Salon Tales

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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 ...

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...ude change has no correlation with peasant hardships, unlike what other literary analysts said.

It is essential to understand that Salon tales are a subset of the fairy tale genre, with the intention of being written for a more intelligent and sophisticated audience. Because the tales reflect the cultural values of the writers and the environment in which they wrote, these stories originate from the Salon writers’ retellings of old folk tales. They share similar themes as the original peasant tales, but are considered a subset of the genre because these Salon tales represent the social values their authors uphold. The bourgeois elements such as valuing appearance, marriage, and magic are more prevalent in Salon tales, and thus, these stories should be read not to gain insight into historical context, but to the 17th century French value system of the Salon writers.
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