Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers” as Want to Read:
From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,355 ratings  ·  82 reviews
In this landmark study of the history and meaning of fairy tales, the celebrated cultural critic Marina Warner looks at storytelling in art and legend-from the prophesying enchantress who lures men to a false paradise, to jolly Mother Goose with her masqueraders in the real world. Why are storytellers so often women, and how does that affect the status of fairy tales? Are ...more
Paperback, 463 pages
Published September 30th 1996 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1994)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.11  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,355 ratings  ·  82 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers
Jun 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I entered this tale full of naivity, and emerged with Knowledge. I'm indebted to the lovely organisers of Into the Forest group, because I'm glad I read this the sooner, since it gave me some doors and handles into (or out of) things that touch me daily. Fairy tales break the silence Warner tells us. The silence around fear and trauma, the silence imposed on women.

(and the silencing of women does not always mean a padlock through the lip or hurled abuse (Shrew! Nag! Termagant!) because we are ta
Lari Don
Nov 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: folklore, non-fiction
Stepmothers were framed! Yes. The wicked stepmother in fairy tales is a modern stitch-up, and stepmums should be asking for a retrial. I made some amazing discoveries in this fabulous book about fairy tales, but the notion that stepmothers were framed is probably the one which will stick with me. Apparently, the evil maternal figure in lots of old folklore – the queen who sends the hunter to kill Snow White because she is jealous of her beauty, and the greedy (or starving) woman who leaves Hanse ...more
Jul 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I have a fondness for the huge, synthesising variety of history that either takes lots of seemingly disparate things and draws interesting connections between them or starts with something small and moves outward to take in a huge swath of information that I wouldn't have thought to connect until someone brilliant does so for me. This is a literary/cultural history of the latter sort, and you couldn't ask for a more articulate, erudite, and interesting guide than Marina Warner. Sybilline prophec ...more
Aug 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A powerful history of Western fairytale storytellers (for the most part, it focuses exclusively on the Western fairytale tradition). The first half traces the history of the storytellers—from French literary tellers like L'Heritier and d'Aulnoy to the Grimm brother's mainly female sources; to how the image of Mother Goose and old women storytellers developed (a combination of goose symbology, Saint Anne, the sibyls, and the social attitude toward older women). The second half examines specific t ...more
Jenny T
Sep 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating look into the evolution of fairy tales from a women's history perspective--I learned a lot, and I'm inspired to learn more.

Marina Warner begins with the original female character of the storyteller, including the three precursors to Mother Goose: the Sibylline Prophesies, Saint Anne, and the Queen of Sheba. She explores the spread of fairy stories through "old wives' tales" to the grand salons of France and explains how stories change based on who tells them and when in history th
Feb 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely invaluable resource for anyone who has ever wondered about what's really going on in fairy tales. Insightful, entertainingly written, and well organized. Marina Warner is one of my favorite sources when I do my own feminist readings of fairy tales, fairy tale inspired modern fiction, or "retold" fairy tales (like that of McKinley or Donna Jo Napoli or Shannon Hale). Warner strips away the "cutesy" veneer we've all been exposed to, especially with Disney, and shows us all the gory deta ...more
Tamara Agha-Jaffar
From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers by Marina Warner is an exhaustive and comprehensive study of the history and development of fairy tales and their tellers. The book is divided into two parts: Part 1 addresses the tellers; Part 2 addresses the tales. Warner’s basic thesis is that fairy tales consist in narrative form of the lived experiences of women as told primarily by women. In order to understand the content and various permutations of fairy tales, one has to con ...more
Madly Jane
Beautiful and fascinating look at fairy tales, their tellers, and history. Highly recommended for lovers of fairy tales and feminist studies.

All girls want love. But what kind? And why? That is at the heart of many fairy tales. I hate to say it, but it's so Freudian. Laughing.
Aug 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I love the interpretation of fairy tales. Marina Warner is superb.
"The faculty of wonder, like curiosity, can make things happen; it is time for wishful thinking to have its due."

In the words of Angela Carter, "Ours is a highly individualized culture, with a great faith in the work of art as a unique one-off, and the artist as an original, a godlike and inspired creator of unique one-offs. But fairy tales are not like that, nor are their makers. Who first invented meatballs? In what country? Is there a definitive recipe for potato soup? Think in terms of the d
Jun 03, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: dnf
Another reviewer called this book "fact soup", and I'm going to adopt her phrase. Marina Warner has created a very dense history of stories that, so far, is western focused. I can't read it, as I'm not academic in the arts. I can skim it. It's not a book for the average fairy tale lover to read cover-to-cover. But it's more of an occassional reference, skim, or short story for one interested in the role of women in folk lore. The structure is difficult because it is much too fluid. Fact soup jus ...more
Apr 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Groundbreaking, in-depth, absolutely essential work of faerie tale criticism, and a hell of a read. This scholarly tome encompasses everything from the history of literary tales and the oral tradition, to the role of feminism and female authors and storytellers, and the motifs behind the tales that make them so compelling and retain their grip on the imagination of contemporary audiences. Brilliant, wonderful, highly recommended.
Sep 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fairy tales feel out the rules: the forbidden door opens on to terra nova where different rules apply. Curiosity, so closely linked to speech, runs live electricity through many of the stories, and though the often punished for not abiding by the rules, the story also runs against its own grain by rewarding her just the same (p. 415).

From the Beast to the Blonde took me a couple months to work my way through, but the good kind of "work" that's fun; plus, I learned A LOT. Already add
Feb 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent cultural history of fairy tales and the people who tell them. Many studies of fairy tales focus on the archetypes and the psychological symbolism of the tales, but as Warner points out, this kind of broad interpretation ignores the changing cultural context of the stories. For example, the terms "stepmother" and "mother-in-law" used to be interchangeable, which adds another layer to all those stories of wicked stepmothers... The first few chapters of this study are kind of h ...more
Apr 21, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2017
From the Beast to the Blonde: In Fairy Tales and Their Tellers by Marina Warner was a slog for me. I found the first half on the "Tellers" to have too many references to art history and too many historical generalizations. I had hoped for a more factual look at female storytellers and instead plodded through more of a history of how women were perceived. In part two which was supposed to cover stories, I did enjoy some of the comparisons of different versions of a story, but the constant Freudia ...more
May 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
An exhaustive review of the many strands of storytelling which led to the stories we know today. At times, I wanted more interpretation and less data, but when Warner did offer a conclusion, I was convinced!
I particularly enjoyed the second half of the book, on the themes she sees in the stories themselves and on women's role in telling the stories and in being told about.
Dec 24, 2008 rated it liked it
This was interesting. The book was about the origin of fairy tales and how they spoke of the times and tragedies by putting them into fairy tales, sort of like reality spun into fairy tales to make it more palatable or easier to come to terms with
Jan 04, 2009 rated it liked it
Super chewy non-fiction book about the origins of the modern fairytale. I enjoyed much of the research presented, but if you don;t speak much or any French or German, this book will drive you round the bend.
anna marie
May 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Absolutely wonderful, well researched, interesting and easy to follow. A great read, and perfect for focusing on the treatment of women in Grimm's Fairytales. Marina Warner is a fabulous writer and brilliant academic. ...more
Beth Roberts
Jan 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent. She focuses on the context at the time these stories came to be written down, which clarifies a great deal: why did Cinderella's father marry the stepmother? what's the relationship between silkies, mermaids, and Odysseus's sirens? And so on . . . very enlightening and thought-provoking. ...more
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: james
Okay, so first of all, this is a lot more academic than I think I expected. Not light reading at all. This is an advanced course in the study of fairy tales. That being said, I learned a lot and found much of it absolutely fascinating and took lots of notes for my own writing. But sometimes, the density had me swimming. Only can recommend this if this is a subject that already interests you and you've done some previous deeper reading on the subject. ...more
Cathy Geagan
I have been a huge fan of Marina Warner since I first read No Go, the Bogeyman, a history (as the subtitle would have it) of ‘scaring, lulling and making mock’ which explored the dark realms of ogres, giants and other figures of male terror. From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers was written prior to that, and is widely regarded as a landmark study of the history and meaning of fairy tales, but I have only gotten to it now.

Warner is an exceptional academic writer, and wea
Miriam Day
Mar 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A Brilliant Unmasking of our Most Enduring Tales

In this wonderful, scholarly book, Marina Warner explores the social context, meaning, and metamorphosis of fairy tales - from the Queen of Sheba via Old Mother Goose to the Disney Corporation - and the preoccupations of the people (mainly women) who told them. Rather than treating the stories as `archetypal' tales, Marina Warner returns them firmly to their historical context - a context in which small children really were abandoned in the forest
Nathan Dehoff
Feb 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book addressed so much that, while it was an interesting and enjoyable read, I find it difficult to remember any specific points I liked. Warner covers the evolution and messages of various fairy tales, with an underlying theme about how they often provided a voice for women in a misogynistic society. Many ancient themes that would be incorporated into fairy tales are brought up here, including the Sibyls of the Roman world, tales of the Queen of Sheba's visit to King Solomon, and the accou ...more
If, like me, you've ever wondered how the heck a goose got to be in charge of telling stories to kids and a stork got to be in charge of delivering babies (not to mention how these animals became associated with women and women's work and voices), this is the book for you.

Warner tells a compelling tale in this volume that encompasses hundreds of years and postulates that fairy tales have a hidden tale of their own about how women came to be valued for their silence rather than their voices, for
Oct 16, 2013 added it
Gave up on the book about fifty pages in. While I wanted to like the book, I ended up so annoyed that I had to stop. The author consistently writes 'Paul said,' but then proceeds to give one particular interpretation of a tricky passage. It is, in fact, one of those tricky passages that scholars and theologians are currently arguing about the proper way to interpret it (I think it's from Ephesians). Now, of course I wouldn't have minded if the author had said 'the majority opinion of this passag ...more
Rachel Remer
Jan 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book. It was fascinating and clever and the best nonfiction I can remember reading. I admit some of the love probably comes from my own interest on the subject of fairy tales, still since I've made it a personal goal to read more than just fiction on a regular basis it's cool to find something that I enjoyed so immensely. Will totally be adding more by Warner to my reading list. ...more
Maria Tatar's writing is detailed and highly readable. This book is also heavily illustrated, which only adds to the experience. ...more
There was a lot in this book that wasn't strictly relevant to my thesis but it was all absolutely fascinating. I want to read all of Marina Warners texts, even if it's just for my own enjoyment. ...more
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love reading about the origins, psychology and all the amazing things that surround their existence. I found the research and insights offered by this study excellent and intriguing.
« previous 1 3 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Into the Forest: From the Beast to the Blonde 71 132 Nov 06, 2019 08:12PM  
Into the Forest: Stories Mentioned in Beast to Blonde 28 29 Aug 15, 2015 09:42PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories
  • The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of a Genre
  • Good Girls and Wicked Witches: Changing Representations of Women in Disney's Feature Animation, 1937-2001
  • The Sadeian Woman: And the Ideology of Pornography
  • The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales
  • Spindle's End
  • Handsome Heroes and Vile Villains: Masculinity in Disney's Feature Films
  • Disney Villains: Delightfully Evil: The Creation • The Inspiration • The Fascination
  • Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space
  • Morphology of the Folktale
  • At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Nymphs, and Other Troublesome Things
  • S/Z: An Essay
  • Writers & Lovers
  • The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything...Fast
  • The Sticking Point Solution: 9 Ways to Move Your Business from Stagnation to Stunning Growth InTough Economic Times
  • Coaching for Performance: GROWing Human Potential and Purpose - the Principles and Practice of Coaching and Leadership (People Skills for Professionals)
  • Stand and Deliver: The Dale Carnegie Method to Public Speaking
  • Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory
See similar books…
Marina Sarah Warner is a British novelist, short story writer, historian and mythographer. She is known for her many non-fiction books relating to feminism and myth.

She is a professor in the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre at the University of Essex, and gave the Reith Lectures on the BBC in 1994 on the theme of 'Managing Monsters: Six Myths of Our Time.'


News & Interviews

Looking for a fictional meet-cute in the new year? We've got some steamy novels for you to snuggle up with, including Casey McQuiston's...
39 likes · 7 comments
“The more one knows fairy tales the less fantastical they appear; they can be vehicles of the grimmest realism, expressing hope against all the odds with gritted teeth.” 34 likes
“The store of fairy tales, that blue chamber where stories lie waiting to be rediscovered, holds out the promise of just those creative enchantments, not only for its own characters caught in its own plotlines; it offers magical metamorphoses to the one who opens the door, who passes on what was found there, and to those who hear what the storyteller brings. The faculty of wonder, like curiosity can make things happen; it is time for wishful thinking to have its due.” 16 likes
More quotes…