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Author Comment
Registered User
(3/19/03 8:56 am)
Feminist rewritings of fairytales
I am so pleased to have found this discussion board, it is already being of great help to this stressed out student who is trying desperately to write her dissertation. I am attempting to get my head around the whole subject as right now my head is swimming with information. My dissertation consists of three chapters one each on: Bluebeard, Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White. I am attempting to look at how feminist or contemporary rewritings present alternative gender stereotypes to the written versions by The Grimms' and Perrault. I have read quite a few different versions including the bloody chamber, Tannith Lee's Snow White and those in snow white, rose red and Black thorn/ white rose along with the anthology in Jack Zipes Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood and Don't bet on the prince.

To be honest I don't know what I need help with maybe just feedback from anyone who has read these versions or even the originals and any suggestions for other versions that might be worth looking at, any help would be greatly appreciated as its due in nine weeks and I am quite panicky about it.


Heidi Anne Heiner
(3/19/03 11:23 am)
Re: Feminist rewritings of fairytales
Are you looking solely at short fiction or poetry and longer fiction, also? Some other resources to consider, if you don't have them already, would be:

Anne Sexton's poetry in "Transformations"

Barbara Walker's blantant reworkings in "Feminist Fairy Tales"

Francesca Lia Block's stories in "Rose and the Beast"

Emma Donoghue's stories in "Kissing the Witch"

Olga Broumas' poetry in "Beginning With O"

And the essays in Kate Bernheimer's "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall" for women author's thoughts on fairy tales

Catherine Orenstein's new book about Little Red Riding Hood

And of course don't miss Marina Warner's "From the Beast to the Blonde"

These would be some of my most important texts--including the ones you have already mentioned--if I were writing this type of dissertation.

Before I can really discuss the topic, I would like to know what your thesis is to use as a starting point.


Ina Cosio
Unregistered User
(3/19/03 6:29 pm)
Re: Feminist rewritings of fairytales

You could also refer to

Snow White; Susan Gubar and Sandra Gilbert's 'The Further Adventures of Snow White: Feminism, Modernism, and the Family Plot.' (essay in No Man's Land; The Place of the Woman Writer in the 20th Century Vol .IV)
Dr. Pinkola Estes' Women Who Run Wild With the Wolves (can be used for bluebeard and Snow White)
The Endicott Studio Coffee House collection of poems has two poems on Snow White.
Red Riding Hood; RedGhost (website on feminist versions;

Hope these can help

Ina Cosio

Registered User
(3/19/03 10:11 pm)
Re: Feminist rewritings of fairytales

What are you saying about feminist rewritings of fairy tales? You say in your post that they "present alternative gender stereotypes to the written versions by The Grimms' and Perrault." Well, many of them do, and it seems to me that you can prove that pretty quickly with quotations from a few of them. Do you say anything more than that? And by "alternative gender stereotypes" do you mean that feminist rewritings of the tales also create gender stereotypes, albeit new ones?


Registered User
(3/20/03 6:32 am)
Fairy Tales and Feminism

You'll want to look at the special issue of Marvels & Tales: Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies devoted to fairy tales and feminism. Check out the abstracts of the articles at

Registered User
(3/20/03 7:02 am)
Thanks for the replies they have certainly helped me think more closely about what I am trying to say. My main focus' are :eek

Do Fairytales reflect the opinions of the society they were written for and to what extent do feminist rewritings of Fairytales present realistic representations of gender and sexuality in contemporary culture?

I am concentrating on the presentation of masculinity and femininity, and debating the extent to which the tales reflect our notions of the concepts

I am also looking at the idea that fairytales are based on psychological truths present in the minds of all children and as such adults and how these truths are altered by the patriarchal societies we live in and how issues of censorship and alteration have changed the original oral folk tales into the ones we are familiar with today.

I am looking at how feminist revisions redress the balance between the original oral tales and the first literary versions.

I am asking whether by the removal of boundaries facing women, contemporary tales are able to present more realistic portrayal of gender in modern culture than the fairytales we learn as children

further to this I am looking at the idea of readership and whether the tales were meant for children or adults and the benefits of the feminist revisions for a wider audience

A great deal of my reading has led me to look at the idea of sexuality and the ways in which fairytales reflect the changing attitudes towards female sexuality.

Another issue is whether it is possible to rewrite fairytales from a feminist perspective when language and society is a male domain and whether the inclusion of sexuality within the tales is pandering to male pornographic desires and the control of women through sex by men.

My dissertation is 8000 words so I am limited to how much I can talk about. I am quite new to this subject and am finding new angles all the time but if anyone has any ideas of other aspects to do with either sexuality or gender within fairy tales and the feminist retellings I would be grateful to hear them.

I am looking at all genres poetry and fiction at present although I may have to revise that approach later to fit the word limit.

I have a lot of information about fairytales in general and some on how they can be rewritten but I have very few references to the tales I am talking about so any reflections on

Carter's The Bloody Chamber, The Snow Child, The Werewolf, the company of wolves or Wolf Alice
Lee's White as Snow
Ellen Steiber's revision of Red Riding Hood : Silver and Gold in Black Thorn/White Rose
Emma Donoghue's The Tale of The Apple in Kissing the Witch
Carol Ann Duffy's Little Red Cap in The Worlds Wife
Gregory Maguire's the seven stage a comeback in A wolf at the door
The Merseyside Fairytale collectives versions of Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White
Margaret Attwood's Bluebeards Egg

or any others I would be really interested to hear your thoughts on them

Sorry this is so long

Thanks again

Registered User
(3/20/03 7:05 am)
can't get access

Thanks for the advice, unfortunately I am unable to get hold of the whole journal as my university don't stock it and I am only allowed one article from any publication through inter library loan. It's a pain but something do with copyright restrictions!

Registered User
(3/20/03 9:13 am)
Other source...
This isn't necessarily a "feminist" adaptation, but its certainly is contemporary, and it deals with all the tales you mentioned in way that flips over the gender stereotypes of the the past century: "Fables" by Bill Willingham. (DC Comics) Its a comic book series that features Snow White as the deputy mayor of "Fabletown", a kind of refugee camp for exiled fairy tale characters now living in modern day New York city. The first storyline is now available as a trade paperback collection.

Good luck!


Registered User
(3/20/03 1:22 pm)
Psychological truths
In terms of the innate psychology of fairytales and their reflection of the innate psychology of children and therefore adults, you might consider Bruno Bettleheim's "The Uses of Enchantment". It deals with almost exclusively with the psychology of fairytales. I believe there may even be whole chapters devoted to one or more of the stories that you're focusing on.

Best 'O Luck,


Unregistered User
(3/20/03 3:14 pm)
Way off on a limb here
I was reading some of your thoughts - seems you have more than enough for 10 dissertations, but one thought popped into my head regarding sexuality. Since much of the oral tale tradition owes its existence to female storytellers, I wonder how much of the sexuality in these tales is really reflecting the reality that woman are and have always been sexual beings (as opposed to pandering to a male audience seeking pornography). Further, could one argue that the Victorian versions repressed this sexuality in an attempt to pander to the "Victorian mores" (although certainly not as actually practiced) that women are not sexual?


Unregistered User
(3/21/03 3:53 am)
I have also written an alternative "Snow White" short story called "Snow in Summer" found in my collection SISTER EMILY'S LIGHTSHIP, which you mightnwant to check out.

And of course Greg Frost's new novel--FITCHER'S BIRD--is an historical fantasy novel based on a well known Bluebeard variant.

8,000 word thesis? That's more like a chapter.


Registered User
(3/21/03 4:23 am)
Re: others
Thanks again for the comments. Jane if you think I only have enough for a chapter then maybe you can suggest what other areas I should be looking at, please be constructive, this is pretty stressful and I don't find comments like that helpful! Considering how mant articles and texts I have read just on the subjects I have mentioned it is completely possible In my opinion to write a dissertation (I'm english we don't write thesis) on what I have mentioned but if you think otherwise please add more detail

Sorry to complain, your help is appreciated. Just wanted to say I really like some of your stories.

Kevin Smith
Registered User
(3/21/03 4:31 am)
I think Jane meant "enough for a chapter" in a good way.

The chapter I'm currently writing is nearly 70 pages long at the moment (note to self: edit, edit, edit!) and I passed the 8000 word mark several weeks ago.

Also, I'm not sure how you could you have chapters in an 8000 word dissertation. 8000 words is about the right size for an easy to read, short chapter.

Anyway, don't get stressed, it'll all work out. If it's a dissertation you should have a good couple of months left to sort things out. Oh yes, and I'm informed by my Canadian friends that on the other side of the pond what they call a Thesis is what we call a dissertation (short, undergrad), and what we call a thesis (long, postgrad) is what they call a dissertation. I don't know if that's the case in the US though.

Now, back to that chapter.

Kevin Smith
Registered User
(3/21/03 4:37 am)

Yes, I believe we have a transatlantic misunderstanding here. 8000 words is about right for a chapter, if you were writing a PhD (don't, it's not worth it). It is also about the traditional length for an undergraduate dissertation, which is what I assume you're writing, Honouria (which university?).

Oh, if only my Phd had to be a mere 8000 words.

You say tomahtoes and I say, tomAtoes. Hmm, that song doesn't really work when written down does it?

Registered User
(3/21/03 5:05 am)
Re: d'oh!
Thanks for sort of clearing that up yes it is an undergraduate study not a PHD thank god, certainly not ready for that yet!

Thanks for the support much needed tragically due to my complete lack of motivation I only have eight more weeks before its due in and have no words on paper in the form of actual work. I am sure its possible (it will have to be as I don't want to fail boo hoo!!) I have just got myself in a bit of a state about it, which rather explains why I am begging for help on here.

Oh and I am at York st John's (useless badly organised place) part of the University of Leeds (led to believe much better place, why oh why did I not go there!! oh well!!)

Keep the help coming, really your saving my life (and possibly those around me when the psychosis kicks in)

Kevin Smith
Registered User
(3/21/03 5:33 am)
Really? I applied to do my MA at leeds, but they do a nine month course and I wanted to do a twelve month one (longer for the dissertation).

Do they have a specialist in fairy tale studies there? I'm looking for someone to (eventually) be my external examiner. Of course, said specialist must be very nice, and give out PhDs like the Easter Bunny gives out eggs. (I believe the bunny is less discriminating than Santa, who has this horrible bias against kids who've been bad).

Anyway, good luck with it. You should start writing now, and see how much you get down. I suspect you may have to limit your field of inquiry to one or two texts however, as there seems to be quite a lot on your list above.

Registered User
(3/21/03 6:52 am)
Re: n
No i think thats half my problem, no-one knows anything about what i am doing and I am getting very little help. I know what you mean about the amount of stories I have its just really difficult to discriminate on accounts of I am really unsure about what I actually want to say, I have a mental block when it comes to putting words on paper I sit stare and think what am I writing. seems I need a kick up the butt!!

What are you writing about for your MA?

Kevin Smith
Registered User
(3/21/03 7:02 am)
For my MA my dissertation was on Bluebeard intertexts in Margaret Atwood's novels. It was mostly on The Robber Bride and Alias Grace, although there was a large chunk on "Bluebeard's Egg", but you can detect hints of The Robber Bridegroom in almost all of her books.

I've not had the chance to write on Atwood yet in my PhD however. So far it's been mostly Rushdie, Carter and Byatt. So many books to cover, so little time/ words.

Ina Cosio
Unregistered User
(3/21/03 2:21 pm)
> ma?
I had the same problem when I was doing my baby thesis a few months ago. And to think that was only suppose to be 30pages long (long paper).
I think our main problem lies in that the CL as an undergrad course is not that established in the Phil. So it comes out more like a series of survey and introduction courses. By the time our thesis comes along were confused and we end up doing something else entirely new. And it turns out as more of an interdisplinary mix of literature and course theories. (socio, etc) The MA course is more limited but still a bit too general(foucsing more on areas such as national and theories) I don't think there's really an area for Fairy Tales anywhere.

I agree, you should limit your versions, I only used two three versions for each of my four tales. Have you referred to the essays I posted recently.
You should start writing now.

Ina Cosio

Registered User
(3/24/03 3:51 am)
Re: > ma?

thanks for the advice, where did you post the essays ? I would certainly like to read them

I no I do need to limit my scope I just worry that by doing so I am going to end up missing the point which is to compare the perrault and grimm versions with contemporary feminist retellings. With Bluebeard I could almost limit it down to The Bloody Chamber and Bluebeards egg (generally as these are the only versions I have) and with Snow white I have White as Snow, the merseyside fairytale collective version and Emma Donoghue's lesbian angled tale. I have a few others but they stick in my mind as the best representatives of stories that redefine gender roles. The problem is mostly with Little Red Riding Hood as there are just so many different versions, many I suppose address the tale from a similar angle, however one of the things I have feel a need to draw on is the historical variations, how altered social situations have changed the emphasis of the tale so that we have different ways of telling the tale and we can see how the treatment of women characters alters through time.

I'm not sure how to do this without drawing on quite a few versions

Anyone got any ideas?


Registered User
(3/24/03 8:34 am)
Honouria wrote: Do Fairytales reflect the opinions of the society they were written for and to what extent do feminist rewritings of Fairytales present realistic representations of gender and sexuality in contemporary culture?

Bluebeard is certainly a good choice in addressing this question. When I was preparing to write FITCHER'S BRIDES, I read as many of the variants of the fairy tale as I could find, beginning with--inevitably, I suppose--Perrault's. His heroine, if she can even be called thus, is utterly incapable of defending herself against her monster of a husband and must rely on both sister and brothers for her rescuing. And Perrault's moral constitutes patriarchal finger-wagging at those poor, foolish and clearly lesser-regarded female creatures who would dare to question their husband's decisions. Both the passive heroine and the objectionable moral vanish in subsequent versions and varians from the Brothers Grimm through Carter, Atwood, Oates and, well, me. I can't imagine Perrault's moral will ever again find application beyond the ironic.


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