There are thrills that you can get from reading a book. I get the book and see, to my surprise, that A.S. Byatt translated one of the stories. I start reading and get a bigger thrill that she translated, you guessed it, "The Great Green Wurm". I love "TGGW" because it is a fairy tale about the elder princess (hence, why Byatt might have translated it). I wonder if it is her favorite French fairy tale too. Also included in this volumne is the wonderful "The Subtle Princess" also sometimes called "The Story of Finette" (Finessa this translation).
Called "The White Cat," here is how it goes: (view spoiler)A prince, who is described as Good, has to go on these arbitrary scavenger hunts in a competition with his two older brothers for his father's crown. The rats have the advantage at first (because they can swim), but the cats eventually get the upper hand at which point the White Cat calls the battle to end. Now, because the prince is Good, when the White Cat says, "Hey man, I want you to murder the hell out of me" he does it. OBVIOUSLY this fairy fruit has put the magic disease in her brain and body because there is no way a pregnant woman is going to eat nothing for six weeks and also not, uh, die. (The baby gets turned eventually into the White Cat because she tried to pull a Rapunzel and got caught.) So, there were a lot of places where this story could have gone weird and wonderful, but ultimately, here's what the author suggests are the takeaways for us (emphasis mine): This young prince was lucky indeed To find in a cat's guise an august princess Whom he would later marry, and accede To three thrones and a world of tenderness. I'll speak no more of the unworthy mother Who caused the White Cat so many sorrows By coveting the fruit of another, Thus ceding her daughter to the fairies' powers.
Most people will pick up a "fairy tale" book because they have kids or want an easy read. They called them "wonder tales" in france because not all stories involved fairies. I've read numerous "fairy tales" and find the label quit limiting. The stories would be enjoyable to both fairy tale enthusiasts and history buffs.
I read some fairy tales (or here they are wonder tales) that I've never heard of before. 3/5 stars *The White Cat-A much more detailed version than prior ones I've read of for this d'Aulnoy story. 3/5 stars *The Subtle Princess-My favorite tale I'd never read before. I loved the characters in the books, particularly the clever Finessa and rakish Richcraft (I enjoyed their battle of wits). This tale is not a little kiddie's story. 4.5/5 stars *Bearskin-I liked this story, which I also had never read before. It is dealing with the details of how the people living, dead, and missing through most of the story appear at the end (slightly a deus ex machina moment). 3.5/5 stars *Starlight-Another lovely fairy tale, that if revamped today it surely would be a large novel. I enjoyed the twists and turns for our heroine, Hidessa, and her search for happiness and love.
Wonder Tales collects six stories: 5 are by three of the leading women writers of the movement: Marie-Catherine D'Aulnoy (whose life story is as fantastic as her stories), Merie-Jeanne L'Heritier de Villandon , and Henriette-Julie de Murat (who was exiled for satirizing one of the king's affairs). It is probably my least favourite tale of the collection, but it is still quite interesting. These were not stories for children, though a number of the tales (such as the white cat and bearskin) have endured in bowdlerized versions. That tale and The White Cat are my favourites from the collection.
So though you get variations on "Beauty and the Beast," good and vindictive fairies, pagods and pagodines, serpents, curses, and shape shifters, the plots are ever the same.