In some respects I believe that we have been attracted to fairy tales because they are survival stories with hope. They alert us to dangerous situations, instruct us, guide us, give us counsel, and reveal what might happen if we take advantage of helpful instruments or agents, or what might happen if we do not.

They communicate the need to be oppor- tunistic, to exploit opportunities, to be selish so we can survive. They have arisen out of a need to adapt to unusual situations, and many of these situations are similar the world over so that many of the same types of tales have arisen and been disseminated and transformed so that new generations will learn to adjust to similar situations in chang- ing environments. All tales want to stay alive in us, and they compete for our attention. We choose a particular metaphorical tale to be more precise and effective in what we want to express.

Yet, each tale in its mutated form must articulate why it is still necessary and relevant in a changed environment and whether its impact is positive or negative. It is a tale about predators and how to deal with them. In my book The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood, I demonstrated that the origin of the literary fairy tale can be traced to male fantasies about women and sexuality and to conlicting versions with regard to the responsibility for the violation in the tale.

In particular, I showed how Charles Perrault and the Grimm Broth- ers transformed an oral folk tale about the social initiation of a young woman into a narrative about rape in which the heroine is obliged to bear the responsibility for sexual violation. Such a radical literary transformation is highly signiicant because the male-cultivated liter- ary versions became dominant in both the oral and literary traditions of nations such as Germany, France, Great Britain, and the United States, nations that exercise cultural hegemony in the West.

Indeed, the Per- rault and Grimm versions became so crucial in the socialization process of these countries that they generated a literary discourse about sexual roles and behavior, a discourse whose fascinating antagonistic perspec- tives shed light on different phases of social and cultural change. In discussing this development, however, I did not examine how it might be a linguistic and memetic form related to evolutionary theories about instincts, adaptation, and survival.

Therefore, I should like once more to summarize my arguments about the sociopsychological implications of the changes made by Perrault and the Grimm Brothers and conclude by considering how the tale has evolved up to the present and why it is still so popular. None of these motifs, it must be borne in mind, are particular to the times of Perrault and the Grimms, or to our very own times of rabid violence and violation.

The tally of Red Riding Hood tales is quite impressive. Thanks to his exhaustive study of tales and motifs in the ancient world, however, we now have a much more comprehensive grasp of the memetic and epi- demiological formation of canonical fairy tales. If we accept the latter premise, then we can accept the hypothesis of widespread diffusion of folktale, with deviant and misrecollected ver- sions by forgetful or inaccurate storytellers easily corrected by those with better memories. What we should guard against is the idea that tales will be reinvented in more or less identical form by different societies as they proceed through progressive stages of civilization, a fantasy of nine- teenth-century proto-anthropology, or that because a large number of popular tales use a inite number of motifs, then oral storytellers simply shufle the motifs around to make new tales.

There are indeed instances where two convergent tales can become confused, or where one tale seems to borrow from another, but on the whole[,] hybrids, common as they are, still remain marginal in the process of diffusion of tales. The more examples of any given international tale-type we study, the more clearly we can see the integrity and logic of the tale. They gradually had to be congealed in a stable form to become canonical, so to speak, and though one cannot precisely detect each step in the formation of a classical literary tale, the more information we gather about the spread of the motifs the more light we will shed on why and how a tale becomes memetic.

In it he incorporated many Latin translations of vernacular prov- erbs. Because many of the proverbs originated among the uneducated countryfolk, Sigebert of Gembloux ca. A certain man took up a girl from the sacred font, and gave her a tunic woven of red wool; sacred Pentecost was [the day] of her baptism. The girl, now ive years old, goes out at sunrise, footloose and heedless of her peril. A wolf attacked her, went to its woodland lair, took her as booty to its cubs, and left her to be eaten.

They approached her at once and, since they were unable to harm her, began, free from all their ferocity, to caress her head. If Egbert imposed Christian features in this fashion, then the redness in the story told by the common people could have had a general apotropaic signiicance that the Latin poet particularized with a religious dimension when he appropriated it.

When a tale evolves through the discursive appropriation of oral and literary transmission, this germ remains and is at the heart of its memetic appeal. It is the constant interaction between what Bakhtin called primary and secondary speech genres that constituted the epidemiological dissemination of this canonical fairy tale and all the other canonical narratives. The little girl arrived and knocked at the door. Take some of the meat which is inside and the bottle of wine on the shelf.

Let me go outside. When the little girl was outside, she tied the end of the rope to a plum tree in the courtyard. Are you making a load? He followed her but arrived at her house just at the moment she entered. She is shrewd, brave, tough, and indepen- dent. Evidence indicates she was probably undergoing a social ritual connected to sewing communities the maturing young woman proves she can handle needles, replace an older woman, and contend with the opposite sex. In some of the tales, however, she loses the contest with the male predator and is devoured by him.

There is no absolute proof that the above synthetic tale pieced together by the astute French folklorist Paul Delarue was told in the exact same form in which he published it. Perrault revised some kind of oral tale that featured a young girl endangered by a predatory wolf to make it the literary standard-bearer for good Christian upbringing in a much more sophisticated manner than Egbert or oral storytellers.

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Moreover, his fear of women and his own sexual drives are incorporated in his new literary version, which also relects general male attitudes about women portrayed as eager to be seduced or raped. In this regard, Perrault began a series of literary transformations that have caused nothing but trouble for the female object of male desire and have also relected the crippling aspect of male desire itself.

What are the signiicant changes he made? First, she is donned with a red hat, a chaperon,56 making her into a type of bourgeois girl tainted with sin since red, like the scarlet letter A, recalls the devil and heresy. Second, she is spoiled, negligent, and naive.

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Third, she speaks to a wolf in the woods—rather dumb on her part—and makes a type of contract with him: she accepts a wager, which, it is implied, she wants to lose. Fifth, she is swallowed or raped like her grandmother. Sixth, there is no salvation, simply an ironic moral in verse that warns little girls to beware of strangers, otherwise they will deservedly suffer the conse- quences. Sex is obviously sinful. It was translated into English by Robert Samber in and into other European languages. The Grimms made further alterations worth noting.

Here the mother plays a more signiicant role by warning Little Red Riding Hood not to stray from the path through the woods. Little Red Riding Hood is more or less incited by the wolf to enjoy nature and to pick lowers. Instead of being raped to death, both grandma and granddaughter are saved by a male hunter or gamekeeper who polices the woods. Only a strong male igure can rescue a girl from herself and her lustful desires. What constituted its memetic quality? If memes are selish, as Dawkins has declared, the persistence of a story that presents rape relevantly in a discursive form to indicate the girl asked to be raped, or contributed to her own rape, can be attrib- uted to the struggle among competing memes within patriarchal soci- eties that tend to view rape from a male viewpoint that rationalizes the aggressive male sexual behavior.

Yet, it is not entirely negative as a meme, and it is a meme that has mutated, especially in the past thirty-ive years, under strong ideo- logical inluences of the feminist movement. Perrault did not dispute the fact that men tend to be predatory, but he shifted the respon- sibility of physical violence and the violation of the body to the female, and since his communication it the dominant ideology of his times shared by many women and perhaps ours , his story competed with all others and became the dominant meme and remains so to this day.

As dominant meme, it does not simply convey the notion that women are responsible for their own rape, but it also conveys a warning about strangers in the woods, the danger of violation, and an extreme moral lesson: kill the rapist or be killed. Used or transformed as a warning tale, it reveals that the tale is open to multiple interpretations and also has a positive cultural function. Certainly, it is very dificult to change sexual behavior. At times, Pinker minimizes the connection between sexual drives, social reinforcements, and social power that still enable males to exercise their domination in various ways, but he also fortunately recognizes the sig- niicance of the feminist challenge to the way rape is displayed, trans- mitted, and narrated in Western society.

If we have to acknowledge that sexuality can be a source of conlict and not just wholesome mutual pleasure, we will have rediscovered a truth that observers of the human condition have noted throughout history. The great contribution of feminism to the morality of rape is to put issues of consent and coercion at center stage.

The ultimate motives of the rapist are irrelevant. I want to close with some brief remarks about a remarkable ilm that relects upon the possibility for cultural transformation or change. She is picked up on a highway by a serial rapist and killer, and because she is so street smart, she manages to turn the tables on him, grab his gun, and shoot him.

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She then takes his car but is arrested because the rapist miraculously survives. Two detectives interrogate her, but largely due to their male prejudices, they do not believe her story about attempted rape. In prison Vanessa succeeds in escaping while the two detectives follow leads from people they interview that convince them that the rapist was really lying.

When she arrives, she bravely beats him to a pulp, and the astonished detectives, who had wanted to help her, show up only to witness how Vanessa can easily take care of herself. The contested representations suggest that there is another way of viewing desire, seduction, and violation. If there are really such things as memes— and I am convinced there are—and if memes can inluence us and be changed as our behavior is transformed, it is important that we take the theory of memes and fairy tales themselves more seriously.

As we know, tales do not only speak to us, they inhabit us and become relevant in our struggles to resolve conlicts that endanger our happiness. Although there is some truth to these assumptions, they conceal the deep cross-cultural and multilayered origins and meanings of these pan-European tales that also have fasci- nating connections to northern Africa and the Orient, including the Middle and Far East.

Of course there can be no denying that the tales are culturally marked: they are informed by the languages that the writ- ers employed, their respective cultures, and the sociohistorical context in which the narratives were created. In this regard one can discuss the particular Italian, French, German, or English afiliation of a tale and also make regional distinctions within a particular principality or nation-state. The truth value of a fairy tale is depen- dent on the degree to which a writer is capable of using a symbolical linguistic code, narrative strategy, and stereotypical characterization to depict, expose, or celebrate the modes of behavior that were used and justiied to attain power in the civilizing process of a given soci- ety.

Whether oral or literary, the tales have sought to uncover truths about the pleasures and pains of existence, to propose possibilities for adaptation and survival, and to reveal the intricacies of our civilizing processes. Historical Background For the past three hundred years or more scholars and critics have sought to deine and classify the oral folk tale and the literary fairy tale, as though they could be clearly distinguished from each other, and as though we could trace their origins to some primeval source.

As I have stated in the previous chapter, this is an impossible task because there are very few if any records with the exception of paintings, drawings, etchings, inscriptions, parchments, and other cultural artifacts that reveal how tales were told and received thousands of years ago. In fact, even when written records came into existence, they provided very lit- tle information about storytelling among the majority of people, except for random information that educated writers gathered and presented in their works.

Naturally, the oral folk tales that were told in many different ways thousands of years ago preceded the literary narratives, but we are not certain who told the tales, why, and how. We do know, however, that scribes began writing different kinds of tales that relected an occupation with rituals, historical anecdotes, customs, startling events, miraculous transformations, and religious beliefs.

The recording of these various tales was extremely important because the writers preserved an oral tra- dition for future generations, and in the act of recording, they changed the tales to a greater or lesser degree, depending on what their purpose was in recording them. There is no evidence that a separate oral won- der-tale tradition or literary fairy-tale tradition existed in Europe before the medieval period. Graham Anderson has performed a great service for folklorists and serious scholars of the fairy tale by demonstrating how Greek and Roman myths contributed to the generic development of the literary fairy tale by studying oral and literary sources in the pre- Christian ancient world.

It does not seem that folktales, including fairy tales, are memorized in verbal detail but according as they deal with matters of concern to the community, and in terms of stereotyped characters and narrative patterns. The pattern has its own internal logic which does not necessarily depend on material probability or a plot with strict cause and effect, as does the novel, at least in theory. The general pattern must satisfy the common desire for a marvel and a satisfactory outcome.

How this occurred, where it occurred, and exactly when it occurred are dificult questions to answer with precision because the tales developed as a process largely through talk, conversations, and performances that caught the imagination of people from different social milieu and were gradually written down irst in Latin and then eventu- ally in different vernacular languages, when they became more accept- able in the late Middle Ages.

As more and more wonder tales were written down in Latin and vernacular languages from the twelfth to the ifteenth centuries, they constituted the genre of the literary fairy tale, and writers began establishing its particular conventions, motifs, topoi, characters, and plots, based to a large extent on those developed in the oral tradition but altered to address a reading public formed largely by the clergy, aristocracy, and the middle classes.

The tales that were told cut across different classes and segments of a particular society—rural, urban, and court. The threatening aspect of wondrous change, turning the world upside down, was something that these classes always tried to channel through codiied celebrations like Carnival and religious holidays. This must mean that the Cocaigne mate- rial belongs to the oldest of oral traditions, otherwise it would not have been written down as soon as man started wielding the pen.

Their ingredients—consisting of formulaic elements, individual motifs, and stock themes—are part of a widespread oral culture that has continued to the present day. In addition, details of this oral tradition continue to crop up in written literature, which then forms its own traditions, some- times—but not necessarily—interacting with the oral transmission of these same stories. The establishment of literacy was, among other things, a way to police the use of language through schooling, religion, and legislation of laws. It is extremely dificult to describe what the oral wonder tale was because our evidence is based on written documents, and there are many types of wonder tales with diverse plots and characters, bound intricately with customs and rituals, that are often inexplicable.

Gen- eral theories about the origin and spread of the folk tales leading to the formation of the literary fairy tale were irst conceived at the beginning of the nineteenth century and have been elaborated and contested up through the twenty-irst century. The Brothers Grimm believed that fairy tales were derived from myths that had been religious at one time, but storytellers had gradually discarded their religious connotations, and the tales became secular wonder tales.

Their views were expanded by Theodor Benfey —81 , a scholar of Sanskrit, who argued in his introduction to the Indic Pantscha Tantra that the genre of the fairy tale originated in ancient India as an oral wonder tale and spread irst to Persia and then to the entire Arabic-speaking world. Eventually, the oral wonder tales were transmitted to Europe via Spain, Greece, and Sicily through trade, migration, and the Crusades. The Grimms and Benfrey believed that there was one point of origin or one place of birth monogenesis that led to the formation of the folk tales.

The notion of polygen- esis was also at the basis of the British anthropological scholars Edward Burnett Tylor — , Andrew Lang — , and James George Frazer — ,9 who maintained that, since the human species was similar throughout the world, humans responded to their environment in similar ways, giving rise to identical tales that varied only accord- ing to the customs they developed. A common assumption made by almost all folklorists and anthro- pologists in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was that the fairy tale was part of an oral tradition thousands of years old.

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Instead, he argued that, despite the existence of oral folk tales in antiquity, there was no such thing as a fairy tale, and the fairy tale as a genre was really the creation of individual writers, who forged the genre in the ifteenth and sixteenth centuries and its basis is literary. His ideas were soundly rejected and answered by, among others, the Danish folklorist Bengt Holbek, whose thorough and thoughtful work Interpretation of Fairy Tales demonstrates clearly that some forms of the fairy tale have existed in the oral tradition for millennia.

Moreover, she tries to set up a false debate between so-called oral- ists and herself as though there were a clear divide, and argues that only published books provide accurate evidence for the origins, existence, and spread of fairy tales. Her positivist approach to oral history recalls the elitist manner in which the upper classes treated popular culture and negated their customs and forms of entertainment. Scholars who have used a more inclusive and expansive approach that focuses on the inter- action between elite and popular cultures and the interplay between orality and literacy reveal the narrow conines of her argument.

Forms and Contents of the Or al Wonder Tale and the Liter ary Fairy Tale The debate about the origin and transmission of the fairy tale as oral wonder tale, while signiicant and productive, can be misleading and distracting when we consider that the spoken language existed long before writing systems were developed, and when we take into account that it is impossible to determine when and how certain types of tales evolved.

What we do know, as Jan Ziolkowski has pointed out, is that: Europe has had writing systems for thousands of years. Clay, stone, metal, bark, papyrus, wax, parchment, and paper are only a selection of the materials that have been used for this purpose. Tales have been told dur- ing those millennia, but most tellings have not been set down in writing or otherwise recorded. Part of the reason is the sheer practical one that it has been happily impossible to capture in writing all the words people have spoken.

Some types of literature were written down again and again, while oth- ers failed to receive oficial approval, either explicit or tacit, which was an indispensable prerequisite for being memorialized in literature. The plot gener- ally involves a protagonist who is confronted with an interdiction or pro- hibition that he or she violates in some way.

Therefore, there is generally a departure or banishment and the protagonist is either given a task or assumes a task related to the interdiction or prohibition. The protagonist is as-signed a task, and the task is a sign.

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That is, his or her character will be stereotyped and marked by the task that is his or her sign. In sociological terms, each character is to act out what Pierre Bourdieu calls a habitus,16 that is, the characters occupy the whole complex of thinking, acting, and performing of a position within the family and society: names are rarely used in a folk tale; characters function accord- ing to their status within a family, social class, or profession; and they often cross boundaries or transform themselves.

It is the transgression that makes the tale exciting; it is the possibility of transformation that gives hope to the teller and listener of a tale. Inevitably in the course of action there will be a signiicant or signifying encounter. Depending on the situation, the protagonist will meet either enemies or friends. Sometimes there are at irst three different animals or creatures that test the protago- nist to see whether he is worthy of their help.

Whatever the occasion, the protagonist must prove him- or herself and acquire gifts that are often magical agents, which bring about a miraculous or marvelous change or transformation. Soon after, the protagonist, endowed with gifts, is tested once more and overcomes inimical forces.

A miracle or marvelous intervention is needed to reverse the wheel of fortune. Fre- quently, the protagonist makes use of endowed gifts and this includes magical agents and cunning to achieve his or her goal. The success of the protagonist usually leads to marriage; the acquisition of money; survival and wisdom; or any combination of these three.


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Whatever the case may be, the protagonist is transformed in the end. Never- theless, his theory helps us understand that the structure of oral tales depends heavily on memory, repetition, and resolution. The signii- cance of the paradigmatic functions of wonder tales and their distinct characters, identiied through their social class and habitus, is that they facilitate recall for teller and listeners. Over hundreds of years they have enabled people to store, remember, and reproduce the plot of a given tale and to change it to it their experiences and desires because of the easily identiiable characters associated with particular social classes, professions, and assignments.

At the center of attraction is the survival of the protagonist under dificult conditions, and the tales evoke wonder and admiration for oppressed characters, no matter who they may be. Wonder causes astonish- ment, and as marvelous object or phenomenon, it is often regarded as a supernatural occurrence and can be an omen or portent. It gives rise to admiration, fear, awe, and reverence. In the oral wonder tale, we are to marvel about the workings of the universe where anything can happen at any time, and these fortunate and unfortunate events are never really explained.

Nor do the characters demand an explanation—they are instinctively opportunistic and hopeful. They are encouraged to be so, and if they do not take advantage of the opportunity that will beneit them in their relations with others, they are considered either dumb or mean-spirited. The tales seek to awaken our regard for the miraculous condition of life and to evoke profound feelings of awe and respect for life as a miraculous process, which can be altered and changed to compensate for the lack of power, wealth, and pleasure that most people experi- ence.

Lack, deprivation, prohibition, and interdiction motivate people to look for signs of fulillment and emancipation. In the wonder tales, those who are naive and simple are able to succeed because they are untainted, naturally good, and can recognize the wondrous signs. They have retained their belief in the miraculous condition of nature, revere nature in all its aspects, and accept their own natural inclinations. They have not been spoiled by conventionalism, power, or rationalism.

In contrast to the humble characters, the villains are those who use words and power intentionally to exploit, control, transix, incarcerate, and destroy for their own beneit. They have no respect or consideration for nature and other human beings, and they actually seek to abuse magic by preventing change and causing everything to be transixed according to their interests.

The marvelous protagonist wants to keep the pro- cess of natural change lowing and indicates possibilities for overcoming the obstacles that prevent other characters or creatures from living in a peaceful and pleasurable way. The focus on the marvelous and hope for change in the oral wonder tale does not mean that all wonder tales, and later the literary fairy tales, served and serve a radical transforming purpose.

Oral tales have served to stabilize, conserve, or challenge the com- mon beliefs, laws, values, and norms of a group. The ideology expressed in wonder tales always stemmed from the position that the narrator assumed with regard to the relations and developments in his or her community; and the narrative plot and changes made in it depended on the sense of wonder, marvel, admiration, or awe that the narrator wanted to evoke.

In other words, the sense of the miraculous in the tale and the intended emotion sought by the narrator are ideological. Narra- tors sought to use language and the art of communication to make their utterances special and relevant so they would catch on and stick in the ears and brains of their listeners. In the last analysis, however, even if we cannot establish whether a wonder tale is ideologically conservative, radical, sexist, progressive, and so on, it is the celebration of miraculous or fabulous transforma- tions in the name of hope that accounts for its major appeal.

People have always wanted to improve or change their personal status or have sought magical intervention on their own behalf.

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The emergence of the literary fairy tale during the latter part of the medieval period bears wit- ness to the persistent human quest for an existence without oppression and constraints. It is a utopian quest that we continue to record through the metaphors of the fairy tale, even today. Two more important points should be made about the oral tradition of transmission that concern the magical contents of the tales and the mode in which they were disseminated.

During the Middle Ages, most people in all social classes believed in magic, the supernatural, and the miraculous, and they were also smart enough to distinguish between probable and improbable events. On the contrary, they were told and retold because they had some connection to the material condi- tions and personal relations in their societies. To a certain degree they carried truths, and the people of all classes believed in these stories, either as real possibilities or parables. Magic and marvelous rituals were common throughout Europe, and it is only with the gradual rise of the Christian Church, which began to exploit magic and miraculous sto- ries and to codify what would be acceptable for its own interests, that wonder tales and fairy tales were declared sacrilegious, heretical, dan- gerous, and untruthful.

However, the Church could not prevent these stories from being circulated; it could only stigmatize, censure, or criti- cize them. This is true of all organized religions and continues to be the case today. The magical tales of the Bible and religious texts have always been compelled to compete with the secular tradition of folk and fairy tales for truth value. If women were regarded as the originators and disseminators of these tales, then the texts themselves had to be suspicious, for they might relect the ickle, duplicitous, wild, and erotic character of women, who were not to be trusted.

Thus, their stories were not to be dismissed as trivial. Inci- dentally, this association was often coupled with children, that is, the folk were regarded as simple children, and their tales were thus belittled as simplistic, ignorant, and crude by the upper classes and the clergy. Tales were told in walks of life in the Middle Ages and during the Enlightenment, as they are today, and both sexes contributed to and continue to contribute to the tale-telling tradition. Troubadours, professional court storytellers, kings, queens, merchants, slaves, servants, sailors, soldiers, spinners, weavers, seamstresses, wood- cutters, tailors, innkeepers, nuns, monks, preachers, charcoal burners, and knights carried tales as did children.

It would be an exaggeration to insist that everyone in society told tales or that they were good and interesting tale tellers. These tales were often embellished, or they were ritual tales that brought the members of a community closer together. But one factor is clear: the folk were not just made up of the peasantry or the lower classes. The great majority of people in the Middle Ages up through the beginning of the nineteenth century were nonliterate, and thus everyone participated in one way or the other as teller or listener in oral traditions.

They are apparent in Indian, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman col- lections of tales, myths, and legends and in the texts that constitute Oriental and Occidental religions. However, they were never gathered or institutionalized in the short forms that we recognize in the West until the late Middle Ages. Then male scribes began recording them in collections of tales, epics, romances, and poetry from the tenth cen- tury onward. Most of the early work was in Latin, and the interactions between the Church and lay people and between orality and literacy help us understand how the fairy tale evolved and was disseminated.

As Rosmarie Thee Morewedge has maintained: [W]e must rely on the wealth of tale collections that have come to us from medieval and pre-medieval sources, that were told by the tale-tellers; it must be remembered that tales did not stop being part of an oral tradi- tion just because they were written down by vagrants, preachers, mer- chants, crusaders or other literati. Which talented priest would not want to serve the missionary thrust of the church by collecting tales heard in childhood, read in school, heard on travels and in various monasteries?

In general, Oriental tales were spread in Europe both through oral retellings and translations into various European languages. It is interesting to note that one of the tales in the Gesta Romanorum probably spawned the oral and literary dissemination of the remarkable Fortunatus c. In brief the tale concerns a young man named Fortunatus on the island of Cyprus.

After he joins the entourage of the Earl of Flanders, he travels to Flanders and wins a tournament, but jealous rivals and the threat of castration cause him to lee to London, where he leads a life of decadence and then returns to the Continent. Destitute, he wan- ders about Brittany and becomes lost in a forest. A kind fairy or Dame Fortune takes pity on him and grants him either wisdom, strength, long life, wealth, health, or beauty. He must select one of them. Fortunatus chooses wealth, and she gives him a magic purse that will always provide money for him.

After wandering about Europe for a while, he returns to the island of Cyprus and inds that his parents are dead. However, with his magic purse, he is able to restore the family name and marries a young lady from a noble family. After two sons are born, he begins traveling again and eventually procures a magic cap that transports him to any place he wishes once he puts it on his head. Before he dies as a respected member of society, he bestows his gifts on his two sons who lose them because of their greed and carelessness.

There were many variations of this plot, and sometimes, instead of just one hero named Fortunatus, there were three young protagonists and three fairies. Sometimes the gifts are different. Fortunatus also makes use of an invisible cloak. In a signiicant essay about the origins of Fortunatus, Luisa Rubini has shown that the German folk book of For- tunatus was more than likely preceded by Spanish and Italian versions.

Lively economic and cultural relations, contacts and exchange between southern Germany and northern Italy are amply documented for that period, and the presence of Italian lit- erature, both serious and popular also in the form of cheap prints in German libraries provides further evidence. Another good example is the wonder tale about the grateful dead that can be traced to pre-Christian antiquity and spread widely throughout Europe in the medieval period. The novella, also called conto, was a short tale that adhered to principles of unity of time and action and clear narrative plot.

The focus was on surprising events of everyday life, and the tales inluenced by oral wonder tales, fairy tales, fabliaux, chivalric romances, epic poetry, and fables were intended for the amusement and instruction of the readers. Before Boccaccio had turned his hand to writing his tales, the most famous collection had been the Novellino written by an anonymous Tuscan author in the thirteenth century. But it was Boccaccio who set a model for all future writers of this genre with his frame narrative and subtle and sophisticated style.

It was Boc- caccio who expanded the range of topics of the novella and created unforgettable characters, which led to numerous imitations by writers such as Ser Giovanni Fiorentino, Giovanni Sercambi, Franco Sachetti, Piovano Arlotto, and Matteo Bandello, to name but a few. We only have information from the irst volume of Le pia- cevoli notti that he was born in Carvaggio and that he was the author of another work Opera nova de Zoan Francesco Straparola da Caravazo , a collection of sonnets and poems, published in Venice.

Nor are we certain of his death in Most likely he had moved to Venice as a young man, and it is clear from his collection of novellas, which he called favole fairy tales , that he was very well educated. He knew Latin and various Italian dialects, and his references to other literary works and understanding of literary forms indicate that he was versed in the humanities.

Whoever Straparola may have been, his Piacevoli Notti had great success: it was reprinted twenty-ive times from to and translated into French in and and into German in The allure of his work can be attributed to several factors: his use of erotic and obscene riddles,26 his mastery of polite Italian used by the nar- rators in the frame narrative, his introduction of plain earthy language into the stories, the critical view of the power struggles in Italian society and lack of moralistic preaching, his inclusion of fourteen unusual fairy tales in the collection, and his interest in magic, unpredictable events, duplicity, and the supernatural.

Similar to Boccaccio, Straparola exhib- ited irreverence for authorities, and the frame narrative itself reveals a political tension and somewhat ironic if not pessimistic outlook on the possibilities of living a harmonious happy ever-after life. He takes his daughter, Signora Lucretia, a widow, with him, and since her husband had died in , it can be assumed that the setting for the Nights is approximately some time between and The bishop and his daughter lee irst to Lodi, then to Venice, and inally settle on the island of Murano. They gather a small group of congenial people around them: ten gra- cious ladies, two matronly women, and four educated and distinguished gentlemen.

Since it is the time of Carnival, Lucretia proposes that the company take turns telling stories during the two weeks before Lent, and consequently, there are thirteen nights in which stories are told, amounting to seventy-four in all. Each night there was a dance by the young ladies. Then Lucretia would draw ive names of the ladies from a vase, and those ive ladies would tell the tales that evening. But before the storytelling, one of the men had to sing a song, and after the song a lady told a tale followed by a riddle in verse.

Most of the riddles were exam- ples of the double entendre and had strong sexual connotations, espe- cially those told by the men. The object was to discuss erotic subjects in a highly reined manner. During the course of the thirteen nights, the men were invited every now and then to replace a woman and tell a tale. In addition, Lucretia herself told two tales.

To a certain extent, the ictional company on the island of Murano can be regarded as an ideal representation of how people can relate to one another and comment in pleasing and instructive ways about all types of experience. The stories created and collected by Straparola are literary fairy tales, revised oral tales, anecdotes, erotic tales, buffo tales of popular Italian life, didactic tales, fables, and tales based on writers who preceded him such as Boccaccio, Franco Sacchetti, Ser Giovanni Forentino, Giovanni Sercambi, and others.

In the second volume he translated and adapted many Latin tales that he passed on as his own. In the fairy tales, as well as in most of the other narratives, Straparola focuses on power and fortune. Though wicked people are punished, it is clear that moral standards are set only by the people in power. Thus Gale- otto can kill his brides at will, and fathers can seek to punish or sleep with their daughters at will.

The majority of the tales center on active male protagonists who are heroic mainly because they know how to exploit opportunities that bring them wealth, power, and money. Stra- parola begins most of his tales in small towns or cities in Italy and sends his protagonists off to other countries, realms, and, of course, into the woods or onto the seas. His heroes are adventurers, and there is a sense that the fairy tales have been gathered from far and wide.

It is apparent in almost all his tales that he was inluenced by oral storytelling and social rituals.

There were tumultu- ous changes throughout Europe, and the motif of transformation, com- mon in many folk tales, was emphasized even more in the fairy tales of Giambattista Basile. In the literary fairy tale, this motif had to pass the test of censors, and the metaphors and language had to be honed to meet audience expectations. If Straparola did indeed spend most of his life in Venice, it would not be by chance that the tales he read and heard came to this port city from far and wide and that he was obliged to hone them to meet the expecta- tions of the reading public.

Venice was a thriving and wealthy city in the sixteenth century,27 and Straparola would have had contact with foreigners from all over Italy, Europe, and the Orient. Or he would have had news about them. Though there are no records of how his tales were disseminated, they would have been read aloud at courts and in reading societies and repeated, and, of course, they were reprinted several times in the course of the sixteenth century. The quasi- acceptance of the genre—quasi because the censors did not fully accept it—enabled numerous writers to experiment and produce highly origi- nal fairy tales.

These writers were also tellers, for the split between oral and literary narrators was never as great as we imagine it to be, and their familiarity with the folklore of their respective societies played a role in their literary representations in the fairy tale. I want briely to sketch the further development of the literary fairy tale beginning with Basile, then moving to the French writers of the s, and concluding with the Brothers Grimm. Giambattista Basile In contrast to Straparola, we know a great deal about Basile.

By he returned to the region of Naples and held various positions as administrator and governor in different principalities and courts while pursuing a career as poet and writer until his death in To my mind, Basile is the most original and brilliant writer of fairy tales in Europe until the German romantic E. Hoffmann came on the scene in Not only did Basile draw on an abundance of literary and historical sources to create his hilarious ironical tales, but he was deeply acquainted with the folklore of a vast region around Naples and was familiar with Oriental tales.

His command of the Neapolitan dialect is extraordinary, for he managed to combine an elevated form of the dia- lect with vulgar expressions, metaphors, idioms and brilliant proverbs,32 many of which he created himself. The frame narrative following Boc- caccio, of course is fascinating in and of itself.

In this frame tale, Zoza, the daughter of the King of Vallepelosa, cannot laugh, and her father is so concerned about her happiness that he invites people from all over the world to try to make her laugh. Yet, nobody can succeed until an old woman, who attempts to sop up oil in front of the palace, has her jug broken by a mischievous court page. The ensuing argument between the old woman and the page, each hurling coarse and vulgar epithets at one another, is so delightful that Zoza bursts into laughter. He can only be wakened and liberated by a woman who ills a pitcher that is hanging on a nearby wall with her tears.

In need of help, Zoza visits three different fairies and receives a wal- nut, a chestnut, and a hazelnut as gifts. When the pitcher is almost full, she falls asleep because she is tired from all the crying. While she is sleeping, however, a slave girl steals the pitcher, ills it, wakes Tadeo, and takes the credit for bringing him back to life.

Consequently, Tadeo marries her, and she becomes pregnant. But Zoza, whose happiness depends on Tadeo, is not about to con- cede the prince to a slave girl. On three different occasions she opens the nuts. One contains a little dwarf, who sings; the next, twelve chickens made of gold; and the third, a doll that spins gold. The slave girl demands these fascinating objects, and Tadeo sends for them, offering Zoza whatever she wants. To his surprise, Zoza gives the objects as gifts. Yet, the inal one, the doll, stirs an uncontrol- lable passion in the slave girl to hear stories during her pregnancy, and she threatens Tadeo again: unless women come to tell her tales, she will kill their unborn baby.

So, Tadeo invites ten women from the rabble known for their storytelling: lame Zeza, twisted Cecca, goitered Men- eca, big-nosed Tolla, hunchback Popa, drooling Antonella, snout-faced Ciulla, rheummy Paola, mangy Ciommetella, and diarretic Iacoba. The women spend the day chattering and gossiping, and after the evening meal, one tale is told by each one of the ten for ive nights.

Finally, on the last day, Zoza is invited to tell the last tale, and she recounts what happened to her. The slave girl tries to stop her, but Tadeo insists that Zoza be allowed to tell the tale to the end. There are constant local references to Naples and the surrounding area and to social customs, political intrigues, and family conlicts. Basile was an astute social commentator, who despaired of the corruption in the courts that he served and was obviously taken with the country folk, their surprising antics, and their needs and drives for change.

As Michele Rak has observed: [I]n the case of the Cunto the plots are all illed with the same theme: the change of status. The situation of each tale evolves rapidly to bring wealth and beauty to some of the characters and poverty and ruin to others. This change is only realized amidst conlict, foremost in the interior of the minimal social unit—the family about which there are many stories of fathers, mothers, stepmothers, sons, brothers—and then in the elementary reports of relations in the family—about which there are many stories about marriages and above all about unequal marriages between princes and shepherdesses.

The change of status of these fairy- tale characters can be read as a metaphor of a much broader change: the acceleration of the time and mode of the cultural process characteristic of this phase of the modern era. In the Cunto the most evident signs of this transformation of the cultural regime are registered explicitly: the emergence of symbolical traditions, the opening of new dimensions of communication, the restructuring of the system and hierarchy of family relations, a broader literacy, the ampliication and identiication of the types of readers who also read the new novel, the client of the literature of celebration, the participant at the feasts and the theatricalization of public life.

According to him, the Cunto was a highly unusual and sophisticated work that became known and spread through many different channels. The type of fairy tale il racconto iabesco conceived by Basile produced a literary genre, and its stories produced other texts that had a great circulation because the fairy tale used stories that stemmed from the heritage of Mediterranean culture and because a model was prepared through its structure that proved itself to be stable: it repeated its com- munications avvisi to readers in a regular cadence set up also in the secondary stories.

With this model it was possible to construct many diverse tales that were adaptable to various circumstances as the numer- ous variants and versions have proven. The Cunto stabilized a formula that became a current in the Euro- pean tale. Its literary value depends in part on its inter-textuality and pan-culturalism it assimilates local traditions that are very diverse ; on its lexibility it adapts to circumstances that vary a great deal ; on its order it permits an identiication with a register [repertoire of characters and motifs] that is part of a European heritage and consents to have it used.

Each tale in the Cunto was told to entertain a court society as a sort of a game, a dangerous game, because the storyteller could lose his life if he uttered the wrong words or was indiscreet and offended the nobility. The goal of the story- teller was to make the audience laugh, and laughter itself was a relief and escape for the storyteller who used metaphors to test and perhaps sub- vert the conventions of the court i. Each tale involves some kind of journey into the woods, onto the sea, or to another city. This journey relected the trip that a courtier generally took when he came of age so that he might see the world or test himself.

Along the way his survival would depend on fairies and ogres, who arbitrarily choose to help or destroy him. Fortune plays a momentous role. Bodies are enmeshed in the plot. They are beautiied, tortured, demolished, rejuvenated, and transformed as the protagonist seeks to survive at all costs and improve his social status in the ever-changing world. Of course, he also depicted how Lady Fortuna could devastate people and cause destruction. Again, like Straparola he was not overly opti- mistic about establishing social equality and harmonious communities.

Conlict reigns in his tales in which a usually demure Cinderella chops off the head of her stepmother and a discreet princess virtually liqui- dates a seducer in a battle of the sexes. Nevertheless, his tales exude mirth because of the manner in which he turns language inside out and creates a carnalvesque atmosphere.

Just as the frame tale leads to the exposure of the stealthy slave girl with no holds barred, all the nar- ratives seek to reveal the contradictory nature in which all members of society pretend to comport themselves according to lofty standards but will stoop as low as they must to achieve wealth and happiness. In France, it is appar- ent that Mlle. In fact, the Ital- ian inluence in France during the s was much more profound than scholars have suspected. At least six of Mme. The Italian inluence was certainly there,36 and it is not necessary or even impor- tant to undertake an assiduous philological comparison to prove theft, imitation, or appropriation, for clearly word about Straparola and Basile was spread through books, storytelling, and conversations.

What is sig- niicant and fascinating is the manner in which French writers began in about to be attracted to oral folk tales and literary fairy tales and created a vogue37 of writing that was to last approximately a century and brought about the institutionalization of the fairy tale as a literary genre in Europe and North America. Perhaps I should say French women writers, or to be even more spe- ciic, Mme.

Talk and the oral tradition in all its forms are key to understanding the rise and institution of the literary genre. Interestingly the tale does not end happily because the protagonist Adolph does not follow the com- mands of Princess Felicity and is whisked away by Father Death, not unlike many folk tales in which Death always gains the upper hand.

As a consequence, the disappointed Princess Felicity does not show herself on earth any more, and perfect happiness is unattainable. These tales are intricate, long dis- courses about the importance of natural love and tenderness tendresse , subjects dear to her heart. The conversations surrounding her tales are very important because the tales themselves grew out of literary entertainment and parlor games that had become common in many of the literary salons in France by the s.

It was in the salons and elsewhere that the French literary fairy tale was conventionalized and institutionalized. Place name. Search within Genealogy Online. Search all publications Search term. Search Open Archives Surname. Search on Open Archives. Search Wie onder zoekt wie?

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