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The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales
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message 1: by Josh (new)

Josh Caporale (caponomics) | 4 comments Hi,

I am Josh and I am the producer, panelist, and contributor to Literary Gladiators, which is a Booktube channel. About seven months ago, one of my participants, Kaila, contributed a really informative video about how certain fairy tales from The Grimm Brothers were anti-feminist and gave some great examples as to what she felt was inferior, cruel treatment toward female characters. While one can argue that these were the times, one can also argue that these ideas were quite immoral and that it would not be right to read these original tales to today's youth, despite the fact they have been re-adapted time and time again.

This video picked up viewership, but was not received well on our channel, due to the fact that many of the comments came from people who are not for feminism. I want to know what you think about this video and if you feel that this is a good discussion starter when it comes to talking about the role of women in fairy tales.

Thank you!


message 2: by Bunny (last edited Jun 01, 2016 03:11PM) (new)

Bunny Hi Josh. I have to admit I didn't like it very much. My problem is not that she's talking about feminism, I'm absolutely fine with feminist analysis of folk tales, and often find it extremely interesting. The problem for me is that really this is more like one person's personal reaction based on having picked up one book. Maybe it would be better to bill this as a personal reaction to some stories she read rather than a feminist analysis.

Some specific issues I had. Her two points of comparison seem to be this one book and the Disney movies. She keeps referring to "the fairy tale" as if she doesn't know that there are multiple versions of these stories both before and after the Grimm versions. She also says at one point "its not like they had good makeup back in medieval, uh Brothers Grimm days," not appearing to know that the Grimms collected their tales in the early 1800's which is centuries later than the Middle Ages. Also, you know, anything about makeup in history which is another quite fascinating subject although not about fairy tales.

With regard to fairy tales there is actually a lot of historical context about why the Grimms collected these stories when they did and how and why they changed them from other earlier versions, and what the earlier versions were like. And some of that is about the early salonnieres of France who were women trying to create a political voice for themselves, which is an interesting feminist subject that would be cool to talk about too. Also in some cases there is more than one Grimm version, because they changed the stories in later editions and why and how they did that is interesting too.

Or possibly look at symbolism, she says at one point that Rapunzel is more symbolic than Red Riding Hood Snow White and Cinderella because hair symbolizes power - which is just an odd thing to say. Does she think that a Red Hood has no symbolic meaning? Or a spinning wheel? All of the stories contain symbolic elements. There are lots of books out there talking about the symbolism of fairy tales.

Another way to approach this would be to sit down and do some analysis comparing the stories. For example she points out several times that the protagonists lack agency, they just get pushed around by everyone else in the stories. So talk about that for a minute. Don't just call them morons for it, talk about why each story does that and how they do it differently from one another. That would be an interesting subject to look at.

I don't want to be mean and pick holes. As I said before, I think it would be more useful to call this a personal reaction. As one person's reaction to three stories that she read, its fair enough. As a discussion starter for any kind of analysis of fairy tales, I think either more research and/or more analysis would be a good idea.

Or like I say, just call it some personal snark about how she thought the Grimm stories were dumb.

message 3: by Bunny (last edited Jun 01, 2016 03:30PM) (new)

Bunny For example, here is a quote and link to an article that was written on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the publication of the first volume of Grimm's tales.

In 1697 in France Charles Perrault had published what would become classic fairy tales for children, including ‘Cinderellla’, ‘Puss in Boots’ and ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, but his versions of the stories were meant for sophisticated aristocratic families. The Grimms’ attitude was entirely different. They believed that folk stories, handed down by word of mouth from one generation to another over centuries untold, enshrined the fundamental ideas, beliefs and reactions to human experience of ‘the folk’. Expressing their hopes and joys, fears and sorrows, the tales were profoundly significant for children and grown-ups alike. The brothers took stories from Perrault and many others, but their versions were frequently different. -

See more at: http://www.historytoday.com/richard-c...

So one interesting difference between the Perrault version and the Grimm version is that there's no fairy godmother in the Grimm version. Cinderella gets help from some animals and a wishing tree. So why did Perrault envision the story with a older woman helping and mentoring Cinderella and Grimms imagined the story without that element? Then Disney puts the fairy godmother back. Other versions take her out again. That might be an interesting question for feminist consideration, the fairy godmother as mentor and guardian...

message 4: by Josh (new)

Josh Caporale (caponomics) | 4 comments Thank you for watching this video and for giving some constructive feedback! I feel that I got something out of this as well and will be sure to keep this in mind if I ever explore fairy tales and folktales a bit more intensely. Perrault is someone I want to check out, for he put these together before the Brothers Grimm got a hold of them.

I will bring this up with Kaila and encourage her to check this out. I am sure that she will be able to respond further in depth, for she put this together.

message 5: by Bunny (last edited Jun 01, 2016 07:01PM) (new)

Bunny You are very welcome Josh, I'm glad you saw it as constructive! I wanted to be constructive but was worried it would be seen as just criticizing. I think we can all start somewhere and I don't want to sound like what Kaila did wasn't worth doing. Just that it was more personal reaction than analysis. There's a lot of really great things to learn and look into when it comes to fairy tales and their history and some of it is definitely directly relevant to feminism.

You might also check out the link I posted on the Beauty and the Beast thread to a Terry Windling essay about that particular tale and Animal Husband stories more generally. Terry Windling and Ellen Datlow have done some really excellent and interesting work on myths and fairy tales and their work is very much worth exploring to learn more about these themes.

Terry was also a contributor to The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales which is worth checking out from the library for anyone interested in the subject.

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