Language and Control in Children's Literature

By Murray Knowles; Kirsten Malmkjær | Go to book overview

5

The fairytale

THE FAIRYTALE AS GENRE

Fairytales are standardly considered a sub-genre of the folktale, itself a sub-genre of folklore, ‘traditional verbal materials and social rituals that have been handed down solely, or at least primarily, by word of mouth and by example rather than in written form’ (Abrams, 1957/ 1971:63). The literary fairytale is perceived as based on, or at least as sharing certain features of the traditional fairytale, but since motifs and plots from every type of folktale may surface in the works of writers of all types of literature for children, it will be useful to establish some criteria for the identification of fairytales as such. Folklorists have a similar concern, and we base our effort at definition on the folktale typology of Katharine Mary Briggs (1898-1980). However, since we are dealing with the fairytale as a sub-genre of literature for children, rather than as a sub-genre of the folktale, we shall have to move on from Briggs’ definition towards a definition which allows us, as hers does not, to distinguish the fairytale from the sub-genre of children’s literature which arguably resembles it most closely, namely children’s fantasy fiction.

Briggs (1970) distinguishes, first, between folk legends, once believed true, and folk narratives which have always been conceived as fiction, ‘told for edification, delight or amusement’ (1970:1). Second, within the genre of folk narrative, Briggs perceives five groupings: (i) fables and exempla, ‘those animal stories after the manner of Aesop that point a moral or satirize human frailties’; (ii) jocular tales, ‘a great body of drolls, noodle stories, bawdy tales, and so on, that are handed about for entertainment’; (iii) novelle, ‘narratives in which there is no explicitly supernatural element’; (iv) nursery tales like ‘Henny-Penny’, ‘obviously invented for small children and of a type to be appreciated by the very young’; and

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Language and Control in Children's Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • 1 - Children’s Literature in England 1
  • 2 - Literature as a Carrier of Ideology: Children’s Literature and Control 41
  • 3 - Traditional Juvenile Fiction 81
  • 4 - Today’s Young Reader 114
  • 5 - The Fairytale 156
  • 6 - Fantasy Fiction 224
  • 7 - Last Thoughts 262
  • References 267
  • Index 276
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