On display in the Special Collections Department, Norlin Library Room N345:

Once Upon A Time:

Early and Illustrated

Fairy Tales

In honor of Professor Emeritus Jacques Barchilon

On display June 8 – December 18, 2009

Once Upon a Time presents a three hundred year span of fairy tales, featuring important works by Charles Perrault, Mme. D’Aulnoy, Boccaccio, Jean de la Fontaine, the Brothers Grimm, and Giovanni Straparola. The exhibit also includes nineteenth and early twentieth-century book illustrations of these works by artists such as Gustave Doré, Walter Crane, and Arthur Rackham.

Jacques Barchilon & The Fairy Tale

Like all French educated children, Jacques Barchilon was quite familiar with Charles Perrault’s fairy tales early in his childhood. But he had little notion that his adult life would involve a scholarly career devoted to research and publications on the 17th and 18th C. French fairy tales.

After service in the Free French Forces (1943 to 1945) Jacques Barchilon emigrated to the United States, resumed his education, and eventually came to Harvard University in 1950. At the time, he was mainly interested in graduate work in Comparative Literature and History. His life-long interest in historical research was renewed by some of the outstanding scholars teaching there, and naturally (almost fatally) led to a general study of the French Seventeenth-Century fairy tale, and resulted in pioneering works, beginning in 1956. A list of his publications, subsequent to his doctoral dissertation, would be a monotonous bibliographical exercise mentioning his books and articles in a variety of scholarly journals. It might be more interesting to briefly develop some of his ideas on the significance of fairy tales.

Fairy tales, or magic tales, are everywhere on this planet. All cultures, all nations, each in their own languages, do have their tales. And now, more than ever, thanks to the diffusion through the various media, tales and their characters are known worldwide. There are French and Italian versions of Beauty and the Beast, just as there are Japanese and Russian analogues of this tale in Norway and elsewhere, to mention just one example. Furthermore, fairy tales are part and parcel of folklore studied in international scholarly associations.

Fairy tales have a history and cannot be studied in depth other than in their beginnings. There is no sense studying Sleeping Beauty unless one remembers that there were earlier Medieval German and French versions of that immortal story.

Fairy tales are known to have different styles in their various forms, as they belong to the literary heritage of a given culture. The French versions of Perrault are different from those of the Grimm Brothers or those of Andersen. Comparative studies never fail to reveal a web of references, which not only entertain their audience but also satisfy deep psychological needs. They are “universal dreams” of the human race.

A little more that three hundred years ago, in the last 10 years of the seventeenth century, the French literary fairy tale was born and began a vogue that lasted well into the following century. It is impossible not to notice that in our own day a similar interest in the fairy tale is “exploding” on the literary scene. This scholarly echo is manifest in these United States as well as in France, England and Germany. A profusion of critical works extolling the interpretation of fairy tales as exemplifying their sociological, psychological, feminist (or not) significance have been published. Specialized journals such as Marvels & Tales, or Fabula are vehicles for contemporary scholars.

In conclusion, because these words are meant to accompany this Once Upon a Time exhibit of the University of Colorado Special Collections, let us say that for Jacques Barchilon, and his colleagues-librarians, a certain passion for beautiful or early editions of fairy tales is quite evident in this display, which is provided for visual and intellectual pleasure. Viewers: enjoy!

University Libraries, University of Colorado, Boulder.


One Response to “The Exhibition”

  1. Karen Dreher Says:

    This “teaser” makes me even more anxious to see the display. I have seen a number of displays along the Fairy Tale Road in Germany. I’m so glad I have not waited too long to see this exhibit.

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