Fairy Tales Conjure Images Of Magic English Literature Essay

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Fairy tales conjure images of magic , fantasy and beautiful princesses they are reminiscent of our childhood , and enjoyed by Children from around the world .Far removed from its origins the fairy tale is now an oral and literary genre , It occupies an important , and the most dominant field of children literature (Zipes, Reader1, p38) , however as the fairytale now also has a multitude of other uses, such as advertising, television programmes and video games, Zipes argues that the fairytale has now become totally institutionalised within our Western Society Zipes (reader1 p38) [i] .

However to evaluate this statement we need to investigate the meaning of how the fairytale is institutionalised , and why it has become so , looking in particular at what aspects have become established , and how we have socially constructed the fairy tale from its beginnings to the present day .

The fairytale is a convention accepted part of our lives , however it is not unique in this fact ,other children's tales such as the immensely popular Harry Potter stories ( Rowling ) , have also expanded into mass media and beyond , and could also be seen as institutionalised , What makes it unique is its origins , timeline , and audience.

To view fairy tales as children's literature is to view them in their present form Fairy tales have changed dramatically to become acceptable for our children ,originating from an already established commodity within our culture. Their original content was of an adult nature , and not aimed at children at all , it was altered to suit . As J.R Tolkin observes

'the association of children and fairy stories is an accident of our domestic history '(Tolkien , 1964 :34)

As we shall see in its variant forms , the fairy story has always been with us, it is most certainly an institution , however by examining its growth and transformation , it could be argued that it has not become institutionalised , but has actually always been so.

To verify this we need to look at how Fairy Tales have always been an integral part of our society .From oral stories told over spinning wheels and hearths ,to written texts from the worlds oldest cultures, they have evolved and combined with the needs of the social order in which they existed .Neither excluding children or for them , they were entertaining and cautionary tales told by adults to adults offering insights into the harsh realities of their lives , they were embedded into their society. The earliest traditions of our fairytales, are sinister and gruesome, depicting the ethics and brutality of the period.

From our most primitive written history we see the fairytale established within its environment . Zipes() agrees it is difficult to date the fairy tale , although it is widely viewed that Apuleius's myth Cupid and Psyche [ii] written Ad 100 being very similar to Beauty and the Beast , is considered by many scholars to be the first literature fairy tale . With their metamorphose ability , they have endured throughout our history , and as in evolution , those that fail to match the requirements, fail, known only in their original publications. Looking at why we continue to embrace some tales and not others indicates the values , and ideals of society as it evolves , and why we value the aspects of those endured .

To emphasise this by the university of Indiana ( 2006) investigated168 of the Brothers Grimm Fairytales, finding 43% had been reproduced 101 times in children's books and films.The most popular were "Cinderella," "Snow White," , "Sleeping Beauty", "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Hansel and Gretel." [iii] 

It Concludes with a view that we prefer tales of beautiful princesses , and where (white) men and women behave appropriately and find their acceptable place in a respectable society, This is upheld by many writers on the fairytale culture , indeed in rebellion against this flow of patriarchal righteousness , there has been many modern adaptations of the fairytale with opposing endings , as we shall see with Red Riding Hood .

Fairytales entertain the rich and poor alike , with tales at variance with the category of audience. Their emergence as a genre , and the change in their diadiac content give an insight into the changes in our culture , and a map of our progress through history .

From its oral origins to its emergence in seventeenth century France where the term conte de fees became the fairytale . It is with Charles Perrault's, , Histories, or Tales of Times Past in 1697 which brought us many of the classics The Sleeping Beauty , Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella , that the popularity of the fairy tale really began, Although still far removed from the versions we see today , they often still contained the adult subject matter , but were sanitised from the gory original and often given a moralistic ending .Peraults publications were not aimed at children but it is from these, that translations across Europe in chapbooks , the Bibliotheque bleue , made the fairytale more accessible to children .

For more authenticity the brothers Grimm , are viewed to be the first to write down the tales in their true unadulterated form . Although their manuscript was cited for children, 'Children's , and household tales'( Grimm ) , their stories held much adult subject matter and was deemed unsuitable for children . In later publications the Grimm's were forced to remove much of the original offensive references to incest , rape and infanticide ,although they often left the still acceptable violence .

Fairytales today , show little of the original horrors of their predecessors and It is interesting to note that this social engineering of our children's reading matter still prevails , a recent poll of 3,000 British parents by the BabyWebsite [iv] revealed that fairy tales were considered by many parents to be politically incorrect and too frightening .

Little Red Riding Hood in particular , has changed dramatically since its first appearance , and the transformations continue.

Perraults version of red riding hood is the oldest known printed version , although from the 14th century there were a number of oral versions in existence . With Perrault she is given a symbolic red cloak, depicting sexuality, and the need to protect ones virtue , and is eaten and killed by the wolf, again French slang for loosing virginity , he also adds his own moral quotation desponding the fates of young girls who associate with strange men .

In earlier oral traditions Red Riding Hood is depicted as recognising the wolf for what he is , usually a man or werewolf , after unknowingly cannibalising the flesh of her grandmother, she delays getting into the bed with the wolf , and escapes (the False Grandmother ) [v] .

Orenstein argues that this version of Red Riding Hood echo's how the tale would have originally been told by women, over the spinning wheels ( spinning a yarn) , the heroine escaping was only later changed when it was retold by a patriarchal didactic society .( oreinstein ref) .

The Brothers Grimm final version mirrors today's approved tale , which emphasises disobedience rather than lust , with neither the grandmother or girl being eaten ,interesting though in contrast they omitted the woodsman , and the women save themselves ,similar to many revisionist retellings (or perhaps the original tale) where Little Red Riding Hood successfully defends herself .(Orenstein) [vi] ,recent social construction of our version of childhood is again, demonstrated by our approved children's version where the savoir woodcutter is restored and no-one is killed .( british council ref)

Versions and interpretations of this story flourish , The tale has been widely interpreted as a puberty ritual, and sexual awakening , which was identified with by Angela Carters 'The Company of Wolves' [vii] ,. again showing the girl as the heroine , and the sexual awakening of the wild side of her nature, as chooses to become a wolf herself [viii] 

It is a gothic re-telling of the tale , that opposes the morals of the original Perrault version, returning it perhaps to its original meaning of awakening of sexual desire , and much in the style of Perrault changing the end to engage a new meaning of liberation and equality . However neither short story or film is intended for children , produced at a time of equality and women's liberation, again showing that much can be said of the historical context of the tales , and the ability for the fairytales to mutate , and aid social construction.

Notably fairytales , have changed with us , as society has changed so have our children, it is not argued that the child from 200 years ago is of the same mindset as today .Indeed Aries would argue that it was only after 17th century that we began to recognise childhood , 'it was recognised that the child was not ready for life , and that he had to be subjected to a special treatment '(Aries, 1962, p412 study guide), we began to care about what children heard and read, and ardently censor our children's reading

To edit our children's fairytales we must have a notion of what childhood should contain , and what we would like children to be, in short we socially construct the child, however this is often without consulting the children themselves.

In response to this we look at children's memories of the red riding hood tale ,while the differences in story line are quite accepted , there is an air of disappointment when the granny is freed from the wolfs belly 'not chewed up at all' [ix] ,and in the ending of the modern tale where the wolf receives only a bump on the head .

Some children are dismayed in Red Riding Hoods lack of discipline

'do not take the short cut through the woods.



And, and she deliberately did that' [x] 

And feel remorse over the gratuitous killing of the wolf 'I was shocked '( )

As stated in …….. what one child find frightening anoter will not ()

Mainlt the children seemed to prefer the more modern versions of red riding hood saving herself as in Rhold Dahl's poem .Perhaps reminiscent of today's society where equality strives to prevail.

'The small girl smiles .One eyelid flickers ,

she whips a pistol from her knickers,

She aims it at the creatures head,

And bang bang bang , she shoots him dead.' (Dahl

Has social construction sanitised our fairy stories too much ?, both Bettelheim and writer C.S Lewis believed that children needed to be frightened in order to cope with reality .Stating that confining children to blameless stories , where nothing ever happens , would make terrors unendurable (Lewis, 1982, p.67).

If the fairy tale has always been in used our society , are we removing its purpose by protecting our children ?


we have seemly came full circle in the history of the fairy tale from the original oral traditions where fairy tales were the realm of adults ,transformed for children , and then aimed once more for adults , to their multitude of uses in the present day . As the fairy tale moves beyond the printed page , it has perhaps merely moved to a further powerful mechanism by which our children learn cultural values , however it would also seem the values have changed , and the audience has widened once more , so that it entertains all , not just children .

The pervasiveness, history and transformation of fairytales suggest that they have indeed always been institutionalized in our society , and have merely changed transmission forms and media .

It is a representation of our society that we still continue to mould fairytales to our own conceptions of childhood , yet once more lending it to adult content .

Our methods of social control are now wide and varied ,, but it is only with the advent of the digital age that fairy tales have been given the means to expand and change so rapidly . However as in the past when literature is shaped by political and social forces , we see our children's fairy tales reflecting the increasingly violent and dangerous world in which they live.

it is a sobering thought that as we have observed through history childrens stories are according to Bettleheim (1962) a major means by which children assimilate culture [xi] , and an indication of the cultural values and beliefs and morals of the time are shown in our institutionalised ,socially constructed fairy tales.