Wednesday, September 24, 2008

sanitised fairy tales

Boston Globe: Fear of fairy tales: The glossy, sanitized new versions of fairy tales leave out what matters: the scary parts by Joanna Weiss
The book went on to spin the tale of a charmed girl named Rapunzel, who spent her days in the tower sewing dresses with a friend. She loved when the witch came to visit and teach songs, including one that made Rapunzel's hair grow longer. But tension arrived: One day, Rapunzel looked out the window and saw a fair in the village nearby. She wanted to go, but the witch was off tending to her garden and couldn't let her out. Fortunately, a prince riding by in his carriage called up to her, "Rapunzel! Why aren't you at the fair?"
This is all wrong. The witch character has to be a threshold guardian or Rapunzel can't come into her power. And the archetype of the witch is meant to be a bit scary, because s/he is a wielder of power.

Of course this sort of thing has been going on for centuries, though this is a particularly schmalzy and fluffy version. Cinderella (the Perrault version) is a bowdlerized version of Aschenp├╝ttel (Brothers Grimm version), which has much darker and earthier elements - in Perrault's version it's a glass slipper, but in Grimm it's made of fur, and the ugly sisters cut bits off their feet to fit into it, and are only caught out in their deception when blood oozes over the side.

I am sure that Clarissa Pinkola-Estes (author of the excellent Women Who Run with the Wolves) would have a thing or two to say about this evisceration of Rapunzel. And so would Bruno Bettelheim (author of The Uses of Enchantment). Indeed, in the rest of the Boston Globe article, various experts do point out why we need fairy-tales that aren't twee.

Hat-tip to Steve.


syren said...

I think Joseph Campbell would also have had something to say.

Bo said...

Instructions for getting into The Expvlsion here! xx

Kathz said...

Not a comment on fairy tales, though it's a fascinating subjetc. I'm just using the blog to alert you to a post on Quaker pagans that may interest you at

The Silver Eel said...

I particularly like that phrase "But tension arrived", which I will try and use a miniumum of three times in the coming week. Perhaps we should have novels written with all the machinery on similar display - "Stock male heroic character #1 had a brief exchange with stock female counterpart #1 which served the purposes of character exposition - then a chase ensued." Actually I think Quantum of Surplus must have been written along these lines.

I must look at Grimm...and Betelheim...and...