Setting Standards for Civilization through Fairy Tales: Charles Perrault and the Subversive Role of Women Writers
Published in 1697, Charles Perrault’s Histoires ou contes du temps passé appeared at a time when there was a major shift in social norms and manners. As Philippe Ariès notes,
Thus, it is not by chance that Perrault and the women writers of the 1690s created their fairy tales for the most part to express their views about young people and to prepare them for roles that they idealistically believed they should play in society. Since the fairy tales of Perrault and the women writers of the salons were created at the point in history when more and more European writers began composing explicitly for children as separate entities and when standards were fi rst being set for the development of modern children’s literature, their works must be viewed as part of a larger social phenomenon. In fact, they were responsible for a veritable deluge of literary fairy tales in the eighteenth century that was to take a more defi nite shape in children’s literature and popular chapbooks in the nineteenth century throughout Europe and North America.