A story by Madame d’Aulnoy, the 17th-century French writer who coined the term “fairytales”, is to be published in English for the first time in more than 300 years.
d’Aulnoy, who is considered the most intriguing pioneer of the literary fairytale, invented “conte de fée” or fairytale, when she published her major collection of them in 1697-98. However, unlike later authors such as Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, her work rarely appears outside anthologies.
Now Princeton University Press will release a new collection of her work. The Island of Happiness features illustrations and an essay by the artist Natalie Frank. It also contains the first English translation of The Tale of Mira, which has been called a “feminist ghost story for the ages” which is “laced with dark comicality”.
D’Aulnoy was born in 1650. She was married at the age of 13 to a notorious gambler 30 years older than her. She tried to have him killed without success, spent a brief period in prison and then travelled around Spain and England for more than a decade, a period during which she is believed to have worked as a French spy. In 1690, she returned to Paris, where she opened a salon and became France’s foremost fairytale author before her death in 1705.