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From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers chapter 1 From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers, meaning From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers, genre From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers, book cover From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers, flies From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers, From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers cd51e90762447 In This Landmark Study Of The History And Meaning Of Fairy Tales, The Celebrated Cultural Critic Marina Warner Looks At Storytelling In Art And Legend From The Prophesying Enchantress Who Lures Men To A False Paradise, To Jolly Mother Goose With Her Masqueraders In The Real World Why Are Storytellers So Often Women, And How Does That Affect The Status Of Fairy Tales Are They A Source Of Wisdom Or A Misleading Temptation To Indulge In Romancing


10 thoughts on “From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers

  1. says:

    I entered this tale full of naivity, and emerged with Knowledge I m indebted to the lovely organisers of Into the Forest group, because I m glad I read this the sooner, since it gave me some doors and handles into or out of things that touch me daily Fairy tales break the silence Warner tells us The silence around fear and trauma, the silence imposed on women and the silencing of women does not always mean a padlock through the lip or hurled abuse Shrew Nag Termagant because we are taught through a million signals to hush Sometimes radical kindness, radical openness, radical love, great tenderness and patience is required to open our mouths and hearts Before re reading what the English call fairytales, stories collected and interpreted by Perrault and the brothers Grimm and Disney, Marina would like to re hear them, or at least, recover the voices in which they were told before those men came along and got the credit Women s voices Some readers, and I count myself among them, may warm at once to her project of telling of the tellers first, before delving into the told, but others may feel some impatience at the prospect of two hundred pages of historical meandering as prelude to a discussion of the stories themselves To these readers I say trust her, it s worth it, because the later discussion draws deeply on this well of memory and circumstance Warner has lovingly dug Many things happen to a tale when you think differently about who told it and why, and to whom and some of those things are urgent, and might lead us to liberations.Warner has her feminist lens firmly in place, and as usual I will attempt to review from a feminist angle, but I don t want this endorsement to be interpreted as a description of the book s scope or focus she discusses the female origin of fairytale because their origin is female, and so their content reflects female perspectives The fact that I had never realised this suggests that the perception of fairytales like that of other literary endeavour reflects a masculinist vision of the world Warner quotes Woolf for centuries Anonymous was a woman Warner gives her a few of her names, but the act of gendering her is in itself a small reparation.Having read so far you might be as surprised as I was by the heterogenous, sometimes bizarre content of the first half of the book Marina is leading us a dance, a quest full of transformations and magical beasts With chapter titles like The Glass Paving and the Secret Foot this yarn can only be a fairy tale itself, told in their characteristic matter of fact tone, only for a change it is fact after a fashion, oft stranger in her wild imaginings than her dreaming, artistic sister, fiction In this story there are many Sibyls, one of whom takes up residence in a cave, and the Queen of Sheba, who, perhaps due to a monk s typo, is sometimes part goose Or is it stork Or even ostrich There are a lot of birds in here too, twittering like gossiping women, delivering babies, offering a convenient comic mask, like the ass ears of the fool Tellers put on costume, sometimes, like Perrault, drag, in order to adjust how their stories are perceived Read this primarily for pleasure as well as instruction But some tellers, or rather writers, of literary fairy tales, like Marie Catherine d Aulnoy, wore no special costume, and yet have been forgotten by all but afficionados and academics like Warner, although they wrote far prolifically than male creators or even collectors Their stories have apparently lost their relevance, since the agonies and aspirations that inform them have passed from the European social body In general, women are no longer forced into marriages advantageous to their fathers, and the solutions passionately advocated by women like L Heritier, D Aulnoy and their contemporaries through the medium of their literature have lost all urgency.Perrault certainly casts himself as a female champion, but his benign intentions don t cancel out his patriarchal enculturation Both his pat morals he prided himself on tidying up the inscrutable ethical orientations of the tales he collected and his revisions involve a loss of self determination or subjectivity for women or girls I learned that early versions of the Red Riding Hood story ended with the girl escaping, after being tricked into eating a piece of her granny, by pretending she needed to pee The wolf urges her to do it in the bed but when she insists, he lets her out tied to a string, which she manages to slip off, thus escaping through her own ingenuity In Perrault s version, she instead ends up eaten and dead, while the Grimms added the now standard woodcutter father to rescue both girl and granny from the wolf s belly The trajectory is from spirited, deceitful, valiant young girl to damsel in distress via two male interpreters Perrault s moral casts the wolf as a predatory young man whom young women are advised to avoid, and Warner finds this tacked on to a tale with different depths, such as the fear of wild er ness and otherness that reflects a beast world to which humans remained vulnerable.Warner critiques the archetypal approach of Bettelheim and his ilk from a feminist perspective This kind of psychologism destroys history, erases the realities of women s lives, and results in a medicalisation of trauma that actually arises from oppressive structures that can, with effort, be changed for the better Her approach is historical, delving repeatedly into the realities of tellers and hearers When I chatted to my mum about reading this book, she asked me why fairytales are so terrible, and the answer, which I didn t have at that moment, is that they reflect the deepest horrors and hardships their tellers experiencedFor example, the conflict between mothers and daughters in law, which reflects the precarious situation of both as dependants on a male head of the house, is dramatised vividly in tales of the mistreatment of young girls and nasty older women, and on the flipside the power of crones and fairy godmothers to reward kindness and other virtues The teller furthers her interest in fairytales as in gossip, often by disparaging others Warner repeats the legal and social frameworks at the root of these conflicts and vulnerabilities can be remedied, and fairytale is a veiled indictment of them which should be heeded Therefore, it obscures a valuable truth if we interpret the harsh misogyny of many tales as simply the generalised social current or the prejudice of male tellers.When history falls away from a subject, we are left with Otherness, and all its power to compact enmity, recharge it and recirculate it An archetype is a hollow thing, but a dangerous one, a figure or image which through usage has been uncoupled from the circumstances which brought it into being, and goes on spreading false consciousnessThe changing priorities of people are reflected in the shifts in popularity of particular tales and in the character of retellings One of the most interesting surveys here is of Beauty and the Beast, which has metamorphosised in response to many cultural currents Unsurprisingly it s always been Beauty who has to change, to do the work in the eighteenth century she must learn to become a loving wife to a beastly husband, while in the twenty first she must learn to be game in bed , since wildness, animal ness, has become something to celebrate, the idealised state of nature rather than a threat As well as discussing the domesticated feminism of Disney s interpretation, Warner rather laments that the current trend, for tales in which the Beast does not need to be disenchanted, tends towards celebrating the male the rise of the teddy bear s popularity is another strand in this trend, which is exemplified in many other tales Such retellings remove the energy and exuberance from female erotic voices as heard in Angela Carter, whose heroines are excited by beastliness Her disenchantments demythologise, liberating female desire The loss of this disenchantment returns us to the story s root, the woman blaming admonition of Psyche disobediently looking on Cupid Please see Margaret s marvellous review for a very clear explanation of the material reality that is lost in an ahistorical psychoanalysis of the Bluebeard tales Feminist writing that draws on the tale, such as Bluebeard s Egg by Margaret Atwood and Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi, rewrites lost context, reconnecting narrative and materiality Warner says that it is urgent to confront the trope of the heroine s blondness as its consequences are so dire , but I felt that she had only opened the can here, and left the worms for us all to sort in a collective project There are various strange reasons why blonde became aligned with virtue and beauty but I found her treatment somehow toothless Her readings of hair in general, and those she points to, are interesting.What I love about this book, what moved me, was Warner s insistence on fairytale s relevance She is a partisan of the form, but a highly critical one Fairytales, she argues, break the silence a silence of women, continually reimposed and cry out in protest She diagnoses a thinning culture which I see as the cultural hegemony of a neoliberal kyriarchy and persistent injustice, not the progress implied when tales are sanitised for ever confined children or their misogynies brushed off as outdated archetypes Spaces of imagination such as that offered by fantasy stories create room for new possibilities and transformations, for wishful thinking than can be made into reality, like the precieuses protests against arranged marriage Our futures are still in forestsThe limited scope of the book speaks for itself Marina neither explains nor apologises for her European focus, the tales familiar to her as an English speaker with Italian heritage She certainly tempted me to read Italo Calvino s collection of Italian fairytales and ignited an interest in Leonora Carrington , but while the 1001 Nights are occasionally mentioned, and an ancient Chinese tale which seems to be a root of Cinderella is compared to later versions, our questing heroine does not much leave the shelter of her shores I will have to read her other books to explore elsewheres since I know she has written them.This edition is delectable, from its kitschy cover art to its many lushly printed illustrations Its heft made it rather a pain to lug around London town, and it will be much at home on the shelf, from which I shall doubtless often pick it up and peek into it again.


  2. says:

    Stepmothers were framed Yes The wicked stepmother in fairy tales is a modern stitch up, and stepmums should be asking for a retrial I made some amazing discoveries in this fabulous book about fairy tales, but the notion that stepmothers were framed is probably the one which will stick with me Apparently, the evil maternal figure in lots of old folklore the queen who sends the hunter to kill Snow White because she is jealous of her beauty, and the greedy or starving woman who leaves Hansel and Gretel in the woods in order to have fewer mouths to feed, they were actually the MOTHERS of those children And why not There is an emotional truth to mothers jealousy of their daughters, for example So, in the original spread of folklore, there were many good mothers balanced by a few bad mothers But then selected fairy tales were written down, and the editors couldn t bear the idea that mothers would be cruel, because the nineteenth century ideal of maternal perfection was evolving, and also because the assumed audience for fairy tales was moving from adult to child So the editors turned those bad mothers into stepmothers And so the balance was completely skewed Lots of good mothers, and no bad ones some bad stepmothers and no good ones The wicked stepmother was born This is a challenging and surprising way to look at the stories we thought we knew, and a clear indication of how vital stories are in creating our view of the world This entire book is a comprehensive and fascinating look at fairy tales, their history, their context, their tellers, their evolution and their effect on our culture It s unashamedly feminist, it s fairly Freudian, and it s also a little dated written in 1994, it obviously couldn t take in the huge numbers of recent YA books which bounce off the traditional tales but for anyone interested in folklore, the origins of much of our culture, and how women are seen as both tellers and protagonists in stories, this is a wonderful and thought provoking read It is dense and heavy in places, clearly written for a serious audience, but it s so packed with amazing insights, that I often chose to read this non fiction research book over whatever novel I was actually reading for pleasure


  3. says:

    I have a fondness for the huge, synthesising variety of history that either takes lots of seemingly disparate things and draws interesting connections between them or starts with something small and moves outward to take in a huge swath of information that I wouldn t have thought to connect until someone brilliant does so for me This is a literary cultural history of the latter sort, and you couldn t ask for a articulate, erudite, and interesting guide than Marina Warner Sybilline prophecies, riddles, the Queen of Sheba, the semantics of hair, Mexican postcards, the court of the Sun King, foot deformities, mediaeval European childbirth practices, the Virgin Mary, arranged marriages, governesses, Shakespeare all these and connected by threads radiating outwards from fairy tales, especially those written down in early modern France.


  4. says:

    A powerful history of Western fairytale storytellers for the most part, it focuses exclusively on the Western fairytale tradition The first half traces the history of the storytellers from French literary tellers like L Heritier and d Aulnoy to the Grimm brother s mainly female sources to how the image of Mother Goose and old women storytellers developed a combination of goose symbology, Saint Anne, the sibyls, and the social attitude toward older women The second half examines specific tales within their historical context, and what those tales would ve meant to the tellers and listeners For instance, Bluebeard tales which have women marrying a rich stranger and discovering in a secret room that he s been murdering his past wives reflect the historical reality of an early death due to childbirth in 1800, the average lifespan for a woman in Burgundy was 25 Many widowers remarried, and their past wives would of course been a source of fear for the new bride, and the marriage bed threatening Bluebeard tales serve as both warning and catharsis for teller and listener In her conclusion, she gives both a warning and a call to action for current fairytale tellers and researchers, saying as individual women s voices have become absorbed into the corporate body of male dominated decision makers, the misogyny present in many fairy stories the wicked stepmothers, bad fairies, ogresses, spoiled princesses, ugly sisters and so forth has lost its connections to the particular web of tensions in which women were enmeshed and come to look dangerously like the way things are The historical context of the stories has been sheared away, and figures like the wicked stepmother have grown into archetypes of the human psyche, hallowed, inevitable symbols, while figures like the Beast bridegroom have been granted even positive status The danger of women has become and part of the story, and correspondingly, the danger of men has receded Cinderella s and Snow White s wicked stepmothers teach children to face life s little difficulties, it is argued, but films about a Bluebeard or a child murderer, as in Tom Thumb , are rated Adults Only While modern subversive retellings are prevalent, the dominating storyteller is still that of Disney, and with the surge of live action remakes, Disney s versions are set to instill a new generation with their versions But I feel that fairytale retellings will still thrive, and that storytellers will find ways of using them to push boundaries and question social norms And perhaps this new enthrallment with Disney s versions will push a new generation to seek out and find writers like Angela Carter, Cathrynne M Valente, Italo Calvino, Charles De Lint, and so many From the Beast to the Blonde is not a light read It s a densely packed history rich with insight, and something I know I can return to and always find something new and challenging And here s another quote from the conclusion Who tells the story, who recasts the characters and changes the tone becomes very important no story is ever the same as its source or model, the chemistry of narrator and audience changes it.


  5. says:

    A fascinating look into the evolution of fairy tales from a women s history perspective I learned a lot, and I m inspired to learn Marina Warner begins with the original female character of the storyteller, including the three precursors to Mother Goose the Sibylline Prophesies, Saint Anne, and the Queen of Sheba She explores the spread of fairy stories through old wives tales to the grand salons of France and explains how stories change based on who tells them and when in history they are told.There s a lot of food for thought here, but there were a few parts I found particularly interesting A discussion of the origins of the Fool Warner points out that Laughter is an expression of freedom that abolishes heirarchy cancels authority, and faces down fear The Fool is the ultimate rebel but he gets away with it because no one takes a laughing man or woman seriously Why are there so many characters with dead mothers stepmothers in fairy tales Death in childbirth was common, and women lived longer than men The rising number of single older women needing support caused some friction between generations, especially in regards to inheritance Warner explores various fairy tale tropes, including the wicked stepmother, the demon lover, incest, and the changing attitudes towards the beast Also, the symbolism of hair A well researched, well written, fascinating read.


  6. says:

    Absolutely invaluable resource for anyone who has ever wondered about what s really going on in fairy tales Insightful, entertainingly written, and well organized Marina Warner is one of my favorite sources when I do my own feminist readings of fairy tales, fairy tale inspired modern fiction, or retold fairy tales like that of McKinley or Donna Jo Napoli or Shannon Hale Warner strips away the cutesy veneer we ve all been exposed to, especially with Disney, and shows us all the gory details, and exposes the way these fairy tales are windows into the way women have been exploited and suppressed oppressed This book has pride of place on my research shelf.


  7. says:

    The faculty of wonder, like curiosity, can make things happen it is time for wishful thinking to have its due In the words of Angela Carter, Ours is a highly individualized culture, with a great faith in the work of art as a unique one off, and the artist as an original, a godlike and inspired creator of unique one offs But fairy tales are not like that, nor are their makers Who first invented meatballs In what country Is there a definitive recipe for potato soup Think in terms of the domestic arts This is how I make potato soup And this is how Marina Warner deconstructs potato soup In this elegant and provocative examination, she peels and pares and probes with a fearless and often merciless integrity that somehow never diminishes the tales themselves Her voice is authoritative, subtly witty, sometimes cynical, but always academic and mindful of the traditions and art she is overturning in her quest The collection itself is by no means exhaustive but serves rather to provide a spring board for further dialogue, research, and consideration Her bibliographical net is cast so wide the edges are blurry, yet her citations are faithful and her references are organized, pertinent, and evocative This is non fiction that combines art, anthropology, sociology, psychology, and literature in a way that whets the appetite Her combination of scholasticism and reverence, criticism and apology, becomes a tribute to the tales and their tellers Her writing begins to mirror the tales themselves, that store of fairy tales, that blue chamber where stories lie waiting to be rediscovered, which holds out the promise ofcreative enchantments, not only for its own characters caught in its own plotlines it offers magical metamorphoses to the one who opens the door, who passes on what was found there, and to those who hear what the storyteller brings.


  8. says:

    From the Beast to the Blonde On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers by Marina Warner is an exhaustive and comprehensive study of the history and development of fairy tales and their tellers The book is divided into two parts Part 1 addresses the tellers Part 2 addresses the tales Warner s basic thesis is that fairy tales consist in narrative form of the lived experiences of women as told primarily by women In order to understand the content and various permutations of fairy tales, one has to contextualize them within the social, economic, cultural, and legal conditions of women at the time Fairy tales which pit woman against woman in vying for the affections of and benefits bestowed by the all powerful male figure were no than a woman s strategy for survival in a world hostile to women and all things female.The book is dense the research impressive the breadth and scope wide the insights, interpretations, and commentary inspired But this is not a light or quick read, especially Part 1 Her examination of specific fairy tales and their motifs in Part 2 was accessible The book is highly recommended but only for those with a serious commitment to understanding the social and cultural context from which these tales emerged.


  9. says:

    I love the interpretation of fairy tales Marina Warner is superb.


  10. says:

    Another reviewer called this book fact soup , and I m going to adopt her phrase Marina Warner has created a very dense history of stories that, so far, is western focused I can t read it, as I m not academic in the arts I can skim it It s not a book for the average fairy tale lover to read cover to cover But it s of an occassional reference, skim, or short story for one interested in the role of women in folk lore The structure is difficult because it is much too fluid Fact soup just pours out of the author s pen.