The first fairytales were feminist critiques of patriarchy. We need to revive their legacy | Melissa Ashley squib

The women who created the first fairytales were far more radical than the Brothers Grimm have led us to believe

Most revolutions begin quietly, in narrative. Take, for instance, fairytales. The popular understanding is that fairytales evolved exclusively from oral folktellers – from the uneducated “Mother Goose” nurse, passing into the imaginations of children by centuries of fireside retellings.

But this story is a myth. Fairytales were invented by the blue blood and pomaded sweat of a coterie of 17th century French female writers known as the conteuses, or storytellers.

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