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The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of a Genre

3.71  ·  Rating Details ·  127 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
If there is one genre that has captured the imagination of people in all walks of life throughout the world, it is the fairy tale. Yet we still have great difficulty understanding how it originated, evolved, and spread--or why so many people cannot resist its appeal, no matter how it changes or what form it takes. In this book, renowned fairy-tale expert Jack Zipes present ...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published March 19th 2012 by Princeton University Press (first published January 1st 2012)
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M Blankier
Excessively readable and Zipes is brilliant as always, but this is a collection of essays about topics that he's covered well in the past. These essays seem to be written for vastly different audiences so if you are new to Zipes, I recommend Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion first.
Eustacia Tan
I almost didn't finish this book. The first two chapters, "The Cultural Evolution of Storytelling" and "The Meaning of Fairy Tale within the Evolution of Culture", bored me. I really, really wanted to read this because it's about fairy tales, but the academic-speak made me put down the book after a few paragraphs.

So I did something that I hardly ever do. I skipped the first two chapters and went straight to "Remaking Bluebeard", or Good-bye to Perrault. The book caught my attention from there. R
In-depth examination of fairy tales as historical genre, with discussions on the myriad stories that have not been studied (due to lack of translations) and the presence of women fairy tale collectors/writers who have been overlooked in the historiography of fairy tale collections, thanks to gender bias of male folklorists.
Discussion of fairy tale reinterpretation in contemporary art and film as well.
Brittany Nelson
The Irresistible Fairy Tale by Jack Zipes is a mess, but a well-intentioned mess. There are parts that I got value out of, namely the chapters: "Witch as Fairy/Fairy as Witch: Unfathomable Baba Yagas" and "The Tales of Innocent Persecuted Heroines and Their Neglected Female Storytellers and Collectors." I will be definitely checking out the source materials that are mentioned in there. On the other hand, I felt as if I was reading an advertisement for various things throughout the collection, ra ...more
Kate Forsyth
I really love the way Jack Zipes makes fairy tale scholarship both learned and accessible - this book does not really add anything new but it builds on a strong foundation and, really, I find anything to do with fairy tales fascinating
Apr 25, 2013 Rhonda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Um...yeah. Zipes wrote another book. The best bits were the appendices.
Amanda Hamilton
I don't know. I thought there would be more that the author is trying to say about the subject. Its a pretty thin book. Even that, it skips all over the place and I wish the author went more in depth with the stuff it did touch on. (He spends a whole section on "Bluebeard" but only in the context of naming a movie he seems to hold in high regard because it does the fairy tale 'right' for some reason)
I mentioned it in the update that the author seems to have it out for Disney ("Tangled" too, spe
Clive Johnson
Apr 16, 2016 Clive Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A scholarly work, exploring selected perspectives on the role and meaning of fairy stories in both modern and historic social contexts. Explores how and why fairy tales have been adapted through time, and why they continue to have enduring appeal. More a read for students of literature than for more general readership, this thoroughly-researched text should nonetheless hold interest for anyone who has more than a passing interest in the fairy tales genre.
Peter Mcloughlin
This book is an accessibly readable book on an area of culture I had not paid much attention to in the past yet is an integral part of our culture and our lives "the Fairy Tale". Fairy tales are often told by parents to children or children to each other yet that does not stop them from broaching dark or disturbing (even grisly) topics. These stories are probably as old as the human race and reflect social, political, gender, psychological aspects of our lives and they may be enjoyable to hear ...more
Sometimes I forget what a mythology and folklore, and specifically, fairy tale, geek I am.

Then I see a book like this and I want to SQUEE!!!!

And then I devour it in all its academic glory, smack-dab in the middle of a superbusy summer, just because I can and I love it.

And they all lived happily ever after. The End.
Apr 06, 2014 Stacy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
This book was pretty awful. WAY too academic--I hate to think about what other books the people who called this one "accessible" were reading. I think the prior library patron who took the book out before me said it best when she wrote in the margin, "your language sucks, you dried up academic prune," and in another place, "ugh." Literally the only reason I slogged my way through the whole thing is because I have a perfect record of finishing all of the books my book club had read and didn't wan ...more
Heather Fryling
Jan 26, 2016 Heather Fryling rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Don't believe the advertising. This is an academic book, and while some chapters are accessible, most are not. That said, the sections that are decipherable for a common audience were quite helpful, and Zipes turned me on to many fairy tail collections I hadn't previously heard of.
Irini Pavlou
Jan 14, 2016 Irini Pavlou rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Fairy tales begin with conflict because we all begin our lives with conflict.

Fictional stories that provide a truth applicable in the real world as a moral.
Boria Sax
Jack Zipes is a leading authority on fairy tales, but he is trading on his reputation in this carelessly written book. It is more of a pastiche than an academic study. Instead of paraphrasing secondary sources, he almost always offers long quotations. This suggests that he has not entirely assimilated their ideas, and interferes with the flow of the text. The book has no central thesis, and the chapters are disconnected from one another. I am being a bit generous in giving it three stars, but Zi ...more
Paula Soper
May 14, 2014 Paula Soper rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
The last chapter was a waste, but the rest of the book was really interesting. Jack Zipes is the dude, so it was nice to finally read his writing and ideas.
Jul 31, 2012 Emelinemimie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Prof. Zipes draws on many theories (anthropology, evolutionary theory, psychology, literary theory...) and uses a very large panel of examples to discuss the origin, nature and appeal of the fairy-tale. As always with Zipes's work, it is well written, engaging and convincing.
My only criticism would be his praise of Breillat's rewriting of Bluebeard which I found terrible. I am never against innovative rewritings of famous tales, but I found Breillat's work dull and cheap. Maybe the actors were
Apr 11, 2013 Abby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a wonderful, enthralling resource. Really, very interesting. My favorite chapters were 1.The Cultural Evolution of Storytelling and Fairy Taless, 4.Witch as Fairy/Fairy as Witch and 5.Tales of Innocent Persecuted Heroines and Their Neglected Female Storytellers and Collectors
Jun 01, 2014 Courtney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really useful, mostly as a strong baseline of field research and, especially, as a mine for other scholars to read. The first section was most helpful for me, as the later sections heavily deal with specific tales.
Feb 02, 2015 Angel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, nonfiction
While I don't agree with every idea presented in this book, it was an illuminating read. If you enjoy cultural and literary analysis and/or fairy tales, you should definitely pick this book up.
David Greenhalgh

Academically oriented. Too much is devoted to an "argument" with other authors for the general reader to follow.
Nov 08, 2012 Shoshana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: folk-lore
Interesting but disjointed on the whole. I think it really would have benefited from a conclusion tying everything together.
Sep 05, 2013 Adam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
An academic collage of other people's work with little internal consistency and even less value. Nigh unreadable.
I'm finding this to be unbearably dry. Love the topic, but I don't think I can bring myself to slog through it.
Oct 20, 2013 Anne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I skimmed it
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Jack David Zipes is a retired Professor of German at the University of Minnesota. He has published and lectured extensively on the subject of fairy tales, their linguistic roots, and argued that they have a "socialization function". According to Zipes, fairy tales "serve a meaningful social function, not just for compensation but for revelation: the worlds projected by the best of our fairy tales ...more
More about Jack D. Zipes...

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“Fairy tales begin with conflict because we all begin our lives with conflict. We are all misfit for the world, and somehow we must fit in, fit in with other people, and thus we must invent or find the means through communication to satisfy as well as resolve conflicting desires and instincts.” 9 likes
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