Four and Twenty Fairy Tales: Selected from Those of Perrault, and Other Popular Writers | Annotated Tale

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Appendix [Discussion of Peau d'Ane and L'Adroite Princesse]

SurLaLune Note: Most of the Appendix for this volume has been incorporated as end notes to the actual tales and introductory essays on the various authors represented in the collection. The following was the final section of the Appendix which did not fit with any of the individual tales.

SO MUCH has been said in this Appendix about Peau d'Ane and L'Adroite Princesse, that although, as in the case of Prince Marcassin and Le Dauphin, in my former volume, I have not included them in the body of the work, I think it may be as well, as in the above instance, to give in this place an analysis of their plots, they being undoubtedly two of the oldest fairy tales of their class on record.


A PRINCESS, in order to escape the persecution of the King, her father, on a point of conscience, consults a fairy, who is her godmother, and by her advice successively requests her father to give her three dresses--the first of the colour of the sky, the second of the colour of the moon, and the third of the colour of the sun, believing he will be unable to fulfil his promises. He succeeds, however, in procuring for her the three dresses; and she is then instructed to ask him for the skin of a marvellous ass in the royal stables, which supplies the King daily with an ample quantity of gold coin, under the impression that his Majesty will never consent to such a sacrifice. The infatuated Monarch, however, does cause the ass to be killed and flayed, and the Princess, on the receipt of the skin she has requested, is reduced to flight. The Fairy tells her to put the three fine dresses and all her jewellery, &c. in a large trunk, which by magical power is to follow her underground, and appear whenever she needs it; and begriming her face and hands, and wrapping herself up in the ass's skin, the Princess escapes from the palace, and travels into the dominions of a neighbouring monarch. She there obtains employment in a farm as a scullion and keeper of the pigs and poultry, her only pleasure consisting in occasionally locking herself up in her miserable room, and putting on her fine dresses and jewellery, which appear at her wish, as the Fairy promised her.

                The son of the King of this country happens to visit this farm occasionally as he returns from hunting, and one day peeps through the keyhole of the door, and sees Peau d'Ane (as the Princess is called, from the only dress she wears in public) arrayed in one of her richest robes. He is dazzled with her beauty, and believing her to be some divinity, he is afraid to burst open the door, and returns to the palace, where he falls perfectly love-sick, refusing to eat, drink, or take any amusement. He inquires who lives in that wretched room at the farm, and is told an ugly, dirty, kitchen wench, called Peau d'Ane, for the reason aforesaid. He declares that nothing can cure him but a cake made by her hands. After all sorts of expostulations, they yield to his wishes, and Peau d'Ane is ordered to make a cake for the Prince. She has seen him on his visits to the farm, and is equally in love with him. She makes the cake, and drops, by accident or design, a magnificent emerald ring into it. The Prince devours the cake, and finds the ring. He immediately declares that he will marry no one but the woman who owns that ring. On this determination being made public, all the unmarried ladies in the Court and kingdom endeavour to fit on the ring, but it is too small for any one to pretend to the ownership. At length Peau d'Ane is sent for at the Prince's wish, and dropping her hideous ass's skin, appears in magnificent attire, and places the ring easily on her finger. Everybody is astonished, the Prince and his parents delighted, and the nuptials take place, being honoured by the presence of Kings and Fairies from all quarters, and specially by the father of the Princess, who has recovered from his infatuation.

                This story, founded originally on the legend of St. Dipne, was a favourite in France from an exceedingly early period, and was versified by Perrault, and published with Les Souhaits Ridicules, as I have already stated, in 1694. He alludes to the original nursery tale in his Parallele des Anciens et des Modernes, 1689, in which he makes the partisan of the ancients say, "Les fables Milesiennes sont si puériles, que c'est leur faire assez d'honneur que de leur opposer nos Contes de Peau d'Ane et de la Mère l'Oye." The prose version of this tale was not published until many years after his death, and is supposed by Baron Walkenäer not to have been his composition; and I think there is a point unnoticed by the Baron which supports that opinion. The story is dedicated to Mademoiselle Eleanore de Lubert. [1] Now, if this be Mademoiselle de Lubert, author of La Princesse Camion, &c., she was not born till some years after the death of Perrault; and as in the dedication we find the lines

"Quoique vous soyez à l'aurore,     
Du printemps de vos jeunes ans,"

the dedication itself could not have been written much before 1720, Mademoiselle de Lubert having been born about 1710.

                There is another story in the Contes ou Joyeux Devises de Bonaventure Desperiers, Novel 130, of a young girl named "Peau d'Ane," and "how she got married by the means furnished her by the Ants." A gentleman fell in love with a merchant's daughter, named Pernette. The father and mother, not daring flatly to refuse their consent, attached to it what they considered an impossible condition--namely, that for a given period previous to her marriage the girl should wear no other apparel than the skin of an ass. Pernette, returning the gentleman's affection, was not to be discouraged by this obstacle, and cheerfully wore the skin of an ass for the appointed time. Foiled in this matter, they set their wits to work to invent something more impracticable. They insisted that she should lick up, grain by grain, a bushel of barley, which they spilt for that purpose on the ground. Nothing daunted, she applied herself to this task; but the ants repaired to the same spot, and took away all the barley by degrees, without being noticed, so that it appeared as if Pernette had done it; and her parents considering further opposition useless, the girl obtained her husband. The story concludes with the assertion that "Vray est que tant quelle vesquit le sobriquet de Peau d'Ane lui demeura."

                There is nothing whatever in this story to remind one of the last, beyond the simple circumstance of the skin; nor have we any clue as to which may be the oldest: but both were called Peau d'Ane, and it may be just possible that one furnished a hint for the other, or, indeed, that there was a collection of stories so entitled; for La Porte, the valet of Louis XIV., tells us, in his Mémoires, that when that monarch was still a child, but had passed from the hands of females into those of men, he could not go to sleep "parcequ'on ne lui contait plus les contes de Peau d'Ane ainsi que les femmes qui le gardaient avaient coutume de le faire."


A KING departing for the Crusades commits to a Fairy the charge of his three daughters--Nonchalante, Babillarde, and Finette, names descriptive of their characters. They are shut up in a tower without a door, and furnished with three enchanted distaffs of glass, which they are told will break on the commission of any indiscretion. They were to be provided with everything they might properly require by means of a basket let up and down by a crane and pulley fixed on the top of the tower. The two eldest Princesses soon become weary of solitude, and one day pull up in the basket an old beggar woman, Nonchalante hoping she will be her servant, and Babillarde being anxious to have somebody else to talk to. The beggar woman proves to be a Prince disguised, the son of a neighbouring King who is a bitter enemy of the father of the three Princesses, and who has had recourse to this expedient in order to revenge himself for some insult or injury he has sustained. By flattering the foibles of the two Princesses who introduced him into the tower, he succeeds in causing them to break both their distaffs, but all his artifices are foiled by Finette (L'Adroite Princesse), who gets rid of him by making him fall through a trap door into the ditch under the tower. Enraged at his defeat, he has recourse to another scheme, and succeeds in inducing Finette to descend in the basket to procure assistance for her sisters, who are suffering from the consequences of their indiscretions. He seizes Finette, and is about to have her rolled down a precipice in a tub filled with spikes, when she adroitly flings him into it, and he suffers the fate he had projected for the Princess. Mortally hurt, he bequeaths his vengeance to his brother, who swears to him that he will marry Finette, and murder her on the night of his nuptials. She, however, places a figure of straw in the bed, which the Prince unwillingly stabs, and is only too delighted to find he is not guilty of murdering a woman he loves, and who becomes his happy Queen.

                This story was not published till 1742, when it was printed as Perrault's, although it was well known that Mademoiselle Lheritier, who had read Perrault's Histoires du Temps Passé in manuscript, had conceived from them the idea of trying her hand at the same sort of composition, and had actually published, in 1695-6, this very story, under the title of Les Aventures de Finette in her Œuvres Meslées, with a letter to the daughter of Perrault.

                Speaking of that very story she says--"vous savez que dans le Conte de Finette, les deux sœurs sont très eloignées d'être aussi vertueuses que je les fais, on ne parle point de mariage: ce sont deux indignés personnes de qui on raconte des faiblesses odieuses avec les circonstances choquantes;" and she also observes, "j'ai pour moi la tradition qui met ce Conte de Finette; au Temps des Croisades."

                There cannot surely be more evidence required to refute the assertion of Mr. Dunlop, that L'Adroite Princesse (be it written by Perrault or Mademoiselle Lheritier) is taken from the Pentamerone, with little variation of machinery or incident. The story he alludes to is the fourth of the third day, and is entitled Sapia Liccarda. There is no such name as Finette in it, and it is well known, independently of Mademoiselle Lheritier's declaration, that Le Conte de Finette was one of the oldest of the French nursery tales.

                Nor can we desire clearer evidence of the way in which these stories were written than that which is afforded to us by the repeated acknowledgments of Mademoiselle Lheritier:--

"Ce que je viens de vous dire     
Est toujours au fond bien naïvement     
Tel qu'on ma conté quand j'etais enfant."

                And, again,--

"Cent fois ma nourrice on ma mie     
M'ont fait ce beau recit pres des tissons     
Je n'ai fait qu'adjouter un peu de broderie."

                Let any one compare these lines with those of the concluding portion of the story of L'Adroite Princesse commencing "Voila Madame," &c., and they must be struck by the singular resemblance.

*       *       *       *       *

                There will be many general readers, and perhaps some critics, who may think I have been unnecessarily minute in my notes and humble attempts at illustration; but whilst I feel that the fairy tales I have selected contain in themselves nothing that may not afford innocent entertainment to children, I certainly hope that the little information I have been able to collect respecting some hitherto obscure and disputed points may give both this and the book that preceded it an interest in the eyes of elder readers, who may meet, where they least expect it, some fact or suggestion, trifling in itself, but furnishing a clue to more important matter.

                My principal object has been, however, in this volume, to disabuse the minds of those who have taken for granted the assertions of our historians of fiction concerning the original sources from whence Perrault and Madame d'Aulnoy in particular derived the plots of their fairy tales--assertions which I confess I had not thought necessary to notice until, in a kind and complimentary review of my former volume, it was publicly regretted as an omission. I trust I have now made it perfectly clear that whether or not the writers of those tales were cognizant of the existence in the collections of Straparola and Basile of some half-dozen meagre and garbled versions of stories told for ages in all the tongues of Europe and Asia, that the real foundation of those of Perrault were the old Breton Contes de ma Mère l'Oye, which in company

"De Peau d'Ane et de Fier à bras     
Et de cent autres vieux fatras,"

                he had heard in his own nursery, and with which Louis XIV. had been rocked to sleep when a child, as well as all the rest of the children in his dominions; and that Madame d'Aulnoy, when not indebted to similar recollections, drew upon her own fertile and lively imagination, introducing occasionally an incident from one of the old Trouvères of Languedoc, or some of those Oriental stories which were circulated in manuscript long before their publication by Galland, or picked up by herself during her residence in Spain from the Moorish and Turkish slaves around her, nay, from her own little servant Zayde, who, though she could speak no language but her own at the time her mistress so pleasantly describes her, might have eventually acquired sufficient French or Spanish for such a purpose.

                Her account of this child is so interesting that I shall not apologise for quoting it:--

"They have here great numbers of slaves who are bought and sold at high prices. They are Moors and Turks, some of them worth four or five hundred crowns a piece.... You are extremely well served by these unhappy wretches, they are far more diligent, laborious, and humble than other servants.... I have one that is not above nine years old. She is as black as jet, and would be reckoned in her own country a wonderful beauty, for her nose is quite flat, her lips prodigiously thick, her eyes of a red and white colour, and her teeth admirable in Europe as well as in Africa. She understands not a word of any language than her own. Her name is Zayde; we have got her baptized.... Those who sold her to me told me she was a girl of quality; and the poor child will come often and fall down on her knees before me, clasp her hands, cry, and point towards her country. I would willingly send her thither if she could there be a Christian; but this impossibility obliges me to keep her. I would fain understand her, for I believe her to be intelligent--all her actions show it. She dances after her fashion, and so pleasantly that she affords us much entertainment. I make her wear white patches, with which she is mightily taken. She is dressed as they are at Morocco, that is, in a short gown almost without any plaits, large shift sleeves of fine cloth striped with different colours like those of our Bohemians and gipseys. A pair of stays made of merely a strip of crimson velvet on a gold ground, and fastened at the sides with silver buckles and buttons, and a mantle of exceedingly fine woollen stuff, very long and very large, in which she wraps herself, and with one corner of it covers her head.


"This dress is very handsome; her short hair, which looks like wool, is cut in several places, on each side like a half-moon, on the crown in a circle, and in front like a heart. She cost me twenty pistoles. My daughter has made her governess of her Marmoset, the little monkey given to her by the Archbishop of Burgos. I assure you Zayde and the Marmoset are capitally matched, and understand each other extremely well."--Relation du Voyage en Espagne.

                With this characteristic and suggestive extract from a book deserving to be better known, I leave a subject to which it is not likely I shall return in print, though it will never cease to interest me in the study.




[1] In the Cabinet des Fées, 1785, it is printed "de Huber," quite a different name; but the edition of the works of Perrault, 1826, by M. Collin de Plancy, is more carefully printed, and there it is distinctly de Lubert.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Appendix [Discussion of Peau d'Ane and L'Adroite Princesse]
Tale Author/Editor: Planché, J. R.
Book Title: Four and Twenty Fairy Tales: Selected from Those of Perrault, and Other Popular Writers
Book Author/Editor: Planché, J. R.
Publisher: G. Routledge & Co.
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1858
Country of Origin: France
Classification: Appendix

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