Academic journal article Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts

Jones, Christine A. Mother Goose Refigured: A Critical Translation of Charles Perrault's Fairy Tales

Academic journal article Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts

Jones, Christine A. Mother Goose Refigured: A Critical Translation of Charles Perrault's Fairy Tales

Article excerpt

Jones, Christine A. Mother Goose Refigured: A Critical Translation of Charles Perrault's Fairy Tales. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 2016. 228 pp. hb. ISBN 978-0-8143-3892-6. $31.99.

Charles Perrault's fairy tales are so seared into the cultural consciousness of the Western world of the twenty-first century that it is difficult for many to conceive that a new translation can actually cause us to see these tales in a new light. Most casual consumers of fairy tales probably know Perrault from Disney adaptations or from their childhood story books and are unaware of how three hundred years of textual history have altered these stories. Even those readers cognizant that Perrault's tales are much darker and more violent than their Disney counterparts may not know the other ways in which these stories have changed. In Mother Goose Refigured: A Critical Translation of Charles Perrault's Fairy Tales, Christine A. Jones shakes off the detritus of centuries of inaccurate translations and misconceptions about this classic work and presents it to readers as a text that is simultaneously new and closer to what Perrault wanted his original seventeenth-century audience to experience.

Jones's work is an attempt to re-envision Perrault's fairy tales by using fresh language free from the baggage of didacticism and inaccurate translations. She argues that "twenty-first-century English-language readers come to the collection with the weight of three centuries of ideas on their shoulders" (12). After so many generations of accepting misconstrued interpretations or inaccurate translations, contemporary readers inherit a vision of Perrault's tales that is quite different from the original text. The front matter to this volume examines these issues in two main parts. The Introduction, entitled "Mother Goose and Charles Perrault," examines the social and cultural contexts in which Perrault constructed his tales. Here Jones argues that Perrault was not carefully preserving traditional didactic folktales with the intent of morally edifying children; rather, Perrault crafted these stories to give advice to other adults on how to survive life at court. Following this introduction, the section "Notes on Editions, Translations, and Interpretations" demonstrates how over the course of time publishers and translators fundamentally altered readers' conceptions about these stories. As a case in point, Jones pays particular attention to how inaccurate translations of names, such as "Little Red Riding Hood" or "Cinderella," have significantly changed stories but are so ingrained in the minds of English-language speakers that it is difficult to reconsider the tales unless the titular characters undergo the same consideration as the rest of the language in the tales. Jones asserts that "seemingly timeless and fixed names in English mask the rich historical and linguistic environment of seventeenth-century French" (2). Along with changing the names to more accurately reflect those in the original text, Jones's translation of the stories reflects her presupposition that Perrault intended his fairy tales to be contemporary, fresh, and challenging to his audience and not the static, hallowed artifacts of a bygone era. The volume concludes with an extensive annotated bibliography that records editions of Perrault's fairy tales in various languages from the late seventeenth to the late nineteenth centuries that would be a great benefit to any researcher studying these stories.

Jones's translation reconstructs Perrault's rhetorical goals in writing for a courtly, adult audience. Life in the court of Louis XIV was often complicated, yet Perrault managed to thrive in it for decades. His book of fairy tales was his way of passing on his lifetime of knowledge to others. Jones suggests that "ostensibly writing for young people, [Perrault] subtly targeted adults who did not yet fully understand the lessons in power" needed for court (49). …

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