This week’s fairytale to explore is sometimes referred to as Dawn, the Golden Haired, however is more commonly known as The Story of Pretty Goldilocks. Whilst this story does teach the lessons of perseverance, duty, patience being rewarded, good turns being repaid and trusting that all will end as it should, it’s an interesting lesson about how our lives influence those who live after us.
The Story of Pretty Goldilocks is a fairytale written by Madame d’Aulnoy, a rather interesting French writer of both fairytales and what would have been considered “fake news” by today’s standards. Madame d’Aulnoy wrote historical novels where the truth about her travels and court life were embellished and resembled fiction rather than accurate historical accounts of life.
Born in Normandy, she was given away (age 15) in an arranged marriage to a Parisian man thirty years older than she was. Her life spirals (somewhat) out of control as her husband is accused of treason and spends three years in the Bastille. After his innocence being declared and his release, a warrant was served for Madame d’Aulnoy’s arrest; however she escaped and this is where her travels, stories and writing start.
Whilst her life is quite fascinating, adventurous and somewhat scandalous for a woman living in the mid 1600s, it’s her writing that has influenced many authors in the years to come. During her life, she published twelve books, which included two fairytale collections. Amongst these fairytales is The Story of Pretty Goldilocks.
This story revolves around a golden haired girl called Princess Goldilocks, a King, an ambassador acting on the King’s behalf, various animals, a giant Prince, a quest and more.
In the shortest summary of all time, Princess Goldilocks is pretty and revered by all men, however won’t marry due to a threat from the giant Prince (Galifron). He wanted to marry her, but when she refused he threatened her and the country with harm. The King enlists an ambassador to act on his behalf and win the Princess’ affections for him. Low and behold the ambassador doesn’t succeed, so enter a young man of the court….Charming.
Charming is sent in the ambassador’s place and Princess Goldilocks tells him all the heroic feats he must overcome. You guessed it, he succeeds, Princess falls in love with Charming, however she marries the King, who dies of jealousy. Princess and Charming are reunited, marry and live happily ever after (with a dog or two). Wow that was a quick plot summary!
There are familiar characters in this fairytale. They’ve appeared in fairytales and stories that have been published long after this one. Madam d’Aulnoy introduced Goldilocks, who then snuck into other adaptations of Robert Southey’s The Story of Three Bears (you can read about that here).
Charming makes appearances in many fairytales, often known as Prince Charming. Whenever he appears, there’s a damsel in distress and he must go on a quest to free her from whatever evil hangs over her – whether that’s a spell or person. We know Charming always succeeds and the damsel swoons, falls in love before they then live happily ever after.
We could suggest The Story of Pretty Goldilocks is the fairytale that has influenced the story structure for all generations of authors since. The story crafted by Madam d’Aulnoy reflects much of the hero’s journey and could very well be one of the earliest influences in crafting stories and fairytales using this approach, and emotionally engaging audiences in the quest.
Perhaps rather than the being merely the author of fairytales told in French salons, Madame Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy was an influential author and woman whose work changed the landscape of fairytale writing forever. This is the life lesson we can learn – using our life to be influential and create a legacy that lives on well after our physical life ends.
Many of us are more familiar with the works of The Brothers Grimm, however their work is often the re-telling of stories penned by authors such as Madame d’Aulnoy. It’s a little like the movies we’ve seen in cinemas over recent years – they’re merely an adaptation of someone else’s life work, with minor character changes and a new title.
Be that person who brings the new ideas, leaves the legacy, influences others and doesn’t need the attention for it – that’s the lesson.