Into the Woods: Retelling the Wartime Fairytales of Maurice Ravel

By Kilpatrick, Emily | Musical Times, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

Into the Woods: Retelling the Wartime Fairytales of Maurice Ravel


Kilpatrick, Emily, Musical Times


(ProQuest: ... denotes formula omitted.)

FOR CENTURIES woods have been places of mystery and enchantment, peopled with fairies and witches wicked and benign, sleeping princesses, gallant princes and fantastic and terrifying creatures of all descriptions. Tom Thumb and his brothers, Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel and Snow White all lose themselves in the woods, Laideronnette and the Beauty's Beast hide their ugliness from the world in forest-bound castles, and the Sleeping Beauty and her court wait amidst the trees for a hundred years. Woods are terrible but entrancing, full of magic and impregnable fantasy.

In 1910 Maurice Ravel found inspiration in these tree-filled tales when he composed his Ma mère I'Oye {Mother Goose) suite for piano duet. The fairytales of Ma mère à Oye present the world as it should be, untarnished by the constraints and the ugliness of reality. Each of these beloved tales is constructed after traditional narrative patterns, where good is eventually triumphant, the morality is incontestable and the magic all-encompassing. In his 'Autobiographical sketch' of 1928 Ravel wrote of Ma mère l'Oye that his intention had been to evoke what he termed 'the poetry of childhood'.' His use of fairytales in this context indicates their essential connection with his own image of childhood.

Five years after writing Ma mère VOye, Ravel returned to the woods of fairytale in 'Ronde', the third of his Trois chansons pour choeur mixte sans accompagnement. In the woods of Ormonde, we are warned, we might find witches and sorcerers, hobgoblins, werewolves and many other magical and dangerous beings. Yet the song's conclusion is unexpected and ironic. There is a bitterness to the fairytale narratives of the Trois chansons that belies their outward insouciance and leaves the listener bewildered and disturbed. Composed in the winter of 1914-15, the Trois chansons - 'Nicolette ', 'Trois beaux oiseaux du Paradis' and 'Ronde' - were for Ravel as direct and personal a response to the First World War as that found in Claude Debussy's En blanc et noir.

As the cataclysmic chain reaction that followed the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand unfolded, Ravel was summering in St-Jean-deLuz. He remained in the Basque country until the autumn, watching from a distance the 'war fever', the opening sallies, the 'Miracle of the Marne' and the ensuing 'Race for the sea'. While he helped to care for wounded soldiers, Ravel was - and clearly felt himself to be - far from the vivid realities of war that were dominating Paris: troop-trains departing, anxious crowds awaiting newspaper bulletins and the tension and terror as the city itself came under threat. His major preoccupation was his repeated and unsuccessful attempts to join up: his age (39), small stature and physical frailty all counted against him. Meeting refusal after refusal from the military, he quickly became frustrated and depressed. His letters are filled with his attempts to obtain papers and pass medical examinations, his conflicting sense of duty to family, work and country and the agony of his rejections.

By December Ravel had returned to a Paris thronged with Belgian refugees and aflame with tales of atrocities committed against civilians by the invading German soldiers. Many of the victims of these tales were children, and consequently the figure of the child - orphaned, homeless, mutilated, murdered - quickly became a symbol of the plight of the Belgian people. Ravel, who had all his life delighted in children and the world of childhood, must have been terribly distressed by these reports (of which he was certainly aware; he talked in later years of 'the Germans, who cut off the hands of little children, killed pregnant women and did so many other terrible things'2).

Amidst this national trauma came news of great personal grief for Ravel: the deaths of Pierre and Pascal Gaudin. The Gaudin family from Saint-Jeande-Luz were the cousins Ravel never had: he called them his famille basque, and they considered him 'equal to a fifth son'. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Into the Woods: Retelling the Wartime Fairytales of Maurice Ravel
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.