Fairy Tales and Society: Illusion, Allusion, and Paradigm

Fairy Tales and Society: Illusion, Allusion, and Paradigm

Fairy Tales and Society: Illusion, Allusion, and Paradigm

Fairy Tales and Society: Illusion, Allusion, and Paradigm


This collection of exemplary essays by internationally recognized scholars examines the fairy tale from historical, folkloristic, literary, and psychoanalytical points of view. For generations of children and adults, fairy tales have encapsulated social values, often through the use of fixed characters and situations, to a far greater extent than any other oral or literary form. In many societies, fairy tales function as a paradigm both for understanding society and for developing individual behavior and personality.

A few of the topics covered in this volume: oral narration in contemporary society; madness and cure in the 1001 Nights; the female voice in folklore and fairy tale; change in narrative form; tests, tasks, and trials in the Grimms' fairy tales; and folklorists as agents of nationalism. The subject of methodology is discussed by Torborg Lundell, Stven Swann Jones, Hans-Jorg Uther, and Anna Tavis.

Ruth B. Bottigheimer teaches in the Department of Comparative Literature, State University of New York at Stony Brook.


The fairy tale is the first poetic form with which people come into contact in their lives. For most of us it is one of the deepest and most enduring childhood impressions. Even those of us who as adults no longer read or listen to fairy tales still recognize “the hundred years’ sleep.” We also speak of a “Cinderella existence” or “the forbidden door,” phrases we understand whether we are highly educated or not and which indicate how much more deeply fairy tales have penetrated our general consciousness than any other book-based memories.

Public interest in fairy tales has been rekindled in a quite astonishing manner in recent years, exceeding all expectations. Fairy tales have won new adherents among both the young and the old. This phenomenon has nothing to do with nostalgia, nor does it simply signal a flight from a technically rational world into neo-irrationalism. Instead, I believe, more and more people are recognizing that fairy tales are essential and substantial stories which offer paradigmatic examples of conflicts in decisive life situations.

Associations and societies for the preservation and investigation of fairy tales annually gather a large international public which is

Translated by Ruth B. Bottigheimer.

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