The French reading public learned at the beginning of the Third Republic that their country still possessed an oral storytelling tradition, thanks to the works of a generation of folktale collectors including Wentworth Webster, Emmanuel Cosquin, Paul Sébillot, Achille Millien, and Félix Arnaudin. In every case these folklorists had been introduced to folktales by a female domestic servant in the family's household. For the sons of the rural notability, tale collecting was motivated by nostalgia, as a way back to the feminine, dialect-speaking world of hearth and home, before the rupture of boarding school, correct French, and public responsibility. It was also a means to create or maintain affective relationships across social barriers. They hoped that such "real" relationships, untainted by the falseness generated by social hierarchies, might create the cultural space in which to achieve social reconciliation. Folklore publications could promote reconciliation on a national scale. For the servants, tales were a way of preserving kin and class solidarities, negotiating their position within the household, and giving voice to their desires and ambitions. Their stories are, therefore, valuable sources for the history of one of the most ubiquitous but enigmatic social groups, the domestic servant. The core of this article is a consideration of what meanings servants such as Stephana Hirigaray, Françoise Vaudin, Vincente Béquet and Augustine Chevance wanted to convey through their storytelling.


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pp. 557-591
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