, Volume 92, Issue 3, pp 417–428

“Sœur-des-Pauvres”: A Saint’s Legend à la Zola


DOI: 10.1007/s11061-007-9080-x

Cite this article as:
Comfort, K. Neophilologus (2008) 92: 417. doi:10.1007/s11061-007-9080-x


This article focuses on one of Émile Zola’s short stories in the Contes à Ninon, “Sœur-des-Pauvres.” A first reading of the work reveals the structural similarities it shares with the traditional fairy tale. On closer examination, it becomes clear that Zola borrows rhetorical devices from a fairy tale subgenre, the Saint’s legend. In fact, the borrowings from popular Catholic belief underscore the theme of social justice that will become one of the hallmarks of the author’s later works. Consequently, “Sœur-des-Pauvres”—half conte de fÉes, half conte à thèse,—may be seen as an Ébauche of sorts for Zola’s better-known works.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Foreign LanguagesUniversity of ArkansasFayettevilleUSA