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She thinks. She goes to a Sea Witch for help, who offers to give her legs in exchange for her voice. Before she does so, though, her sisters emerge from the ocean and present her with a knife. They traded their hair to the Sea Witch for the knife; if she uses it to kill the prince, she can be a mermaid again. Also, those years are flexible: She can also fly around into the homes of families, and for every good child she finds, her sentence lessens by a day.

The Snail And The Cherry Tree - Story - English Fairy Tales

For every bad child, though, a day is added. What we do have, though, is the story of a woman who loses a shoe which is then found by a man of royal blood, eventually leading him to the woman to whom the shoe belongs. It ends, of course, in marriage. When her elderly father is called up for the draft, she goes in his place to protect him and spends around 10 or 12 years fighting. The emperor grants her what she asks for, and she makes the journey home. When she arrives, she puts on her old clothes, does her hair and makeup, and then goes outside to meet her fellow soldiers, who are all super surprised that Mulan is a woman.


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The setup is roughly the same, though, and I mean, hey — Mulan is badass either way. Later, the curse comes to pass. Meanwhile, after Zellandine has fallen asleep, the knight Troylus is taken to her by the god Zephyros. He tries to wake her up, but fails — so he rapes her in her sleep anyway. Revenge is a dish best served by your in-laws, apparently.

The Little Mermaid

The historical truth about Snow White, meanwhile, is a little hazy. First, we have Margaretha von Waldeck. The stepmother, Katharina of Hatzfeld, made her move to Brussels when she was a teenager, at which point she began a romance with Philip II of Spain. Save to wishlist. With fantastical stories of witches and fairies, goblins and elves, or heroic princes and their villainous counterparts, folklore and fairy tales have long been an ingrained tradition in story-telling for children.

Beauty and the Beast.


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The Frog King. Greta Samuel. Hansel and Gretel. The Little Mermaid.

Red Riding Hood. Sleeping Beauty. Snow White. How can we parse our curious fascination with fairy tales, which persists while the times change and we change with them? The previous year, Marina Warner, too, brought forth Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale , in the pages of which breathless readers are swept away as if on a magic carpet and rewarded with intellectual adventures compressed into the tight Oxford series format. Yet others love fairy tales for the apparently opposite reason: novelist A.

All that seems clear.

Can Fairy Tales Be True?

But in that case, wherein precisely lies fairy tale truth? Zipes might argue that its truth stems from an engagement with its conditions of origin. As he has persuasively shown, both in his most recent book and in many previous ones, the tales reflect the cultures from which they sprang. When primogeniture held sway, for example, the tales gave rise to heroic roles for youngest sons, thereby compensating them in fancy for their poverty and for the devaluation they suffered in daily life.

The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales: Cinderella

Yet the core of fairy tales seems to reach deeper—well beyond the delights and shocks caused by improbable events and beyond the tough substrate of socio-political opposition in pre-modern Europe—towards a species of raw, non-contingent honesty and authenticity. Phillip Pullman, notable for His Dark Materials trilogy is not alone in believing that fairy tales bear no psychological heft and therefore call for no psychological discussion.

Indeed most fairy tale characters go unnamed; they perform no Shakespearean soliloquies; they do not ruminate aloud. Rather, they reveal their thoughts in action. But since when is action exempt from psychological scrutiny? And are there not fairy tale characters who do, on occasion, both wish and dream? Scholars, moreover, when pressed to consider the problem of motivation in fairy tales, tend to invoke fate, chance, inevitability and magic.

Not psychology. They claim that tellers, hearers, and readers of the tales accept without question the sufficiency of fate, chance, inevitability or magic. Quite true. Yet, we must ask why. What inclines tellers, hearers, and readers to accept fate or magic as causal? What is it about fairy tale and the human psyche that enables this unquestioning acquiescence in a realm of discourse that defies ordinary modes of understanding and common sense? Even if there were nothing else to probe, there is this.

The Disturbing Truth Behind The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales

And, indubitably, this is a psychological question. Children have no trouble with this, but adults clap sheepishly, if at all, while telling themselves they are doing so for the sake of the children. The acceptance of magic and fatedness in wonder tales can be fruitfully considered, I propose, from a child developmental perspective. If we take that point of view, we can understand that our vulnerability or susceptibility stems from a persistence in the mind of a receptivity we had when all the world was new.