Reading Liselotte Von der Pfalz’s letters, one small detail I was intrigued by was the intermittent mention of fairytales. Such mention made me curious as to the origin of fairytales in early modern Europe, as well as the role they play in children’s lives.
Ruth Bottigheimer writes about the role of fairytale in early modern European families in her article. Such tales, she writes, began to circulate throughout Europe in the 1400’s, where the protagonist was usually a prince or a princess “driven from royal hierarchy” and therefore forced to set out on their own. Once such stories however were published by Venetian Gian Francesco Straparola in a collected works entitled “Pleasant Nights” in 1551. Consequentially, renditions of these stories began to appear, re-working the main prince or princess characters, and making them instead poor rich boys and girls of the lower class. Such stories gained popularity in Italy during Renaissance Venice, where they caught the eye of many literary artists.
The two main fairytale story writers in Venice Italy during this time were Giambattista Basile and Gian Francesco Straparola. Their fairytales copied the 14th century fairytale writer, Boccaccio, in which the fairytales were told verbally by a troupe of storytellers.
Bottigheimer devotes another article, “Fertility Control and the Birth of the Modern Fairytale Heroine,” to the roles of women and girls in early European fairytale. In this article, she argues that in during the 1500-1700’s, girls roles in fairytales experienced a major shift from the independent protagonists, to damsels in distress. Such a shift is partly due to how Grimm’s fairy tales were constructed, in which the girl was labeled “bad” and the boy merely “bold” for preforming the same deed.