An Analysis Of Fairy Tales

1707 words - 7 pages

Sagas about princes and princesses, beauty, magic, and love, fairy tales like Snow White and Cinderella among others have become children’s favorite bedtime stories. However, as parents tuck their sons and daughters in, they fail to realize that there is a much more daunting purpose to these stories. American writer and poet, Jane Yolen suggests that fairy tales indicate life values. Furthermore, Yolen insists that these tales are “thumbprints of history” (Yolen 27). Studying fairy tales in depth, she proves that the “functions of myths” consist of “creating a landscape of allusion [and] enabling us to understand our own and out culture from inside out” (Yolen 18). Yolen confirms that these ...view middle of the document...

However, few realize that there are many communal ideas imbedded in the plots that often go unrecognized. Fairy tales, more often than not, highlight a multitude of social aspects which might seem inappropriate for children. Constantly evolving, fairy tales, as indicated by Yolen and Zipes, illustrate the sexist views of the dominating class, the societal beliefs as they change throughout history as well as the community’s values especially during crisis.

First of all, a rather sexist view of women has emerged from the evolution of a variety fairy tales. In older versions of many fairy tales, on can see the female dominant, matriarchal societies through the strong female protagonists. For example, as Yolen reminds, “Cinderella until lately has never been a passive dreamer….The forerunners of the Ash-girl have been hardy, active heroines” (33). One of the earlier Cinderellas belonged to a hunting community where “most important is the function of a female. She was at the center of this society and maintained a nurturing element” (194). As time went by Zipes concludes, women lost their supremacy and “fairy tales…reinforced the patriarchal symbolic order based on rigid notions of sexuality and gender” (qtd. in Tatar 338). As Zipes explains, “the heroines in these fairy tales remain pathetic , passive, and pale in comparison to the more active characters”, usually the men, when compared to those of the first generation of fairy tales (qtd. in Tatar 349). These princesses, Zipes continues, now “need to be protected” by the stronger and more powerful men “and are often kept away from action scenes” (qtd. in Tatar 349). With passing time, as in many ancient myths, fairy tales display the evolution of society from a matriarchy to a patriarchy through the community’s sexist outlook.

Certain fairy tales further deteriorate the condition of women by displaying the heroines’ dependence on men. For instance, Zipes explains, both “Pinocchio and Cinderella…reek of sexism” (129). The growing importance of males caused women to lose most rights and privileges, marriage became even more necessary than ever before. With a subordinated group of women searching for husbands in order to receive some rights, Zipes establishes that the ball in Cinderella “pits women against women in competition for male approval” (qtd. in Tatar 348). Like Cinderella Zipes persists, many fairy tales “[follow] the classic ‘sexist’ narrative about framing of women’s lives through male discourse” (qtd. in Tatar 348). As competition grew amongst women, they went to any height in order to be accepted by the male dominant society. In the story of Cinderella the focus on small feet refers to the Chinese “vestiges of foot binding” (Yolen 34). The tedious preparations made before the ball epitomizes the “European preoccupation with dressing” to impress men, during the Victorian and Elizabethan eras (Yolen 34). Fairy tales, on the whole, present the sexist cultures that denounced...

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