Since the term fairy tale or conte de fées has become so troublesome for scholars and does not do justice in English to the "revolutionary" implications of its inventor, Mme d'Aulnoy, this article explores its historical significance in depth by discussing the role of the fairies in d'Aulnoy's works, especially in "The Isle of Happiness," "The Ram," and "The Green Serpent." In the process it also demonstrates how fairies were part of a long oral and literary tradition in French culture and how d'Aulnoy's employment of fairies in her tales owes a debt to Greek and Roman myths, the opera, theatrical spectacles, debates about the role of women in French society, and French folklore. Finally, the article explores how a cultural evolutionary approach to the rise of French fairy tales may help us understand how and why the elusive term fairy tale has spread as a meme and become so whale-like.


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pp. 221-243
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