Some weeks ago, I wrote a post questioning the distinction between the Romantic Romance, as described by Jacqueline M. Labbe in Romantic Paradox, and the fairy tale. Happily, I have stumbled upon a possible and/or partial answer to my concerns while composing my American Folklore Society conference presentation on Elizabeth Gaskell.
Ruth B. Bottigheimer explains in Fairy Tales: A New History,
Restoration fairy tales grew seamlessly out of the medieval romances that preceded them, retaining their chivalric locations, courtly activities, and royal characters. Precursor plots about the restoration of displaced and suffering royal figures who returned to their rightful position are nearly as old as storytelling itself, as are many of the motifs that characterize restoration fairy tales. In the 1500s this traditional plot took on a new and abbreviated form as brief tales of princes and princesses whose expulsion and suffering are relieved by magic and marriage” (24)
For those readers unfamiliar with the term “restoration fairy tales,” Bottigheimer included a lovely diagram for explanation, which I have attempted to reproduce here:
royal origins * * royal restoration
(tasks, tests, trials, and sufferings)
*(Adapted from Bottigheimer 11)*
While Bottigheimer is discussing medieval rather than Romantic romances, the connection between the romance and the fairy tale is made explicitly clear. What is left to determine is what is the distinction between medieval, Romantic, and gothic romances…