The Fairytale Heroine’s Journey

“When I first started teaching fairy tales at the university level, I noticed that certain tales had a similar underlying structure. They were all tales about heroines, from childhood to marriage, and in those tales the heroines went through a series of life stages: they received gifts, they were required to leave home or lost their homes in some way, they wandered through dark forests, they found temporary homes where they could stay for a while, they encountered friends and helpers along their journey . . . I describe those stages in more detail on the Journey page of this website.”

Source: The Fairytale Heroine’s Journey

Author, researcher, and college professor Theodora Goss* is doing for fairy tales what Joseph Campbell did for myths. That is, she is looking for underlying themes that can be found in many tales. It’s a developing process, and I’m looking forward to seeing this website evolve over time.

*Goss is the author of two wonderful novels, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter and the sequel European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman.

Malcolm

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Free Kindle Short Story

My Kindle short story “Waking Plain” will be free on Amazon from June 10 to June 14.

You know the “Sleeping Beauty” story, right? A badass chick is hexed into an infinite sleep until a rich and handsome prince kisses her and wakes her up.

My “Waking Plain” short story is the other side of the coin.

What if a prince is hexed into an enchanted sleep until a queen or princess kisses him and wakes him up?

And, what if there’s a problem? What if he is just so coyote ugly that nobody wants to wake him up? That’s real life for you: some people are just better off left to slumber on and on for eternity.

Usually, these things happen because an evil witch is pissed off or a fairy is slighted. Either way, we end up in a “Sleeping Beauty” situation. In most of these stories, eligible kings and princes are clawing their way through briers and alligators and landmines in hopes of kissing a princess who looks like, well, pick your favorite singer or movie star.

But if it’s a prince and if he is ugly, maybe nobody will kiss him and wake him even if he comes with a castle, a country, and $100000000000000 in gold.

“Waking Plain” turns the old fairy tale upside down, and for the next five days, you can read it for free.

Malcolm

 

Briefly Noted: ‘Norse Mythology’ by Neil Gaiman

Those of us who were taught Roman and Greek mythology in school with a smattering of myths from other cultures know the names of some of the Norse gods while remaining unclear about the big picture. In Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman has gone back to original sources–primarily the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda–for his content so that he could re-tell the stories as folk tales without authorial embellishment in today’s language.

In a sense, he has done what Steinbeck did in The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights as opposed to the novelization approaches of T. H. White in The Once and Future King or Mary Stewart in her Merlin books, or Marion Zimmer Bradley in her Avalon series. Those authors all wrote masterful and exciting books based on the Arthurian legends. However, each took “authors license,” including the thoughts and feelings of the characters, imagined descriptions of locales, and story lines that were not 100% in accord with the original texts. Some have criticized Gaiman for not writing about Odin, Thor, Loki and the other primary characters via the stunning saga style of epic fantasy.

Gaiman has done those of us who love mythology a great service by not extrapolating from his source material or otherwise using his own wide-in-scope imagination with a Game of Thrones approach. Like Steinbeck, he has told the stories in the simple language of the true folktale (with a liberal dash of wit), and from that, we come away with a new understanding of Asgard and its gods and goddesses.

From the Publisher’s Description

In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki—son of a giant—blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.

Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Once, when Thor’s hammer is stolen, Thor must disguise himself as a woman—difficult with his beard and huge appetite—to steal it back. More poignant is the tale in which the blood of Kvasir—the most sagacious of gods—is turned into a mead that infuses drinkers with poetry. The work culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and rebirth of a new time and people.

From The Guardian

Gaiman’s characteristically limpid, quick-running prose keeps the dramatic impetus of the medieval texts, if not their rough-hewn quality. His telling of the tales is for children and adults alike, and this is both right and wise, it being the property of genuine myth to be accessible on many levels.

I found the book to be a wonderfully entertaining adventure into a world I had previously seen in unfinished puzzles of torn bits and pieces.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of folk tales, paranormal, and magical realism stories and novels.

Faerie tale in a mirror

Once upon a time—when time was more speculative than it is today—a king and queen had no children. The lords and ladies at court watched the night skies for signs and the townspeople from shipwright to innkeeper offered prayers and charms to the realm’s gods because the court and castle were dour, grey and unhappy indeed.

The king and queen seldom ventured outside the castle walls because nature’s cycles were rich and profligate. Across the parklands and throughout the forests, bluebells, roe deer, and red kites were blessed with young past human understanding.

The royal couple consulted astrologers, crossroads spirits, and the legendary faerie in the great forest. They carried talismans, drank teas, and chanted strange combinations of awkward incantations during the blue hours and holy days. Yet no answers came.

The queen considered herself sorely lacking as the barren years grew in number like stacked-up like rushes grown foul with use. The king felt cursed for the frivolities of his youth. Desperate, the couple went to a solitary goodwife and upon the winter solstice they drank together her bitter coction of herbs prepared over an unnatural fire.

 

So it begins. You’ve been there before…a girl child is born…she’s a fetching one…but a faerie is inadvertently slighted…a curse is pronounced…ultimately she sleeps for one hundred years waiting for the kiss that will wake her up into the world.

What handsome prince wouldn’t want to kiss a young woman so beautiful, so pure. . .

WakingPlainFB

But wait!

In “Waking Plain,” my new Kindle faerie tale, the sleeper is a young prince.

They say he’s as dull as dishwater, and that is kind.

The castle is a wonderment as always. So, too, the faeries and their magic. Even the great forest surrounding the wonderment of a castle is enchanted with four-legged animals and winged creatures and flowers and trees and sunshine that are grand beyond the understanding of everyday men and women.

But if the sleeper isn’t beautiful, who will kiss him? Perhaps it’s kinder to the young man–not to mention, the world itself–to let him sleep.

I don’t mean to imply that the classic tale of “Sleeping Beauty” is sexist, only to say that it’s more realistic to ponder how it would be for an everyday kind of guy–you know, the one who would be the last one chosen for a team during recess–to wait for eternity, if not longer, for the woman of his nightmares to kiss him and re-awaken him for all to see.

They would prefer not to see him, of course, but they might, just maybe, in this faerie tale in a mirror.

–Malcolm

WakingPlainCoverInasmuch as “Waking Plain” is a Kindle faerie tale (or as Amazon calls it, a “fairy tale”), that is where you will find it, and not for a who’s-fooling-whom 99¢ but for an entire $1.00. That extra penny is your payment to the faerie world for allowing this story to be told.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stories where we live

from the archives. . .

“One of the best things about folklore and fairy tales is that the best fantasy is what you find right around the corner, in this world. That’s where the old stuff came from.” — Terri Windling

Ivan Bilibin's illustration of the Russian fairy tale about Vasilisa the Beautiful
Ivan Bilibin’s illustration of the Russian fairy tale about Vasilisa the Beautiful

For American audiences, the most famous fairy tales, including those brought to the screen by Disney and others, all came from somewhere else. Such is the power of books and film.

Of course, once upon a time, the more famous stories we know were once local yarns from real places. In fact, many places got their names from something that once happened there with people who were well known at the time. To those who knew the origin of the name, a river or forest or mountain pass was more than water, trees and rocks. It was all that, plus what happened–and, what might happen again.

Almost all places have stories associated with them. You can find some of the more notorious and/or most interesting by running Google searches with such phrases as “Florida ghost stories,” “Glacier Park legends,” and “Illinois haunted places.” The people who live in a town or county often grow up hearing multiple versions of these stories along with others that never get into books, newspapers or websites.

We tell stories to each other almost every day. Sometimes, this is pure gossip. At other times, it’s neighborhood news with a bit of opinion thrown into it.

Storytelling is a very natural pastime even without a front porch or a campfire. We share the good, the bad and the ugly with each other. When that which we’re sharing is larger than life, or stranger than normal, it begins turning into a legend associated with the place where we live.

When we camped pine forests, we told and re-told the tall tales about what happened there "years ago."
When we camped pine forests, we told and re-told the tall tales about what happened there “years ago.”

As a writer of contemporary fantasy, I always love weaving local ghost stories and legends into my work. For one thing, those stories are just as much a part of a place as are the rivers, mountains and towns. Also, they have a lot of flavor in them whether it’s pure local color or an amusing or frightening tale that could have happened anywhere.

Our stories are stronger, I think, when we consider the legends and tall tales connected to a place as part of our research. Almost every town has a haunted house, cemetery, or lover’s lane. If you live there, you know about it already. If you don’t, it’s not too hard to track down through ghost hunter and haunted websites.

Plus, for those of us who love blurring the line between fiction and reality, ghost stories about the places where we’ve set our short stories and novels add a nice touch of mystery.

Malcolm

99seeker

The e-book edition of “The Seeker” is also on sale at Smashwords and OminiLit

A few of my favorites: fairy tale quotations

“A fairy tale is a type of short story that typically features European folkloric fantasy characters, such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, dwarves, giants, mermaids, or gnomes, and usually magic or enchantments. Fairy tales may be distinguished from other folk narratives such as legends (which generally involve belief in the veracity of the events described) and explicitly moral tales, including beast fables.” Wikipedia

Rapunzel - an illustration from the Brothers Grimm adaptation
Rapunzel – an illustration from the Brothers Grimm adaptation

Are parents reading fairy tales to their children today? I hope so. At Thanksgiving, people often tell us to ponder what we’re thankful for. That’s probably to keep us from thinking it’s all about food, football and getting stuck washing dishes in the kitchen. I’m thankful for fairy tales, the ones my parents read to me, the ones I read to myself, and the ones kept alive in all their forms and versions by those who love the stories enough to spend their lives collecting, translating and studying them.

Here’s what those lovers of the stories have to say about them. . .

  • “The more one knows fairy tales the less fantastical they appear; they can be vehicles of the grimmest realism, expressing hope against all the odds with gritted teeth.” – Marina Warner, From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers
  • “The fairy tale is in a perpetual state of becoming and alteration. To keep to one version or one translation alone is to put robin redbreast in a cage.” ― Philip Pullman, Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version
  • “Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that is taught by life.” ― Friedrich von Schiller
  • Father Frost acts as a donor in the Russian fairy tale Father Frost, testing the heroine before giving her riches.
    Father Frost acts as a donor in the Russian fairy tale Father Frost, testing the heroine before giving her riches.

    “Fairy tales begin with conflict because we all begin our lives with conflict. We are all misfit for the world, and somehow we must fit in, fit in with other people, and thus we must invent or find the means through communication to satisfy as well as resolve conflicting desires and instincts.” ― Jack Zipes, The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of a Genre

  • Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ― Neil Gaiman, Coraline
  • “Fairy Tales always have a happy ending.” That depends… on whether you are Rumpelstiltskin or the Queen.” ― Jane Yolen, Briar Rose
  • “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” – Albert Einstein
  • “Fairy tales were not my escape from reality as a child; rather, they were my reality — for mine was a world in which good and evil were not abstract concepts, and like fairy-tale heroines, no magic would save me unless I had the wit and heart and courage to use it widely.” ― Terri Windling
  • “People need to believe in more than what they see in everyday life. Somewhere inside, we all know that there is more out there than we experience normally. A belief in the other world can help explain why things happen to us. It can give us hope. I feel that we all hope we never get to be too old to fly to Never-Never Land or go through a wardrobe into Narnia. We want to think that there is something looking back at us when we look at the stars. We want to think that just around the bend in the forest, we’ll find fairies dancing in a ring. I hope that my work affirms those beliefs,” she continues. “I want people to think of my work as a key to that other world.” – Wendy Froud
  • beasttoblonde“The child intuitively comprehends that although these stories are unreal, they are not untrue …” ― Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales
  • “ Truly, I think the degree to which the bourgeoisie has appropriated the culture of the poor is very interesting, it’s very shocking. Fairy tales are part of the oral tradition of Europe. They were simply the fiction of the poor, the fiction of the illiterate. And they’re very precisely located.” – Angela Carter, author and also the translator of Charles Perrault’s work
  • “More effectively than any of the other tales, ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ established Andersen’s reputation as a man who created stories for children — not just in the sense of target audience, but also as beneficiaries of something extraordinary. The lesson embedded in it is so transparent that its title circulates in the form of proverbial wisdom about social hypocrisy. But more importantly, ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ romanticizes children by investing them with the courage to challenge authority and to speak truth to power.” – Maria Tatar, author of The Classic Fairy Tales
  • “I will tell you, too, that every fairy tale has a moral. The moral of my story may be that love is a constraint, as strong as any belt. And this is certainly true, which makes it a good moral. Or it may be that we are all constrained in some way, either in our bodies, or in our hearts or minds, an Empress as well as the woman who does her laundry. … Perhaps it is that a shoemaker’s daughter can bear restraint less easily than an aristocrat, that what he can bear for three years she can endure only for three days. … Or perhaps my moral is that our desire for freedom is stronger than love or pity. That is a wicked moral, or so the Church has taught us. But I do not know which moral is the correct one. And that is also the way of a fairy tale.” ― Theodora Goss, In the Forest of Forgetting
  • fairy3“Far more often [than asking the question ‘Is it true?’] they [children] have asked me: ‘Was he good? Was he wicked?’ That is, they were far more concerned to get the Right side and the Wrong side clear. For that is a question equally important in History and in Faerie.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, On Fairy-Stories
  • “The way to read a fairy tale is to throw yourself in.” ― W.H. Auden
  • “People who’ve never read fairy tales, the professor said, have a harder time coping in life than the people who have. They don’t have access to all the lessons that can be learned from the journeys through the dark woods and the kindness of strangers treated decently, the knowledge that can be gained from the company and example of Donkeyskins and cats wearing boots and steadfast tin soldiers. I’m not talking about in-your-face lessons, but more subtle ones. The kind that seep up from your sub¬conscious and give you moral and humane structures for your life. That teach you how to prevail, and trust. And maybe even love.” ― Charles de Lint, The Onion Girl

The two illustrations are from Wikipedia. Click on the book cover graphics to see Amazon’s listing for them. Happy Thanksgiving and happy reading.

Malcolm

emilyebookMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy, including “The Betrayed,” and fantasy short stories, including “Emily’s Stories.”

Briefly Noted: ‘New Fairy Tales: Essays and Stories’

New Fairy Tales: Essays & Stories by John Patrick Pazdziora and Defne Çizakça (Unlocking Press – Sep 6, 2013), 456 pages

newfairytalesIs there a market for a book that mixes academic writing and stories? Normally, I wouldn’t think so outside the world of college textbooks. But this book works. Maybe it’s because so many of us who love reading fairy tales also like reading about what makes them tick.

In the introduction, the editors write,

“In New Fairy Tales, we have worked with both writers and academics, as well as with writers who are academic and academics who are writers. Fiction and critique appear within the same sections rather than separately. We hope the interplay between critical thought and aethetic practice will inspire even more new fairy tales to come to life.”

The stories an essays are divided up into five sections: Miniatures, Storytellers, Shadows and Reflections, Fairy Brides, and Fairy Tale Pedagogy. The book includes offerings from Claire Massey, Katherine Langrish, Christopher MacLachlan, Elizabeth Reeder, Joshua Richards and Kate Wolford. The thematic sections are supported with notes for readers who like following up on sources.

From the Publisher

New Fairy Tales unites critical research and creative retelling of the fairy tale tradition from the Early Modern period to the present day. Academic essays intersect with new fiction and poetry, to create a unique, polyvalent discourse. The essays discuss influential works from authors including Hans Christian Andersen, George MacDonald, Oscar Wilde, J. R .R Tolkien, J. K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, and Tifli. Original literary fairy tales by Katherine Langrish, Elizabeth Reeder, and others, appear alongside, discovering and re-creating the art form while as is being discussed. The result is an audacious and innovative dialogue about fairy tales and storytelling.

Interview With the Book’s Editors

In a two part interview in “Enchanted Conversation: a Fairy Tale Magazine” (posted here and here), Çizakça says  she hopes readers of the book will take away a “belief that fairy tales still contain endless possibilities for growth and innovation. That there are many different ways of writing a new fairy tale, and that there are many different traditions one can take inspiration from.”

According to Pazdziora. there’s been heightened interest in fairy tales in the English speaking world during the last two decades. “Of course there’s a long and distinguished tradition of folkloristics, and there’s been the German study, but looking at literary fairy tales both as a distinct genre and as a subgenre of children’s literature—and like it or not, it’s both those things—that’s fairly new, at least in the form it’s taking now.”

Perhaps this book will result in a follow-up anthology with an even wider representation of the world’s old and new fairy tales.

–Malcolm

emilyebookMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy novels, including “The Betrayed,” and fantasy short stories including the three-story set for kids and adults, “Emily’s Stories.”

The Bare-Bones Structure of a Fairy Tale

Most authors who use mythic elements in their work are familiar with the hero’s journey structure introduced by Joseph Campbell in the 1940s. Campbell’s sequence of steps in a journey from beginning to end has been criticized by some for missing important aspects of themes, contexts and cultures, and over-used by others to explain the plots of all movies and plays. Nonetheless, it’s a handy structure. See updates at the end of this post.

proppAuthors who want to write fairy tales have a similar sequence worthy of study in Vladimir Propp’s structuralist approach to fairy tales that suggests all tales follow a similar sequence even though each tale doesn’t use all of the thirty-one steps. In addition, Propp says the major characters in fairy tales usually include a hero, false hero, magical helper, dispatcher, villain and donor.

Like the hero in the hero’s journey schema, the hero in a fairy tale is sent out by a dispatcher (wise person, king, friend) who knows of the hero’s needs and sends him/her out to seek a prize, such as the princess/prince, and is assisted by a donor and magical helpers, then fights against by the villain and a false hero (who wants the prize).

Dmitry Olshansky, writing in the “Toronto Slavic Quarterly,” says that “in his research Propp separated variable and constant elements in different fairy-tales, seeking a wonderful uniformity in the labyrinth of multiplicity. (Propp, , Morphology of the Folktale). In other words, he was less interested in the matter than in the structure of the narrative, trying to establish a stable scenario in the relation between parts and whole in a totality of tales.”

Catherine Orenstein, in Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked, calls these elements structural building blocks. These elements are looked at by Propp in chronological order rather than studying the patterns underlying the tale. Propp looks at tales outside the context of culture and time period, a problem that also confronts those who use the hero’s journey sequence too much like a formula.

Sequence

Arthur Rackham's 1909 illustration for "The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm"
Arthur Rackham’s 1909 illustration for “The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm”

You can find Propp’s sequence of steps in multiple places online including Wikipedia and in a nice post by Jerry Everard. However, here is the basic sequence. It’s worth a look, I think, if you’re studying fairy tales with a thought of using the genre yourself:

  1. Hero leaves home. (e.g., Little Red Riding Hood heads for Grandmas’ house.*)
  2. Hero told NOT to do something or go to a certain place. (e.g., LRRH warned about talking to strangers or getting off the path.*)
  3. Hero goes there anyway and meets the villain. (e.g., LRRH picks flowers.*)
  4. Villain tries to find out “treasure/prize.”
  5. Villain extracts information from victim.
  6. Villain deceives victim.
  7. Victim unwittingly taken in by villain begins helping the villain in some way.
  8. Villain harms or injures somebody and/or their property.
  9. Hero discovers misfortune and goes to help.
  10. Counteraction decided upon.
  11. Hero leaves home.
  12. Hero is tested, helped or attacked.
  13. Hero reacts to donor by passing tests, solving problem, performing a service.
  14. Hero obtains magic.
  15. Hero reaches prize/treasure s/he is seeking.
  16. Combat between hero and villain.
  17. Hero “branded” via injury, mark, object (ring, cloak, scarf)
  18. Villain defeated.
  19. Problem/misfortune resolved.
  20. Hero heads for home.
  21. Prince wakes Snow White - Wikipedia photo
    Prince wakes Snow White – Wikipedia photo

    Hero pursued. (e.g., Snow White rescued by prince)

  22. Hero rescued from or hides from pursuer.
  23. Hero arrives home, though friends/family usually don’t recognize him/her.
  24. False hero claims s/he did what the hero actually did.
  25. Hero faced with difficult task or ordeal.
  26. Hero successfully does task or faces ordeal.
  27. Mark on hero brings others to recognize him/her
  28. False hero exposed.
  29. Hero is made whole (looks, clothing).
  30. Villain punished.
  31. Hero marries prince/princess, ascends throne, or rewarded in other way.

surlaluneIt’s fun comparing the steps in this sequence with popular fairy tales. This is easy on the SurLaLune site which has annotated versions of many old favorites.

If you’ve read a lot of fairy tales, you’ve probably already internalized the structure. If not, Propp will prop you up.

Resources – Last Updated 6/30/18

Malcolm

WakingPlainCoverMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Waking Plain,” a fairy tale about a sleeping prince who just might be too dull to wake up with a magic kiss.

How could Red Riding Hood Have been so very good

lrrhsongHow could Red Riding Hood Have been so very good And still keep the wolf from the door? – from A. P. Randolph’s 1926 hit song

Midnight, the clock strikes. It is Christmas Day, the werewolves’ birthday; the door of the solstice stands wide open; let them all sink through. See! Sweet and sound she sleeps in granny’s bed, between the paws of the tender wolf. – from Angela Carter’s retelling of the fairy tale in The Company of Wolves.

Little Red Riding Hood
Went walking through a wood.
She met a wolf and stopped to chat.
Don’t ask what happened after that!
Armand T. Ringer (Martin Gardner) in Are Universes Thicker Than Blackberries?: Discourses on Gödel, Magic Hexagrams, Little Red Riding Hood, and Other Mathematical and Pseudoscientific Topics

Traditionally, Little Red Riding Hood was one of the first fairy tales most of us were told as children, and then later, it became one of the first stories we told our children.

I heard the Grimm’s 1812 version first, probably because my parents liked the happy ending in which LRRH is rescued by the hunter. The moral of this version was don’t stray from the path. Charles Perrault’s 1695 version, which is grimmer than the Grimm’s version, admonishes children not to talk to strangers.

Like many children, I probably thought the story was just another example of a bad day in the woods and/or that this is just the sort of thing that happens to kids who don’t listen to their parents about strangers and paths. The prospective bawdy messages behind the story were lost on me in the days when I listened to bedtime stories.

Gustave Doré's 1901 illustration
Gustave Doré’s 1901 illustration

Adults, from psychologists to folklorists to parents, have variously found deeper meanings in the story or missed the point altogether.  In Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale, Catherine Orenstein notes in the introduction that two California school districts banned the book in the 1990s because of an illustration showing a bottle of wine in LRRH’s basket.

“The story line of Red disrobing and climbing into bed with the wolf passed muster,” writes Orenstein. “But the wine, they said, might be said as condoning the use of alcohol.”

The Objective Observer

As I grew older, questions came to mind about the story. They were, in fact, very similar to those of Dr. Eric Berne’s  (Games People Play, What do you say after you say hello?) questions of an objective observer: “What kind of a mother sends a little girl into a forest where there are wolves? Why didn’t her mother do it herself, or go along with LRRH? If grandmother was so helpless, why did mother leave her all by herself in a hut far away?”

These questions sound similar to those a police officer might ask. And, in real-life events, they make sense.

Arthur Rackham's 1909 illustration for "The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm"
Arthur Rackham’s 1909 illustration for “The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm”

Berne further speculates that maybe mom wanted to get rid of the kid and hoped for the worst out in the woods. This would would allow mom to play the “Ain’t it Awful” game. Berne was, as always, delightfully cynical and LRRH certainly provided food for thought for those studying transactional analysis, psychological games and scripts. But, rather than uncovering what the fairy tale means, the objective observer approach primarily suggests there’s more in the story than initially meets the ear.

A Treasure Hunt

I like searching for potential meanings and versions. The LRRH story came out of an oral tradition long before Perrault’s version was published. Orenstein writes that it began as a tale for adults, has changed over time, and that various versions include bits and pieces of the fairy tale’s earlier incarnations.

In his 1983 book  The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood, Jack Zipes found at least 147 versions of the story. Of these, Perrault’s version wasn’t the most morbid. Since Zipe’s book came out, more versions have been added, including  Philip Pullman’s 2012 rendition in Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version. (You can see Marina Warner’s review of Pullman’s approach in Fairy tales licked clean.)

Psychologists have had a field day with LRRH and have supplied their views of the fairy tale’s meaning in books, including Erich Fromm’s 1951 Forgotten Language: An Introduction to the Understanding of Dreams, Fairy Tales, and Myths and Bruno Bettelheim’s 1976 The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales.

Fromm believes LRRH is experiencing unconscious sexual impulses and wants to be seduced by the wolf. Bettelheim says she’s in the nymphet stage of life and is less innocent than she seems. Other psychologists search fairy tales, including LRRH, and find them to be communicating eternal archetypes.

beasttoblondeWhile I see the archetypes in the larger-than-life worlds of myths, I’m less sure about their importance in the domestic-related arena of fairy tales. In a way, the tales seem to relate more to the time, place and moral issues of their settings—like snapshots. In From the Beast to the Blonde, Marina Warner says that searches for a tale’s universal significance tend to overshadow the human behavior illustrated by the story.

“I began investigating the meanings of the tales themselves, but soon found that it was essential to look at the context in which they were told, at who was telling them, to whom, and why,” writes Warner.

Unfortunately, her beautiful book is out of print and that makes the treasure hunt of looking for meanings in fairy tales a little more trying. However, it’s still listed on Amazon along with third-party sellers.

So Where Are We Now?

uncloakedOrenstein suggests that society has a vested interest in LRRH, “in the messages she wears, and those she covers up.” Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale is, fortunately, still in print, and well worth including in a LRRH treasure hunt.

I also like Jane Yolen’s thoughts about the fairy tale from Touch Magic:

“Anthropologists have read it as a folk memory of old menstruation myths or sun/moon myths. Freudians point to it as a possible incest story, or a pregnancy fantasy. Marxists have seen it as the triumph of the proletariat over the evil capitalists who would lure them into a cozy relationship and then devour them. And moralists through the ages say it means simply: You women should not go to bed with strangers who may turn out to be ‘wolves.’ Who is right? They are all right. For as the writer writes about himself or herself, so the adult reader reads.”

Personally, I like the ambiguity of multiple versions, meanings, tellers and time periods.

Finding Out More

Annotations for Little Red Riding Hood on SurLaLune

The Path of Needles or Pins: Little Red Riding Hood by Terri Windling

Excerpt from The Company of Wolves by Angela Carter

Little Red Riding Hood, Wikipedia overview

Malcolm

EScoverMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of fantasy novels and short stories including “Emily’s Stories,” available on Kindle.