6

I read a fairy tale in French called "La belle au bois dormant" (yeah, that one) and the second sentence reveals this turn of speech:

Ils allèrent à toutes les eaux du monde ; vœux, pèlerinages, menues dévotions, tout fut mis en œuvre, et rien n’y faisait.

I wonder what is the meaning of the selection? Is there the same saying in English?

2
  • Maybe similar to "the seven seas"?
    – Luke Sawczak
    Sep 22 at 15:31
  • Eaux d'un navire. Trace qu'il laisse derrière lui à mesure qu'il avance. Synon. sillage.Prendre, suivre, se mettre dans, se tenir dans les eaux (d'un bâtiment). Entrer ou gouverner dans son sillage.cnrtl.fr/definition/eaux – follow all trails [as in wake of a boat]
    – Lambie
    Sep 23 at 15:54
6

Given the religious vocabulary that follows (vœux, pèlerinages, dévotions), eaux might have been a metonymy for eaux bénites (holy waters.)

They went to many churches and pilgrimage places to implore God about their wish to have a baby.

However, all occurrences of aller aux eaux from Perrault century authors have a different meaning, precisely described by None in her answer so that should definitely be the accepted one.

e.g. from de Vergoncey, Le pèlerin véritable de la Terre Sainte, 1615

enter image description here

[...], et imiter les médecins qui ordonnent d'aller aux eaux à ceux de qui le mal ne peut être surmonté par leur remèdes.

[...], and imitate the physicians who order to go to the waters to those whose illness cannot be overcome by their medicines.

1
  • @onkeltem You should accept the other answer. Mine was incorrect speculation and she set me straight.
    – jlliagre
    Sep 24 at 15:13
7

Without rejecting @jlliagre interpretation, which I find convincing, I must say I never understood that sentence that way. I've always understood les eaux in Perrault's text in its medicinal meaning. Eaux as in villes d'eaux, the English "spa", the German Medizinische Bäder.

In Charles Perrault's times (17th century) aller aux eaux or prendre les eaux meant aller faire une cure thermale.

These are not much used nowadays, or used between brackets1, but we can still find the phrase in dictionaries.

Les eaux : les eaux minérales d'une station thermale. Aller aux eaux, prendre les eaux, faire une cure thermale. Une ville d'eaux. (Le Robert)

Although English prefers the word "spa", when translating a text from French, "take the waters" is a common translation.

I was first going to the Pyrenees, to take the waters of Cauterets; (The Memoirs of Chateaubriand).

The sentence in the question is the exact wording2 of Perrault's, not an adaptation. The translations into foreign languages are often very loose, but when translations stick to Perrault's text, the medicinal interpretation is retained - at least for those I know.

They went to all the waters in the world; vows, pilgrimages, all ways were tried and all to no purpose. (18th century translation by Robert Samber and J. E. Mansion)

Sie reisten in alle Bäder der Welt, legten Gelübde ab, machten Wallfahrten. (1921th century translation by Hans Krause)


1Quand on « allait aux eaux » à Vichy.
2 But the punctuation has not been reproduced correctly. The original text has a semi-colon in place of a colon.

18
  • 1
    Ma spéculation est tombée à l'eau ;-)
    – jlliagre
    Sep 22 at 23:46
  • 3
    @jlliagre LOL... et malgré ta mention de la réponse à accepter - t'a encore eu 2 votes depuis ma réponse, et moi 1 seul ! (snif) Je rigole ;-), je sais déjà que certains votent n'importe comment, + 8 pour une réponse qui m'a pris 1 min à rédiger (une/la) et d'autres réponses qui prennent bcp + de temps sont quasiment ignorée.
    – None
    Sep 23 at 7:30
  • 1
    Et ça continue... Ces votes sont peut-être motivés par des Se non è vero, è molto ben trovato ou alors, on salue mon fair play... Les voix des voteurs sont impénétrables ;-)
    – jlliagre
    Sep 23 at 8:37
  • 1
    @Lambie Aller aux eaux/ prendre les eaux means « to go to the waters ». I am not imposing my understanding on anyone. You don't like it, the OP doesn't like it, no big deal. As you noticed when you checked with the original text the OP made a mistake when reproducing the punctuation, I won't tell you the difference between a colon and a semi colon, I'm sure you know it, so I'm astonished when you say the rest of the sentence is about "religious endeavors" (your words).
    – None
    Sep 24 at 18:27
  • 1
    @Lambie Non, c'est le deux-points qui introduit une explication. Un point-virgule sert de séparation et indique ici une séquence ou une concurrence. Pour tenter de résoudre son problème, le couple a essayé une approché médicale puis ou aussi une approche spirituelle. On peut très bien remplacer un point virgule par un point mais on ne peut pas remplacer un deux-points par un point.
    – jlliagre
    Sep 24 at 21:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.