Fairy Tales Have Always Been With Us English Literature Essay


In many way Fairy tales have always been with us , combining with tales and myths across cultures and evolving with history , to what we have now in literary form . In their original oral form although children were not excluded from hearing the tales they were never intended solely for their entertainment ,but were told by adults to adults and often gave insights into the harsh realities of the period they were told . The earliest traditions of these folklore tales, that were to become our best loved fairy tales , are sinister and gruesome.

We use our fairy tales, to constantly create our ‘unique entertainment’ that our mass media relentlessly delivers into the modern world. Do we still view fairy tales in the same manner, when television, and video games in many ways trade places with the marvel of the books that our families valued . Has it become so commercialised that we no longer recognise fairy tales for what they once were, and as As Zipes (reader1 p38) [i] , states that they have now become totally institutionalised, and are an integral part of our western society.

Perhaps this would be true of some fairy tales the Brothers Grimm in 1812…… produced the Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales) (.and then in 1814 a second volume containing 70 and 84 tales respectively) , and not all of the orignal tales included in these volumes are still popular or known today. Indeed

research conducted by an American university examined 168 Brothers Grimm’s Fairy Tales, finding 43% had been reproduced in childrens books and films

The five tales that have been reproduced more than 101 times are "Cinderella," "Snow White," "Briar Rose" (also known as "Sleeping Beauty"), "Little Red Cap" (also known as "Little Red Riding Hood") and "Hansel and Gretel." [ii] 

These tales were originally used as primers for relatively affluent

European children and served to impart moral lessons to them (Zipes 1988a). [iii] Although the research only took into account tales with humans , it did make an interesting conclusion in that only tales with beautiful princess and moral overtures seem to prevail The messages presented in the Grimms’ tales portray differing means of status attainment for women and for men, especially white, heterosexual

women. The pervasiveness of fairy tales in our society, through books and movies, suggests that there are many opportunities for these messages to become internalized.

As the tales change over time they reflect our differing attitudes and values , and as such not all will stand the test of time as Some tales become popular during particular historical periods because they resonant so deeply with individuals’ and societies’ economic, social, or political struggles during these times (Zipes 1988b). [iv] 

Indeed tales such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty remain a favourite with our traditions although they differ to the original tales. Cinderella in the original Grimms version, had no pumpkin or fairy godmother , and contained mutilation and blindness for the beautiful step sisters that are ugly within , as they mutilate their own feet in order to fit the golden slipper , morally a girl who is good and pious will always be protected by god , but in our Disneyland world it later becomes a dreams will come true fable for the good and piety is no longer an

Issue , spawning various Hollywood films.

The Brothers Grimm are viewed to be the first to write down the tales in their true unadulterated form from folklore , we see a wicked mother –, eating what she believes to be the heart of her daughter snow white , and at the end made to wear red hot iron shoes till she danced herself to death .

The mother later became the stepmother , as the Grimms bowed to critiscm that their tales held subject matter that was unsuitable for children , and removed the original references to incest , infanticide and rape.

It is interesting to note that this social engineering of our children’s reading matter still prevails today , a recent poll of 3,000 british parents by the BabyWebsite [v] revealed that fairy tales were considered by many parents to be politically incorrect and too frightening .

Looking at the fairy tale in its historical sense, in the beginning, fairy tales were folk lore told orally, as warnings and entertainment, with tales at variance with the category of audience. Some of our most loved tales can be traced back to more than a single origin and throughout the globe.

Zipes () also tells us that Fairy Stories are difficult to date and this is true when looking to the first actual written tales ,one source of which is said to stem from ancient Egypt around 1300BC , an instance of the Tale of the Two Brother s uncovered in Egypt by the archaeologist P.’DOrbiney on the Papyrus D'Orbiney [vi] belonging to Setti II, a version of this tale is later included in the brothers grimms volumes. Indeed it can be said , that although fairy tales continued in an oral tradition across the globe , it is in every source of early written culture that we see tales that could be seen as fairy tales reflecting their society .

Red riding hood is widely viewed to have originated from France, where shortly after its emergence, Charles Perrault, first submitted tale to print in the 17th Century. However recent research into the origins of fairytales by Dr J Tehrani (2009) [vii] has found that many much older variants of the story range from around the globe and it would most certainly have a far more ancient origin.

The popularity of fairy tales continued to increase in the 17th century with the publications by the French author Charles Perrault , bringing into print many of our classics as Sleeping Beauty , Little Red Riding Hood , Cinderella and Puss in Boots. He was not alone in this enterprise other authors such as Basileele also produced similar collections within the same period.

These were still far removed from the rosy version we see today , but although they often still contained the adult subject matter , they were sanitised from the gory original and often given a moralistic ending Perrault published Histories, or Tales of Times Past , in ……, and although it is often challenged Cullinan and Galda (1998) view this as the turning point for the fairy tale , when it indeed became a story intended for children. Perrault censored his versions – he forgave the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella , and snow white awoke with the kiss of the prince , in tales remarkably removed from the tales later penned by the brothers Grimm, which are reportedly taken direct from the oral tales .

Perraults version of red riding hood is the oldest known printed version , although from the 14th century there were a number of oral versions in existence ,she is given a symbolic red cloak and is eaten by the wolf – Perrault’s moral ending for young girls who associate with strange men , ( Perrault’s quote here ????)however in the older tales we see red riding hood recognising the wolf for what he is – albeit , a man , werewolf, or in some cases an ogre , and out witting him herself , she does however unknowingly cannibalise the flesh of her grandmother, but after taking off her clothes delays getting into the bed with the wolf , and escapes (the False Grandmother ) [viii] . The Brothers Grimm final version ultimately is an even tamer account , with the neither the grandmother or girl being eaten , and the wolf drowning – interesting in that they removed the woodsman from their original tale, , and allowed the women to save themselves and as Orenstein states many revisionist retellings depict Little Red Riding Hood successfully defending herself against the wolf. [ix] 

Interpretations of this story flourish , its emergence from France , was linked to the werewolf trials around the time of the 14th century in France. The tale has been interpreted as a puberty ritual, and sexual awakening , which was identified with by Angela Carters ‘The Company of Wolves’ [x] , later made into a film . This has been interpreted by Orenstein, as again showing the girl as the heroine , and the sexual awakening of the wild side of her nature, as chooses to become a wolf herself [xi] 

Quote from film

Look at the rol dhal poem , and what the children think

Looking at the responses of children to the red riding hood tale , the changes in story line are quite accepted , and it is almost with disappointment when the granny is freed from the wolfs belly ‘not chewed up at all’ [xii] 

There is a note of disappointment when the wolf is killed, perhaps morally accepting it was due to her lack of discipline

‘do not take the short cut through the woods.



And, and she deliberately did that’ [xiii] 

Viewing at the childrens opnions of red riding hood , you could get a sense there is remorse for the wolf , and the unbelievable ending of the modern tale . The children preferring the more modern versions of red riding hood saving herself – as in the rhold Dahl tale

‘she pulled a pistol from her knickers’

And again in the modern revised versions of the granny being able to fight the wolf herself .

Of course, the effect of media on behavior is not clear (Currie 1997). As with

other literature, children’s media should not be viewed simply as gender scripts.

Children (or their parents, through their readings of the texts to children) have the

ability to use these texts to challenge or "rewrite" these scripts (stories). Zipes

(1988b, 191) suggested that by

introducing unusual elements into the fairy tale . . . the child is compelled to shatter a

certain uniform reception of fairy tales, to re-examine the elements of the classical

tales, and to reconsider their function and meaning and whether it might not be better

to alter them.

Do we sanitise our fairy stories too much – as berinstein suggests , do kids need to be frightened , in order to cope with the real world ?

Berinstein successfully treated traumatised children with the use of fairy tales , a treatment that continues with our modern day psycologists .

One of the most useful sets of cultural products for

investigating cultural motifs and values is children’s stories, which according to

Bettelheim (1962) are a major means by which children assimilate culture [xiv] 

There have been many modern uses and adaptations of Little Red Riding Hood, generally with a mock-serious reversal of Red Riding Hood's naïveté or some twist of social satire; they range across a number of different media and styles. Multiple variations have been written in the past century, in which authors adapt the Grimms' tale to their own interests.

As such, it provides critical insight into ways in which children’s literature

has been shaped by political and social forces over time and yet continues to

provide traditional gendered prescriptions for children.

Children’s media can be a powerful mechanism by which children learn cultural

values. Through the proliferation of fairy tales in the media, girls (and boys)

are taught specific messages concerning the importance of women’s bodies and

women’s attractiveness. The messages presented in the Grimms’ tales portray differing

means of status attainment forwomen and for men, especially white, heterosexual

women. The pervasiveness of fairy tales in our society, through books and

movies, suggests that there are many opportunities for these messages to become


Of course,