Monday, March 22, 2010

Women in Folklore Month: Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie

Today I am sharing a post on Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie, Victoria writer and daughter of Willliam Makepeace Thackeray.

Here's an excerpt from my article about Anne Thackeray Ritchie which appeared in Faerie Magazine issue 19 and is also an introduction to my ebook The Fairy Tale Fiction of Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie.

Since significant portions of her childhood were spent in England and France with her family, Anne was exposed to the fairy tale legacies of both countries, especially the works of Charles Perrault and the women of the French salons, such as Madame D’Aulnoy and Madame Villeneuve. She was also alive during the great fairy tale renaissance of the Victorian era when the Brothers Grimm were busily compiling, editing and re-editing their magnum opus. Hans Christian Andersen grew in popularity during her lifetime. Folklore research and studies also increased in significant volume. Consequently, traditional fairy tales and folklore were popular in their collected forms and inspired countless reinterpretations by authors in the 1800s. Her own father had briefly explored the genre in his writings, especially with his short story, “Bluebeard’s Ghost,” and The Rose and the Ring.

Influenced by this trend, Ritchie was drawn to fairy tales and folklore throughout her career. Ritchie considered fairy tales and folklore to be an important part of women’s literature. She was always a proponent of women writers with such works as A Book of Sibyls (1883), a collection of essays about four famous women authors, including Jane Austen. She later wrote an introduction to a volume of English translations of Madame d’Aulnoy’s fairy tales, a volume that was translated and published by two other women from the original French into English in 1892.

Thus it is no surprise that Ritchie explored the tales by writing her own interpretations of the stories with nine short stories and novellas. Each of these stories first appeared in Cornhill Magazine in the UK and were published approximately a month later in an issue of Littel’s The Living Age magazine in the United States. Soon after, Ritchie re-edited the stories and collected them in two volumes, Five Old Friends and a Young Prince (1868) and Bluebeard’s Keys and Other Stories (1874). Both collections were popular enough to be republished a few times in her lifetime.

The first collection, Five Old Friends and a Young Prince, included five interpretations of traditional tales and one original fairy tale that wasn’t included in later releases with the shortened title of Five Old Friends. “The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood,” “Cinderella,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” and “Jack the Giant-killer” appear in the collection. All of the tales, excepting the British “Jack the Giant-killer,” were French. The first four are shorter works while she expanded “Jack the Giant-killer” into novella length fiction. The second collection included four novellas, “Bluebeard’s Keys,” “Riquet à la Houppe,” “Jack and the Bean-stalk,” and “The White Cat.” Once again, all of these excepting the British Jack tale came from the French tradition.
The stories are told through the eyes of Ritchie’s fictional counterpart, the narrator Miss Williamson, and her dear companion H. Note Ritchie’s homage to her deceased father with this name, denoting herself as “Son of William [Makepiece Thackeray].”

Ritchie’s work is particularly interesting because she reinterpreted the magical elements of the tales into realistic elements. Her versions are firmly set in her contemporary Victorian time, using industrialists, misers and even bigamists as her purported villains, replacing the witches, ogres and other monsters in the original tales. Ritchie’s character development makes all of her characters, even the supposed villains, sympathetic on some level.

I have three of her stories available for reading on SurLaLune:

Beauty and the Beast (1867)
by Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie

Cinderella (1868)
by Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie

The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood (1868)
by Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie

Two biographies have been written about Ritchie, a fascinating woman very much of her time, but then again not. From her unorthodox marriage to her much younger cousin to her influence in literary circles, including her relationship to Virigina Woolf, she makes for interesting reading. The biographies are Anne Thackeray Ritchie : A Biography by Winifred Gerin and Anny: A Life of Anny Thackeray Ritchie by Henrietta Garnett.

To read more about women authors of fairy tales in the Victorian era, also look for Forbidden Journeys: Fairy Tales and Fantasies by Victorian Women Writers by Nina Auerbach and U. C. Knoepflmacher.

No comments:

Post a Comment