Sunday, March 18, 2012

Where are the Finettes?

I've been watching Once Upon a Time and reading Fairest and Fables and I wonder...

Where are the Finettes?

The Snow Whites, the Sleeping Beauties, the Cinderellas and the Rapunzels are all with us. Even the lesser known Rose Reds. But the Finettes?

Marie-Catherine d'Aulnoy (above) and Marie-Jeanne L’Héritier de Villandon (immediately above) each wrote a tale featuring a heroine named Finette. These were actually different Finettes, so my question is a little off point. Nonetheless, two of the great names of fairy tale produced a heroine whose name means 'cunning' (you can actually find the contemporaneous definition in a French dictionary from 1694 on google books... which is one of the reasons I love google books). L'Héritier, whose cousin was Perrault, went so far as to subtitle her tale "The Clever Princess" (L'adroite Princesse).

These Finettes are beautiful, yes, but they are named for their intelligence and ability to think quickly and act with great shrewdness. They can not only see through trickery, they know how to be tricky when they need to be. These are women who can use their minds to figure out how to succeed in adversity.

Yet, these are not simply intellectual women. When it's called for, they're able to physically defend themselves. D'Aulnoy's Finette can bake an ogre as easily as lopping the head off his monstrous wife. L'Héritier's Finette has a hammer and isn't afraid to use it when a villain tries to seduce her.

These are the heroines I'd love to see in the meta-fairy tale extravaganzas that are so popular today. You get the feeling that writers are trying to recast the Snow Whites and Cinderellas as Finettes, but the legacy of the Grimms, of Perrault, of Disney weighs heavily. I'd like to see writers rediscover the Finettes (yes, d'Aulnoy's Finette is actually a Cinderella, so it wouldn't be difficult) and bring them into twenty-first century popular culture.

And I'd like to look up Finette without running across my own blog posts quite so often. Here's the challenge, if you blog about fairy tale, blog about Finette!

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