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Feminist Fairy Tales

3.28  ·  Rating details ·  468 ratings  ·  62 reviews
Prominent feminist author Barbara Walker has revamped, retold, and infused with life some of your favorite classic fairy tales. No longer are women submissive, helpless creatures in need of redemption through the princely male! Instead they are vibrantly alive, strong women who take fate into their own hands.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published December 6th 1996 by HarperOne (first published January 1st 1996)
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Average rating 3.28  · 
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ZQ
Jun 30, 2016 rated it did not like it
This book was a deeply, deeply unpleasant read.

I love fairy tale retelling anthologies, particularly ones that cover a wide variety of cultures and history. But these stories were all dull as drainwater or or very offensive. Each one read like a parody, like fairy tales deliberately written in an overly preachy and silly manner to mock people being offended by actual folklore.

The first few stories were harmless enough, if nonsensical. As the stories progress though, they get increasingly disturb
...more
Christine
Talk about preachy. Honestly, if these are feminist retellings of fairy tales then why are most of the helpers still male? Why can’t some of the dwarves, for instance, be female dwarves? It’s great that the Queen helps Snow, but seriously all male dwarves? And why are most of the men in the stories undeserving idiots? Why not totally reverse the beauty and the beast theme, instead of making them both ugly, and the beast still a jerk?
And how come every woman seems to be wearing a dress, and is wh
...more
Amanda
Apr 14, 2012 rated it did not like it
I love reading feminist texts, and I love reworked fairy tales, but what I hate are trite, simplistic, over the top attempts that have a petty vindictive streak of self-righteous spite.

I get that this is old, and that feminism has come a long way, but ugh, it was painful.

The noticeable lack of trans and queer folk was also glaring, and the illustrations where all white folks except for two stories that were explicitly set in specific cultures.
Dorer002
Jan 24, 2013 rated it did not like it
I thought the first couple stories were okay, and then I got tired of reading about the cauldron and the crone and how wonderful and wise women are (even when they actually are depicted as petty, passive, and stupid in many stories). Plus, just about every story was about the beautiful and dainty women succeeding or finding love, even though the author is always talking about finding someone clever and thoughtful. The Cinderella retelling was exactly the same as the regular Cinderella, except in ...more
Emelinemimie
Oct 16, 2011 rated it did not like it
I already thought from the title that it was a bit too much and really it was. How could the author genuinely believe that simply by adding an old goddess to the original fairy tales without changing anything else (the women are still as passive as they used to be really) would make her tales feminist?
Gehayi
Jun 28, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: deserves-a-zero
Let me start by saying that I love fairy tales from all over the world. I love reading revised ones; I savor new and original ones. I've received a number as gifts, and I've written more than a few as well. This is a genre that I have loved for decades and that is very, very close to my heart.

So please believe me when I say that Walker's tales were utterly enraging. The incompetently poor quality of the writing, the wooden characterization, the ineffectual antagonists, the do-nothing, arrogant a
...more
Emily
Apr 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Stories Read:

The Gargoyle, The Littlest Mermaid, The Frog Princess




'the gargoyle,' from 'feminist fairy tales' by barbara walker
i’m reading a short story about a gargoyle. in the story, the outside gargoyles look down on the inside statues because they are lame and can’t move about at night and shit. what follows is amazing:

"but the gargoyles had noticed that the indoor statues didn’t seem to have any power of nocturnal locomotion, even though some of them had wings. so they thought themselves
...more
Mersadys
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
most of these are barely feminist and some are decidedly unfeminist. How the Sexes Were Separated is particularly cringe. really questionable morals here (lying, stealing and manipulating people into relationships are all chill if women do it). this woman really hates Christianity, which is fair but it's heavy handed to the point of ruining any other message she tries to have. also communism is awesome and using magic to enforce it on everyone overnight is dope. extra star for some cool ideas (J ...more
Shradha
Nov 03, 2016 rated it did not like it
I want to preface this by saying that I am a fan of retold fairy tales. I am also a fan of short stories. I am ALSO a fan of feminist literature or feminist themes. Mix fairy tales retellings with feminism and short stories, and I am in literary heaven. This book, however, is a work of hell.

Barbara Walker's title is a complete misrepresentation of what this book truly is, an example of misguided notions of what feminism is, sprinkled with racist subtones. If one were to start reading this book
...more
Mizuki
Jul 31, 2019 rated it liked it
I do enjoy Angela Carter's The Company of Wolves more than this collection, but I don't think this one is all that terrible like the GR rating is suggesting.

I'd read these stories years ago and this re-reading is like.......okay for me. So it gets a 3.5 stars rating from me.

I'd admit some of the stories are a too 'in your face' when it comes to male suppression and the goddesses worship stuff, but many of the stories are humorous, with girls taking the active roles to gain themselves and their f
...more
Nitya Iyer
May 23, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2star
In a world where Spiderman's girlfriend hasn't even picked up the tiniest clue about defending herself and not walking down dark alleys, it's refreshing to come across a Red Riding Hood who takes down two lecherous woodsmen and a wise stepmother who uses her magic to protect her stepdaughter, Snow White. A few of the stories are a bit nauseating in their desire to show women in the best light (hell, we've all got flaws), but all in all, this collection is a fun little read about ass-kicking wome ...more
Maria
Awful Awful Awful! I have never read a book that is so opposite of feminism. No intersectionality, still holds up the virgin dichotomy, most stories the girls were described as dainty, white and beautiful from a male characters point of view. Main characters have very little agency. You can be critical of religions like Christianity whilst respecting those of faith and the author was incredibly disrespectful. Her version feminism was incredibly ham fisted and the writing was awful.
Karla
Aug 08, 2012 rated it did not like it
I did not enjoy this collection of fairy tales. I thought I would. It would be interesting for use in exploring the culture of so-called feminism. The author provides her thoughts on each tale before she recounts the stories. I struggled with the atheism and the lack of morality and the women-are-better-than-men theme.
Rebecca Waring-Crane
Mar 20, 2009 rated it did not like it
I enjoy fairy tales and I am a feminist but after four of these stories I'd had enough of this book. Retelling traditional tales well takes subtlety and skill, both of which Walker's writing lacks. Lavine gets it right with "Fairest" and "Ella Enchanted." ...more
Bonnie
May 14, 2009 rated it did not like it
I enjoy reading different versions of fairy tales, but Barbara Walker misses the mark. Although she makes ancient feminist references at the beginning of each tale, the telling of the stories are simplistic and transparent. Not recommended.
Elizabeth Desole
Nov 24, 2010 rated it did not like it
Well I actually didn't finish this because it was so annoying. I love a fairy tale revision, but at the beginning of all of them she gave a really boring explanation of why she wrote it. The worst part was that they were very uncreative. And the heroines that I did read about were ridiculous ...more
Bridgett
Nov 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
This collection covered quite a number of stories and I liked the twists. A lot of stories seemed more realistic (such as The Frog Princess). I liked the lessons that were learned.
Christy Stewart
A little heavy handed.
Melanti
Too heavy handed on the feminist aspects.
Kiana
I don’t think this collection is nearly as bad as other reviewers made it out to be. Walker’s view of feminism is definitely a simplistic, very 1970s one (which makes the book’s 1996 publication feel very strange) and the tales are decidedly preachy, but—with the glaring exception of “Barbidol”—they aren’t poorly written. Far and away the worst element is the awful character and story names that feel like the inventions of a seven-year-old under a ten-second time limit (“Snow Night” = Snow White ...more
Rose Bryan
Mar 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book is poorly titled, it should be: "Classic fairy tales and myths re-imagined from a matriarchal and misandrist word." It's disappointing that it was advertised as feminist fairy stories, when largely they're not. Some of the tales are amusing or clever, but, many of them come off as really bitter (especially towards Christianity) and there's a lot of male-bashing that I didn't appreciate -misandry isn't feminism, gender equality is.

Occasionally it was interesting food for thought, in th
...more
Corinne
Jan 05, 2018 rated it did not like it
I didn't like this collection, at all. I found myself dreading each story, and groaning when I saw a story was longer than a couple of pages. Beyond the boredom inducement, this collection fell short of its title for me in a lot of ways.

WARNING: it's 90% white and 100% cishet, there is a same sex marriage included, but Walker rushes to assure the readers that the two married women are just gal pals, and have numerous male lovers

The women don't have much agency. Often times the male characters ar
...more
Anna Hepworth
Dec 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-fiction
This 1996 attempt at reframing the stories we tell with fairy tales has not aged well. I find the introductory notes frequently disingenuous and occasionally full on misleading. I suspect there might be more of that, if I knew more of the historical context (I know at least one detail was well known by scholars, because I can point to another short story of the same era written by a historian who knew what they were talking about).

Other negatives -- intersectional feminism it is not; thinly vei
...more
Katie
These stories were just so so for me. I think the limitation I felt with them was that the book is from the late '90s, and feminist retellings of fairy tales are a lot subtler now. They're much less focused on inverting gender roles and motivations, as these are, and are doing more complex things with retelling fairy tales in feminist ways.

I do think Walker has gathered a lot of fairy tales for retelling, more than you usually see in these collections, and that's to be commended. However, she al
...more
Bhumi  Ayu
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good start to learn feminism
Holland Vande Krol
Oct 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
I threw in the towel at 'Barbidol'. ...more
Claire Herhold
Dec 05, 2020 rated it it was ok
Simplistic, childish and poorly researched.
Sarah
Feb 22, 2015 added it
Feminist Fairytales by Barbara G. Walker is a collection of fantasy short stories. Barbara retells classic fairytales with a twist. She makes the female characters able to take care of themselves and not rely on male assistance. It's a pretty slow paced book because of its formatting, but that's also what makes it so easy to follow.
I really enjoyed the style of writing the author used. It was very refreshing to read a fairytale where the female protagonist was strong-willed and headstrong. The
...more
Marina
3.25

While I agree that many of the 28 stories are a bit too much, very very offensive and sometimes too idealistic, I really enjoyed some stories so much that I would give them a clear 5/5 rating, which are:
"The Descent of Shaloma"
"Prince Gimme and the Fairy of the Forest"
"How the Sexes Were Separated"
And the illustrations are very very pretty and fitting.
Barbara Walker uses detailled descriptions to illustrate her writing, she uses colours, metaphors etc. and created vivid pictures. But then, t
...more
HeavyReader
Jun 26, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: feminists and their kids
Shelves: young-adult, feminist
Warning: Not all of these stories are suitable for all little kids. Even though these are feminist fairy tales, there is often still violence (often against women, although the women do defend themselves in a variety of ways). Also, there is some sex; no explicit sex, but some mentions of "love-making." Parents may want to read these stories themselves first, before sharing them with kids.

All that said, this is a great collection of traditional stories, all told with nontraditional, positive twi
...more
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Barbara Walker studied journalism at the University of Pennsylvania and then took a reporting job at the Washington Star in DC. During her work as a reporter, she became increasingly interested in feminism and women's issues.

Her writing career has been split between knitting instruction books, produced in the late 1960s through the mid-80s; and women's studies and mythology books, produced from t
...more

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