They tell us dragons can be beaten: continuing relevance of fairy tales
November 23, 2014 11:27 AM   Subscribe

Neil Gaiman: Why Disney's Sleeping Beauty doesn't work (Gaby Wood for The Guardian):
"I feel like some kind of alchemist," Gaiman suggests. "I have to go to the cupboard and take one ounce of Snow White and two ounces of Sleeping Beauty, and heat the Sleeping Beauty and froth the Snow White and mix them together: it's kind of like fusion cuisine. It tastes like both of them but it's actually a new dish."

Are fairy tales back in fashion? Certainly, the recent success of Disney's films Frozen and Maleficent seems to point to something. But most of the fairy tales we know have come to us via 17th century France or 19th century Germany, and have since been subject to so many retellings and rebellions that trends are difficult to map.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (47 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, the other problem is in Disney's version the Prince and the Beauty aren't the protagonists, it's the Good Faries vs. Maleficent. Prince and princess are just an excuse for them to duke it out.
posted by The Whelk at 12:05 PM on November 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


The "original" fairy tales are interesting, by all means, and I've enjoyed Disney's new twist on their formulas with Frozen and Malificent (maybe less so with the latter), but for the foreseeable future they're pretty much stuck in squeaky clean territory as far as sex is concerned. Which is too bad, because a pregnant Rapunzel in Tangled would have been hilarious!
posted by Harald74 at 12:19 PM on November 23, 2014


Once again, Robin McKinley gets short shrift. Her Beauty had a bookish, intellectual Beauty go to live with the Beast decades before Disney got praise for doing it. And her Spindle's End also replaced the prince's kiss in Sleeping Beauty with that of a princess (well, it's more complicated than that, but that's basically what happened). But she's not as famous as Gaiman, so.

One wonders if they would have mentioned Angela Carter if not for Gaiman's own praise of her.

(I like Gaiman, don't get me wrong. But I do get tired of dudes getting praised for "groundbreaking" things that women have already done.)

If you like princess-rescues-princess stories, Princess Princess is a nice Rapunzel variant also.
posted by emjaybee at 12:20 PM on November 23, 2014 [44 favorites]


The Grimm's fairy tale Cinderella ends with the evil stepsisters getting their eyes pecked out. It's been awhile since I have seen Disney's version but I don't remember that being in it.
posted by bukvich at 12:45 PM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


...and they hacked off their heels to fit in the shoe. But the pigeons are all "ruckediguh, Blut ist im Schuh!"
("Blood is in the shoe"), so nobody's fooled. I relished that bit as a kid.
Blood in the shoe.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:04 PM on November 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


I enjoyed Frozen but it has so little to do with Andersen's The Snow Queen that I don't know why they even bothered claiming it as inspiration.

The Grimm's fairy tale Cinderella ends with the evil stepsisters getting their eyes pecked out.

...after mutilating their feet to try to fit into the slipper.
posted by murphy slaw at 1:05 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah the cut off heel ("You won't have to walk when you are a queen!") image and the birds call-out has stayed strong with me since I read the original story 20 years ago or so.
posted by history_denier at 1:20 PM on November 23, 2014


I get bothered by the seemingly evergreen tradition of describing contemporary fairy tales as bastardised versions, watered down by the prurient tastes of our modern age, and somehow inferior to the grimdark, grittier versions that preceded them. I feel like it almost completely misses the point of fairy tales and is the fairy tale equivalent of Their First Album Was Better.

Firstly, this idea that there's an "original" - or even a more original version that these tales are somehow deviating from is nonsense. The earliest written fairy tales we have are still precluded by centuries if not millennia of oral tradition. Those stories are just as 'watered down' or altered from their pre-literate ancestors as ours are from them. They are - just like ours - products of their ages. They are interesting, most certainly, and can provoke a different reaction in us, undoubtedly, but they are not more pure for it.

Secondly, these discussions often omit why these stories have changed, except for a kind of moralistic indignation at the 'Disneyfication' of our popular culture (Marina Warner does not do this). But we are, in comparison to the brutal times these stories were set to paper, indeed living in a Disneyfied age. The tales themselves largely reflect that and the current conception of childhood and the very idea of children.

Thirdly, they only focus on the Disney versions of fairy tales, in order to raise up the 'edgy' versions in opposition, but I submit that 1) they are not in opposition but rather all residing along a spectrum - a spectrum that has arguably always existed; 2) it ignores the vast diversity of current fairy tales and engagement in fairy tales out there, usually reducing it down to a simplisitic binary in just one or two mediums at most. In reality, we are surrounded by fairy tales, we walk about in a haze of narrative fable, it soaks into our skin in advertising, television, movies, websites, social media and more and more and more, and 3) it refuses to acknowledge new additions to the corpus of fairy tales - of which there are a plethora - and uses a reductive and convenient definition, as if humanity has stopped creating archetypical narratives to explain or explicate social or natural phenomena. It can be challenge to define these fairy tales as somehow different or separate from "Fairy Tales" - unless you're very definition excludes 'newness'.

Fourthly, I feel uncomfortable with the Western, European focus on what makes a fairy tale - white stories rewritten by white people for white audiences. It is changing, but African, Chinese, South American cultures still get "myths and legends", not fairy tales. Again, this definition reduces us all I think.

It also bothers me because I love fairy tales, and always have, and I feel like people railing against the Disneyfication etc are denying readers agency in interpreting what particular versions of fairy tales mean for them, and denying the value and power of these tales because they choose to interpret them in a way that clashes with their particular political or social beliefs. It's a very top-down hermeneutic approach - something I've long disagreed with - and I believe most of the writers involved would probably disagree with as well, were it applied to a different text.

tl;dr Our creation and interpretation of fairy tales is constant and ever-changing. Positing a core of tales that are frozen in amber is inherently flawed and ignores the Functionalist perspective of fairy tales, and what their purpose is.
posted by smoke at 1:21 PM on November 23, 2014 [65 favorites]


It's extra weird that Gaiman doesn't mention McKinley since he provided a blurb on the front of her novel, Sunshine (which is amazing), calling it "pretty much perfect", so he's certainly aware of her work.

On the other hand, he mentions Carter showed us that fairy tales are loaded guns; if that's the point he's trying to make, I can see why he didn't include McKinley. Her stories are haunting and incredible, but they're quiet in a way that few other writers match. There's not a lot of flash-bang or deeply disturbing content (with one incredibly well-done exception); they just sit with you like old friends for the rest of your life. Gaiman's stories are... sharper and more obviously dark.

If you haven't read any Gaiman recently, "The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains" is here for free-- just to remind us all what that dude can do with a tired genre.
posted by WidgetAlley at 1:26 PM on November 23, 2014 [12 favorites]


Smoke, those are all good points, & it's important that they be made in this context. I think it's worth mentioning that Gaiman seems to agree with you on most of them.
posted by lodurr at 1:30 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


But we are, in comparison to the brutal times these stories were set to paper, indeed living in a Disneyfied age. The tales themselves largely reflect that and the current conception of childhood and the very idea of children.

I agree with this completely, but I also think that for some children (and adults) that is precisely the pull of the older stories, with all the gnarly bits left in: there is an inherent mirroring in the way we have changed fairy tales to reflect what we think they should be, and how we expect childrens' lives and experiences to be and how we treat them as if our expectations were real for them.

Childhood is still dark and terrifying for a lot of kids, even now. It's comforting to know that this has always been true, and that even though adults are often behaving as though childhood is not dark and terrifying, someone out there believes you, knows the truth, and has written stories that match your demons and how your parents treat you behind closed doors and the sort of feats you think it would probably take to get to a better place. It was so important for me as a kid to have those stories, even in my relatively sheltered, relatively sane household, stories that told me the world was the strange dark place I knew and not just the cheerful void of childhood every adult in my life seemed to think was the totality of existence.
posted by WidgetAlley at 1:35 PM on November 23, 2014 [9 favorites]


Well, the other problem is in Disney's version the Prince and the Beauty aren't the protagonists, it's the Good Faries vs. Maleficent. Prince and princess are just an excuse for them to duke it out.
Actually, that makes Sleeping Beauty Accidentally the Most Feminist Animated Movie Disney Ever Made. Point, counterpoint.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:39 PM on November 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


METAFILTER: the fairy tale equivalent of Their First Album Was Better.
posted by philip-random at 1:50 PM on November 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


Mutilating your feet to fit into a slipper is like mutilating your jokes to fit into a Tweet. Maybe there's a parable there.
posted by turbid dahlia at 1:52 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Retellings of fairy tales have been back in vogue for ages! Robin McKinley's amazing work (she retold Beauty twice, each one shifting the relationships in fascinating ways) was on the leading edge, but now there is Seanan McGuire, who goes back to the OLD stories, and Catherine Valente, whose retelling of Snow White in Six Gun Snow White is amazing, and Mercedes Lackey, who is doing two separate riffs on the oldest stories. If you go into manga and manwha, there are fascinating retellings of old stories everywhere; Korean dramas, for example, regularly draw from both their own fairy tales and European ones.

Once you know the cadence of the stories, they're easy to spot.

For what it's worth, I wish mass media would get more into the fairy tales produced by the 1700s French Salons. I would adore a movie or book length version of Finette, The Discreet Princess.
posted by Deoridhe at 2:05 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


yeah re-telling fairy tales is like ...perpetually in vogue. As a kid I was switched on by Don't Best On The Prince and the Tanith Lee fairytale re-tellings - these days I'm loving the short fiction of Leigh Bardugo and it's playful, dark re-tellings that really capture that fairy tale logic and dread.
posted by The Whelk at 2:09 PM on November 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Rosamunde Hodge just published a novel (which felt a bit overstuffed, as if she had to get all her favourites in just in case she never got to write another) and a novella that are both rewritten fairy tales/myths. Ursula Vernon, as T. Kingfisher, has published a book of short stories and a novel that are fairy tales; many of her short stories have been published online. (I was rather fond of her version of Cinderella.)

Yes I am posting here mainly to see if there are more modern fairy tales -- either retellings or new ones -- that people mention.
posted by jeather at 2:12 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Fourthly, I feel uncomfortable with the Western, European focus on what makes a fairy tale - white stories rewritten by white people for white audiences. It is changing, but African, Chinese, South American cultures still get "myths and legends", not fairy tales.

Hi, care to elaborate a bit? Plenty of fairy tales have Persian/Arabic roots and I have a set of Indian fairy tales, locally compiled and characterised as such, some of which are reminiscent of Persian and Russian tales (or vice versa - I'm no fairy-tale historian). Part of the delineation between myths & legends and fairy tales seems to be the tenor of the story and I'm not sure one label is necessarily more desirable than the other. Euroamericans are more familiar with their own stories, which leaves a lot of great material in obscurity and that's a shame, but I don't think that's restricted to fairy tales. I'd love to know if I'm missing part of your argument.

Apropos the topic of modern fairy tales, I get a strong vibe from certain segments of the Tiffany Aching books by Pratchett.
posted by ersatz at 2:28 PM on November 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


I really love Seanan McGuire; Indexing is so much fun that I've been doodling around with using it as basis for a tabletop campaign for a while.

My favorite fairy tale, not included in the Guardian's little poll, is Puss in Boots because of the absolute amorality of it and impossibility of making it moral. "Do what talking pets tell you to do and lie your way into the nobility!" Wonderful.

There are some really fun Japanese ones too; I particularly enjoy a story that basically is about a giant tree that ruined the crops of several provinces with its shade until the emperor came and cut it down. That is it. That is the whole story.
posted by NoraReed at 2:41 PM on November 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think Patricia McKillip's books have a distinct edge of being fairy-tale adjacent even though she rarely draws on actual fairy tales. Both her Forgotten Beasts of Eld and Fool's Run have mythic, moral weight.

Robin McKinley is simply known for this. My favorite is her first retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Beauty, but her tone is consistent through all her books.

Anne Bishop is similar, particularly her Ephemera series. Her Black Jewels series is very dark and contains a lot of rape, so take care if you're triggered; the rape is always condemned by the narrative, but it is a constant underpinning. The morality is very fairytale-esque, though, and I return again and again to her later books, where the promise built in the first three is slowly realized.

Mercedes Lacky is sending out fairy tale retellings like they're going out of style. Her 500 Kingdoms series is a fairy tale mashup with built in interesting female characters. The place to start really is the first one, The Fairy Godmother (Cinderella), though honestly most of them stand on their own. She's also writing the Elemental Masters series, which is set in historical Europe - primarily England - which is mash-up adjacent, though each book tends to have their original story. My favorites are The Serpent's Shadow (Snow White) and Reserved for the Cat (Puss in Boots).

Seanan McGuire's October Daye series is a hardcore Irish fairytale in the modern world. It's dense as a thicket and draws nearly as much blood.

Diana Wynne Jones banks on a variety of fairy tales. Howl's Moving Castle was my gateway drug, but the Dark Lord of Derkholm is charming as well, and both have sequels.

Bride of the Water God by Yun Mi-kyung is a fantastic mangwha based on a Korean fairy tale about girls being sacrificed in times of no rain. I'm hampered by not being familiar with the origin story, but it's lovely and interesting enough that I personally don't care.

Blue Seed is based on the Izumo cycle of Japanese mythology, and once you know to look for magatama and magical mirrors, it's influence on modern Japanese culture is obvious. The whole idea of there being seeds or objects Magical Girls used to transform could easily be traced back to the power and ability of magatama.

Both Dragon Ball and Saiyuki are based off of Journey to the West, and I love the similarities and differences (particularly in Saiyuki, which is a favorite of mine).

The entire Megami Tensei series draws from every fairy tale and mythology the creators could get their hands on, to often hysterical result. I'm Asatru, and I love their versions of my gods!

Jane Lindskold's Majong series (starting with Thirteen Orphans) is a fascinating riff both on Chinese stories and Majong itself.

There are more I'm sure I'm forgetting... but I love and recommend any of the above.
posted by Deoridhe at 2:41 PM on November 23, 2014 [22 favorites]


Oh and I recently played Cinder, a visual novel based on Cinderella. It was really interesting and quite pretty.
posted by NoraReed at 2:44 PM on November 23, 2014


I enjoyed Frozen but it has so little to do with Andersen's The Snow Queen that I don't know why they even bothered claiming it as inspiration.

It's true that Frozen bears little resemblance to The Snow Queen at this point, but considering it took 70 years for Disney to get this one in the can I think that not acknowledging the source material is akin to ignoring some of the most remarkable things about the finished movie.
posted by phatkitten at 3:13 PM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Books based on fairy tales yay!

Sarah Beth Durst's Into The Wild is great (I haven't read the sequel).

Jim C. Hines' series that begins with The Stepsister Scheme is a lot of fun.

Malinda Lo's Ash and Huntress are both interesting and worth reading.

Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles are ... OK. Decent popcorn fiction.

Catherynne M. Valente's Deathless is great. (Her other specific-fairy-tale based book I am aware of, Six Gun Snow White, starts well but feels a bit truncated.)

Genvieve Valentine's The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is fantastic.
posted by kyrademon at 3:25 PM on November 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


Retellings of fairy tales have been back in vogue for ages!

Well, yeah. I was just now looking up references to Eleanor Farjeon and found wikipedia didn't even have an entry for The Silver Curlew novel. Farjeon, writing in the 40's & 50's, I think, seems to have dropped completely out of sight.

The Silver Curlew is Rumpelstiltskin and The Glass Slipper is Cinderella. I remember them very fondly as fairy stories.
posted by glasseyes at 3:31 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Hi, care to elaborate a bit?

Just that my impression has always been that the vast majority of fairy tales referenced in these kind of discussions are coming from Perrault, or Grimm, with some nods to salon tales here and there. I agree wholeheartedly with you that the world of the fairy tale is much, much bigger and heterogenous; I was merely saying that discussion like the linked one usually focuses on a very small number of tales (under 20, I would estimate), and very specific iterations at that.
posted by smoke at 3:33 PM on November 23, 2014


Robin McKinley's amazing work

The frustrating thing about McKinley (speaking as someone who's read her books a zillion times) is that the very young heroine always seems to end up with the immeasurably old father figure. It gets a little icky after awhile.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:44 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, I loved Eleanor Farjeon's work. I also had a great collection of Jewish fairy tales.

I think discussing where the line is drawn between fairy tales and myths is interesting, because Norse and Greek and Roman and Egyptian mythology are not called fairy tales, though they are used in the same ways in stories now. (The book by Hodge is an example of this.)

Indexing was, I think, a fascinating concept that ended up unsuccessful, due in large part to the episodic publication of an incomplete story. her superhero story, despite also being written episodically and using a bunch of fairy tale tropes, works better, probably because each story stands alone and isn't a chapter of an incomplete book.
posted by jeather at 3:53 PM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


The frustrating thing about McKinley (speaking as someone who's read her books a zillion times) is that the very young heroine always seems to end up with the immeasurably old father figure.

SPOILERS, whoop whoop.

Really? I can see that for the Beauty and the Beast retellings, Chalice, and maybe Spindle's End, but Aerin ends up with Tor, Harry with Corlath (who is specifically mentioned as being a young king, and Harry is, if I remember right, in her twenties), Lissa with the nice prince from the kingdom next door whose name I can never remember but who totally raises puppies and is therefore the best, Robin and Marian of course end up as a couple, and Sunshine is... sort of ambiguous. Haven't read Pegasus yet so can't comment, but all the ones that aren't directly fairytale retellings (and even some that are, in the case of Deerskin), the romantic entanglements do seem to happen with their peers. Are there others I'm forgetting?
posted by WidgetAlley at 3:54 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Helen Oyeyemi's Boy Snow Bird is a Snow White version set in 1950s Massachusetts, and dealing with race and secrets in a really interesting way.
posted by snorkmaiden at 4:13 PM on November 23, 2014


SPOILERS!

Aerin ends up with Tor... for now. But Lethe is there waiting for Tor to die, which he does because now Aerin is partly immortal and lives super long.

I think it's because McKinley herself married someone who was a much older father figure to her.

There was another story she wrote where it came up, too, and walloped me over the head enough that I suddenly noticed a theme. Even Corlath, though not a father figure, seems to be significantly older than Harry, and is certainly her mentor in her new life. That's such a classic, old-fashioned fairy tale thing that I'll give it a pass, though I don't love it.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:20 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Great post, thanks.

That's The Telegraph, though, not The Guardian.

The Telegraph is basically the opposite of The Guardian.
posted by motty at 4:28 PM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Even Corlath, though not a father figure, seems to be significantly older than Harry, and is certainly her mentor in her new life.

Awww, man, but Mathin's her mentor! I love Mathin!

The best story about McKinley (and if I remember rightly she herself has confirmed) is that she wrote The Blue Sword because when she was a young woman she got super excited about The Sheik and then wanted to scream and throw things when it turns out the plot is not at ALL that a young woman gets to run off into the desert and have adventures and a consensual romance with a sexy semi-nomadic ruler.

I'm very glad I found The Blue Sword when I was seven and didn't even know The Sheik existed until I was well into my twenties, because, uh... wow.
posted by WidgetAlley at 5:04 PM on November 23, 2014


McKinley's heroines are in general pretty old souls, though; they tend to be Bad at Youthful Frolicking, and maybe that accounts for their ability to hang out with immortal or semi-immortal types. And she wrote Beauty (and some others?) before she fell in love with Dickinson.

Kes, her current heroine of her online serial novel, is middle-aged and divorced, for what that's worth.

Anyhoo, I wanted to also mention Kiss Sleeping Beauty Goodbye, which engages with Bettelheim but has a distinctly more feminist take on what messages our fairytales send (or intend to send) us.

Whether we "need" fairytales or they have Ancient Truths to impart to us is a question I have a hard time answering. I have not read many fairytales to my kiddo. Not because they have death in them, but because they reflect the attitudes of a world that we are still trying to change. Women in those stories are still commodities, and if they have any power, it's through beauty or "niceness." Suitable marriage is still all they can hope for. Class and power and violence are what defines a hero. It's a world that has magic, but so little freedom. Classic Grimms tales are the kind of tales you create in a world made of serfs and masters. And I want my kid's imagination to be larger than that. Lucky for us, we live in a golden age of children's literature right now, so we can afford to be picky. And if he wants to read these stories for himself, we aren't going to forbid it. It's just that books and stories that come from us seem to imply to me that they have things we want him to learn in them. And these stories mostly don't.
posted by emjaybee at 6:12 PM on November 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


Thanks motty - what an oversight!
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:02 PM on November 23, 2014


There's not enough love for Tanith Lee in this thread. When the Clock Strikes, from her 1983 colllection Tales from the Sisters Grimmer, is one of my favorite Cinderella retellings ever, and her (multiple) takes on Snow White are fantastic too. When I read Gaiman's Snow, Glass, Apples, I was not much impressed since it seemed very much like a straight rip-off of Lee's earlier, better work.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 4:18 AM on November 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


Corlath: When I was a kid, I read McKinley's Beauty and The Door in the Hedge so many times I had passages memorized, but for the life of me I could not get into the Blue Sword, no matter how many times I started. It always lost me after an indeterminate amount of chapters. I liked the idea of the plot and the characters, but for some reason I couldn't dig it. I wonder why.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 4:21 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


emjaybee: I have not read many fairytales to my kiddo.

And indeed why should anyone expect you to, regardless of whether they 'have Ancient Truths to impart'?

The stories themselves merely represent tropes and ideas. When a (good) writer says 'these things are of value' (e.g.: they're "bombs"), they're not saying we should read them to our kids -- they're saying we should mine them for their creative potential.

So we tweak and mangle them to give a vision of a world with magic of the sort we think we need, with the freedoms we want.

(Though completely as an aside, I do wonder if real social freedom might not be incompatible with fairy-tale-style magic in some sense.)
posted by lodurr at 6:31 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Meredith Ann Pierce
posted by pan at 7:34 AM on November 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was merely saying that discussion like the linked one usually focuses on a very small number of tales (under 20, I would estimate), and very specific iterations at that.

Yeah, this tends to be the case. Thanks for the clarification.
posted by ersatz at 8:23 AM on November 24, 2014


When reached for comment, Alan Moore stroked his beard and asked thoughtfully, "Where's all the fucking?"
posted by elr at 10:09 AM on November 24, 2014


I get bothered by the seemingly evergreen tradition of describing contemporary fairy tales as bastardised versions, watered down by the prurient tastes of our modern age, and somehow inferior to the grimdark, grittier versions that preceded them.

So how should we describe the changes to "Into The Woods" then?
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:19 AM on November 24, 2014


So how should we describe the changes to "Into The Woods" then?

How about "A disorderly pile of horrible adaptation choices"?
posted by lodurr at 12:11 PM on November 24, 2014


It is certainly possible to lessen a story by creating an overly sanitized, expurgated version. There's a reason that Bowdlerization is a word, and not a complimentary one.

On the other hand, it's also possible to lessen a story by creating a relentlessly grimdark, gritty version. Or did the comic books of the 90's teach us nothing? Conversely, in the hands of a skilled storyteller, a tale can actually be improved by either lightening or darkening the tone.

Making a story lighter or darker is not in and of itself an inherently destructive act. It depends on both the intent behind it and the effect it has.

I do think it's interesting to discuss *why* cultural tendencies to lighten or darken exist. In the case of fairy tales, I suspect a lot of it is because in the modern, English-language speaking world, there is a strong belief that children should be protected from too much exposure to even fictionalized violence, sexual situations, and grief. When I watch Japanese animation aimed at children, I have often found myself surprised at certain things which would probably not make it into English-language animation aimed at the same age set.

On the other hand, having read Struwwelpeter and been informed by my German friends that it was, in fact, read to them when they were children, another possible explanation is that German children's stories in general are all TOTALLY HORRIBLE AND DERANGED.
posted by kyrademon at 12:54 PM on November 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I do think it's silly to assume that there's a single authentic version of any fairy tale, but I don't think that people who criticize the specific direction that recent revisions have taken necessarily make that assumption.
posted by atoxyl at 1:36 PM on November 24, 2014


kyrademon: another possible explanation is that German children's stories in general are all TOTALLY HORRIBLE AND DERANGED.

in college back in the 80s I had to read a book that spent a lot of time discussing child sexuality in 19th century Germany. They had some really horrifying practices that were intended to stifle the expression of sexual feelings in children. Hard restraints, ice baths, painful mechanical devices, etc.

So, what you suggest is a distinct possibility.
posted by lodurr at 1:45 PM on November 24, 2014


(if anybody'd curious, I think it was Reagan's America by Lloyd deMause -- who I gather was held by some to be a crank, but when I asked friends who had studied the history of childhood whether that stuff was for real, they said "yup!")
posted by lodurr at 1:46 PM on November 24, 2014


Carter's take on the tale was "The Company of Wolves", an ornately told story in which the heroine makes a relatively late appearance in a savage, sexual world, not a small child skipping along a path but a daring pubescent girl who strips naked, laughs in the face of danger and sleeps with the wolf – rendering him post–coitally "tender" – in her dead grandmother's bed.

Hipster Ur-Fairy-Tale: and in the Original Original Red Riding Hood, she was the God Viṣṇu and he was dressed as a woman to get back the Milk (amṛta) from the Big Bad Asura, and then in the Þrymskviða, the Red Riding Hood was Þórr who was disguised as Freyja to get back his hammer from the Big Bad Giants.
posted by Phersu at 10:42 PM on November 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


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