Interpreting Literature with Children

By Shelby A. Wolf | Go to book overview

5
Gender in Children's Literature

The sorceress cared for the baby, seeing to her every need. Rapunzel grew to be a child of rare beauty, with pale skin and an abundance of flowing red-gold hair. When she reached the age of twelve, the sorceress led her into the forest to live in a high tower.

The tower was a great column rising in the middle of the woods. Although it looked narrow on the outside, on the inside it was large, with many elegant rooms. Yet no door led into this tower, and its only window was at the very top.

When the sorceress wished to enter, she stood below the window and called, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair. ” Then Rapunzel would unpin her silky braids, wind them around a hook on the window frame, and let them tumble all the way to the ground. The sorceress would grab hold of them and hoist herself up.

For years, Rapunzel lived alone in her rooms above the treetops, visited only by the sorceress. Then one day a king's son came riding through the woods…

—Zelinsky (1997)

The princess in the tower is one of the enduring images of our time. Looking up at the window, the sorceress, the witch, the woman who is known in most versions as “Mother Gothel” calls, “Rapunzel. Rapunzel. Let down your hair. ” And as Anne Sexton (1971) reveals in Transformations, her famous book of fairy tale poetry, “Rapunzel's hair fell to the ground like a rainbow. / It was as yellow as a dandelion / And as strong as a dog leash” (p. 40).

What ties us so strongly to this tale and to other tales of women trapped in the tallest of towers? What is the pull of the passive princess waiting patiently for rescue from her prince? And when does this image become cemented in children's minds? Quite early, in fact. For my daughter, Lindsey the story of

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Interpreting Literature with Children
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Prologue: Engagement Beyond the Edges of the Earth 1
  • I - Salutations! Learning About Literature *
  • 1 - Critical Perspectives 9
  • Books for the Professional 40
  • 2 - Literary Elements in Prose & Poetry 44
  • Books for the Professional 87
  • II - Ways of Taking from Literature *
  • 3 - Talking About Literature 93
  • Books for the Professional 128
  • 4 - Culture & Class in Children's Literature 131
  • Books for the Professional 164
  • 5 - Gender in Children's Literature 167
  • Books for the Professional 195
  • III - Ways of Doing Literature *
  • 6 - Interpreting Literature Through Writing 201
  • Books for the Professional 222
  • 7 - Interpreting Literature Through the Visual Arts 225
  • Books for the Professional 252
  • 8 - Interpreting Literature Through Drama 255
  • Books for the Professional 281
  • Epilogue: How like the Mind 284
  • References 290
  • Credit List 306
  • Index 309
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