Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales

By Kotsopoulos, Patsy | Herizons, Spring 1999 | Go to article overview

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales


Kotsopoulos, Patsy, Herizons


MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL: WOMEN WRITERS EXPLORE THEIR FAVORITE FAIRY TALES

Mirrors, like fairy tales, can distort reality or they can reflect truths. In the collection of essays, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, these writers explore the double-sided nature of the fairy tale's relationship to women and girls. Growing up, some of them experienced fairy tales as transformative and resistant, while others found them oppressive and reactionary. What becomes clear is that the context of each writer's personal experience politicized her reading of the fairy tale in a unique way.

The best essays in this collection consciously explore the connection between the writer's emotional life and her affinity for a particular tale. Julia Alvarez recounts Scheherazade's importance to her as a girl raised in a family struggling to overthrow a dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. For Alvarez, Scheherazade represents defiance and survival under oppressive circumstances. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni chooses The Princess in the Palace of the Snakes to recall her girlhood in Calcutta and her subsequent move to America. Divakaruni likens immigrant experience to the moment when the princess leaves behind the palace below ground for the unknown world above: "For the rest of her life she will belong nowhere."

Finally, bell hooks explains her childhood fascination with fairy tales as arising from her obsession with "the idea of justice-the insistence in most tales that the righteous would prevail. …

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