WS 3030 Feminist Theories
Fairy Tale Analysis

Mermaid, John William Waterhouse

Assignment: You will suggest orally  to the class how a particular feminist theorist would re-write a fairy tale. Your presentation should allow for a brief discussion. Your presentation should

Purpose: Analyzing fairy tales will help you put theory to work.

Method: Choose a fairy tale from the Grimm brothers, Charles Perrault, or Hans Christian Anderson in which women are main characters. Provide your fellow students with a handout in which you list the main points of the plot and the main points of your analysis.

Your presentation should be devoted to a feminist analysis of the story itself.


Fairy Tales --

 Kay F. Stone posits in her essay, "Feminist Approaches to the Interpretation of Fairy Tales" that three schools of feminist criticism of fairy tales exist. The first school in early feminist writing argues that fairy tales were critically considered "as one of the many socializing forces that discouraged females from realizing their full human potential."  This early school of feminism relied on the assumption that women are separated from and wrongly considered unequal to men. Later feminist scholars such as Marcia K. Lieberman ("Some Day My Prince Will Come: Female Acculturation through the Fairy Tale") ascertained that heroines in fairy tales are reduced to a state of passivity, submissiveness, and helplessness. Lieberman and Karen Rowe are a second school of feminists who view fairy tales with "happily ever after endings as the repositories of dreams, hopes and fantasies of generations of girls." Thus, Prince Charming" is actually a villain for whom girls foolishly wait. This second school relies on the assumption that "women were naturally separate from men and rightly superior."  Critics such as Marie Louise von Franz (The Feminine in Fairy Tales) and Madonna Kolbenschlag belong to a third school of feminism which relies on the assumption that men and women are separate but could be equal if men shape up. (

Note: Haase, Donald, editor: Fairy Tales and Feminism: New Approaches (Wayne State University Press, August 2004) An excellent collection of 11 essays from top fairy tale scholars, expertly compiled by the editor of Marvels and Tales: The Journal of Fairy Tale Studies. These essays examine fairy tales in both historic and contemporary contexts, while drawing on folklore traditions the world over.