Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Spotlight on Our Collections: Mother Goose

          Recently, we welcomed back to the Wilson House an item that had originally been used by the Wilsons.  The family of Wilson’s late grandson, Francis Sayre Jr., graciously donated a beautiful Belgian tablecloth to our collection in 2009.

          This intricate white lace tablecloth “depicts eleven scenes from fairy tales compiled by French author Charles Perrault (1628–1703) in his work Histoires et contes du temps passé, avec des moralités. Contes de ma mère l’Oye (Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals. Tales of Mother Goose) published in 1697” (Woodrow Wilson House records).

            Here is the tablecloth with a guide to the depicted scenes:

          If you aren't familiar with some of the stories, here are some quick overviews:


1)  Barbe Bleue (Blue Beard) tells the tale of a violent nobleman in the habit of murdering his wives and the attempts of one wife to avoid the fate of her predecessors.

2)  Cendrillon (Cinderella) tells the tale of a girl mistreated by her stepmother and stepsisters who wins the heart of the prince with the help of her fairy godmother.

3)  Le Chat Botté (Puss in Boots) tells the tale of a cat who uses trickery and deceit to gain power, wealth, and the hand of a princess in marriage for his penniless and low-born master.


4)  La Belle au Bois Dormant (Sleeping Beauty) tells the tale of a beautiful princess who is cursed by an evil fairy to prick her finger on a spindle and die. A good fairy, though unable to completely reverse the spell, has the princess fall asleep for a hundred years, until she is awakened by the kiss of a prince.

5)  Charles Perrault (author)

6)  Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (Little Red Riding Hood) tells the tale of a girl who is deceived by a wolf in diguise who eats her and her grandmother.

7)  Le Petit Poucet (The Little Thumb) tells the tale of a tiny boy (similar to Tom Thumb) who saves his family by stealing a pair of magic boots from a sleeping giant.

8)  Les Fées (Diamonds and Toads) tells the tale of a widow with two daughters. One day the younger daughter, who is sweet, courteous, and beautiful helps a fairy who blesses her with having either a jewel or a pretty flower fall from her mouth whenever she speaks. Seeing this the wicked widow sends her favorite elder daughter to the fairy, but the elder daughter mistreats the fairy who punishes her by having a toad or snake fall from her mouth whenever she speaks.

9)  L’Adroite Princesse (The Clever Princess) tells the tale of a king who locks up his three daughters in a tower. Each receives a magic distaff (a tool used in spinning) which tests their chastity. In the end the youngest daughter Finette is proved the most chaste and vanquishes the evil prince who attempts to seduce her.

10)  Peau d'Âne (Donkey Skin) tells the tale of a princess who escapes from marrying a man she does not love with the help of a fairy godmother.

11)  Riquet à la Houppe (Riquet with the Tuft) tells the tale of a gnome-like prince with a tuft of hair on his head who is capable of conferring wit upon the one he loves the best.

12)  Les Souhaits Ridicules (The Ridiculous Wishes) tells the tale of a poor woodcutter who is granted three wishes which he foolishly wastes.

-Kate Raber

1 comment :

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