Fairy Tale Films: Visions of Ambiguity

Fairy Tale Films: Visions of Ambiguity

Fairy Tale Films: Visions of Ambiguity

Fairy Tale Films: Visions of Ambiguity


In this, the first collection of essays to address the development of fairy tale film as a genre, Pauline Greenhill and Sidney Eve Matrix stress, "the mirror of fairy-tale film reflects not so much what its audience members actually are but how they see themselves and their potential to develop (or, likewise, to regress)." As Jack Zipes says further in the foreword, "Folk and fairy tales pervade our lives constantly through television soap operas and commercials, in comic books and cartoons, in school plays and storytelling performances, in our superstitions and prayers for miracles, and in our dreams and daydreams. The artistic re-creations of fairy-tale plots and characters in film--the parodies, the aesthetic experimentation, and the mixing of genres to engender new insights into art and life-- mirror possibilities of estranging ourselves from designated roles, along with the conventional patterns of the classical tales."

Here, scholars from film, folklore, and cultural studies move discussion beyond the well-known Disney movies to the many other filmic adaptations of fairy tales and to the widespread use of fairy tale tropes, themes, and motifs in cinema.


Jack Zipes

In THE OXFORD HISTORY OF WORLD CINEMA (1996), edited by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith and advertised as “the definitive history of cinema worldwide,” there is not one word about fairy tale films. Even in the chapter on animation, the term “fairy tale” does not appear. All this is very strange, if not bizarre, given the fact that two fairy tale films—Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and The Wizard of Oz (1939)—are among the most popular films in the world and have had a significant impact on cinema up through the present. The exclusion of fairy tale film as a category from The Oxford History of World Cinema is even stranger when one considers that the godfather and pioneer of film narrative, Georges Méliès, produced close to thirty films that were superb féeries and numerous directors in Europe and America created well over forty silent fairy tale films at the beginning of the twentieth century. Moreover, Walt Disney and Lotte Reiniger began their great cinematic careers in the 1920s by adapting fairy tales, and nothing much has been made of their great debt to folklore and the fairy tale genre. Indeed, aside from a number of essays and a couple of books that touch on the subject, film critics, folklorists, and literary historians in America and Europe have not realized how much films owe to folklore and the fairy tale. It is for this reason, I believe, that the publication of Pauline Greenhill and Sidney Eve Matrix’s Fairy Tale Films is path breaking and will fill a gap in both film studies and folklore.

Not only do the essays in Greenhill and Matrix’s critical study fill a need, but they are also original in their concept, insightful, and based on thorough research. To be sure, they cannot cover all the fairy tale lacunae in . . .

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