- "And because she was so beautiful they called her Princess Goldilocks; for her hair was finer than gold, wonderfully fair, and it fell in ringlets to her feet."
- "'If you will be so good and generous as to let me free,' the dolphin went on, 'I shall render you such real services in the course of my life that you will never need to repent of your kindness.'"
Marie-Catherine Le Jumel de Barneville, Baroness d'Aulnoy was born in Barneville, France, in 1650. She entered an arranged marriage with a man thirty years older than herself, had three children in four years, and then was embroiled in a case involving a treason charge against her husband. The details of the case remain somewhat murky; d'Aulnoy and her husband were acquitted of treason, the false witnesses executed, d'Aulnoy's mother fled to Spain, and d'Aulnoy was banished from Paris. She eventually returned and became a permanent resident of Paris by 1690, and there her salon became one of the city's most popular.
The genre description of "fairy tale" may be taken from the title of her book 'Les Contes des Fees.' Many salons of that time were writing stories about fairies, or the intersection of normal people's lives and the world of magic, drawing on inspiration from both the courtly and folk literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Her tales play with the conventions of the genre (wicked stepmothers abound, wolves of the two- and four-legged variety threaten young heroines, and occasionally a prince sheds his disguise at an opportune moment,) but hers are remarkable for the richness of their setting. Minor characters' and villains' motivations are often explained in great detail. The agenda of the helpful fairies do not always correspond with those of the humans they help. She published two books of these fairy tales: Les Contes de Fees (The Tales of the Fairies) and Contes Nouveaux ou Les Fees a la Mode (New Tales, or Fairies of Fashion). D'Aulnoy also wrote extensively on historical matters, and she earned the nickname "Clio" after the muse of history for these efforts. Her historical works were subject to criticism and remain somewhat obscure to this day.
Her life could have been drawn from one of her stories. D'Aulnoy's intrigue and rehabilitated reputation, engagement with some of Paris' brightest minds, and a dedication to letters had a lasting influence on an entire genre. Sometimes a life has a happy ending.