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thatgirl
Registered User
(10/2/06 2:46 pm)

Perpetuating beauty
Hello,
I have to come up with 15 examples of fairy tales for my term paper hat perpetuate the physical attractiveness stereotype. Can you think of examples in literature that perpetuate the theme that beauty equates to virtue? For example, the bad guy in Peter Pan, Captain Hook, wore a prosthesis; Cinderella’s step-sisters were fat and ugly as well as mean; Hansel and Gretel were victims of an arthritic witcha? Thanks in advance for your help!

Veronica Schanoes
Registered User
(10/2/06 3:56 pm)



Re: Perpetuating beauty
Hello thatgirl,

Be careful about the stories you use. Traditionally, Cinderella's stepsisters were not ugly; they were beautiful but proud and mean. Disney's version was the first one to make them ugly, I believe, and that was in 1949. You can still cite Disney's movie in particular, of course, because it's had such a huge effect on popular versions of the tale, but earlier versions were different. Captain Hook does have a hook instead of a hand, but he's not described as ugly for that or any other reason; in fact, if memory serves, Barrie describes him as a bit of a dandy.

That said, most heroines of fairy tales are beautiful. You might want to look at "Beauty and the Beast," where the most beautiful sister is also the most virtuous, and "Little One-Eye, Little Two-Eyes, and Little Three-Eyes."

Heidi Anne Heiner
ezOP
(10/2/06 8:38 pm)


Re: Perpetuating beauty
A personal favorite to use for this would be Three Spinning Women from the Grimms.

Heidi

thatgirl
Registered User
(10/2/06 10:11 pm)


Re: Perpetuating beauty
Heidi, Three Spiinning Women is a great example. Why didn't I think of that one?! Thanks very much for your response.

Psychologist Shari Thurer argues that that in fairy tales just as beauty equates with virtue, physical deformity, chronic illness, and outer defects have come to symbolize inner defects, evil natures, and villainous behavior. Do you think the way characters are portrayed( evil as ugly, beutiful as good) in fairy tales influence our beliefs?

Rosemary Lake
Registered User
(10/2/06 10:56 pm)


"Diamonds and Toads", "Mother HOlle"
In stories of the Kind/Unkind Sisters type, the bad sister is often punished by being given some ugly or repulsive feature or attribute: a donkey tail on her forehead, toads coming from her mouth -- or at least coming home covered with pitch.

In the 'unpromising hero' sort of tale, an initial plain or repulsive (eg mangy) appearance goes with a heart of gold, but is eventually corrected, bringing it into line with the good=beautiful standard.

The 'ugliness' of the Ugly Duckling is also changed to beauty at the end.

As for the idea of physical deformity (or scarring etc) accompanying (or perhaps causing) wickedness, this is a strong tradition in literature other than fairy tales, from long before the Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Phantom of the Opera -- to The Joker.

janeyolen
Registered User
(10/3/06 4:27 am)


Re: "Diamonds and Toads", "Mother HOlle"
I would think you could do alot with the "Frog Prince." (Also there's a wonderful Japanese story called "Toad Prince" which is right on the nose. You can find it in my collection FAVORITE FOLKTALES FROM AROUND THE WORLD.

Jane

Veronica Schanoes
Registered User
(10/3/06 12:24 pm)


3 Spinners
But I'm confused about this one--it's one of my favorite stories, but the ugly women in it are beneficient and helpful! I thought we were looking for stories with the opposite correlation?

thatgirl
Registered User
(10/3/06 8:17 pm)


Re: 3 Spinners
Veronica, you have a valid point. My paper should focus on physical attractiveness sterotype: What is beautiful is good and what is ugly is wicked. Snow White and Cinderella are beautiful and kind and the witch and stepsisters are ugly and wicked. In Three Spinners, the beautiful girl is not portrayed as a good person. She actually deceives the queen to get the spinning done and marries the handsome prince. The prince's reaction to the ladies disfigured features also shows us that the men only value beauty. If you can think of other fairy tales that convey physical attrativeness stereotype, please let me know. I'd greatly appreciate it

Rosemary Lake
Registered User
(10/3/06 10:06 pm)


Re: 3 Spinners
I agree that it might be best to leave out the Spinners. :-)

It might be a little far-fetched to say that although the heroine was deceitful earlier, later she DID keep her promise to invite the Spinners to the party, and DID graciously introduce them as her relatives -- thus bringing her behavior into line with her beauty. Thus she's a sort of morally unpromising heroine who later revealed a heart of gold. :-)


aka Greensleeves
Registered User
(10/4/06 12:19 am)


Re: 3 Spinners
Rumpelstiltskin

DividedSelf
Registered User
(10/4/06 3:25 am)


Re: Goodness and beauty
I'm not sure about where the blame lies though, re perpetuating stereotypes.

There really is an correlation, I think, in that those who are active, alive, loving and interested are inevitably goodlooking, regardless of multiple warts, hunches, hooks or baldness and I feel that's what fairy tales that make a point of establishing beauty in a hero/ine are getting at. A lot of stories hinge on a wrongness of appearance which must be righted, which presuppose a wrongness of something else which must first be righted (animal groom stories, and stories where a hero/ine is somehow wrongly conceived - the mother eats the wrong flower, or overdoes it with the magic herb - and the child turns out half formed... sometimes by the end of the story they're beautiful and sometimes they're not). Given that fairy tale characters have nothing going on inside, it's necessary that psychological qualities be described outwardly. Evil is often described as ugly, but just as often as coldly beautiful.

Saying someone is beautiful in a story says nothing explicit about physical attributes. Where physical attributes are specified (Snow White) they're not really sufficient to constitute beauty in themselves (black hair, white skin, red lips, could just as easily be the freakish attributes of some zombie). The true beauty, as told in the stories, is left to the imagination.

Drawing someone as beautiful necessarily does specify physicality, and it's the illustrators and painters I think (the Pre-Raphaelites and Disney, most obviously) who have actually made the link between moral goodness and the sort of conventional beauty that is pretty much tied to youth.

If it were really this sort of beauty we were meant to read into the stories, then none of them would end up happily ever after. We would have to read something like, "...and their moral goodness slowly deteriorated along with their youthful beauty, until by the end of their lives they were nothing more than a couple of hateful old ratbags."

The beauty of heroes and heroines lasts into old age, and so it is not this kind of beauty they ask us to imagine.

Edited by: DividedSelf at: 10/4/06 4:04 pm
Veronica Schanoes
Registered User
(10/4/06 1:11 pm)



Re: Perpetuating beauty
You know, I don't see how the heroine of "The Three Spinners" is at all a bad person in the context of the story; I think that calling her "not a good person" is importing an anachronistic and fairly rigid idea of morality onto a story that espouses a different set of values. She is cunning and tricksy, and she honors her promises to those who help her even at the risk of losing face. Not liking to spin, being beaten for it, and being at the mercy of an irrational ruler aren't sins in my book--nor do they seem to be condemned by the tale, as the girl is rewarded with status and with never having to do the hated chore again. It seems to me that stories evolved by a peasantry who were often having to labor at the behest of those above them in status may well end up describing ways to get out of that labor positively, and that this particular story glorifies kindness and gratitude above industry.

Which, I suppose, is a long way of saying that as well as questioning our notions of beauty, we should also examine our notions of virtue.

neverossa
Registered User
(10/4/06 1:49 pm)


Green Snake and East of the Sun West of the Moon
For the idea of uglyness-wickedness and beauty-virtue try also East of the Sun West of the Moon, a famous Norwegian fairy-tale.

While if you want to explore more different ideas of virtue try Green Snake, by Madame D'Aulnoy... also because it is written by an early modern woman, instead of a man. The author underlines the moral value of a person which is not always strictly related to the appearance: the Snake-prince in fact love his wife despite her uglyness.

Edited by: neverossa at: 10/4/06 1:50 pm
Monika
Registered User
(10/4/06 9:17 pm)


Re: Perpetuating Beauty
Hmm...the first two stories that occured to me are Riquet with the Tuft and Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady...both might add interesting dimensions to your thesis.

intrikate88
Registered User

(10/5/06 11:02 am)


Re: Perpetuating Beauty
Beauty being a sign of goodness is also very much an Arthurian ideal. For example, in Marie de France's 'Lanval' the hero, Lanval (possibly an early version of Lancelot) is chosen by a fairy woman to be her knight and love, and when Arthur's wife (Guenevier is not named specifically) attempts to seduce Lanval and then accuses him of attempting to rape her Lanval says he has a queen far better than her, and obligingly his fairy queen comes riding in, and we are told she is far more virtuous and beautiful than Arthur's queen. And then she and Lanval go riding off into the sunset.

Also, as Monika mentioned Gawain's Loathly Lady (which I believe was from Canterbury Tales, as The Wife's Tale from 'The Wife of Bath') the woman that Gawain was compelled to marry was an ugly old hag, and gave Gawain the choice to have her pretty, young and unfaithful, or ugly, old, and the best wife ever. He gave her the choice, and she revealed her true, beautiful self. In some tales, it seems that whenever an ugly person is good and kind, it is really because they are beautiful but have enchanted themselves to appear ugly.

I hope some of this helps!

thatgirl
Registered User
(10/5/06 9:40 pm)


You guys are good!!
I owe you all a big thanks. What a great help you all have been to me with your excellent suggestions. Your knowledge of and about fairy tales is very impressive. Thanks again.

Rosemary Lake
Registered User
(10/6/06 3:38 am)


re-examining our ideas of virtue
Veronica, I agree with you, at least about most of the serious 'name of the helper' type of tales such as Rumplestiltskin.
I'm fond of my reading of Spinners: tho I don't think the girl was necessarily serously at fault, I do think it makes a better story with some fault on her side. Spinners is a comic story with a surprise, tricky ending, and a rougish protagonist is suitable for that.

Btw, another story that had better be left out of the paper, is Lang's "The King Who Would Have a Beautiful Wife." At least in that version the woman's trickery is clear (and she's cruel too), and she gets away with it just fine.

Danae26
Registered User
(10/14/06 5:30 pm)


Another story
You could also try the story of the three sisters, One-eye, Two-eyes, and Three-eyes, by the Grimms. Two-eyes is essentially despised by the other two because she looks like other people, and they abuse her for that reason. But she has access to magic that brings her food, etc, and eventually she marries a prince.

Here's a link to the story: One-Eye, Two-Eyes, and Three-Eyes

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