ENG-222 Midterm Review
- Incredible capacity for transmission.
What is a fairytale?
- Atype of folktale featuring specific supernatural characters (fairies, elves, dragons, dwarves
etc) typically associated with European folklore.
- Often were oral narratives.
- Are different from legends, myths, and moral or instructional tales (e.g fables).
- Legends have some truth, while fairytales are completely fictional.
- Fairytales are not made to enforce morals, like fables do.
According to Dundes:
- Afairytale is first and foremost oral.
- Once written down, a fairytale loses something fundamental.
- Once written down, fairytales become very fixed; new ideas cannot be included. Things like
sounds, actions, and tone are lost.
- Dundes’aim is folkloristic - he examines the tales as they appear in their “natural
environment” - told and retold by informants.
- An oral genre, for most of its history.
- Storytellers would borrow and add from other tales and traditions.
- Thus, each tale existed in a great number of versions.
Sources: Old myths (Greek, Roman, etc.), Indo-European collections (e.g The Panchatantra, 3rd
century BC, India), and some we don’t know where they come from.
- Often dismissed as serious objects of study because of content (too escapist and non-realistic)
and audience (usually small children or uneducated peasants).
- Imprint is still detectable is literature (for example, Shakespeare’sAMidsummer Night’s
Two Big Moments
The “Salon” Period (mid 17th century France)
- Charles Perrault’s stories or Fairytales from Past Times with Morals (1697).
- Very upper class, fairytales were retold and a very sophisticated way (e.g focusing on clothing,
The “Romantic” Period (early 19th century Europe)
- The Brother Grimm Children and Household Tales (1812, 1815). The first to collect fairytales
in a formal way.
- Crafting culture and individual thoughts through folklore.
From a folklore perspective (see Dundes), neither is authentic (because they are written
- Perrault alters the tales, adding detailes for charm and colour, and appending a moral. -
The Brothers Grimm combine several versions into one composite text, and edit the tales to
remove bawdy or questionable text.
- Tales exist in hundreds of versions.
- TheAarne/Thompson index catalogues about 2000 types of tales, spread throughout Europe,
and parts of the Middle East andAsia.
- Other parts of the world (Africa, theAmericas) have very different fairytale motifs.
Thus, there is no way to derive a “national character” or identify credible, historical, or
cultural information in a story that may exist in many different versions.
What Do Fairy Tales Do?
Dundes: Stresses that fairy tales are oral, multivariant, and non-culturally specific at least in their
- Most famous tales come from an Indo-European origin (2500 to 6000 years old).
- Predates both Christianity and writing.
- “I knew terrible things. But I knew I mustn’t let adults know that I knew. It would scare them”
- Maurice Sendak.
- We often don’t realize how aware children are.
- Adults try to protect their children’s innocence.
- Austrian psychiatrist; born in Vienna, emigrated to the US in 1939.
Influenced by Jung and Freud.
- Widely critiqued and debunked autism theory.
- Best known for his analysis of fairy tales.
- Wrote The Uses of Enchantment.
- Aseminal text, culturally it signals the need for a reinterpretation of fairy tales, in a darker key
than before, intellectually fairytales have more value than as simple didactic lessons, and says
that dark tones are necessary for fairy tales.
What is Bettelheim’sArgument?
- Fairytales allow children to understand the world in their own terms.
- Characters are very simple (good/bad, ugly/beautiful) so children can identify positive and
- Children are neither innocent, nor irrational. They are simple trying to make sense of a “life
that is often bewildering to them”.
- They need to acquire: a sense of self-worth and a sense of morality.
- Children have jealousies, anxieties, and envies (even if parents like to pretend they don’t).
- Sanitized stories that merely entertain them, do not necessarily stimulate them.
- Fairytales offer a solution by dramatizing a way to satisfy: the ID, the ego, and the superego.
ID: Primitive and instinctive component of personality.
Ego: Part of the ID which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world.
Reality principle working out realistic ways of satisfying the ID’s demands. Superego: Values and morals of society which are learned from one’s parents and others.
Control the ID’s impulses, especially what society forbids. Persuades the ego to turn to moralistic
goals rather than simply realistic ones and to strive for perfection.
- Fairytales have overt meanings (the literal narrative) and covert meanings (the symbolic
- The covert meaning may shift as the child ages.
Fairytales tap into our unconscious, hence their perpetual appeal.
Little Red Riding Hood
- Archetypal setup: Forest (danger, unpredictability), and home (civilization, domesticity).
- Delarue’s version is likely closest to the “pure” form. Perrault’s is the most iconic.
The Story of Grandmother
What is Different?
- Red Riding Hood undressing.
- Werewolf instead of just a wolf.
- Escapes by her own smarts.
Grandmother stays dead.
- Gory; grandmother’s flesh and blood.
- No red cape.
How Does ThisAffect Your Understanding of It?
- Less of a character, very robotic, less of an individual.
- Wolf was not literal, but a reflection of his personality. He is not trying to kill her, but to take
- Simplifies situations.
- Characters are archetypes; not individuals.
- Evil and virtue are omnipresent, with no grey zone in between.
- Virtue and beauty/smarts/power are conflated to give the child a point of identification.
Criticisms of fairy tales say that attributing physical characteristics and morality may have
worked in the past, but isn’t a good way to teach now.
- The question is not “do I want to be good?” but “who do I want to be like?”.
Perrault vs. The Brothers Grimm
- Brings in the red cape.
- Writes for an upper class audience.
- Alters the tale as he hears them.
- He kills Little Red Riding Hood - alters the idea that all fairy tales end happy.
Moral: Instills fear in the child in an extreme way. Children should never talk to strangers and
should avoid the “charming wolf”.
- Red Riding Hood is passive.
- Young girls need to be weary of (especially) unsupervised visits with men. The Brothers Grimm
- Good vs. bad male (hunter vs. wolf).
- Dramatization of puberty/growing up.
- In some versions she, at the end, is only called Red Riding Hood (looses the “little”).
- Wolf encouraged Red to disobey.
- Children need to be allowed to learn lessons on their own.
The Company of Wolves
- Feminist rewriting of the story.
- Wolf is the embodiment of evil, wolf is driven by hunger.
- Wolf knows that it is evil.
- The huntsman and the wolf are the same person.
- Red Riding Hood removes her clothes - representing her sexuality.
- Red Riding Hood sleeps with the wolf.
- Red Riding Hood is in charge of her own sexuality, she chooses not to be a victim. She gives
into her “animal” nature of sexual desire.
- Required for fairy tales.
- Most stories begin with the protagonist being expelled from home” e.g dead parents, absent
parents, threat of incest etc. Seen in Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, Red Riding Hood.
- Why is this necessary? Independence, allows for victory and achievement.
Bettelheim: Children need to be pushed away from the safe area of home and into the world.
Fairy tales allow children to solve their own problems, rather than have them explained to
them by adults.
Feminism and Fairytales
Bettelheim: Fairytales are psychic narratives, they address universal concerns, and they are not
meant to be taken literally, but read symbolically.
Dundes: Fairytales are too ancient and culturally widespread to be applicable to any one historic
or cultural movement, however….. fairytales are used by specific people living in specific
cultural contexts, their psychological needs are both universal and culturally specific.
Red Hot Riding Hood ———-> women as sexual objects to be preyed upon, reflection of big
movie stars during this time, sexual metaphor for “growing up”, however she never falls for the
- Some of the most iconic fairy tales have female characters, yet these characters are largely
passive. Examples: Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Red Riding Hood.
The roles given to these characters are typical house wife roles, e.g Cinderella accepts the role
of house wife, does chores without protest. Needs external help to get her out of her situation.
What is Rowe’s MainArgument in the Essay? - Fairytales enforce gender roles.
- Concerned with how these images of women expand beyond the realms of fairytales and are
presented towards women in other novels.
- “Fairytales perpetuate the patriarchal status quo by making female subordination seem
romantically desirable and, indeed, an inescapable fate” - Karen Rowe.
- These narrative patterns can be found in other popular genres of women-oriented literature:
erotic, historical, gothic, and romance.
- Also seen in 50 Shades of Grey, Sex and the City, Twilight, romance (rom-com) movies.
Counterexamples: Hunger Games, Crimson Peak, SpiritedAway.
- Folklore is one of the mechanisms that provides and enforces cultural stability.
- They provide a template for desirable female sexuality.
- This becomes more evident as fairytales are gradually shifted towards c