Four and Twenty Fairy Tales, Various
Four and Twenty Fairy Tales
Various
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Four and Twenty Fairy Tales is an 1858 collection of fairy tales by Charles Perrault and other famous authors, translated by J. R. Planche. The collection includes such stories as Blue Beard, Puss in Boots, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast and other.

Four and Twenty Fairy Tales

by
Perrault, and Other Popular Writers

Translated by J.R Planché


Perrault

Preface

The success attending the publication of a new translation of the Fairy Tales of the Countess d’Aulnoy has justified the publishers in believing that an equally faithful version of some of the most popular stories of her contemporaries and immediate successors, similarly annotated, might meet with as favourable a reception. I have therefore selected twenty-four of the best Fairy Tales, according to my judgment, remaining in the Cabinet des Fées, commencing with those of Charles Perrault, the earliest, and terminating with some of Madame Leprince de Beaumont, the latest French writer of European celebrity in that particular class of literature. Independently of the fact that, with the exception of those of Madame de Beaumont, few if any in the present volume have ever been placed in their integrity before the English reader, I trust that the chronological order I have observed in their arrangement will give them a novel interest in the eyes of those “children of a larger growth,” who are not ashamed to confess, with La Fontaine —

Si “Peau d’ane” m’étoit conté
J’y prendrais un plaisir extrême.

Or with the great Reformer, Martin Luther —

“I would not for any quantity of gold part with the wonderful tales which I have retained from my earliest childhood or have met with in my progress through life.”

The reader will by this arrangement observe, in a clearer way than probably he has yet had an opportunity of doing, the rise, progress, and decline of the genuine Fairy Tale — so thoroughly French in its origin, so specially connected with the age of that “Grand Monarque” whose reign presents us, in the graphic pages of St. Simon and Dangeau, with innumerable pictures of manners and customs, dresses and entertainments, the singularity, magnificence, profusion, and extent of which scarcely require the fancy of a d’Aulnoy to render fabulous. In my introduction to the tales of that “lively and ingenious lady,” I have already shown the progress of the popularity of this class of composition; but in the present volume it will be seen how, in the course of little more than half a century, the Fairy Tale, from a fresh, sparkling, simple yet arch version of a legend as old as the monuments of that Celtic race by whom they were introduced into Gaul, became first elaborated into a novel, comprising an ingenious plot, with an amusing exaggeration of the manners of the period; next, inflated into a preposterous and purposeless caricature of its own peculiarities; and finally, denuded of its sportive fancy, its latent humour, and its gorgeous extravagance, subsided into the dull common-place moral story, which, taking less hold of the youthful imagination, was, however laudable in its intention, a very ineffective substitute for the merry monitors it vainly endeavoured to supersede. Too much like a lesson for the child, it was too childish for the man. The Fairies were dismissed in consequence of the incapacity of the writers to employ them; but they were not to be annihilated. They still live in their own land, to laugh at those mortals who will not laugh with them and learn while they laugh. Modern art may vainly invoke them to perform fresh marvels, but enough power still exists in their old spells to enchant youth, amuse manhood, and resuscitate age; and, despite the hypercritic and the purist, they will continue to exercise their magic influence over the human mind so long as it is capable of appreciating wit, fancy, and good feeling. As Mademoiselle Lheritier wrote two hundred years ago —

Ils ne sont pas aisées à croire,
Mais tant que dans le monde on verra des enfans,
Des mères et des mères-grands
On en gardera la memoire.


Charles Perrault

Blue Beard

Once on a time there was a man who had fine town and country houses, gold and silver plate, embroidered furniture, and coaches gilt all over; but unfortunately, this man had a blue beard, which made him look so ugly and terrible, that there was not a woman or girl who did not run away from him. One of his neighbours, a lady of quality, had two daughters, who were perfectly beautiful. He proposed to marry one of them, leaving her to choose which of the two she would give him. Neither of them would have him; and they sent him from one to the other, not being able to make up their minds to marry a man who had a blue beard. What increased their distaste to him was, that he had had several wives already, and nobody knew what had become of them.

Blue Beard, in order to cultivate their acquaintance, took them, with their mother, three or four of their most intimate friends, and some young persons who resided in the neighbourhood, to one of his country seats, where they passed an entire week. Nothing was thought of but excursions, hunting and fishing, parties, balls, entertainments, collations; nobody went to bed; the whole night was spent in merry games and gambols. In short, all went off so well, that the youngest daughter began to find out that the beard of the master of the house was not as blue as it used to be, and that he was a very worthy man. Immediately upon their return to town the marriage took place. At the end of a month Blue Beard told his wife that he was obliged to take a journey, which would occupy six weeks at least, on a matter of great consequence; that he entreated she would amuse herself as much as she could during his absence; that she would invite her best friends, take them into the country with her if she pleased, and keep an excellent table everywhere.

“Here,” said he to her, “are the keys of my two great store-rooms; these are those of the chests in which the gold and silver plate is kept, that is only used on particular occasions; these are the keys of the strong boxes in which I keep my money; these open the caskets that contain my jewels; and this is the pass-key of all the apartments. As for this little key, it is that of the closet at the end of the long gallery, on the ground floor. Open everything, and go everywhere except into that little closet, which I forbid you to enter, and I forbid you so strictly, that if you should venture to open the door, there is nothing that you may not have to dread from my anger!” She promised to observe implicitly all his directions, and after he had embraced her, he got into his coach and set out on his journey.

The neighbours and friends of the young bride did not wait for her invitation, so eager were they to see all the treasures contained in the mansion, not having ventured to enter it while the husband was at home, so terrified were they at his blue beard. Behold them immediately running through all the rooms, closets, and wardrobes, each apartment exceeding the other in beauty and richness. They ascended afterwards to the store-rooms, where they could not sufficiently admire the number and elegance of the tapestries, the beds, the sofas, the cabinets, the stands, the tables, and the mirrors in which they could see themselves from head to foot, and that had frames some of glass, some of silver, and some of gilt metal, more beautiful and magnificent than had ever been seen. They never ceased enlarging upon and envying the good fortune of their friend, who in the meanwhile was not in the least entertained by the sight of all these treasures, in consequence of her impatience to open the closet on the ground floor.

Her curiosity increased to such a degree that, without reflecting how rude it was to leave her company, she ran down a back staircase in such haste that twice or thrice she narrowly escaped breaking her neck. Arrived at the door of the closet, she paused for a moment, bethinking herself of her husband’s prohibition, and that some misfortune might befall her for her disobedience; but the temptation was so strong that she could not conquer it. She therefore took the little key and opened, tremblingly, the door of the closet. At first she could discern nothing, the windows being closed; after a short time she began to perceive that the floor was all covered with clotted blood, in which were reflected the dead bodies of several females suspended against the walls. These were all the wives of Blue Beard, who had cut their throats one after the other. She was ready to die with fright, and the key of the closet, which she had withdrawn from the lock, fell from her hand. After recovering her senses a little, she picked up the key, locked the door again, and went up to her chamber to compose herself; but she could not succeed, so greatly was she agitated. Having observed that the key of the closet was stained with blood, she wiped it two or three times, but the blood would not come off. In vain she washed it, and even scrubbed it with sand and free-stone, the blood was still there, for the key was enchanted, and there were no means of cleaning it completely: when the blood was washed off one side, it came back on the other.

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