I’m currently on research leave. Research leave is a wonderful and frightening thing. I’m working on a big research project about fairy tale and there just simply aren’t enough days to track down fairy crayfish, a frog who wears a magic hood of roses, a prince transformed into a dragon who wants to make pâté out of a princess… and that’s just d’Aulnoy’s corpus of fairy tales. Yet, how wonderful is it to spend one’s days with monkey princesses and disembodied hands?
There’s been a couple of recent posts about Marina Warner and I was there at her MWF keynote too. I was also lucky enough to see an earlier keynote where she discussed the Arabian Nights and there, too, she talked about the themes of flying that run through the tales.
As she talked about flying carpets, beds and mechanical horses, I couldn’t stop my mind straying as I thought about the fantastical flights in the tales of 17th century French authors like d’Aulnoy and Murat.
In d’Aulnoy’s “The Blue Bird,” King Charmant has a flying chariot drawn by winged frogs. The frogs are an early, magical GPS. They know the whole map of the world and can take him wherever he wishes to go. Charmant’s love, Florine, isn’t to be outdone. She is given magic eggs and one hatches a chariot-for-one, drawn by pigeons.
Murat describes a particularly fabulous equipage in “The Savage.” The fairy, Obligeantine, defeated a giant who trespassed upon her kingdom and she took his skull, painted it a glossy black, and turned it into a chariot drawn by mastiffs with bat wings upon their backs. Is there anything quite so wonderful and gothic?
Fairy tale flight has a wonder that will never cease to interest me.
Yours in fairy tale flights of fancy
Rebecca-Anne Do Rozario