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1 : FEMALE AGENCY AND SUBVERSIVE MESSAGES IN FAIRY TALES OF THE TRADITIONAL EUR OPEAN CANON TALE TYPE AT 425A BY MARISA REICHERT A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Dr. Miriam Wallace Sarasota Florida May 2011
2 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Fir st and foremost, I would like to sincerely thank my thesis sponsor Dr. Miriam Wallace, for her help and support in guiding me through this process and making it a lot more manageable. Your perspective giving and reassurances were especially appreciated (haha)! I'd further like to thank my other committee members, Dr. Jocelyn Van Tuyl and Dr. Wendy Sutherland, for their interesting questions and validation of my hard work at my Baccalaureate Examination I felt like a legitimate academician, it was cool! Thanks also go to my thes is tutorial fellows, especially my also roommate Nikki Robinson, who helped me stay motivated and productive and was generally useful and good for my morale. I also want to thank my advisor for my first through third years Dr.John Newman, who got me through a l ot and whose support meant a great deal to me I'd also like to thank a few of my friends, specifically two groups: the people in 20Death are collectively the first gro up; you guys helped me get work done and procrastinate in equal amounts, and your support at my Bacc meant a lot. The second group are the people who showed up at my Bacc when I didn't expect it. I planned for a dozen people and got over 30 with stand ing room only. That kind of rocked my world, and I thank you all for caring and for your kind words before and after. Further honorable mentions go to Ethan Urbanczyk and Roger Butterfield for their late night hanging out or study sessions and Taco Bell runs during my time at New College, David Rosensteel,who would text me randomly to remind me to do my thesis work, and Danielle Korngold, who i s generally an awesome roommate I'd also like to thank a few of the scholars I cited h eavily in my research here. That might sound kind of weird, but some of these people were so influential on this thing and had theories that were so awesome, I feel obliged to acknowledge them. Ruth Bottigheimer and Maria Tatar will probably never read this, but anybody who does should know they're pretty darn cool, as is Alison Lurie. Marcia Lieberman and Jack Zipes can go hang. Finally, I know everybody does this, but I might not ever win or accom plish anything else major in my life, so I want to take the opportunity to say this here. Thank you to my mother, Midge Tutt Reichert,who not onl y gave birth to me, but also was kind enough to clothe, feed and house me for most of my life, as well as support me emotionally and financially. Had she not coaxed life into me, nurtured by her own very flesh and blood, I would not have been able to then gain cognitive functioning and eventually write this thesis.Thanks Mom you rock. One final thing I'd like to say: if you're a New College student or thesis student and are reading this in the Thesis Room or on the like to take this opportunity to give you this message: It Gets Better! Your thesis year, and New College in general, are survivable, although you'll go throu gh lots of moments of not believing it. Enjoy the Bay, break some rules, ditch your work when you shouldn't once in a while, and if you're freaking out about your classes and feeling unable to be what you need or want to be, remember that at least you got into New College, and that's pretty cool in and of itself. Finally, I leave you, my reader, with two final thoughts. The first is this : Quidquid Latine dictum sit altum sonatur .The second is : DFT BA and DBAD. -Marisa Reichert 5 /12/11.
3 Table of Contents Acknowledgements ................................ ................................ ................................ .......................... ii Table of Contents ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................ iii Abstract ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... iv Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 1 Section I -The Cult ural Context ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 9 What is a Fairy Tale, and What Makes a Fairy Tale? ................................ .......................... 9 What Is A Tale Type? What Is This Tale Type, and Where Does It Come From? .............. 16 Marriage ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................ 22 What Is Marriage? ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 26 Tale Type AT 425A ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 28 Section II The Tales ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 33 East of the Sun and West of the Moon A Prototype ................................ ...................... 34 The Singing, Soaring Lark A Prime Example of Female Agency ................................ ...... 42 Brown Bear of Norway Are There Really Two People In This Marriage? ...................... 48 The Hoodie Crow Unabashed Agency ................................ ................................ ........... 53 The Enchanted Pig Demonstrating Clearly The Complexity Of The Question ............... 61 In Summation of the Tales ................................ ................................ ................................ 68 Conclusi on ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 70 Works Cited ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 73
4 "FEMINIST FAIRY TALES" : FEMALE AGENCY AND SUBVERSIVE MESSAGES IN FAIRY TALES OF THE TRADITIONAL EUROPEAN CAN ON TALE TYPE AT 425A Marisa Reichert New College of Florida 2011 ABSTRACT The thesis is situated in the context of previous feminist literary critique of fairy tales, attempting to answer common questions of whether fairy t ales can be considered "feminist" or pro woman. The author uses tale type AT 425A from the traditional European canon of fairy tales to examine this question and attempt to answer it. This tale type, The Search for the Lost Husband, is b ased on the plot structure and themes of Apuleius's second century AD work, The Tale of Cupid and Psyche and is a story about arranged marriage from the wife's perspective. The thesis first discusses the history of the fairy tale genre, with an empha sis on its frequent uses in socialization purposes and in giving voice to women write rs. It then goes on to discuss the history of marriage in early Modern European history, with the goal of establishing a cultural historical context and to enable an app roach from the angle of cultural specificity. The tale type itself is then discussed, with attention given to why this tale type might be a likely site for female agency and the female voice to be displayed. The second section of th e thesis deals with close readings of five selected variants of the tale type, each chosen for different contributions they can make for or against the argument for the tale type's progressive message. M ultiple possible interpretations are examined for how a
5 modern reader might answer the question of the tale type and how a reader in the potential original audiences might answer it. The final conclusion drawn from these analyses is that the question is ultimately too complex and open to too many different interpretations based on reading and reader to answer simply. The thesis ends with the conclusion that readers should be careful in asking and attempting to answer these questions because of the multiple possibilities and ambiguity in approaching them. A final note is made of th e significance of the genre of fairy tales to feminist dialog, with a hope that research such as is performed in the thesis will work toward the goal of revitalizing popular interest in, and positive opinion of, the genre. Dr. Miriam Wallace, Sponsor Division of the Humanities
6 Introduction Fairy tales have been used for socialization purposes since their invention as a genre From the French salons in the late seventeenth century, to the Grimms collection in the first half of the nineteenth century, and on into modern times, where fairy tales are referenced in creating plucky, self reliant heroines, authors have consciously used fairy tales to model behavior both to children and adults. Recognizing this common use for the genre Simone de Beauvoir referenced f a i r y t a l e s in The Second Sex in 1949, and Angela Carter penned h er own t a l e s or rewrote conventional o n e s to reflect the i d e a l s o f t h e empowered woman of the late twentieth century. However, fairy tales have been read both as serving a conservative socializing purpose in terms of gender as agents in creating passive women modeled on Snow White and Sleeping Beauty for instance and as potentially libratory b y s c h o l a r s s u c h a s A l i s o n L u r i e As Dona ld Haase writes in his preface to Fairy Tales and Feminism ... o ne of the achievements of feminist fairy tale scholarship has been to reveal how women have for three hundred years, at least quite intentionally used the fairy tale to engage questions of gender and to create tales spoken or written differently f rom those told or penned by men viii ix) While fairy tale scholarship had been around since the Grimms, the second wave of feminism brought with it a new focus on critiquing the folklore canon that western audiences new perspective in an older field of scholarship that, essentially, fairy tales get a bad rap. She argued that, because fairy tales often do portray strong, empowered women, they should be read to c ( "Fairy Tale Liberation" 42).
7 Marcia R Lieberman responded in 1972's "Someday My Prince Will Come: Female ste pmothers, antagonists who create trouble for good, passive, innocent female protagonists but Lurie had already stated in her previous articles that the tales which are most widely read to children and disseminated in other ways in modern American culture primarily, the ones Disney has adapted are ones which have gained popularity through patriarchal disseminators precisely because they preach societally licensed ide als of femininity. Lurie argues that these are only a handful of the tales considered part of the traditional canon that is, those collected and popularized by familiar disseminators such as the Grimms and Perrault and that tales that haven't been included in these collections are often full of strong heroines who take an active part in their destinies. Lieberman answered that this is a moot point, because the most popular tales are the ones with which modern American children are most familiar and which th us have the most effect on their acculturation to society. Karen E Rowe which created a more complicated picture of the use of fairy tales in acculturating girls and women, arguing that romantic interactions in romance and their behavior toward men, but also pointing out that since the feminist movement, women have made a conscious effort, albeit with mixed success, to distan ce themselves from the idealizations of romance portrayed in fairy tales and other romantic literature. Carolyn G Heilbrun then responded by noting that audiences of a story do not always sympathize with only fictional members of their sex; a little girl i s just as likely to identify with a male protagonist, and vice versa. Colette Dowling's 1981 book The Cinderella suggested that, rather than being purposed
8 for teaching children, fairy tales might mirror women' s already existing internal worlds and experiences, acknowledging that, while we might aspire to lofty ideals, we often fall short of them in practice. These three articles further complicate the question of whether fairy tales have a positive or negative impact on children and adult audiences, a necessarily complex answer to such a simple question. This d ialogue extended into the 1980s (most notably with Jack Zipes's Don't Bet on the Prince and his other contributions to the field) and 1990s, and by the ea rly 2000s had started to involve queer theory as well, : Queercripped By 2004, Haase and others were feeling it was time to recap and ref resh the field by publishing Fairy Tales and Feminism so muc h had the field grown now yields 1525 results 1 Lurie and Lieberman's debate in particular triggered a decades long argument about the merits of fairy tales as far as portrayals of women go. The bot tom line is that, to rephrase Haase, women have always used fairy tales as a genre in which they can explore gender and romantic roles, speak to their own realities apart from the male dominated genres of literature, and model for others what they think is an ideal, or sometimes, a reality. Beginning with their origins in the salons of up per class France in the reign of Louis XIV, fairy tales served as an outlet for women to give express their realities and hopes for society, creating a female centric dialo gue with other writers separate, for the most part, from men. The more traditionally accepted forms of literature and media philosophical, political and social treatises, drama and most forms of literature were dominated by men, giving little voice or legi t i macy to female writers, who, if they did publish, often had to do so by 1 On 3/12/11 at 2:00pm.
9 pretending to be male. Society frowned on women novelists and Mary Wollenstonecraft was disgraced for daring to enter the field of philosophical soc ial treatises with her o f the Rights of Woman but these sugary little short stories about fairies and girls who won their desired suitors seemed harmless enough, so by the very virtue of not being taken seriously, women could use the stories to illustrate their vi ews and share their opinions with each other. The tales seemed innocent and simple enough that, whether directly imported or filtered through a process of oral storytelling among peasant s, they were eventually adapted for children after all, in the mainstr eam male mind of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there was little difference between a child and a woman Editors had only to remove the salacious parts they had picked up in transmission and what was once a tool for women to share their worldview and thoughts on femininity turned into a way for men to construct femininity, whether they had the conscious intent to do so or not. Until the romantici zation of childhood in the nineteenth century and the accompanying development of a market t ow ards children far from being merely fodder for nurseries, fairy tales had often been used by adults to explore and examine th eir own lives and experiences. Oftentimes, vestiges of a female voice remai overlooked by editors or buried to the point where some examination is needed to rediscover them, but when one does so, one finds more to the story and it s message than meets the eye. The current academic study of this phenomenon is a further extension of women's attempts to r eact to the world around them and claim back voices for themselves from a society they perceive as alienating. To oversimplify things just a l i ttle, there are essentially two camps in this debate: one that treats so called traditional fairy tales (if there can be said to be such a thing) as sites of women's social power, or having the potential to be so, and calls for scholars to find and bring
10 these stories back into the light as tools of women's empowerment and representatives of a legacy of female social history The other sees so called traditional fairy tales as tools of a patriarchal society to socialize young girls into obedience and dependency, and calls for a new cano n to be written with values more heartily endorsed by various forms of western femi nisms allowing the old one to be abandoned. My intention with this thesis is to add to that dialogue on the pro traditional fairy tale side. While there have been a plethora of books that attempt to cater to the second camp by re interpreting so called cl assical fairy tales in ways that are appealing to twentieth and twenty first century children, these tales often feel less than authentic. Current notions of authorship of a particular tale, whatever they believe that to be, and whether they have actually been exposed to it or not. This reduces the impact of offerings that have been designed with the goal of filling a perceived dearth in fairy tale literature: modern aud In addition to this, there persists the perception among both laymen and scholars that the so called traditional fairy tales are undesirable because they teach patriarchal values and expectations. This perception is at the root of the debate mentioned earlier, and is one of the reasons children ar e often not read fairy tales in modern America, or, if they are, are read adaptations or reactions without ever actually being directly exposed to what that text is reacting to. Whi le what we consider the canon of Western fairy tales certainly does follow this unfortunate trend, accepting and perpetuating this perception sho r tchanges fairy tales in a few ways. Firstly, it assumes that what we call the canonical tales those by the Gri mms, Perrault, Jacobs, and sometimes certain others such as Andrew Lang and Hans Christian Andersen are the only fairy tales that exist. In other words, it fails to acknowledge the countless tales that
11 have been lost to history by the selection process of both individual collectors and of collective societies, which ch erry pick for survival and propa gation the tales that suit their purposes. The modern layperson likely knows the names of Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, but has likely never heard of Benedikte Naube rt or Juliana Horatia Ewing, two nineteenth century women writers who reacted to what they saw as women being stifled in a genre that should be theirs (Haase viii; Talairach Vielmas 272 296 ) Likewise, a decent percentage of the population can identify Cha rles Perrault with the version of Cinderella we are most familiar with, but most people don't know the names of the various conteuses who were his colleagues. This selection process is the reason. Refraining from reading fairy tales because of perceptions of sexism or reading only the most well known out of the idea that they are the only ones that matter allows the misconception to self perpetuate, reinforcing the idea through lack of contradictory evidence The second way in which the perception that fair y tales are inappropriate for modern readership harms fairy tales is that it encourages the idea that the way we live now is the most correct way to live, and ignores cultural specificity Nineteenth century Germany and England were very different places f rom twenty first century America and indeed, from each other and it is a logical fallacy to hold these cultures to our own standards instead of theirs. When we examine whether a fairy tale sends a progressive message to its audience, we need to situate tha t question in the actual audience it was intended for, in the needs and context s of the original time and place. Therefore, when approaching fairy tales in the context of what their messages are and their effect on an audience, a cultural historical approa ch is preferred. Having said all this, I propose to examine the messages sent by several versions of a tale in their original cultural contexts in order to evaluate whether each tale is pro woman or pro patriarchy, both in the modern reader's eyes and that of the intended audience. The tale type I
12 will use for this is AT 425 A, classified by the Aar ne Thompson Index of Folklore as The Search for the Lost Husband. This tale type is particularly useful for this purpose because, as Linda D gh in the sym bolic language of the magic tale, this is the story of marriage in traditional patriarchal soci ety; it could be anyone's story 77). Since it is a tale about marriage, and all women were (and often still are) expected to enter into a monogamous, lifelong marriage to a man at some point in their lives, it was used by various storytellers to expound on what they saw as the realities of married life and to portray ideals to emulate. Since so much of a woman's role in life was to be a wife and so much of gender socialization was aimed at producing desirable spouses, this makes it a ready vehicle for the storyteller to relate his or her views on g ender as well. Concerning patriarchal versus pro woman texts, I will use Peter Barry definiti on of in his explication of feminist literary criticism; he defines it as a cultural mindset in both men and women that perpetuates sexual inequalit y (Barry 122). The opposite of this paradigm, I will call pro woman or feminist, and define these by how much a tale allows its female protagonist agency. Agency essentially comes down to the question of choice namely, these three questions concerning it: Does the character have choice? What choices is she given? Which of those choices does she ultimately make, and what might be her motivations for doing so? Fairy tales are stylistically sparse in their descriptions of characters and their inner thoughts, but precisely for this reason, rather than being unable to know what a character's motivation might be, we can use them to speculate on why people in general in different situations act as they do, showing not individualized realities but generalized trend s of human tendencies that speak to us all. When I use the term it will be to refer to the idea of a tale having one meaning to one audience, but another for another audience or a different reading. Hence the possibility of a tale having hidd en meanings or messages disguised in a story that can be told
13 openly without fear of reproach something which might be useful to women chafing under the expectations of wifehood in earlier times. Furthermore, the structure of the tale requires its own sho rthand. The protagonist will be referred to as either the wife, the girl (when she is not yet married), and, obviously, the protagonist. The husband will always be the husband or, where he is a prince, the prince, and where there is competition from anothe r woman for the husband, this woman will be known as the false bride or the princess. The prohibition refers to one of the def i ning traits of these tales, that is, that there is always some unusual and unreasonable prohibition made at the start of the marr iage which the wife inevitably breaks. When I talk about the quest, it will refer to the element of AT 425 A tales as distinct from others in the AT 425 family wherein the wife goes on a long journey, often filled with tasks to complete or culminating in a re velation of some sort at the end, to win her husband back. AT 425 A is a tale type that, while not very well known among American audiences, is unique among fairy tales in allowing a married woman to go on a quest. In all other fairy tales of European origin that I have read, whenever a female character acts in a savior or protector role towards another, or goes on a quest, that character an unmarried girl of marriageable age who concludes the tale by winning a desirable husban d. When a woman married in early modern society, she was supposed to give over her identity and autonomy to her marriage and husband, and from then on act as a support system for him. Consequently, there are almost no tales about wives having adventures an d displaying agency in the European canon. The very fact that this tale type exists at all can be seen as subversive in itself. It is a perfect point for discussing female agency in fairy tales, and, in a broader sense, the uses of fairy tales in the cultu res they are told in.
14 Section I The Cultural Context What is a Fairy Tale, and What Makes a Fairy Tale? Before I introduce the reader to the history of fairy tale studies, the question of what a fairy tale is has to be answered. This question is harder to answer than one would suppose; for instance, what separates a fairy tale from a folktale? Does it have to have fairies in it? Is it necessarily meant for an audience of children? Even among fairy tale scholars, debate on this subject continues, with lit tle consensus. Jack Zipes, for instance, one of the foremost writers in the field, uses the brief length of a tale, along with the inclusion of certain motifs and plot structures, to determine what is a fairy tale and what is not ( The Oxford Companion to F airy Tales xvii xix ). Ruth B Bottigheimer another important fairy tale scholar, however, points out that motifs and plot structures of fairy tales occur in other genres of literature, and that these things by themselves do not designate a story as a fairy tale, although they do contribute to our understanding of it as such. In her book Fairy Tales: A New History she defines a fairy tale helpfully 2 She classifies a fairy tale as a short tale under the umbrella term of folktale, which involves magic but ta kes place primarily in the common human realm, and usually ends happily (3 17). Additionally, they do not have to necessarily involve fairies, and are often seen as distinct from fairy stories stories specifically about fairy kind that are set in the fairy world and have 2 It should be noted that, while this section is highly dependent on Bottigheimer's book, her most immediately relevant theory has been highly contentious in the field of f airy tale scholarship ( see Jennif er Howard ).While the theory is contentious, I found the book highly persuasive and backed by exhaustive evidence. The mo re traditional model relies on a somewhat Jungian perspective which seems highly unlikely in the face of current prevailing theories of anthropology. Similar theories to Bottigheimer's have been put forth by other scholars, which have also been hotly cont e sted, even to the point of ruin ing c areers (see Jack Zipes's summary in the second citation in this footnote, where he rather emotionally argues against these scholars and sharply criticizes Bottigheimer). While Bottigheimer's views are controversial, she is generally a well respected scholar in the field, and I see little negative consequence to following her views in this section; if further scholarship makes her argument conclusively un l ikely, I will change my views accordingly.
15 their own conventions in that the y take place in the human world but always involve magi c (13 17). Additionally, fairy tales are separate from plain folktales in that they involve magic. Folktales occur wherever there are people to tell sto ries, but not all folktales are fairy tales. Folktales involve the common people and reflect the lives of their tellers; they are more often ab out poor people than aristocrats ( whom are involved in almost e very fairy tale one encounters), and deal with the fall the subtypes of fables and parables, as well as fairy tales and fairy stories, but it should be very clear that fairy tales are a subtype of folktales that involve magic. Magic, it shou ld be noted, can take several forms. It does not merely involve spells, such as one might see in modern fantasy novels, or people under enchantments, as occurs in can also involve magical objects, supernatural beings such as ogres or witches, talking animals or mysterious helpers. Magic can be taken to be any deviation of rules from the normal ones of the common human world, although the dev iations are notable exce Little Red Riding ability to talk, and the fact that he is able to fool Red into thinking he is her grandmother with his disguise, as well as the fact that b stomach when the huntsman rescues them (in the Grimm s version, at least), are all forms of magic (5, 13 17) It should be noted that this definition is Bottigheimer's, and that some scholars in the field use different definitions. For instance, Zipes, as I have noted, uses a broader definition of the term that makes possible inclusion of medieval wonder tales and ancient stories in the
16 genre I find Bottigheimer's definition to be more specific and useful, and the following history of fairy tale studies depends upon her definition. Zipes and other scholars, for example, would say that the tales go back to the earliest beginnings of mankind, a thesis which is difficult to support, as Bottigheimer stat es, be it s very basis is an abs (2). Fairy tale scholarship began with the Grimms. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were two brothers in early nineteenth century Germany, which then was only an amalgamation of states that were united in no f ormal way. Napoleon had recently invaded and was occupying the various German states, causing bitter resentment toward the French and a sense of German national identity to form. The brothers, who were actually primarily linguists, noted that all that the German states really had in common with each other was a shared language and folklore. With the goal of uniting the German states via nationalistic pride, the Grimms set about owed German people exemplifying German values and v lkisch ness ( Zipes, The Brothers Grimm 10 17 ) Ant h r opology was a new and developing field at the time, and the Grimms were not particularly objective in their methods. They were of course the ones deciding what values were vlkisch and as a result, the values they wanted to impart were those of the bourgeois middle class with which they themselves identified and which they valued most. They were, however, trying to ide ntify German folklore with the peasantry, whom they saw as the purest example of German ness, and from whom they believed folklore sprang from, again in its purest form (Zipes, The Brothers Grimm 25 6 4; Bottigh eimer, Fairy Tales: A New History 27 52 ). Thus while claiming to select and speak from an authentic German peasant folk sense, the Grimms imposed their own bourgeois values and interp r etations in their principles of selection and their written records. The result was a misrepresentation of their valu es and the values of the audience
17 they hoped would make their book a bestseller as belonging to an idealized peasantry that was class portrayal of it. Thus the Gri mms produced shoddy scholarship, at least according to Bottigheimer. They made assumptions for instance that folklore could be passed down orally for hundreds, even thousands of years unchanged down to the very phrasing of certain lines, or that folklore s prang directly and unmediated from the illiterate peasantry and made no attempt to question or disprove them. In fact, most of their collected tales came from oral recitations given to them not by peasants but by middle class acquaintances of theirs, whom they interviewed in the parlors of their summer homes. They assumed that the tales they were collecting had been told to the young ladies of the house by nursemaids or servants in the household, who of course would have come from the peasantry, and who wou by mid dle or upper class interference ( Fairy Tales: A New History 45 52) Bottigheimer and others 3 assert that these tales actually came from a literary lineage, derived originally from Giambattista Basil e in 1620s Naples and Giovan Francesco Straparola in Venice in the 1550s. Basile was writing a bawdy parody of the Decameron by Boccaccio in a mockery of high minded literature of the contemporary fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and elements of his stor ies can be traced back to Medieval or even ancient sources. His contribution to the creation of fairy tales minded style and goals into a crude celebration of vulgarity to create tales that, while derived from pre existing motifs, were simple and engaging enough in their plot structure that they were found useful by other writers. He also allowed some of his tales to be about people of the middle and lower classes, 3 Bottigheimer mentions F J W Brakelman and Albert Wesselski in the nineteenth cen tury, and more recently Rudolf Schenda, Satu Apo, and Diane Dugaw.
18 instead of just the nobility, and used coarse Neapo litan dialect instead of stylized Italian or Latin, making his audience lower on the social ladder than those for whom tal e collections usually aimed ( 79 91 ). Straparola, on the other hand, was writing a new formula of tales that spoke to his audience: the poor urban dwellers of Venice who had come to the cities seeking upward social mobility and who were finding it increasingly out of reach. These city immigrants often lived in crushing poverty, but within full view of the nobility of Venice, who lived ext ravagantly and seemed to have everything they could need or want. Laws written a few decades before Straparola began writing prohibited the marriage of the Venetian upper classes to people of lower social station, making that possibility as a route of soci response to this was to create tales where poor, hardworking youths were able to overcome their bad luck and marry into comfort via magic. There was precedence for tales about magic in the literature of that century and could be suspended in order to give a protagonist a happy ending was viable. These tales were sold in cheap volumes that the middle and lower classes could afford, and since literacy was fairly wide spread in this time and place, the books sold well, offering out of luck would be social climbers cheap entertainment and escapism (91 96). Bottigheimer distinguishes between the two types of fairy tales Straparola wrote: rise tales and restoration tales ( 8 13). She says that restoration tales, or tales where a well born protagonist falls in status and, after undergoing trials, regains social stature, had been around for centuries and were the predominant form of entertainment as typified by medieval romances (97 101). Straparola's aforementioned new creation comprised of middle or lower class protagonists who solved their problems through marriage wh ich was enabled by magic
19 (17 22). The rise fairy tale is now the most common type of fairy tale in Euro pean folklore due to the rise of the middle class and bourgeois values (108). It is possible that AT 425 A tales are less well known to American audiences for the reason that they are closer to restoration tales than rise tales, as is suggested by the fact t hat instead of ending in marriage, they begin with it. This is one trait of this tale typ e that makes these tales unique: rather than marriage being a reward, it is a journey or adventure in itself, full of pitfalls to negotiate and something worthwhile to preserve. This unique trait also makes AT 425 tales inherently more subversive than fairy tales that use marriage as a solution to problems. Those tales treat marriage in an idealized way, while these tales are more realistic about the difficulties of mari tal relationships. In other tales, the heroine's problems are solved by her alliance with or dependence on others, whereas here, the story celebrates the cooperat ion of the couple, and the quest celebrates the self reliance of the wife, along with a subver sion of gender norms in who is doing the saving. Straparola's chapbooks eventually made their way to France in the seventeenth century, where rich, upper class writers often women were capitalizing on the popular pastime of the nobles of telling contes de f es Ladies in Versailles would spend part of their day recounting tales they had heard to each other or making up their own, and there were numerous writers who sold stories in periodicals or books to fill this market. Some of these writers, most notably Charles show striking similarities although the French writers heavily sanitized their versions for the sak e of their young female readers (53 74 ) This is the point w here fairy tales sometimes take on didactic functions, where they usually did not have them before. Similarly, Zipes locates the beginning of fairy tales as children' s entertainment in the 1720 30s (Zipes, Fairy Tale as Myth 31)
20 and t by Madame de Villeneuve in 1740, but was adapted into a shorter form that was published in a magazine for young women by Madame Le Prince de Beaumont in 1756. This tale, which fits into tale type AT 425 C, a sibling of AT 425 A that does not include the quest element, was explicitly meant to teach young girls that a marriage should not be based on romantic love but on mutual respect and friendship (Leprince de Beaumont 40) These French tales eventually were translated into G erman books published in the various German states. So the fact that the Grimms wanted to use these tales to exemplify German values distinct from those of the French occupying presence is quite ironic. The emphasis on imagining the tales as stemming from a folk or peasant tradition is in direct conflict with the reality of the court and elite origins of most of the tales. So what this tells us about fairy tales is that whether their vlkisch ness was authentic or contrived, the very composition and collect ion of fairy tales has been intertwined with their function of conveying cultural messages. Nevertheless, once the Grimms began the first publication of what would be several editions of their collection from 1812 to 1857, the tales were further disseminat ed to England, America, and the various colonies of European countries, where they often took on further culturally specific messages and flavors The second consequence of the Grimms collecting and disseminating the tales is that the Grimms set out to make the tales appropriate for children. Prior to this, while the tales had often been bowdlerized and given didactic elements, they were primarily by adults for adult audiences, and so contained anywhere from discreet allusions to sexuality within the confines of marriage to full out stripteases designed to indulge the audience in bawdy humor Moon and Talia The tales often contained vulgar language and had protagonists who were decidedly not moral paragons to be held up as examples, and family conflict, whether
21 vicious rivalries between mother figures and daughters or even incestuous desires, was common. The Grimms cleaned up the tales they collected of all these undesirable elements and added moral lessons for children. As a result, the tales began to be taught in German classrooms, memorized by students, and featured in primers for children of other nations. Folklorists began to collect tales in anthologies meant specifically for nurseries, and fairy tales began to be associated with childhood. By the earliest decades of the twentieth century, around the world and ed ited them for children, were not only staples of childhood but bestsellers ( Zipes, Why Fairy Tales 41 90; Fairy Tale As Myt h 17 48 ) Since the Grimms, there was very little change in the way fairy tale scholarship was approached until the end of the twenti eth century. Scholars tended to base their work on folklore and fairy tales on the assumptions made by the Grimms until the 1970s or 1980s, when decade of inte as a legitimate object of scholarly attention helped by climbing sales and the success with adult readers of such books as the Harry Potter series newed attention comes a re examination of the role of fairy tales in pedagogy or, more precisely, the debate over whether they should have a role in such. It is my hope that this thesis will remind readers of the relevance of fairy tales not only to childr en, but to the adults they were initially intended for as well. What Is A Tale Type? What Is This Tale Type and Where Does It Come From ? Fairy tales of type AT 425 A are based on Apuleius in the second century
22 narrative in a novel length story. In it, Psyche is a young princess who is so beautiful that it causes her problems. Not only are men too intimidated to ask her hand in marriage, they even wo rship her as an incarnation of Venus, the goddess of love. This sends Venus into a jealous rage. She sends her son, Cupid, to prick Psyche with his arrows and make her fall in love with someone horrible as revenge, but he accidentally pricks his own finger with the arrow and falls in love with her himself (Apuleius, The Tale of Cupid and Psyche 8 9) ( 10 11 ). Preparing her for a wedding march that seems m ore like a funeral, they offer her up on the prescribed mountaintop, where a wind carries her down into an enchanted valley. Here she finds a house that is full of riches and splendor, staffed by invisible, silent servants that cater to her every whim. At night, her husband comes to her, but always in the pitch is (10 15) Psyche is happy until she realizes she is lonely and asks her husband if her sisters can visit. He warns her t o be careful about them, but she persists, and sure enough, when they visit they realize that Psyche has to be married to a god, as that is the only explanation for the situation. Feeling jealous, they make her suspicious of him so that she agrees to shine a light on him that night and use the light to kill him with a knife. However, when she shines the light on her husband, she discovers him to be none other than the handsome Cupid, and falls madly in love with him. But her lamp sputters and a few drops of oil land on him, waking him up. Because palace (14 24) Psyche follows him and turns herself over to Venus, who says she will let Psyche see Cupid if Psyche completes four tasks of increasing difficulty. Psyche does so with help from
23 supernatural sources, but gives in to curiosity at the end of the fourth task by opening a jar that Venus has forbidden her to look into which causes her to fall into a coma like sleep until Cupid rescues her. He then carries her to Mt. Olympus, where he implores Zeus for help. So their marriage can be legitimate, Zeus makes Psyche a goddess and they live happily ever after, with Venus no longer threatened now th at the marriage is legitimized ( 39 49 ) This tale was part of a classical text that was widely circulated throughout the Middle and early Modern Ages as is evidenced by a French vernacular edition that wo uld have been accessible to upper class French wome n in 1648 (Apuleiu s, Les Metamorphosis ) Because classical literature was greatly admired and the basis for learning in educated Europe, the tale would have been circulated all throughout Europe and commonly known by literate people in various regions. This was the basis fo r its dissemination and eventual adaptation. Bottigheimer tales that were then published and eventually repeated orally ( Fairy Tales, A New History 53 74) The tales that originated from this prototype all have several traits in common. They begin with a heroine, sometimes a poor girl but usually a princess, and almost always the youngest of three girls, who finds herself betrothed to an undesirable husband. Usually, this husband is some kind of repugnant animal bears, snakes, lions and pigs are common but occasionally he is merely a remote figure whom she is not allowed to know the identity of and cannot see (in this case, he comes to her only at night in pit ch black). Sometimes the girl is coerced into the marriage; sometimes she reluctantly agrees in order to fulfill some obligation; and sometimes she happily agrees, either of her own volition or, again, to fulfill some terms of obligation. The tale, at its core, however, is about arranged marriage. The girl is put in an
24 unenviable situation with an undesirable husband, but agrees to uphold her half of the arrangement and eventually grows to be happy in it. Early on, if her husband is an animal, he informs he r that he is only an animal by day and a man at night, due to a curse that has been put on him. The man is desirable; he is often a prince, sometimes a god, but always very handsome and usually wealthy. He does, however, put forth a prohibition that she is to follow: if he is enchanted as an animal, she has to allow him to transform into his animal form in the day; if he is unseen, she is forbidden to see him or ask who he is. She is usually not told what will happen if she breaks this prohibition, only tha t that they will be separated. The girl is happy and usually materially provided for in a splendid fashion, but grows lonely and misses her family. She asks to be allowed to visit with them, and her husband warns her to be on her guard, but eventually allows her to either return home or have her family come visit her. When this happens, her sisters, mother, or both are invariably alarmed by the situation and make her suspicious. They convince her to break the proh ibition, and when she does, she thinks her problems are solved. Her husband, upon finding out, immediately reproaches her and only then tells her the full details of the curse, before being forced to be separated from her. The wif e is distraught, but then vows to follow him to break the curse. Sometimes, before the prohibition is broken, the wife is happy until they have one or more child, all of whom are stolen by some unknown force. When this plot element occurs, the husband admonishes her that there is n othing they can do, and the wife, despite her shock at his acceptance, reluctantly obeys his command to cease her mourning. Usually this causes some resentment by the wife toward the husband, although it is usually latent and mitigated by her love and obed ience. When this plot element occurs, the wife is given more reason to resent her
25 circumstances and want to change them, and her disobedience is portrayed more sympathetically. She follows his trail for a set amount of time, anywhere from three days to seven years, or until a certain event has come to pass for example, she wears out a pair of iron shoes by walking and encounters two to four helpers along her way. These helpers are usually either old women, supernatural forces such as The Sun and Moon or ogres or else elderly mothers of supernatural forces. They tell her to go onward to find more help and provide her with magical gifts to aid her. She finally arrives at a castle where she finds out her husband, who has been bewitched to forget her, is staying and is betrothed to the princess who lives there. The wife appeals either to the false bride or to the mother in law to be with her magical gifts, which are either made of gold or in some other way highly appealing, bargaining for money o r gold, but for flesh and she wants to spend a night in the bedchamber of the prince. The false bride or mother in law is reluctant, but her greed overcomes her prudence and she allows the wife into the chamber. The wife soon finds, howev er, that her husband has been drugged to stay asleep, and although she weeps and sings and pleads next to him all night long, he doesn't wake up or respond to her at all. This goes on for two nights, each night the wife giving up one of her magical gifts i n exchange for the visit, but the prince has not been completely unaware of her. He mentions to a neutral third party usually a guest servant or hostage at the castle what he thinks he has been hearing in his chamber for the past few nights he thinks it i s the wind in the trees creeping into his dreams. But the third party tells him a woman has been staying in his chamber and he has been given sleeping potion to remain unaware. That night, the prince resolves to
26 only pretend to drink the sleeping potion, a nd when the wife comes into the room for the third time her final chance the bewitchment that has made him forget her is undone, and they are happily reunited. Most tales, at this point, have the couple sneaking out of the castle and returning home, but so me have the husband setting up a cunning test for his in laws to be that he knows his wife can win in order to allow them to go free. Additionally, if the couple has children, they usually return to wherever the kidnapped children are staying and take them home or simply return to the children who have been staying in the couple's origi nal dwelling place. W hen the latter happens, the tale usually provides no explanation for why the children were left behind or in whose care they were, and usually remarks th at they have grown in their parent's absence. Strangely, none of these tales about marriage seems very worried about the outcome of the childre n The cou p le is then restored to their h igh status, and usually inherit either the husband or the wife's famil thereafter The husband is released from his obligation to transform into an animal or remain unseen, and the wife is free d from unreasonable restrictions on her marriage. A few symbols recur across tales, usually in the form of the gifts the wife is given to undertake her quest, or the tasks laid out for her to prove herself the true bride. Gifts of magical or golden fruit are common, indicative perhaps of fertility; other gifts include spinni ng wheels, carding combs, or hand reels made of solid gold, underlying the importance of tasks that use these tools to a wife's role. In the German oar ing Lark the wife bribes the false bride with a golden hen and her chicks, and in the Romani an Pig she is given chicken bones in bundles, which eventually help her build a ladder to access her husband's house. Chickens and especially hens are traditionally equated with domesticity that is, the skills
27 required to maintain a house and home i n several European cultures, so their presence as a way for a wife to regain her husband is appropriate in proving her ability to fulfill a wife's duties Chickens as well as pigs, which are another form the husband often takes when he is enchanted a s an animal were also cheap and common food sources in medieval and early modern Europe. Chickens provid ed eggs, giving food without necessitating butchering them and pigs were easy to keep, since they could be fed leftovers and garbage, so they were food sources of choice for the poor. The significance of these common and lowly animal s to the stories is a culturally added touch that makes the tales relevant to peasant audiences. Sometimes the magical objects are supernaturally splendid dresses or jewels th at the wife trades to the false bride. These items symbolize the wooing element of female courtship, and appearance's role in it. The items not only ensure tha t she is the most attractive pe rson in the room, but imply that she has resources that far outstr ip those of the common people, bo th of which qualify her as a desirable mate reconfir ming that she is the best choice for the husband's bride Additionally, Maria Tatar tells us in a footnote to the story that when the wife appeals to natural forces that give her these gifts for help, this is rooted in pagan beliefs tying femininity into the energy of nature ( Asbjrnsen and Moe 193). These pagan elements are, again, rooted in peasant adaptations of the tales, as peasant life was often more tolerant of lingering pagan influence than middle or upper class life was. Marriage This is a tale type that is all about marriage. Most fairy tales end in marriage, with the union providing a happy ending or being a means to the increased s ocial status or economic security that the character lacks at the beginning. This tale type, though, is unique among what we have classified as fairy tales for the purposes of this thesis in that it begins with marriage,
28 and that the dynamics of the relati onship is what makes up the substance and plot of the tale, like modern novels about relationships. While folktales about marriage are plentiful, fairy tales about it are rarer, due to the popularity of Straparola's formula in which tales end in marriage as rewards or as ways to facilitate happy endings. Tale type AT 425 A, though, is distinctly a fairy tale with its use of magic, despite its deviation from the pattern. This tale type begins with marriage and details the relationship's progression, its pitfa lls, reconciliations and eventual normalization and legitimiz Moreover, it is specifically a tale type about arranged marriage. Other fairy tale marriages come about through love, when a common man or woman falls in love wi th another commoner and they marry, or as a reward, when a commoner wins the hand of a royal through accomplishing some task or through the use of magic. Until the early modern era, arranged marriage was a norm in Europe, and such marriages were usually ar ranged by the parents of the spouses to be with the two future partners often not even meeting until the wedding itself or right before it. This put people in the strange situation of being entered very suddenly into a macy with a complete Tatar puts it ( "Beauties and Beasts" 141). In marriages prior to the Enlightenment period, husbands had complete authority over the form of gos sip, fines, and public shaming rituals, and wives who talked back to their husbands could suffer similar consequences (Coontz 141). While things had been less restricting for women in early medieval times and in certain places, by the middle or late mediev al ages, European women often legally lost all right to their property when marrying, and their husbands owned all income they made during their marriage. Women also lost legal status when they married and had to rely upon their husbands to represent them (113); and because the husband
29 and wif e were legally a single person, if a wife was charged with debts, slander or legal misdeeds, her husband was held responsible for her (141). Additionally, until the Enlightenment, it was the norm for a man to beat his wife for disobedience, although he was expected to use physical violence only as a last resort, and he had the prerogative to demand sex when he wanted it, as part of her wifely duties (141 2). He could engage in extramarital affairs quite openly, and she was expected to tolerate it, but an unfaithful wife was grounds for divorce and ruin (140). Finally, after the thirteenth century, divorce was almost impossible to obtain, at least for peasants and the middling levels of society, so if one was in an unple asant marriage, one had no way out. As William Cobbett wrote as late as 1829, [A woman] makes a surrender, and absolute surrender, of her liberty, for the joint lives of the parties; she gives the husband the absolute right of using her to live in what place, and in what manner and what society, he pleases; she gives him the power t o take from her, and to use, for his own purposes, all her goods...and, over all, she surrenders to him her person ( 157) While women and men both needed marriage to varying degrees for social legitimization at different times and in different places, wome n were more stigmatized for remaining single and yet had more to lose in marrying. Another element that cannot be overlooked is the expectation of sexual relations in a marriage. Until the Protestant Reformation, church officials often proclaimed that celi bacy and dedication to a religious life was better than marriage and the implication of being sexually active ( Coontz 121, 132). Virginity and maidenhood was so much a part of female identity that the transition to wifehood could be difficult and intimidat Cupid and Psyche
30 (Apuleius 14 ). When one s husband with one marriage services of som e European Christian traditions put it, arranged marriage or marriage to a stranger was terrifying AT 425 A tales is an exaggerated illustration of the unnerving c one has little emotional connection ( Erich Neumann verbalizes the threat thusly: Seen from the standpoint of the matriarchal world, every marriag e is a rape of Kore, the virginal bloom, by Hades, the ravishing, earthly aspect of the hostile male. From this point of view every marriage is an exposure on the mountain's summit in mortal loneliness, and a waiting for the male monster, t o whom the bride is surrendered. ( 62) This is a rather overstated metaphor, of course, but looking at the historical implications of marriage for the female, it makes more sense. For all these reasons, Tatar says that AT 425 A is an allegory of the frightening situation of women preparing for an arranged marriage. There was always the fear that one might end up trapped in a situation of lifelong dependence on someone whom one disliked, or who was in some way an unpleasant match. Tatar has this to say on the subject : In cultu res where marriages were routinely arranged by parents, the wedding/death depicted in Cupid and Psyche had to have been charged with special relevance. What girl could escape the sense of being abandoned by her parents and turned over to a monstrous creatu re with repulsive desires when she was about to be wedded to a total stranger?... By making a show of
31 Psyche's courage in meeting the unknown...and by revealing the senselessness of her fears...the tale might have subdued, if not banished, the fears of girl s on the threshold of marriage. (142) Since the tales are fairy tales, and therefore are likely to have happy endings, the couple does fall in love or at least manage to coexist happily for the early part of their marriage, and when the wife finds out the husband's identity, he is almost always a prince or someone very rich, and always handsome. The wife usually has no work to do and is waited on by supernatural servants in a grand home. These elements were meant to assuage the fears of young women listenin g to the tales who were themselves nervous about marriage Here, the cathartic uses of storytelling come to the forefront, as the story fulfills the needs of members of a society in which women were expected to very suddenly give their lives over to the co mmand of another person. What Is Marriage? Marriage exists in some form in every human society but one that is known to scholars (the Na of China) but it does so because it takes almost as many forms as there are cultures. While there is a great deal of debate on the purpose of the institution, Stephanie Coontz argues that it is primarily an economic arrangement, or was until relatively recently in human history. The way she describes it, in early societies, and arguably today as well, the act of survival consisted of so many different skills and so much work that one person simply couldn't manage to do them all by themselves. This led to partnerships between mates and gendered divisions of labor, although Coontz points out that some cultures had looser de finitions of each gender's work or less restriction on the mutability of it than others. However, Coontz points out that marriage has very different meanings in every culture; some cultures do not base marriage on economic gains or love, sex, or the upbrin ging of children. Marriages are often easily dissoluble or do not re quire any kind of formalization. All of
32 the benefits of marriage can be gained from other human relationships besides marriage. In communal living situations or family units, all members o f the group often shared equally their resources, prior t o the beginning of civilization and the growth of the idea of personal property. The idea that a man would hunt only for his own mate and offspring or that a woman would refuse to mend another's clot hing would be considered antisocial. In fact, Coontz states, the only purpose marriage serves that cannot be fulfilled by other relationships By this she means that people gain access to resources, allies, and emotional and social networks through allying themselves with other families. This led to lots of cultures exchanging women (or, in rarer cases, men) in marriage for political alliances, promises of wealth and ties of kinship. Coontz cites the Anglo Saxon En glish as cal because they often arranged marriages between feuding families to mend rifts, and Margaret Mead as reporting that what appalled a New Guinea villager about marrying within one's own family was not the incest taboo but the loss of kinship ties with another family (24 33) Indeed, what might be the strangest part of the marriage in AT 425 A stories is that nothing is known about the husband or his kin, and therefore no exchange is happening; the girl goes off into uncertain circumstan ces possibly to never see her family again, and not only is the economic function of the partnership undermined, but in some cases, so is the child bearing function. In European societies in the Middle Ages and early Modern times, marriages were most comm only arranged for practical benefit to the parties involved. Love had little to do with marriage, and indeed, the idea of basing a relationship as vital to one's future as marriage on such a transitory emotion would have been seen as shockingly stupid. Spo uses were chosen, among the upper classes, for the political ties they could bring or the alliances or land resources
33 they could provide; and among the lower classes for skill and ability to work. Fairy tales often portray women as prized for their weaving and men as prized for their hunting skill, or some other such abilities. Among both classes, physical beauty was prized because it connoted fertility, and fertile marriages could produce more children, who were a resource in themselves. Arguably, what is so unpleasant about the marriages in AT 425 A tales is that there are no in laws and uncertainty about the possibility of offspring. Tale Type AT 425 A It is important to distinguish this tale type's subtype from other variants of AT 425 In AT 425 A tales, the q uest is the main part of the narrative, whereas 425C tales omit the quest and end in the marriage, rather than begin ning there. The quest element is what interests me in this thesis because it al lows the heroine to show agency and it is uni que among European fairy tales. F ew fairy tales allow women to go on quests at all; that is men's work. Here I want to be very clear about a distinction: AT 425 A is, at its essence, about marriage, and the quests in it are all undertaken by wives. There are fairy tal es where female protagonists are allowed to undergo quests or act in a protective/rescuing role, but these protagonists are all girls or unmarried women (rarely, one sees a tale about an elderly woman or widow who outsmarts an antagonist). The married woma n's quest is quite unusual and particularly significant. When a woman married, throughout most of European history, she was expected to give up her autonomy, even her identity, to her husband. Women lost the right to hold property of their own if they marr ied, and the few professions that women were allowed, apart from assisting their husbands in a couple owned profession, were usually allowed only to unmarried women ( Coontz 1 1 5 ). A wife's main function w as to support her husband and maintain a
34 household for hi m; she was not supposed to have, as w That this narrative type exists at all, and is so recurrent, is subversive by itself. Stories arise in folklore to meet the needs of the people who tell them. The existence of these tales underlines Stephanie Coontz's assertion that, just like today, the ideal of marriage and of each spouse's role was very different from the actual reality of what was ha ppening in people's lives. Scholars have traditionally considered AT 425 A tales to be me ant to teach wifely obedience, but I argue that the tales are actually meant to side wi th the wife who not the husband who sets the commands. Instead of condemning the wife, tales of this type were meant to sympathize with the wife's diffic ult situation and justify her taking matters into her own hands. When reading these tales for the first time, modern audiences tend to be appalled at the demands laid out for the wife to meet and the fact that the reasons for them are not explained. Fairy tale scholars such as Tatar have traditionally interpreted the wife's initial observance of these rules as meant to send a message that no matter what the demands or how unreasonable they seem, a wife shou ld obey her husband's commands. Here is where schol ars begin to lament the supposedly restrictive nature of the tale type. The tale is typically read as a discourse against female curiosity and disobedience, and some of the tales explicitly have the husband reprimanding the woman for just these traits. The common interpretation is that the woman is to be faulted for not following unreasonable demands made of her, and that because of this interpretation, the tales are anti feminist. These scholars overlook one very important thing, however: the wife doesn't obey! She always breaks the prohibition and often several others that are given to her with no justification attached. Critics of the tales then emphasize the wife's punishment and quest to rectify the
35 separation as evidence that the tales are anti feminist, but here again they overlook a major point. The couple is isolated from the rest of society because of the husband's curse; they live in a remote place with little to no contact with the outside, and if anybody were to interact with find the couple's entire situation utterly bizarre adding stigma to the couple's Otherness The husband is also usually a prince who has fallen in status or been exiled because of the curse. By the wife's actions, the couple is restored to their high stat us and able to reclaim their place in society; it is because of the wife's agency and even her disobedience that the couple is legitimized. Indeed, folktales and fairy tales teaching the evils of female curiosity and wifely disobedience abound, filling sev eral whole tale types in the Aarne Thompson Tale Type Index (Aarne and Thompson) A common folktale type of this sort was the story of Patient Griselda, a virtuous wif e who passively tolerates inappropriate ly harsh treatment from her husband, which turns o ut to be a test of her faithfulness as a wife. When Griselda has suffered years of gross mistreatment by her cruel husband with meek answers of wifely duty, he reveals that he was testing her virtues as a proper wife and restores all that was taken, living happily and more respectfully with her thereafter. This was a popular tale type in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and even when retellers sometimes admitted that they held up Griselda as a paragon of exemplary vir tue for wives to emulate. So there were certainly a multitude of tales saying what wives should not do and what they should do in terms of obedience, and femin ine curiosity has been a common target of criticism in Western culture ( for instance, the stories of Pandora's Box or Eve in the Garden of Eden). The point to take into consideration is that there was obviously a reason for so much didactic discourse on these undesirable traits in females. While the sources we have of e arlier
36 periods of Western histor y indicate i ndisputably that an obedient wife was highly valued, less common sources hint that, as in modern marriages, reality very frequently fell short of the ideal. It is difficult to actually tell what the reality precisely was, because the documents that are more accessible to us are the ones that were espousing t take as much trouble, in past centuries, to r ecord the minutiae of daily life. But from examining legal documents and contemporary records of local history, along with diaries and letters, we can discern that the quest for an obedient wife was a difficult one. When one looks at the expectations that were made of a wife in the past, it is easy to see that they would be, to va rying degrees, difficult to follow, and so wives probably rarely met the ideal. As sociologists often point out, people tend to believe that their less than perfect lifestyle situations are atypical from the norm, which they imagine is closer to the ideals of the society If one thinks that one's own life is atypical one will often be discontent ed with it, as if the ideal is to be reasonably expected and to not have it is an unreasonable aberration. This might be why didactic tales about wifely obedience were so common; wives didn't meet the ideal, and corrective instruction was thought to be necessary. This is where female storytellers and audiences come in. Tales told by and for adults did not only have didactic purposes; they often were meant merely for entertainment. Thus, stories that reflected more accurately the reality of life were common showing humorous insights into daily life or more realistic por trayal s of how marital politics actually played out although they would have been seen as subversive in cases like this. I argue that since the expectations made of the protagonist in AT 425 A stories are so unreasonable, her breaking them is an acknowledgment of their unreasonableness, and the way that the story plays out hints that the wife is in the right and the husband in the wrong. By tacitly rewarding the protagonist but seemingly maintaining a veneer of approval of the status quo of power distribution in marriage,
37 the tales are a way for women to sympathize with one another about the difficulty of their expected roles without rais ing the ire of the male authorities that governed their lives. Although all of these tales have the aforementioned traits in common, they differ in their details. While they all clearly stem from the same source, they have been modified in their disseminat ion. This section has mostly dealt with the ways the tales are similar to one another, but what I am really interested in is their differences. It is in these differences that we see whether a given tale is more subversive or more invested in following the traditionally accepted voice of societal expectations for the culture within which i t arises By taking a close look at each tale, we can determine its message as either subversive or non subversive.
38 Section II The Tales This sections deals with analytical readings of five variants of the AT 425 A tale type. I use them to illustrate that fairy tales of the traditional European canon can, i n fact, have pro female messages. I have selec ted five that I believe offer good point s for examination of femal e agency and subversion of traditional values of gender roles versus traditional values. I hope they also illustrate the complexity of applying any of these labels to tales from the past that were meant for an audience with different values than are predom inant now. It is important to remember that all of these tales originated from Apuleius's Cupid and Psyche story in the second century AD and then branched out into different versions of an entire tale type. Audiences of the original story found elements o f it that related to some part of their lives, felt those elements could speak to some part of their experience, and retold the stories in ways that gave voice to their individual and local realities, whether those realities were one thing or another total ly opposite. Some tellers used them as entertainment possibly from one woman to another to sympathize with the difficulty of marriage under traditional expectations of wives in early modern Europe. Others used them, possibly in reaction to the popularity o f the aforementioned use of the story, to instruct on whatever they individually believed were proper values and roles for married couples. This pliability of use is what has made fairy tales and in the greater context, all stories useful means of communi cation and didacticism, a vital part of our self defined cultural realities, and an intrinsic part of the human experience. a Scandinavian tale collected by Peter Christian Asbjrnsen and Jrgen Moe in the early to m id 1800s, stands here as a prototype, illustra ting what the tale tends to look like. From there, I turn to female tellings of the
39 a very patriarchal telling. Finally, I f a Romanian tale adapted by Lang, which does not easily fit categorization into either pro female or patriarchal, and which I believe further illustrates the complexity of the messages in these tales. I hope to emphasize, through these different versions of one tellers, the point that the stories are shaped in not only plot and cultural details but in their intended message by who tells them, and by their i ntended and actual audien ces East of the Sun and West of the Moon A Prototype East of the Sun and West of the Moon is a fairly prototypical version of the AT 425 A tale type. Originating in Norway, it was first collected by Peter Christen Asbj rnsen and J rgen Moe in 1841 and tr anslated into English by Joseph Jacobs in 1849. It begins with a family that has more children than means to care for them and so is very poor. The only asset they have is the youngest daughter's bea uty, and sure enough, it gains them financial security th rough an advantageous marriage. A polar bear comes to the door of their hovel asking to marry the youngest daughter with the promise that he will make the famil ( The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales 188), and although she takes a week of convincing, she finall y agrees for her family's sake. This is one of the stories where a family marries off their daughter to secur e economic gain for themselves. The polar bear is true to his word; when the girl goes back to visit her family, they live in a huge, splendid hous e with all the material comforts they need. This promise of economic security is the only incentive the girl's father has to convince her to marry the bear, and she does take a full week of convincing before she agrees to sacrifice herself for her family's
40 188), and that several fairy tale fathers and families do so as well in other AT 425 stories ) However, Stephanie Coontz points out that marriage was primarily an economic arrangement until th e end of the eighteenth century ( Marriage, A History ) She asserts that the main goal of marriage, from an anthropological standpoint, is to procure in laws, that is, the emotional, political and resource alliances that are gained by families making allia nces with one another. It was perfectly realistic to make a match for a promise of financial security, and if a man and not a polar bear had come along making the same offer, the girl would have been seen as stupid to object. The difficulty here is that the bridegroom is an animal, not that the couple marries without love; the taboo against bestiality is what makes the situation horrifying rather than the marri age for economic gain. In fact, in these tales, the couple always does fall in love, or at least, to the marriage, not a requisite for it. It should also be n oted that these stories detail European values and a European concept of marriage; marriage has meant different things and had different functions in different cultures across time, and in some cultures, the alliance with the family of the spouse was more important than the spouse themselves. When the wife breaks her husband's prohibition against seeing him in his human form, the quest element of the plot is initiated. In some cases, the questing element alone is subversive in several ways. First of all, s tories about women who go on quests or adventures never involve married women; this might stem from the idea that a woman was supposed to maintain the home and holdings of the husband while he went off on excursions. Giving a wife
41 an opportunity to leave t he confines of the domestic realm is unusual in and of itself. In addition to this, though, is the fact that the quest element allows the wife to have agency. She is alone, traveling in the wide world, which is often hostile to her, without any resources t o turn to but her own wits. No one else makes decisions for her, unlike at home, where she has been the subject of first her father and then her husband; her choices are all her own. No one is protecting her or removing blame from her; she experiences the consequences of her actions first hand and in an unmitigated manner. She has gone from being in a supportive, passive role to her husband, to an independent agent of free will. One might wonder, then, why she seeks to reclaim her husband at all. Why not si mply leave the faulty marriage, turn her back on the cursed husband who set her up to fail, and live on her own? It is important to remember that European society in early modern times did not allow women this option if their husbands died or abandoned the m. Wives often lost rights of inheritance or to hold the property of their husbands if he died, and widows were expected to seek to remarry as soon as they could to re secure financial and legal standing. If this sort of scenario had happened in real life early Modern Europe, the woman would have had to resort to difficult labor to try to provide for herself, or else would have been disgraced if he had walked out on her. So there is a practical element to why the wife seeks to re establish the marriage when the husband flees. Regardless of individual agency, the society at the time would only allow a woman so much independence from men. Another possibility, however, is that she feels an emotional bond with her husband and simply wants to be with him. While m ost of the tales don't explicitly say that the couples are in love and indeed, married love was an anomaly at the time, and respectful affection was considered more appropriate
42 that they feel a t least this appropriate degree of affection for each other. This possibility makes for a tricky reading of whether the tale is subversive or not, since one can read love marriages as just a newer way to convince women to accept the patriarchal power struc ture of marriage. She could merely be honoring her avowed duty to another, if the husband's separation is not willful, as simply abandoning someone one is affiliated with in such a way would indeed be seen as anti social. Or it might be that she cares for her husband and has grown used to his company. It is difficult to speculate, since fairy tales usually leave the motivations of their characters unclear, but this same fact has the simultaneous advantage of allowing readers to explain for themselves why a character might act as they do, allowing us to reflect our own realities onto the story. This is both a difficulty of working with fairy tales and an aspect that makes them useful to the human experience. I read the wife's motivation, in this story, at lea st, as being motivated by love that causes her to want to go after him, and she shows agency by acting on that desire instead of accepting the supposed impossibility of the quest. An interesting feature of the tale is that the protagonist is repeatedly ask ed if she is afraid, with the condition that nothing unfortunate will befall her as long as she shows no fear. She is first asked this by her new husband when he comes to retrieve her from her parent's house in his bear form. He asks her this, and when he procures her negative answer, he assures nd you'll have nothing to fear Asbj rnsen a n d M o e 188 ). Here, his asking the question seems to be a solicitation of her need for his protection, which he offers despite her answer. This illus trates the expectation of traditional marriage roles for the couple, where the wife needs and accepts the husband's protection. The wife's rejection of the offer can be read as foreshadowing of her eventual role as his champion, when she undertakes her que st to rescue him.
43 The second time she is asked if she is afraid is when the North Wind transports her to the castle the prince is staying in. He has to blow as far as he ever has, and the trip requires a feat of strength and endurance for him, so when she gets on his back, he tells her that his giving her a ride is contingent upon her not showing fear. As the ride gets wilder and they begin to sink towards the sea as the Wind loses energy, he asks her if she is afraid, and her negative response allows them to finish the journey. These instances of the heroine's stoicism are actually contrary to Tatar's suggestion, in that female protagonists in fairy tales are rewarded for showi ng emotion, and male pro tagonists for showing restraint (160 6 2) If restraint here is equated as a masculine trait, as Tatar proposes, the unnamed protagonist in East of the Sun and West of the Moon displays both masculine and feminine traits In addition to her stoic denia l of fear, she weeps at the bedside of her beloved when he won't awake to her attempts to rescue him This protagonist is allowed a balance between independence from her emotions and plausible emotionality in difficult times. She does cry when her h usband is first taken from her, but then sets off on her way to help him, despite that he has told her the task will be near The a female protagonist's tears aid her only by summoning the pity of some other entity, be it a frog who retrieves a m issing toy or a fairy godmother. (I n the French version of the Cinderella tale, a fairy godmother assists Cinderella with magic solutions to her lack of dress and coach wh ile in the German version, she appeals to a magical tree that has been watered by her tears). Crying sometimes functions as a way to solicit help from others by demonstrating powerlessness and invoking pity. The women of AT 425 A, however, often realize that crying isn't a substitute for self reliance, and there are often words in the tale s to this effect
44 Additionally, in this version, the wife not only completes the quest and bargains with the false bride, but also performs an additional task to win her hus band back. When the wife has to complete a task in AT 425 A tales, they are always ways to display her womanhood or domestic skills, proving that she is a valuable wife. In this version, she has to wash a shirt that has a stain that only gets worse the more other people wash it. Only the person who made the stain can wash it out, and as the wife is the one who stained it with wax from a candle, it is a perfect way for the husband to disguise a test for a skilled bride as a way to reclaim his wife. Sure enough when the false bride and her mother both try to wash out the stain, it only grows bigger and darker, but when the wife gets a hold of it, it is clean in an instant. The false bride and her Asbj rnsen a n d M o e 199 200), and the husband and wife li ve happily ever after. So in addition to the quest and bargaining for time in the husband's bedchamber, the wife completes an extra task, proving herself in a third way. Another unique trait to this variant of the tale type is that it does not explicitly r eproach the woman for curiosity or blame the husband's flight on her. He does show anger when he is revealed because she has broken the prohibition, but he then goes on to give her additional information that might have stopped her from breaking it if it h ad been given to her freely at the pronouncement of the prohibition. That the explanation of the prohibition is only given upon its breaking makes it seem more as if the fault of its being broken lies with the husband who set an unreasonable expectation of his wife and then failed to explain it. The exact wording of the section is: Now you have brought a curse down on both of us! If you had just waited a year, I would have been set free! The woman who is my stepmother bew itched me, so that I am a white bear by day, and a man by night. But
45 now all ties between us are sundered. I have to leave you and go find her. She lives in a castle east of the sun and west of the moon. A princess lives there too, with a nose three ells l ong, and she is the woman I now have to wed ( 193) No clear explanation is given for the motives behind the curse or why it works the way it does. Some variants of the tale have the sorceress wanting the husband to marry her ugly or otherwise unpleasant d aughter and the prince refusing, which causes the sorceress to put the curse on him in revenge. But no explanation is ever given of what the wife's role in the curse is; presumably, her revelation of the husband breaks a prohibition set to make his life di fficult in punishment for his marrying someone other than the false bride, that is, because he marries another, he is not allowed to reveal to her who he is and the reason for the prohibition. But this is all speculation; actual reasons for the curse and w hy the husband does not explain it to the wife are rare. This passage makes the husband sound merely like he is blaming the wife for the consequences of his own failure to tell her what she needs to know. It should also be noted that the protagonist here i s coaxed into breaking the prohibition by another, h er mother. In some AT 425 A tales the wife disobeys by her own volition, but about as frequently, she is convinced to do so by another party, usually her family. Tatar has linked the fact that it is almost always a female relative her mother or sisters who convince the women to disobey, to a societal condemnation of female corruption. These figures often are either jealous, overly concerned for the wife or, in some cases where the woman doing the convincing is secretly a witch who initially put the curse on the husband, deliberately trying to undermine the couple. Tatar says that when the underminers are family members, the message of the tale is that a wife should sever her alliance to her birth family and transfer it to her husband upon marriage. But here, the mother's concern is obvious as her motivation: "'Oh dear,'[she] said.
46 Clearly, the mother is concerned and reasonably so about the strange circumstances of her daughter's marriage and worried for her daughter's safety. Rather than wanting to interfere, she merely wants her daughter to be safe, although readers contemporary with the tale might have read her as interfering and put more stock in Tatar's interpretation of the tale's message. Additionally, t he wife does seek to prevent any interference from occur r ing. The bear has laid down a prohibition against her speaking alone with her mother while she is at home, and the woman sincerel y tries to keep it: The girl's mother wanted to talk with her alone in her bedroom. But she remembered what the white bear had told her and refused to go upstairs What we have to talk e mother got to her at last, and the girl had to tell her the whol e story ( 190 191) influence, while some AT 425 A characters completely forget this second prohibition. That she breaks it despite her best intentions indicates that she really wants to obey her husband, but finds his commands unreasonably hard to follow. Her mother's realistic concern about who m the daughter might be married to (as realistic as might be considered so in a fairy tale if a bear can talk, why can't a person marry a troll?) is more convincing than the edict that one should obey one's husband unfailingly, and leads her to break the main prohibition against seeing him in his human for m. Whenever she breaks a prohibition, it is because her husband has not given her a clear enough or persuasive enough reason why she should keep it, in all its unreasonableness. On the surface, the tale seems to be in line with patriarchal standards of the time that teach that a wife should be unceasingly obedient, but a closer reading shows that it
47 hides a sympathetic view towards the wife whose husband makes unreasonable demands without explaining them. The Singing, Soaring Lark A Prime Example of Female Agency The Brothers Grimm record one variant of the AT 425 Springing also known depending upon the English translation. The edition which she edit s, and which uses the latter title This tale would have been collected by the Grimms from a middle class family, as most of their sources were, in the early or mid nineteenth century Germany (Bottigheimer, Fairy Tales: A New History 27 52). The Grimms were known to contaminate 4 their tales heavily with what they saw as proper German bourgeois values (Ibid.; Zipes, The Brothers Grimm 31 ; Bottigheimer, Tale Spinners ), but while they usually made female protagonists more dependent on ma les and removed agency from them, this tale seems to have escaped relatively unscathed in that sense. Perhaps it was altered very little from its original version, or perhaps the Grimms did not object to its portrayal of the protagonist and did not see fit to alter it. In any case, it is an example of one of the more interesting female protagonists in the Grimms collection and is unique from the other tales in that collection in several ways. This tale is different from others in the tale type for several r easons. One of these is the dialogue in the story, three of which are directed at the wife. W hile one of them is his joyous 4 Zipes bor r ows this term from Heinz R lleke, and notes that it has no negative connotation. Indeed, Zipes is cheerful about what he calls the Grimms
48 exclamation at their reunion, the other two are not commands like the other husbands give, but seem to be gestures of compromise or cooperation. The first is when the prince, as a lion, tells the wife that her sister is about to be married, and offers to let her go to the wedding escorted by his lion courtiers ( G r i m m 304 ); the other husbands only acknowledge the wife's loneliness or longing for her family when the wife brings it to their attention, and then the husband has to be cajoled into allowing her to visit them. This husband, it seems, anticipates his wife's needs and is not so strict about keeping the wife under his immediate supervision. T he second instance comes when the prince is transformed into a dove by a ray of candlelight falling on him. His exact words are: "I have to spend the next seven years flying arou nd in the world. But every seven paces you walk, I am going to let fall a drop of red blood and a white feather. They will show you the path, and if you follow my track, you will be able to break the spell ). This speech is interesting for what is abs ent. Where some versions condemn the wife for her role in the prohibition being broken, the prince in this version does not do that; instead, he only offers his cooperation in assisting her to free him leaving her signs to follow with the possibility that he is sacrificing his own comfort for the loss of blood droplets to guide her. He issues an invitation to a cooperative resolution of their problem, while other versions of AT 425 A frame the husband's words here in terms of instructing the wife on how to o btain redemption for her error It is also notable that in this version, the wife does not really transgress. The prohibition is broken despite her best attempts to prevent it, and it is implied that the fault is someone On her trip hom e for the second wedding, she asks her husband to accompany her, and to assuage his concern that a single ray of candlelight will transform him, has a wooden box built for him to hide in while the candles are lit. "She had a room constructed
49 with walls so strong and thick that no light could shine through them....But the door was made of green wood, and it split and develo ped a crack that no one noticed (304) Note the passive splitting of the wood as it ages or dries, removing any indication of who might be to blame. The husband does protest against going to the wedding, but her argument for him accompanying her is that she does not want to go alone; she wants his company, as opposed to a motivation that might be painted as selfish in other versions. She t hen makes the effort to accommodate plan goes awry. This wife does not defiantly break the prohibition set against her, which removes the allegation by the folk tale author that she was disobedient, careless or selfish. In this way, this tale is very much on the wife's side in showing her as falling prey to bad luck, which, while it might seem to minimize agency to a modern reader, would identify her as innocent t o the original audience. That she does continue to work to rectify the unfair obstacles thrown in her way signals to a modern reader that she does have agency, rather than giving up or relying on magical helpers to aid her or using too convenient magic to erase the problem. The story does not actually say that the couple are in love; as in most versions of the (304), and that when she first arrives at the (303). Th the end of their days" y lived happily ever so is not especially indicative of the state of their marriage. We can infer, however, from c ontextual clues in the story some idea of romantic affection : apart from the aforementioned wording and the fact that the wife wants her husband's company at her sister's wedding, the story tells us that when the prince and wife are reunited, it is because he recognizes the voice of
50 It is important to remember, as Coontz tells us, that love was considered a poor basis for marriage, although possibly a pleasant bonus if the match went well, in the days prior to those in which the Gr imms were writing The Grimms occupied a time period straddling the emerging public preference for love matches and more traditional marriages where simple affection was more appropriate and romantic passion was even considered inappropriate for a married couple. In the Grimms time, it was possible that a couple might marry because of romantic love, but after years of marriage, their passion might devolve into a more friendly congeniality, as we see with some of the couples in Jane Austen's books, which we re published contemporaneously with the Grimms first edition. does not mention or imply whether the wife is motivated by duty or the necessity of her marriage for social legitimization, and given the couple's frequent cooperatio n, such as whe n fighting the dragon together, the tale might be read to imply that the wife's motivation in going after her husband is love and conjugal affe c tion Especially because the husband does not treat his wife as an inferior to be reprimanded or d irected, which was often a sign in the period the tales were written that a husband was too in love with his wife to AT 425 A, more even than any of the others, is a story where the wife is motivated more by emotional ties to her husband than by what would be seen at the time as more pragmatic concerns of duty or dependence. Thus, I read this version as a story that supports the then controversial possibility of married love. Also notable in this tale is that the protagonist is not excessively emotional, as in some AT 425 A tales. It is common for the wives to cry under duress several times in the story and Tatar points out that, in the stripped down tellings common to what are considered oral fairy
51 tales (as opposed to literary ones), often the simplest way to convey a character's emotions is by having them show some outward expression of them. Hence, Rumplestiltskin shows his anger at being outwitted by screaming, stamping his feet, and finally tearing himself in half, and female characters often cry when presented with impossible tasks These emotional displays are conventions of the genre of fairy tales that convey things in simpler terms than a novel or visual medium might. I n some cases in AT 425 A, it seems reasonable for a wife to cry at certain points; usually these points occur at the initial separation and later the wife weeps a musical lament or chant at the husband's bedside to recall him to her. Sometimes, however, ther e is more crying and handwringing as the wife is presented to the beast for marriage, at e ach failure, and again while missing her family. In versions where she has children and they are taken from her, she often grieves piteously, even taking to bed for a month. Sometimes these tears bring along magical helpers who assis t the protagonist out of pity, implying that the protagonist cannot help herself relies on others. hrink from confronting the beast who has made a bargain for her with her father; when the father tells her will have to keep it. I am willing to go, and maybe I c an appease the lion and return home safe and sound (303 ). (303). When the husband and wife are separated, the wife strangely does not cry, but immediately begins following him, looking back and never pausing" (306). The tale makes no mention of the hardships of her journey, like some tales do, celebrating the suffering of the protagonist, but when the allotted
52 time for the free" (306). The first instance where she finally breaks down and cries is when, after her seven year trek and defeat of the dragon, her hard won husband is stolen by the p rincess they were fighting, who flees on the griffin the wife intended for her and her husband to escape on After this, tho and renews her determination to complete her quest successfully (307). She does not cry upon finding out that her husband has been bewitched into being betrothed to another woman, or wail her bedside plea for him to wake up, but she does cry a second and final time when her plan to trade her gift from the sun for a night in her husband's chamber is foile d once again by the machinations of the other woman: "At daybreak, she was escorted out and had to give up the dress of gold. When she had failed once again, she grew despondent and went out to the meadow, where she sat down and cried" (308). The story mak es clear that her failure and frustration is the source of her tears, not disempowered hopelessness. The protagonist in this story more often feels empowering emotions than weakness or helplessness, and when she does indulge in them, it is only after she h as found her ef forts frustrated numerous times veritable paragon of strength compared to other fairy tale protagonists. century fant asy of married happiness and a subversive tale that shows how women would like to be treated in marriage. In this way, along with the fact that the wife here shows less helpless emotionality than in other AT 425 A tales, has purer motivations for undertaking her quest and even fights a dragon, this is a tale we might consider today to be surprisingly in line with modern values for feminine agency and romantic partnership
53 Brown Bear of Norway Are There Really Two People In This Marriage? Brown Bear of Norway is from Scotland or England, and on the surface, at least, is definitely NOT subversive in both its collection history and the core message it sends about wifely obedience It was collected by Andrew Lang for his fairy books in late Vict orian or early Edwardian era. It starts with three princesses walking with their father on their grounds, when the King asks his daughters teasingly who m nearby regions, but the youngest has grown up hearing tales from her nursemaid of the Brown Bear of Norway, and has fallen in love with him. When she blurts out his name, her family laughs at her, but at night, she is transported to a castle where she meets the Brown Bear himself in his princely huma n form. They are married, and he tells her that he is a bear by day and a man at night, and that if she ever tires of him or resents him, he will be separated from her. In the morning she wakes up and he is gone, but when he comes back at night, they are h appy together. Then she gives birth to their first child, and they are very happy until it is stolen. The husband urges her not to be upset about it, and the girl obeys, but reluctantly. Then she has another child, and although they are careful not to leav e the child unattended, it is stolen as well. Again, the husband urges the wife not to be upset, and she obeys reluctantly, but begins to suspect the husband has something to do with the children's disappearances. The third time they have a child, they are even more careful, but it is stolen again. This makes the wife so upset ( Lang, B e a r o f N o r w a y 120) She convinces her husband that traveling to see her family will make her feel better, and he agrees to the trip She tells her mother an d sisters about the situation, and they ask a wise woman who sells eggs at the castle for advice. The wise woman tells the wife to burn her husband's bear skin
54 when he transforms at night, and then he won't be able to transform back into a bear in the morn ing. The wife does as she is told, thinking she is freeing her husband from his curse, but when he wakes up in the morning, he is furious and tells her that the woman who told her to burn the skin was the very witch who cursed him. They are now to be separ ated for her disobedience and he will have to wander in a forgetful state to the witch's daughter's castle and marry her. He leaves, but the wife follows him all day, with no reaction from him, until he reaches a cottage at night. When they go in, his mem ory comes back and he shows her the eldest child that was taken from her being cared for by an old woman. At night, he gives her a pair of magic scissors, and before dawn, he leaves again. She again follows him, and he has again lost his memory, when they again reach a cottage, where the wife finds her second child and the husband gives her a magic comb. In the morning, it all repeats, and at night they find their third child. This time, the husband gives her a golden hand reel and half of his wedding ring, and says that he is about to go through a magic wood that will lead to another land, and when he does so, he will forget her for good unless she keeps the ring half. In the morning, he goes through the wood, and she is unable to follow until sh e commands virtue of her ] (125) She comes into the new land and takes a job as a servant in a household near the castle her husband is staying in. The bewitched husband sees her and is enchanted by her, but can't meet her yet The princess he is about to marry sees the wife's magic scissors, and trades the wife a night in the prince's The next day, the Princess trades the wife another n ight for the comb, and the same thing happens.
55 But the next day, the husband meet s his former wife on the road and, still unable to remember her, but taken by her beauty, asks her if he can oblige her in any way. She asks him if the princess gives him any thing to drink before he sleeps, and when he replies that she does, she asks him not to drink it and he agrees. That night, the wife trades the Princess the golden hand reel for a final nigh t in the chamber, and the husband ber her relationship to him until she shows him the half of the ring she still has that matches his own. Then his memory comes back and they flee the castle to their own land, taking their children with them and reigning happily. This tale is more clearly in line with patriarchal values than other version of the tale type. It should be noted that this version is reproduced in Andrew Lang's Fairy Books, which means that a male collector from Victorian England was editing the stories produ ce didactic tales aimed at child readers Additionally, Lang tends to have a plainly sexist bias in his work and was known to edit his tales thoroughly although not as extensively as the Grimms. Lang describes his collaboration with his wife thusly: The fairy books have been almost wholly the work of Mrs. Lang, who has translated and adapted them from the French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, Catalan, and other languages. My part has been that of Adam, according to Mark Twain, in the Garden of Ede n. Eve worked, Adam superintended. I also superintend. I find out where the stories are, and advise, and, in short, superintend. (Lang, "Introduction," The Lilac Fairy Book vii) Despite crediting his wife with doing most of the work of the fairy tale book s, Mr. Lang puts his seems to hold the attitude that his wife, despite plainly being capable of translating from several
56 languages and adapting tales, needs someone su pervising her, and his allusion to The Garden of Eden implies a sort of gender based superiority based on the idea that woman is supposed to be under the command of man. Since Mr. Lang seems to have practiced such traditional values in his own marriage, it might not be surprising that he or perhaps both he and his wife might support teaching such marriage roles through their fairy tales. It is interesting to note, in the very dissemination in the popular mind of this tale, the act of patriarchal appropriati on of the tale and of the tale telling. The effort on the part of the Mr. Lang is happy to take all of the credit for her work and profit off of it by gains to his publishing reputation. Mr. Lang here says that Mrs. Lang is responsible, at least partly, for the r. If he further edited the tales, and if so, how, we do not know. Either Mrs. Lang did not chafe under the expectations of her marriage and supported such patriarchal views herself, or Mr. It is also possible that the tale, as they collected it, originally shared similar values with the version that was published, and neither Lang changed it very much. In that case, the Langs might have chosen it for their collection because it matched their values, the values they thought appropriate to relay to others. Or, they m ight have taken a relatively blank slate of a tale, or a telling of it that was more sympathetic to the wife, and edited it to be more in line with example of the ap propriation of tales by collectors to teach the values they wished to espouse, and the selective propagation of tales that taught patriarchal gender roles over tales that were more pro woman.
57 Within the tale itself, who is portrayed favorably and who isn't is important. The wife senses, when her children are taken from her, that her husband has something to do with the (120) .This wording makes it clear that the tale treats this as t he proper behavior from her, and when the her family. She eventually realizes he has been drugging her to keep her asleep at night so she will not notice h is transformation, making him guilty of the robbing of agency that the other husbands are victim s of in other version of the tale, and which he will later be a victim of himself. (She turns the tables on him by only pretending to drink the potion and then slipping it into his drink, so she does not do him any better. ) Finally, in this version of the tale, the magical gifts she uses to trade with the princess, and which give her the authority to pass through the enchanted wood, are given to her by the husban d, who, as they are traveling, begins to give her the answers, little by little, that he has neglected to give her until then. The husband giveth, and the husband taketh away. The power structure is clear in this marriage; the husband has all the answers and the wife has no right to reproach him or complai n about the situation she is in. The quest reads as if she is merely fulfilling his directions in order to lift the curse off of him, instead of an action undertaken by her own agency and at her own desir e Despite the way he treats her, when the wife visits her family after her children couldn' t help 120), despite her earlier suspicio ns. When the husband reveals that the smiling crones who have been caring for the children are the very entiti es that kidnapped them, it sends the message that the protagonist had no reason to fear, and should
58 have trusted her husband despite his lack of a n explanation for her traumatic experience. He provides all the answers and solutions for her, and although his expectations are taxing on her and never explained to her she is supposed to follow them without question or resentment like the Griselda stor y of earlier times Finally, the wife does just that, rather than rebelling by defying her husband or otherwise attempting to change or flee the situation The story's values are clear: wives should obey their husbands, and husbands are the ones with all t he power in the relationship. One almost imagines that, in following her husband's prescribed actions for The Hoodie Crow Unabashed Agency This variant of AT 425 A is a Scottish version of the tale also recorded by Andrew Lang in The Lilac Fairy Book It should be noted that Lang himself was proudly Scottish and interested in preserving and propagating Scottish culture outside of Scotland; this might have led him to treat this tale with special care, and also results in the tale's narrative being told in Scottish dialect. Despite being edited by Lang, it is one of the more subversive versions of the tale I found one in which the protagonist shows a greater degree of agency, and when she does not, is still portrayed in ways that are received favorably by a contemporary audience. The hoodie crow is a carrion crow native to Scotland, and although it is an attractive bird, it s association with scavenging dead animals makes it a common device in Scottish folkl ore to foreshadow bad luck or doom (MacCorkhill) .The use of this particular bird as the husband's animal form not only grounds the tale in Scotland, but the use of the convention establishes a relationship between the teller and the native audience. While the animals chosen for the
59 husband's beast form are always unpleasant, the hoodie crow's menial connotation of death and foreboding makes it an especi ally odious choice for a spouse, while lions and bears, for instance, as predators rather than scavengers, have mixed connotations of both good and bad ( J o b e s 1 : 1 8 9 1 9 0 ; J o b e s 2 : 9 9 9 1 0 0 1 ) It is not surprising, then, that when the hoodie asks the protagonist's sisters to marry him first, the y reply with revulsion: "'Indeed I won't wed the e...an ugly brute is the hoodie ( Lang, "The Hoodie Crow" 336) Surely, apart from the strange scenario of marrying an animal, they are thinking of his negative connotations in Scottish culture. So conversely, it is very surprising thee; a pretty creature is the hoodie,'" (336). f the Sun and West who proclaims her lack of fear to the bear she is about to marry, it is her willingness to see things in an unconventional light that qualifies the protagonist to undertake the adventure she does. One even wonders if the crow specifically sought a woman like this because she might be able to break the curse on him In fact, the girl consents without even realizing the crow can be human, and when he gives her the choice of whether he will be a man by day and a bird by night or vice versa, she is pleasantly surprised. This is one of several tales in the tale type tha t offers the wife a choice, implying cooperation between the couple and a willingness on the husband's part to accommodate her wishes and allow her to participate actively in the decisions affecting their marriage. This choice alone offers the wife the cha nce to have agency. But what choice she makes is suggestive in determining the subversiveness of the tale. When the wife chooses for the husband to be a man by day and an animal at night, this might be read as less subversive if i t implies that the wife wi shes the public to perceive that she is
60 married to someone who is a man at all times; she is thinking about the couple's public life. It also implies that she might be sacrificing her relationship's sexual side for the sake of not offending the neighbors, because if he is a man by day, that implies three possible scenarios. The first is that they only engage in loveplay at night, which means either that the couple does not engage in loveplay at all and that the wife is sacrificing sexuality for the sake of social legitimacy or that the wife is committing bestiality. The third possibility is that they have their loveplay in the day, instead of the conventional, more proper privacy of night this is fairly subversive to the nineteenth century perspective. Inver sely, when the wife chooses for the husband to be a man at night and an animal during the day, one can surmise that her motivation is that she finds him attractive and wishes to engage in sexual acts with him in the societally condoned context of night. W hite Bear good looks (McCarthy 302 ). This would also mean that the world might see him as an animal during the day, so either, as in some cases, they live apar t from other people in a remote area, or the wife does not appear to care what o thers think about her marriage. In cases where the husband appears in animal form during the day and turns human to spend the night with her, the wife seems to be prioritizing sex and her own happiness in her marriage over societal legitimacy, something we don't normally expect to see in fairy tales and which is very subversive! Because this is a Lang adaptation, and because it is intended for an audience of children, the wife c hooses for the husband to be a man by day. But the choice is treated in a way that merits attention; the text is thus:
61 'I have something to ask thee,' said the hoodie when they were far away in his own house. 'Wouldst thou rather I should be a hoodie by da y and a man by night, or a man by day and a hoodie by night?' The girl was surprised at his words, for she did not know that he could be anything but a hoodie at all times. Still she said nothing of this, and only replied, 'I would rather thou wert a m an b y day and a hoodie by night. hoodie never was seen. The girl loved them both, and never wished for things to be different. ( Lang, "The Hoodie Crow" 336 337) The girl seems pleasantly surprised that the man can change, as if she really were eager to marry a bird. This seems to be Lang's insertion, in order to show that the protagonist is especially compliant with the wishes of others, and the modern reader should well be surprised that the girl gives her hearty consent to marr iage to what she believes is a talking carrion crow. In this sanctioned animal/man orientation for her husband, the tale is perhaps less subversive, but in that it gives her a choice in th e matter, it is decidedly more his form can be read in different ways by modern readers: some will consider her compliant and rather unintelligent for it, while some might consider her empowered and self assured for letting her emotions guide her and not conf orming to standard expectations. (S ome might also consider her progressive in that being happily married to an animal implies that she embraces some sort of s exual fetish or nonconformity.) An d it should be noted that the husband is unabashed in declaring his reciprocation upon her revelation of herself to him:"'That is my
62 married wife,' he declared 'and no one else will I have' (340). These factors in this particular story underline the comp lexity of calling the tales subversive or not. Of note in this tale is the fact that the wife never transgresses; no reason is given for their separation, although a note Lang makes at the end of the text suggests that a seemingly innocuous comment the wif e makes about having lost a comb might have something to do with it. This is the scene in full: Well, the next year [their child was abducted for the third time], and the hoodie's wife was so unhappy that her husband resolved to take her away to another ho use he had, and her sisters with her for company. So they set out in a coach which was big enough to hold them, and had not gone very far when the hoodie suddenly said: 'You are sure you have not forgotten anything?' 'I have forgotten my coarse comb,' answered the wife, feeling in her pocket, and as she spoke the coach changed into a withered faggot, and the man became a hoodie again, and flew away. The two sisters returned home, but the wife followed the hoodie. (337 338) The tale then concludes: "...at last they were over, and they went back the way she had come, and stopped at the three houses in order to take their little sons to their own home. But the story never says who had stolen them, nor what th e coarse comb had to do with it Whether th e comb does have anything to do with the wife breaking a prohibition or whether Lang merely had only partial notes on the story is unclear. It is possible there was something additional in the text stating that the wife could not leave any of her old home behind when
63 they moved to the new one, suggesting a theme of reluctance to progress into a new phase of life from an old one, and recalling the plot motif similar to Lot's wife in the Bible looking back at the city her family is fleeing. If this is the cas e, the transgression is so unimportant to Lang's source that he or she forgets it completely! Hand in hand with the removal of transgression by the wife is that the girl's mother is never mentioned and the old women who guide the wife on her quest are bene volent advisors rather than the blam e In most of these tales, when women act as informants, they either are harmful influences or else there is a mixture between harmful advisors and beneficial ones. Usually a mother or sist ers, sometimes an evil witch, convince the wife to transgress; the harmful advisor is never male, which is in line with older stereotypes about women's supposed meddling in each other's affairs and the harmful influence of gossip. That the girl has no moth er in this story leaves no room for that mother or indeed, any of her family to be the cause of her transgression or doubting of the husband. In most stories, women are demonized as threats to the patriarchal power structure of the couple's marriage, but i n this story, that implication is absent. At the same time, though, the helpers who provide advice, information, and useful objects are old women. These helpful advisors seem, in contrast with other portrayals of women in the same tales, to provide guidanc e from a lineage of women's wisdom. Sometimes, however, the helping women are raising the couple's kidnapped children, leaving unclear whether they themselves are the kidnappers, whether they are affiliated with the kidnapper, or whether they are benevolen t rescuers of the children who reunite them with their mother. When children are kidnapped, there is little explanation given as to who does it or why; sometimes there is an implication that what seems to be unmitigatedly negative to the wife should be bor ne silently to
64 demonstrate faith in her husband. Then the story turns out to put a positive spin on the children's abduction by later returning them, happy and healthy, to their mother. The message in these cases is that the wife should trust her husband u nfailingly, even when something that seems undoubtedly bad happens, because he kno ws the situation better than she This unabashedly patriarchal message is absent, though, in this tale, where the husband does not seem to know how the children are disappearing and is just as upset about it as the wife. T he tales leave the role of the old women in the disappearance of the children vague just as the other tales do, but in this version, the third old woman advises the wife on how to accomplish her miss ion. This tale portrays women only as beneficial advisors, never harmful ones, and additionally removes any element of transgression or blame of the wife for the husba nd's disappearance Interestingly, when the wife does commit a minor transgression e Hoodie it is against the advice of another woman. The wife is portrayed as attempting not to disobey and being justified in accidentally doing so, and the transgression has no harmfu l effects on her or her husband: This day everything befell as on the two other days, but when she reached the small house, the woman bade her keep awake, and if the hoodie flew into the room, to try to seize him. But the wife had walked far, and was very tired, and strive as she would, she fell sound asleep. Many hours she slept, and the hoodie entered through a window, and let fall a ring on her hand. The girl awoke with a start, and leant forward to grasp him, but he was
65 already flying off, and she only seized a feather from his wing. And when dawn came, she got up an d told the woman. (337 338) The old woman never chastises the wife for falling asleep, and continues on to give her advice about how to find the husband. In the one instance the wife might be seen to have been disobedient or inattentive, she nevertheless g Hoodie way, removes from her the blame for her and her husband's separation, and also refrains from implicating any other women in any disobedience or undermining. In these respects, it is certainly less sexist than other versions of the tale. Interestingly, though, the advice the old woman gives the wife is that, in order to follow her husband over a hill covered in po isonous thorns, she needs to learn how to make horseshoes to protect herself, and that to do this, she should dress as a man and go to the nearby blacksmith to learn how. This is a unique trait among all of the versions I could find ; the wi fe otherwise nev er crossdresses, and when she exhibits useful skills, they are always traditionally feminine ones, like washing laundry or sewing. Smither y, while an important skill to life in previous eras, was never done by women because of the muscular strength require d for it and the griminess of the profession, which was considered undainty. The wife here not only learns a skill in addition to what she already knows, but it is a non traditional skill that could potentially serve her well and foster greater independenc e in the future. This subversion of traditional gender roles is clearly out of line with patriarchal values. Modern readers might complain that she has to disguise herself as a man to be able to do so, instead of boldly marching into the forge and proclaim ing that a woman can overcome her lack of muscular
66 strength to learn, but for the time these tales were collected, this would have seemed ridiculous, and the necessity of disguising herself as a man unproblematic. The Enchanted Pig Demonstrating Clearly T he Complexity Of The Question The Enchanted Pig is a Romanian tale, again retold by Andrew Lang in his Red Fairy Book This tale is not immediately easy to identify as subversive or not, but eventually come s out as somewhat more subversive. There are several tales in type AT 425 (not just 425A, but 425C and other subtypes) where the husband's beast form is a pig. Of the different animals the husband transforms into, this is one of the most common. Pigs are a common choice for several reasons. They w ere a common food source for commoners in European cultures in pre industrial times because they were easy and cheap to care for. Their common associations with eating garbage and living in filth make them widely considered unclean, lowly animals. The Dict ionary of Mythology Folklore and Symbols gluttony, lethargy, lack of tenderness, mental darkne ss, obstinacy [and] sensualism, and notes that pigs were substituted for human sacr ifices in ancient times ( Jobes 2 : 1270). It further tells us that a popular proverb indicates that a pig entering the house foretells poverty, the logic being that pigs mostly eat and sleep, and therefore are not very industrious, once again underlining th e link between a good marriage and prosperity. While some animals the husband can be trapped as are frightening for their brute power, some, like the pig in this tale, and the hoodie crow in the previous one, are merely menial beasts with disgusting, lowly connotations, making the marriage embarrassing and degrading rather than dangerous.
67 In this tale, the wife never knowingly disobeys, and the structure of the story seems to favor obedience to one's father over obedience to one's husband; she marries the p ig at her father's request. This is contrary to Tatar's assertion that the protagonists in these stories fail in their wifely duties of obedience because of failure to transfer their allegiance from their nuclear family to their husband's family. The first time the protagonist disobeys is when her father, the king, tells her and her sisters not to enter a room with a book that foretells their futures. The elder Lang, E n c h a n t e d P i g 105). While the sisters read that they are to marry princes from foreign lands, she is to marry a pig. The sisters try to convince her that the book cannot be true, but h er resulting depression signals to her father, on his return, that they have all looked in the book. He does not punish them; their knowledge is punishment enough. The scene is treated with special obedience: ...all of a sudden he felt as if a hot iron were entering his soul, for it flashed through his mind that she had disobeyed his word. He felt sure he was right; but to be quite certain he called his daughters to him, questioned them, and ordered them to speak the truth. They confessed everything, but took good care not to say which had led the other two into temptation. The King was so distressed when he heard it that he was almost overcome by grief. But he took heart and tried to comfort his daug hters, who looked frightened to death. He saw that what had happened had happened, and that a thousand words would not alter matters by a hair's breadth. (106)
68 All goes as the book foretells, and when the father is greeted by the pig, he suspects that the talking animal who wants to wed his daughter is not as he seems. His hands are tied, so he convinces the girl to marry the pig, telling her to obey her new husband: 'My child, the words and whole behaviour of this Pig are quite unlike those of other pigs. I do not myself believe that he always was a pig. Depend upon it some magic or witchcraft has been at work. Obey him, and do everything that he wishes, and I feel sure that Heaven will shortly send you release.' 'If you wish me to do this, dear father, I will do it,' replied the girl. (108) Thus, when the newlyweds are traveling to their new home in a carriage and the husband stops the procession, gets out and rolls in some mud, th en tells his wife to kiss him, herself of her father's words, and, pulling out her pocket handkerchief, she gently wiped the Pig's snout a nd kissed it" (108). This episode might have been added by Lang to underscore the purpose of the tale in teaching filial obedience. She is happy to find, of course, that he is a m an by night, but vexed that he always turns into a pig again by day. One day when the wife is feeling lonely, she is able to share the company who advises her that the way to cure her husband is to tie a string around his left foot as he is aslee p. The exchange plays out thus : 'I shall be grateful to you all my life, old dame,' said the Princess, 'if you will tell me what is the matter with my h usband. Why is he a Pig by day and a human being by night?' 'I was just going to tell you that one thing, my dear, to show you what a good fortune teller I am. If you like, I will give you a herb to break the spell.'
69 'If you will only give it to me,' said the Princess, 'I will give you anything you choose to ask for, for I cannot bear to see him in this state.' 'Here, then, my dear child,' said the witch, 'take this thread, but do not let him know about it, for if he did it would lose its healing power. At night, when he is asleep, you must get up very quietly, and fasten the thread round his left foot as firmly as possible; and you will see in the morning he will not have changed back into a Pig, but will still be a man. I do not want any reward. I shall be sufficiently repaid by knowing that you are happy. It almost breaks my heart to think of all you have suffered, and I only wish I had The wife makes clear that she wants to help her hus band because she cares for him, or, as the (108). The witch's sycophantic sympathy for the wife should alert the reader that something is amiss, and sure enough, she is the very witch who put the spell on the husband, and who is trying to further undermine the couple's happiness. The wife does not know this until the husband reveals it to her at the very end of the story, after her quest has come to an end. Here, when she disobey s, it is unknowingly and without any specific directions given to her to follo w, removing the blame from her. Thus, inadvertently or not, the lesson against wifely disobedience is removed, leaving only the admo nition towards filial obedience The only pers on she really disobeys is her father by her initial reading of the magic book. Even then, she is coerced into disobedience by her sisters. Indeed, the tale ends with the father explicitly stating its lesson: 'Did not I tell you that I was quite sure that t hat creature who wooed and won you as his wife had not been born a Pig? You see, my child, how wise you were in doing what I told you
70 This version of t he tale also puts a great deal of emphasis on suffering; the heroine's quest ends with the husban suffered for each other" (114). T he happily ever after ending of the story indicates that the things" (1 15). Each portion of the wife's journey is explicated with a detailed description of the hardships she has undertaken while travelling, and characters are often moved to help the girl by pity ( 109 112 ). This aspect of the tale can be read two ways: either the wife is reliant on seeming tragic to others and benefiting from their pity to achieve her goals or she is undergoing hardship with endurance and fortitude. The latter would have been read as commendable by Victorian audiences, but the modern reader mi ght wonder why the blameless wife needs to undergo such a difficult task and why she does so without complaining, as though she deserves the hardship It is important to note that the wife is not clearly given the choice to follow the husband after their s pairs of iron shoes and blunted a steel staff in your search for me" (109), w hich sounds like a decree instead of leaving any options open to the wife. So why the wife should suffer when she did nothing wrong is unclear and very problematic. She does not even marry the pig willingly, as some protagonists do; she does so miserably a fter submitting to her father's command. Here, it is important to note what the Victorian audience would have read as a commendable heroine versus what we admire today. Where we might wish for a strong protagonist to act in her own interest, the Victorians favored women who showed self sacrifice and acted on what was seen as their duty toward others. And while we find the
71 suffering/redemption motif maudlin and oppressive, it was very appealing to audiences in the nineteenth century, which gives us literatur e full of Dickensian suffering heroes and heroines who bear their hardships without complaint and earn their happy endings though seemingly Tying into the suffering female motif, this tale version uses a device that recurs in severa l European fairy tales, that of a woman completing a long task or journey in some way that is facilitated by cutting off her own pinkie finger. This device recurs in several Grimms tales, for exam ple, Moun where the young protagonist uses her little finger as a key to a door when no other is available. This motif is so common that it is a convention of suffering female tales. Here it occurs when the wife, upon finding the husband's new d welling can only be accessed by a ladder she makes with the chicken bones she has saved, uses her pinkie bone to complete the ladder when the last bone she needs goes missing. Using her little finger allows her to complete the ladder and access her husband, bringing her long, arduous qu est to a fruitful completion. As far as symbolic motifs go, in Romanian and other folktales, heroes or heroines on quests or who are undertaking tasks often are required to sacrifice a part of their bodies in order to complete their task; one Romanian nati ve offers an example of a hero who rides on a giant bird and has to feed the bird some of his own flesh in order to complete the journey. The the offering, and dem onstrates self sacrifice of a very personal and permanent nature, as their self inflicted injuries are not only painful, bu t often disabling or permanent (the missing finger is not magically replaced, but remains as a sign of their ordeal)
72 This recurring self amputation of little fingers in female characters can be read several ways. It is often read as a female analogue for castration, for example. This reading, however, does not fit in with the themes of the tale. I believe that instead, the specific sel f sacrifice being referenced here has to do with biblical allusions to Adam and Eve. Physically speaking, women have one less rib than men, or a floating rib, to allow for expansion of the abdomen during pregnancy. This anatomical difference was explained in the biblical story of Genesis by Eve having been created by God from Adam's rib. This symbolic explanation was both symptomatic of, and played a role in perpetuating, the patriarchal idea that woman is derived from man an offshoot instead of a creation in her own right and was used to justify male domination over women, especially in spousal roles. The ritual sacrifice of a woman removing and offering up her little finger can be interpreted as a repayment of the rib, and hence a repayment of woman's supp osed debt of creation to man. If this reading is accurate, it s occurrence in this tale can be read as either very patriarchal or as somewhat progressive; patriarchal in its premise that woman is derived from man but progressive in the possibility that th is action removes the supposed debt, equalizing the partners, indicating that they will, from this point on, proceed in their marriage as a true partnership instead of dominant submissive roles. Since she cannot return the rib, sacrificing the mostly vesti gial pinkie finger does require her to give of herself quite literally, in a show of her commitment to her quest, and in the onl y analogous way to the reason for the inequality of the sexes that she can. If this latter reading is accurate, howev er, it still seems to overlook the important fact that the wife's transgression is minor, if, indeed, she can be said to transgress against the husband at all in this tale. Why should the wife have to not only make the arduous quest, but
73 also mutilate her body to complete it, when she was tricked by the witc h and kept ignorant of the natu re of the curse by her husband? Her undertaking of the quest seems to be less a show of her own agency than of following a command by her husband without first stopping to question it. In the undermining of the traditional transfer of allegiance from the father to the husband undercuts the wife's submission to her husband, we might find an argument that the tale allows the wife to be more of an equal to her husband. B ut she is still submissive to someone else, that is, her father. O verall, the tale seems to be positing a very Victorian ideal of the duties and valued traits of a wife. This tale again shows the difficulty of labeling fairy tales roto fem inist, or anti feminist because it portrays what would have been an ideal to the original audience. But that same portrayal is distasteful to modern audiences with a different set of values and ideas about, and preferences for, how women should behave. It underlines the difficulty of making value judgments about texts from different cultures, and we should take this lesson into account when evaluating similar texts in this way. In Summation of the Tales Overall, we see a nuanced picture emerging pertainin g to the modern reaction to fairy the same plot elements in this case, a quest undertaken to rescue a displaced husband can be read in conflicting ways. In other tales, this quest device seems subversive and a show of suffering/redemption trials in penitence for a misdeed. Minor details also change the message of a story, like the ab sence or implication of female relatives in the wife's transgression. The
74 overall conclusion I reach is that determining a tale's subversiveness or lack thereof is a complex matter not conducive to easy evaluation. The reader has to take into account the c ultural values of the story's original audience in evaluating what message was sent, and remember that each individual reader will react differently as well. I hope I have demonstrated the complexity of evaluating these texts, and other fairy tales, for po sitive or negative cultural messages.
75 Conclusion As we have seen, the question of whether a fairy tale is subversive of conventional gender roles or not requires a complex answer and knowledgeable reference to the cultural origins in which it is grounded. Often we find that the same action or plot element in a tale type can mean different things in different tales. Take, for instance, the quest When I began this study, I thought that the mere motif of a married female going on a quest alone was subversive but digging deeper shows us that sometimes the quest is portrayed as justified suffering for her disobedience, as in or that she is not making the quest by her own choice, and is instead merely following more unrea sonable demands made of her. Furthermore, the suffering woman motif, while it might have been highly appealing to audiences of an earlier age, is distasteful to most modern feminists, so what was once brave and admirable is now undignified and weak This i llustrates one way that determining the subversive ness of a tale is difficult; often the standards under which it was created under were different than they are now, or meaning was intended that is lost on twenty first century American audiences. The suffe ring woman motif is one example of a theme that was valued in the past that has lost value as is the idea that a wife should not challenge her husband at all. In some tales, engaging the idea of female sexual desire and needs at all is a rather radical id ea hidden under a layer of storytelling that some audiences, namely children for whom the tales were collected as moral instruction, A houseful of peasant wo men doing laundry by themselves, however, might. The same tale even in its own d ay might mean different things to different sets of readers. Cultural context, and indeed audience, influence how a tale was rec e i ved, and as both of those elements have changed, so too has the received message.
76 Authorship, too, is an important factor in how we perceive a tale and what its intended message might be. While the conteuses of France first used the genre as their own medium, and the suffragettes of the nineteenth century tried to reclaim it, it i s most ly the voice of patriarchal dominance instilling its preferred values in tales directed at children and young ladies that modern audiences remember, because thos e are the sources that are most readily available to us now. As I showed with the Lang tales, w hen editors got a hold of the tales, they determined what was palatable and suited to their purposes and what was not, with differing results. A tale from Lang's own Scottish background, allows the wife to be active in her destiny, but The Enchanted a ta le he adopted from Romania, emph asizes the suffering of the wife and results in a mixed reading. It should be noted that the suffering woman archetype might not have been entirely patriarchal or bent toward the suffering redemption motif; wives in peasant communities might have emphasized the trials of the wife to emphasize the difficulties they encountered in their roles as well. In one case, the end result is pity; in the other, sympathy. So the same telling coming from different a udiences can be interpreted in different ways. In conclusion, I hope I have shown through this study that the question of whether fairy tales in the so called original European canon can be considered feminist or subversive does not have a simple answer, b ut requires closer inspection of the tales and their cultural contexts, and that the evaluation will differ based on who is asking the question and doing the inspection. I believe that this particular tale type is more often an example of women showing age ncy than other tale types, and that depending on the reading one takes from it, it can mean multiple things. The reader has only to pick and choose which suit her fancy. This is one of the enjoyable things about not only literature in general, but more spe cifically fairy tales; the same story can produce multiple readings, and each reading will be received differently by each reader.
77 I think that this is a strong point of fairy tales, not a drawback, and is a reason they should be read to children or by adu lts. By examining the message received from the story and drawing from it what we will, we can learn more about ourselves and our world, strengthening convictions, challenging assumptions, and reconsidering viewpoints taken for granted. Additionally, one does not have to agree with everything in a tale, or even anything in a tale, to get something useful from it. The reader's reactions are what is important, and the role the literature plays is to bring those reactions to the surface. A fairy tale needn't be a perfect paragon of female strength to be a valuable learning tool; a child can learn the values of feminism his or her parents think most appropriate even from tales that illustrate women going to impossible lengths to redeem themselves for false sins by thinking about whether and why they disagreed with the story. What matters is the reading process, more than the text being read. In short, tale type AT 425 A, while not a perfect tale type as far as portraying females with agency goes, has valuable con tributions to make to the shared pot of stories of so called strong heroines, and should not be discounted. Furthermore, I argue that fairy tales from the ; replacing revisions and adaptations is not the only possible response If we c ontinue to choose the ones that best suit our needs as a society, perhaps we can reclaim from the shadows of history some of the once forgotten tales of wives who rescue their husbands instead of ov er emphasizing those where the male adventurer rescues the imprisoned princess. The very fact that this tale type is not well known to American audiences proves this point. My hope is that with research like I t h a t w h i c h have done here, AT 425 A and other fairy tales a bout strong women will resurface and bring their messages of agency to a society that has longed for them throughout centuries of disempowerment and patriarchy
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