Like two books were not enough, I added a third book to this last night. Why? Well, because Grimm's and Andersen are not exactly models for feminist readings. They pretty much leave strong, cool women characters out. Now, I am more of the feminist aspect, and while I have learned to forgive the Grimm's and Andersen because of the time frame that they live in, I needed some strong women! So, I went digging, and found my copy of Fearless Girls, Wise Women & Beloved Sisters: Heroines from Folktales Around the World edited by Kathleen Ragan last night.
It always amazes me, you know. Obviously, when the Grimm's and Andersen were collecting together these fairy tales, women were viewed as subordinate. That shouldn't mean people shouldn't read them. They just reflect the times that they were written in. I read fairy tales with women characters too, it is all about balance. This all came about because of a post on a message board that I visit. Someone said that they didn't read Mark Twain because of the way he portrayed the South. Alright, so they were prejudice, but that was then, and this is now. The best way to make important changes in the future is by knowing where you come from and changing it, not censoring or avoiding.
On with my fairy tales.
First up, Kathleen Ragan.
The Stolen Bairn and the Sidh
This is a folk tale from Scotland. The Sidh are the fairy folk, and one day while they are out, they spot a baby (bairn) on the side of the road. Looking around, they see no one that owns the baby, and so they decide that the baby is their's and take it home with them. In the meantime, the mother was actually collecting water and fell in. Dazed and confused, some fishermen come to her rescue. All she can think about, though, is her bairn. During this story, even when everyone thinks it cannot be done, she uses her brain and resources around her to rescue her baby back from the Sidh.
Then, from Andersen.
Little Tiny or Thumbelina
I was amazed how much the movie version of this holds to the basic ideas of this story. When Disney makes a movie, they change everything around. Disney didn't make this one, and they held very closely to the true story. Most people know this story, at least, I hope you do. It is the story of an older woman that very much wants a child, and ends up with Thumbelina, who she loves dearly. Only, sadly, one night an evil frog mother steals Thumbelina for her son to have as his wife. Thus begins Thumbelina's adventures. I must say, I think that Thumbelina is a good feminist character, because she gets herself out of a lot of messes.
The Brave Tin Soldier
This story annoys me. I mean, it is so male! This soldier ends up being burned in a fire, because instead of asking for help, he decides to be a male and do nothing so that people don't think he is weak. There is a line between being brave and being passive! Of course, things work out for the soldier, up until the fire, because it is a story. It is just so annoying, it tries to say that if you do nothing, you will be saved. That is really not the case at all. Good to see I hate this story as much now as I did when I was little.
The Ugly Duckling
This is another one of those stories that people generally know. And much less annoying than "The Brave Tin Soldier". It is about a duck that is very ugly, and everyone teases the poor little thing. He is forced to leave and spends a very miserable winter the bunt of everyone's jokes. But then the spring comes and he is actually a very beautiful swan, something that he can appreciate more because he was teased so much when he was little. Good little story, much better image than the stupid soldier.
Last up, the Grimm's.
Our Lady's Child
This is a rather religious story. It is about a little girl that when her parents can no longer afford to feed her, The Virgin Mary comes and offers her a place in heaven. She lives there happily until she breaks a very important rule that Mary has, and then lies about it. When she refuses to tell the truth, she is sent back to earth to live in a grove of trees until a King comes along, falls in love with her, and takes her back to his castle. The problem is that she is unable to talk, and each time she has a child the Virgin Mary comes and asks if she is going to tell the truth about what she does. Each time the girl does not, and Mary takes the child with her to heaven. Without being able to talk, the girl is thought to be eating her children, and has no way to tell the truth. This leads to some adventures, and talks about the ideas of sinning and forgiveness.
The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was
This story has always been fun to me. It is about a boy, who is not the smartest person in the world. His desire is to learned what it means to shudder, because he is rather stupid, not so much fearless, and doesn't understand that the things that are happening to him are meant to scare him. Instead, he does rather stupid things in an attempt to fix these people. It's a funny story. He does some very interesting things in the course of it.
The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids
This is a story about a wolf and some sheep. Now, to many, it looks just like that, but it actually is a story about not opening the door to strangers and being careful even if it is someone you know, because it could still be a stranger, but they are pretending to be someone you know.
This concludes the second edition of Fairy Tales Revisited.