Discussion Board 8: The Abject in “Bluebeard” Folklore
Discussion Board 8: The Abject in “Bluebeard” Folklore
This online forum focuses on closely reading the abject in the Bluebeard folklore that inspired Carter’s and Atwood’s adaptations.After this week, we should really have a solid context for interpreting those completely different adaptations closely and getting at the bigger significance of those changes.
Before Posting to the Board:
- READ: Perrault,”Bluebeard,” Brothers Grimm, “Fitcher’s Bird” and “Robber Bridegroom,” and Jacobs, “Mr. Fox” (Norton 144-156).
- Review the definition of “abject,” review the handout and screencast. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2tE1tQoY1I&feature=youtu.be, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3G8UF1MC12o&feature=youtu.be
Task 1. Create an Original Post in two paragraphs (5-10 sentences each):
Paragraph 1: Where do you see abject objects, actions, or forms of abjection in the different stories? You can also discuss the importance of exposing abject deeds to the rest of society (the woman’s family) in order to gain individual and social stability. Identify specific details from the stories and explain.
Paragraph 2: Provide a single quote about the abject or abjection from one of the stories and analyze (take apart or “unpack” the implicit meaning) how the words, symbols, etc. suggest a message about abjection, domestic violence, clever heroines, or another related topic.
Last Line: Raise a question that will help us discuss the major message.
E D I T E D BY M A R I A T A T A R
A N O R T O N C R I T I C A L E D I T I O N
THE CLASSIC FAIRY TALES
The cultural resilience of fairy tales is incontestable. Surviving over the cen turies and thriving in a variety of media, fairy tales continue to enrich our imag inations and shape -our lives. This Norton Critical Edition of The Classic Fairy Tales examines the genre, its cultural implications, and its critical history. The editor has gathered fairy tales from around the world to reveal the range and play of these stories over time.
The Classic Fairy Tales focuses on six different tale types: “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Snow White,” “Cinderella,” “Bluebeard,” and “Hansel and Gretel.” It includes multicultural variants of these tales, along with sophisticated literary rescriptings. Each tale type is preceded by an introduc tion, and annotations are provided throughout. Also included in this collection of over forty stories are tales by Hans Christian Andersen and Oscar Wilde.
“Criticism” collects twelve essays that interrogate different aspects of fairy tales by exploring their social origins, historical evolution, psychological dynamics, and engagement with issues of gender and national identity. Bruno Bettelheim, Robert Darnton, Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, Karen E. Rowe, Marina Warner, Zohar Shavit, Jack Zipes, Donald Haase, Maria Tatar, Antti Aarne, and Vladimir Propp provide critical overviews.
A Selected Bibliography is included.
ABOUT THE SERIES : Each Norton Critical Edition includes an authoritative text, contextual and source materials, and a wide range of interpretations— from contemporary perspectives to the most current critical theory—as well as a bibliography and, in most cases, a chronology of the author’s life and work.
COVER PAINTING: The Enchanted Prince, by Maxfield Parrish. Reproduced by per mission of © Maxfield Parrish Family Trust/Licensed by ASAP and VAGA, NYC/Cour tesy American Illustrated Gallery, N Y C
NEW YORK • LONDON
MARIA TATAR is the author of The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales, Off with Their Heads! Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood, and Lustmord: Sexual Vi olence in Weimar Germany. She holds the John L. Loeb chair for Germanic Languages and Literatures at Har vard University, where she teaches courses on German cultural studies, folklore, and children’s literature.
W . W . N O R T O N & C O M P A N Y , I N C .
THE NORTON ANTHOLOGY OF AFRICAN AMERICAN LITERATURE
edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Nellie Y McKay et al.
THE NORTON ANTHOLOGY OF AMERICAN LITERATURE
edited by Nina Baym et al.
THE NORTON ANTHOLOGY OF CONTEMPORARY FICTION edited by R. V. Cassill and Joyce Carol Oates
THE NORTON ANTHOLOGY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE edited by M. H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt et al.
THE NORTON ANTHOLOGY OF LITERATURE BY WOMEN edited by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar
THE NORTON ANTHOLOGY OF MODERN POETRY edited by Richard Ellmann and Robert O’Clair
THE NORTON ANTHOLOGY OF POETRY edited by Margaret Ferguson et al.
THE NORTON ANTHOLOGY OF SHORT FICTION edited by R. V. Cassill and Richard Bausch
THE NORTON ANTHOLOGY OF WORLD MASTERPIECES edited by Sarah Lawall et al.
THE NORTON FACSIMILE OF THE FIRST FOLIO OF SHAKESPEARE prepared by Charlton Hinman
THE NORTON INTRODUCTION TO LITERATURE edited by Jerome Beaty and J. Paul Hunter
THE NORTON INTRODUCTION TO THE SHORT NOVEL edited by Jerome Beaty
THE NORTON READER edited by Linda H. Peterson, John C. Brereton, and Joan E. Hartman
THE NORTON SAMPLER edited by Thomas Cooley
THE NORTON SHAKESPEARE, BASED ON THE OXFORD EDITION edited by Stephen Greenblatt et al.
For a complete list of Norton Critical Editions, visit us on the World Wide Web at
A N O R T O N C R I T I C A L E D I T I O N
CLASSIC FAIRY TALES ^âéz
MARIA TATAR HARVARD UNIVERSITY
W • W • NORTON & COMPANY • New York • London
For Lauren and Daniel
Copyright © 1999 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.
The text of this book is composed in Electra with the display set in Bernhard Modem. Composition by PennSet, Inc. Book design by Antonina Krass.
Cover illustration: The Enchanted Prince, reproduced by permission of © Maxfield Parrish Family Trust/Licensed by ASAP and VAGA, NYC /Courtesy American
Illustrated Gallery, NYC.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The classic fairy tales : texts, criticism / edited by Maria Tatar, p. cm. — (Norton critical edition)
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN 0-393-97277-1 (pbk.)
1. Fairy tales — History and criticism. I. Tatar, Maria M., 1945- GR550.C57 1998 3 8 5 . 2 – d c 2 1 98-13552
W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10110 www.wwnorton.com
W. W. Norton & Company Ltd., Castle House, 75/76 Wells Street, London W I T 3QT
6 7 8 9 0
The Texts of The Classic Fairy Tales 1
INTRODUCTION: Little Red Riding Hood 3 The Story of Grandmother 10 Charles Perrault • Little Red Riding Hood 11 Brothers Grimm • Little Red Cap 13 James Thurber • The Little Girl and the Wolf 16 Italo Calvino • The False Grandmother 17 Chiang Mi • Goldflower and the Bear 19 Roald Dahl • Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf 21 Roald Dahl • The Three Little Pigs 22
INTRODUCTION: Beauty and the Beast 25 Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont • Beauty and the
Beast 32 Giovanni Francesco Straparola • The Pig King 42 Brothers Grimm • The Frog King, or Iron Heinrich 47 Angela Carter • The Tiger’s Bride 50 Urashima the Fisherman 66 Alexander Afanasev • The Frog Princess 68 The Swan Maiden 72
INTRODUCTION: Snow White 74 Giambattista Basile • The Young Slave 80 Brothers Grimm • Snow White 83 Lasair Gheug, the King of Ireland’s Daughter 90 Anne Sexton • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 96
INTRODUCTION: Cinderella 101 Yeh-hsien 107 Charles Perrault • Donkeyskin 109 Brothers Grimm • Cinderella 117 Joseph Jacobs • Catskin 122 The Story of the Black Cow 125
Lin Lan • Cinderella 127 The Princess in the Suit of Leather 131
INTRODUCTION: Bluebeard 138 Charles Perrault • Bluebeard 144 Brothers Grimm • Fitcher’s Bird 148 Brothers Grimm • The Robber Bridegroom 151 Joseph Jacobs • Mr. Fox 154 Margaret Atwood • Bluebeard’s Egg 156
INTRODUCTION: Hansel and Gretel 179 Brothers Grimm • Hansel and Gretel 184 Brothers Grimm • The Juniper Tree 190 Joseph Jacobs • The Rose-Tree 197 Charles Perrault • Little Thumbling 199 Pippety Pew 206 Joseph Jacobs • Molly Whuppie 209
INTRODUCTION: Hans Christian Andersen 212 The Little Mermaid 216 The Little Match Girl 233 The Girl Who Trod on the Loaf 235 The Red Shoes 241
INTRODUCTION: Oscar Wilde 246 The Selfish Giant 250 The Happy Prince 253 The Nightingale and the Rose 261
Bruno Bettelheim • [The Struggle for Meaning] 269 Bruno Bettelheim • “Hansel and Gretel” 273 Robert Darnton • Peasants Tell Tales: The Meaning of Mother Goose 280 Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar • [Snow White and Her Wicked Stepmother] 291 Karen E. Rowe • To Spin a Yarn: The Female Voice in Folklore and Fairy Tale 297 Marina Warner • The Old Wives’ Tale 309 Zohar Shavit • The Concept of Childhood and Children’s Folktales: Test Case — “Little Red Riding Hood” 317
Jack Zipes • Breaking the Disney Spell 332
Donald Haase • Yours, Mine, or Ours? Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, and the Ownership of Fairy Tales 353
Maria Tatar • Sex and Violence: The Hard Core of Fairy Tales 364 Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson • From The Types of the Folktale: A Classification and Bibliography 373
Vladimir Propp • Folklore and Literature 378 • From Morphology of the Folktale 382
The Method and Material 382 • Thirty-One Functions 386 • Propp’s Dramatis Personae 387
Selected Bibliography 389
Fairy tales, Angela Carter tells us, are not “unique one-offs,” and their narrators are neither “original” nor “godlike” nor “inspired.” To the con trary, these stories circulate in multiple versions, reconfigured by each tell ing to form kaleidoscopic variations with distinctly different effects. When we say the word “Cinderella,” we are referring not to a single text but to an entire array of stories with a persecuted heroine who may respond to her situation with defiance, cunning, ingenuity, self-pity, anguish, or grief. She will be called Yeh-hsien in China, Cendrillon in Italy, Aschenputtel in Germany, and Catskin in England. Her sisters may be named One-Eye and Three-Eyes, Anastasia and Drizella, or she may have just one sister named Haloek. Her tasks range from tending cows to sorting peas to fetch ing embers for a fire.
Although many variant forms of a tale can now be found between the covers of books and are attributed to individual authors, editors, or com pilers, they derive largely from collective efforts. In reflecting on the origins of fairy tales, Carter asks us to consider: “Who first invented meatballs? In what country? Is there a definitive recipe for potato soup? Think in terms of the domestic arts. This is how I make potato soup.’ “‘ The story of Little Red Riding Hood, for example, can be discovered the world over, yet it varies radically in texture and flavor from one culture to the next. Even in a single culture, that texture or flavor may be different enough that a lis tener will impatiently interrupt the telling of a tale to insist “That’s not the way I heard it.” In France, Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother are devoured by the wolf. The Grimms’ version, by contrast, stages a rescue scene in which a hunter intervenes to liberate Red Riding Hood and her grandmother from the belly of the wolf. Caterinella, an Italian Red Riding Hood, is invited to dine on the teeth and ears of her grandmother by a masquerading wolf. A Chinese “Goldflower” manages to slay the beast who wants to devour her by throwing a spear into his mouth. Local color often affects the premises of a tale. In Italy, the challenge facing one heroine is not spinning straw into gold but downing seven plates of lasagna.
Virtually every element of a tale, from the name of the hero or heroine through the nature of the beloved to the depiction of the villain, seems subject to change. In the British Isles, Cinderella goes by the name of Catskin, Mossycoat, or Rashin-Coatie. The mother of one Italian “Beauty” pleads with her daughter to marry a pig, while another mother runs inter ference for a snake. In Russia, the cannibalistic witch in the forest has a hut set on chicken legs surrounded by a fence with posts made of stacked
1. Angela Carter, ed., The Virago Book of Fairy Tales (London: Virago Press, 1990) x.
human skulls. Rumpelstiltskin is also known as Titelirure, Ricdin-Ricdon, Tom Tit Tot, Batzibitzili, Panzimanzi, and Whuppity Stoorie.
While there is no “original” version of “Cinderella” or “Sleeping Beauty,” there is a basic plot structure (what folklorists refer to as a “tale type”) that appears despite rich cultural variation. “Beauty and the Beast,” for example, according to the tale-type index compiled by the Finnish folklorist Antti Aarne and refined by the American folklorist Stith Thomp son, has the following episodic structure:
I. The monster as husband II. Disenchantment of the monster
III. Loss of the husband IV. Search for the husband V. Recovery of the husband
While the monster as husband is a structural constant, the monster itself may (and does) take the form of virtually any beast—a goat, a mouse, a hedgehog, a crocodile, or a lion. The search for the husband may require the heroine to cover vast tracts of land in iron shoes, to sort out peas from lentils in an impossibly short time, or simply to wish herself back to the monster’s castle. Despite certain limitations, the tale-type index is a con venient tool for defining the stable core of a story and for identifying those features subject to local variation.
Telling fairy tales has been considered a “domestic art” at least since Plato in the Gorgias referred to the “old wives’ tales” told by nurses to amuse and to frighten children. Although virtually all of the national col lections of fairy tales compiled in the nineteenth century were the work of men, the tales themselves were ascribed to women narrators. As early as the second century A.D., Apuleius, the North African author of The Golden Ass, had designated his story of “Cupid and Psyche” (told by a drunken and half-demented old woman) as belonging to the genre of “old wives’ tales.” The Venetian Giovanni Francesco Straparola claimed to have heard the stories that constituted his Facetious Nights of 1550 “from the lips of . . . lady storytellers” and he embedded those stories in a narrative frame featuring a circle of garrulous female narrators.2 Giambattista Basile’s sev enteenth-century collection of Neapolitan tales, The Pentamerone, also has women storytellers—quick-witted, gossipy old crones who recount “those tales that old women tell to amuse children.”3 The renowned Tales of Mother Goose by Charles Perrault were designated by their author as old wives’ tales, “told by governesses and grandmothers to little children.”4 And many of the most expansive storytellers consulted by the Grimms were women—family friends or servants who had at their disposal a rich reper toire of folklore.
The association of fairy tales with the domestic arts and with old wives’ tales has not done much to enhance the status of these cultural stories.
2. Marina Warner, From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994) 36.
3. The Pentamerone, trans. Benedetto Croce, ed. N. M. Penzer (John Lane: The Bodley Head, 1932) 9.
4. Charles Perrault, “Préface,” Contes en vers (1694; reprint, Paris: Gallimard, 1981) 50.
“On a par with trifles,” Marina Warner stresses, ” ‘mere old wives’ tales’ carry connotations of error, of false counsel, ignorance, prejudice and fal lacious nostrums—against heartbreak as well as headache; similarly ‘fairy tale,’ as a derogatory term, implies fantasy, escapism, invention, the unre liable consolations of romance.”5
Although fairy tales are still arguably the most powerfully formative tales of childhood and permeate mass media for children and adults, it is not unusual to find them deemed of marginal cultural importance and dis missed as unworthy of critical attention. Yet the staying power of these stories, their widespread and enduring popularity, suggests that they must be addressing issues that have a significant social function—whether criti cal, conservative, compensatory, or therapeutic. In a study of mass-produced fantasies for women, Tania Modleski points out that genres such as the soap opera, the Gothic novel, and the Harlequin romance “speak to very real problems and tensions in women’s lives. The narrative strategies which have evolved for smoothing over these tensions can tell us much about how women have managed not only to live in oppressive circumstances but to invest their situations with some degree of dignity.”6 Fairy tales reg ister an effort on the part of both women and men to develop maps for coping with personal anxieties, family conflicts, social frictions, and the myriad frustrations of everyday life.
Trivializing fairy tales leads to the mistaken conclusion that we should suspend our critical faculties while reading these “harmless” narratives. While it may be disturbing to hear voices disavowing the transformative influence of fairy tales and proclaiming them to be culturally insignificant, it is just as troubling to find fairy tales turned into inviolable cultural icons. The Grimms steadfastly insisted on the sacred quality of the fairy tales they collected. Their Nursery and Household Tales, they asserted, made an effort to capture the pure, artless simplicity of a people not yet tainted by the corrupting influences of civilization. “These stories are suffused with the same purity that makes children appear so marvelous and blessed,” Wil- helm Grimm declared in his preface to the collection. Yet both brothers must also have recognized that fairy tales were far from culturally innocent, for they extolled the “civilizing” power of the tales and conceived of their collection as a “manual of manners” for children.7
The myth of fairy tales as a kind of holy scripture was energetically propagated by Charles Dickens, who brought to the literature of childhood the same devout reverence he accorded children. Like the Grimms, Dick ens hailed the “simplicity,” “purity,” and “innocent extravagance” of fairy tales, yet also praised the tales as powerful instruments of constructive so cialization: “It would be hard to estimate the amount of gentleness and mercy that has made its way among us through these slight channels. Fore- bearance, courtesy, consideration for the poor and aged, kind treatment of
5. Warner, Beast 19. (Excerpted below, p. 309.) 6. Tania Modleski, Loving with a Vengeance: Mass-Produced Fantasies for Women (Hamden,
Conn.: Archon Books, 1982) 15. 7. From Jacob and Wilhelm Grimms’ “Preface,” Nursery and Household Tales, 1st éd., 2d ed.,
trans. Maria Tatar, in Maria Tatar, The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1978) 206, 207.
animals, the love of nature, abhorrence of tyranny and brute force—many such good things have been first nourished in the child’s heart by this powerful aid.”8
Even in 1944, when Allied troops were locked in combat with German soldiers, W. H. Auden decreed the Grimms’ fairy tales to be “among the few indispensable, common-property books upon which Western culture can be founded.” “It is hardly too much to say,” he added, “that these tales rank next to the Bible in importance.”9 Like the devaluation of fairy tales, the overvaluation of fairy tales promotes a suspension of critical faculties and prevents us from taking a good, hard look at stories that are so obviously instrumental in shaping our values, moral codes, and aspirations. The rev erence brought by some readers to fairy tales mystifies these stories, making them appear to be a source of transcendent spiritual truth and authority. Such a mystification promotes a hands-off attitude and conceals the fact that fairy tales, like “high art,” are squarely implicated in the complex, yet not impenetrable, symbolic codes that permeate our cultural stories.
Despite efforts to deflect critical attention from fairy tales, the stories themselves have attracted the attention of scholars in disciplinary corners ranging from psychology and anthropology through religion and history to cultural studies and literary theory. Every culture has its myths, fairy tales, and fables, but few cultures have mobilized as much critical energy as has ours of late to debate the merits of these stories. Margaret Atwood, whose personal and literary engagement with fairy tales is no secret, has written vividly about her childhood encounter with an unexpurgated version of Grimms’ Fairy Tales: “Where else could I have gotten the idea,” she asserts, “so early in life, that words can change you?”1 Atwood’s phrasing is mag nificently ambiguous, referring on one level to the transformative spells cast on fairy-tale characters, but also implying that fairy tales can both shape our way of experiencing the world and endow us with the power to restruc ture our lives. As Stephen Greenblatt has observed, “the work of art is not the passive surface on which . . . historical experience leaves its stamp but one of the creative agents in the fashioning and refashioning of this expe rience.”2 As we read fairy tales, we simultaneously evoke the cultural ex perience of the past and allow it to work on our consciousness even as we reinterpret and reshape that experience.
Carolyn Heilbrun has also addressed the question of how the stories circulating in our culture regulate our lives and fashion our identities:
Let us agree on this: that we live our lives through texts. These may be read, or chanted, or experienced electronically, or come to us, like the murmurings of our mothers, telling us of what conventions de-
8. Charles Dickens, “Frauds on the Fairies,” in Household Words: A Weekly journal (New York: McElrath and Barker, 1854) 97.
9. W. H. Auden, “In Praise of the Brothers Grimm,” New York Times Book Review, 12 November 1944, 1.
1. Margaret Atwood, “Grimms’ Remembered,” in Donald Haase, ed., The Reception of Grimms’ Fairy Tales: Responses, Reactions, Revisions (Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1993) 292.
2. Stephen Greenblatt, “Introduction,” Representing the English Renaissance, ed. Stephen Greenblatt (Berkeley: U of California P, 1988) viii.
mand. Whatever their form or medium, these stories are what have formed us all, they are what we must use to make our new fictions. . . . Out of old tales, we must make new lives.3
Heilbrun endorses the notion of appropriating, revising, and revitalizing “old tales” in order to produce new social discourses that can, in turn, refashion our lives.
How we go about mobilizing fairy tales to help us form new social roles and identities is a hotly contested question. Some advocate the recupera tion and critique of the classic canon; others have called for the revival of “heretical” texts (stories repressed and suppressed from cultural memory) and the formation of a new canon; still others champion rewriting the old tales or inventing new ones. This volume furnishes examples of each of these strategies, providing “classic” versions of specific tale types side by side with less well known versions from other cultures and inspired literary efforts to recast the tales. These projects for reclaiming folkloric legacies are not unproblematic, and they have each come under fire for failing to provide the answer to that perennial question of what makes an ideal cul tural story.
For some observers, the classic canon of fairy tales is so hopelessly ret rograde that it is futile to try to rehabilitate it. Andrea Dworkin refuses to countenance the possibility of preserving tales that were more or less forced upon us and that have been so effective in promoting stereotypical gender roles:
We have not formed that ancient world [of fairy tales]—it has formed us. We ingested it as children whole, had its values and consciousness imprinted on our minds as cultural absolutes long before we were in fact men and women. We have taken the fairy tales of childhood with us into maturity, chewed but still lying in the stomach, as real identity. Between Snow-white and her heroic prince, our two great fictions, we never did have much of a chance. At some point the Great Divide took place: they (the boys) dreamed of mounting the Great Steed and buying Snow-white from the dwarfs; we (the girls) aspired to become that object of every necrophiliac’s lust—the innocent, victimized Sleep ing Beauty, beauteous lump of ultimate, sleeping good.4
Yet for every critic who is convinced that we need to sound the tocsin and make fairy tales off-limits to children, there is one who celebrates the liberating energy and revolutionary edge of fairy tales. Alison Lurie, for example, sees the tales as reflecting a commendable level of gender equal ity, along with a power asymmetry tilted in favor of older women:
These stories suggest a society in which women are as competent and active as men, at every age and in every class. Gretel, not Hansel, defeats the Witch; and for every clever youngest son there is a youngest daughter equally resourceful. The contrast is greatest in maturity,
3. Carolyn Heilbrun, “What Was Penelope Unweaving?” in Hamlet’s Mother and Other Women (New York: Columbia UP, 1990) 109.
4. Andrea Dworkin, Woman-Hating (New York: Dutton, 1974) 32-33.
where women are often more powerful than men. Real help for the hero or heroine comes most frequently from a fairy godmother or wise woman, and real trouble from a witch or wicked stepmother. . . . To prepare children for women’s liberation, therefore, and to protect them against Future Shock, you had better buy at least one collection of fairy tales.5
Whom are we to believe? Andrea Dworkin, who contends that fairy tales perpetuate gender stereotypes, or Alison Lurie, who asserts that they un settle gender roles? Do we side with those who denounce fairy tales for their melodrama and violence or with the psychologist Bruno Bettelheim, who finds them crucial to a child’s healthy mental development? Margaret Atwood would answer by saying “It depends.” Astonished by reports that Grimms’ Fairy Tales was being denounced as sexist, she observed that one finds in the volume “wicked wizards as well as wicked witches, stupid women as well as stupid men.” “When people say ‘sexist fairy tales,’ ” she added, “they probably mean the anthologies that concentrate on ‘The Sleeping Beauty,’ ‘Cinderella,’ and ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ and leave out everything else. But in ‘my’ version, there are a good many forgetful or imprisoned princes who have to be rescued by the clever, brave, and re sourceful princess, who is just as willing to undergo hardship and risk her neck as are the princes engaged in dragon slaying and tower climbing.”6 Few fairy tales dictate a single, univocal, uncontested meaning; most are so elastic as to accommodate a wide variety of interpretations, and they derive their meaning through a process of engaged negotiation on the part of the reader. Just as there is no definitive version of “Little Red Riding Hood,” there is also no definitive interpretation of her story.
Some versions of Little Red Riding Hood’s story or Snow White’s story may appear to reenforce stereotypes; others may have an emancipatory po tential; still others may seem radically feminist. All are of historical interest, revealing the ways in which a story has adapted to a culture and been shaped by its social practices. The new story may be ideologically correct or ideologically suspect, but it can always serve as the point of departure for debate, critique, and dialogue. In this volume, I have tried to convey a sense of the rich cultural archive behind stories that we tend to flatten out with the monolithic labels “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Snow White,” or “Cinderella.”
Recovering fairy tales that have undergone a process of cultural sup pression or that have succumbed to cultural amnesia has been the mission of a number of folklorists in the past decades. Instead of reshaping canon ical fairy tales or trying to reinvent them, these collectors seek to fill in the many empty spaces on the shelves of our collective folkloric archive. Rose mary Minard’s Womenfolk and Fairy Tales explicitly seeks to identify tales in which women are “active, intelligent, capable, and courageous human beings.”7 While Minard succeeds in reviving some resourceful folklore her oines, many of the faces in her anthology are familiar ones. A Chinese Red Riding Hood, a Scandinavian Beauty, and a British wife of Bluebeard
5. Alison Lurie, “Fairy Tale Liberation,” New York Review of Books, 17 December 1970, 42. 6. Atwood, “Grimms’ Remembered,” 291-92. 7. Rosemary Minard, ed., Womenfolk and Fairy Tales (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1975) viii.
mingle in her anthology with the more obscure Unanana, Kate Cracker- nuts, and Clever Manka.
Like Minard, Ethel Johnston Phelps aims to collect tales that feature “active and courageous girls and women in the leading roles” for her vol ume Tatterhood and Other Tales.8 By contrast, Angela Carter’s Virago Book of Fairy Tales chooses texts for their historical interest, for the way in which they provide models of how women struggled, succeeded, and also some times failed in the challenges of everyday life. “I wanted to demonstrate the extraordinary richness and diversity of responses to the same common predicament—being alive—and the richness and diversity with which fem ininity, in practice, is represented in ‘unofficial’ culture: its strategies, its plots, its hard work.”9
Our own fairy-tale repertoire can now be said to consist of two competing traditions. On the one hand, we have the classical canon of tales collected by, among others, Joseph Jacobs in England, Charles Perrault in France, the Grimm brothers in Germany, and Alexander Afanasev in Russia. On the other hand, we have a rival tradition of heretical stories established by folklorists who have sought to unearth buried cultural treasures and to conduct archaeological exercises designed to connect us with a subversive dimension of our collective past. In addition to this twin folkloric legacy, we have the reinventions of such authors as Hans Christian Andersen and Oscar Wilde, who, in competing with the raconteurs of old, attempted to supplant their narratives and to provide new cultural texts on which to model our lives.
Hans Christian Andersen and Oscar Wilde can be seen as moving in an imitative mode, attempting to capture the style and spirit of folk raconteurs in their literary efforts. Yet their fairy tales, with their self-consciously artless expressions and calculated didactic effects, diverge dramatically from the traditional tales of folk cultures. What both Andersen and Wilde seem to have forgotten is that the folktale thrives on conflict and contrast, not on sentiment and pathos. P. L. Travers tellingly registers her response as a child to reading Andersen’s fairy tales: “Ah, how pleasant to be manipu lated, to feel one’s heartstrings pulled this way and that—twang, twang, again and again, longing, self-pity, nostalgia, remorse—and to let fall the fullsome tear that would never be shed for Grimm.”1 Andersen wants to erase “the pagan world with its fortitude and strong contrasts.” Still, An dersen’s “Little Mermaid” reveals just how easily literary fairy tales can mutate into folklore, lending themselves to adaptation, transformation, and critique in a variety of media and becoming part of our collective cultural awareness.
Feminist writers have resisted the temptation to move in the imitative mode, choosing instead the route of critique and parody in their recastings of tales. For Anne Sexton, for example, the history and wisdom of the past embedded in fairy tales is less important than the construction of new cultural signposts for coping with “being alive.” Anne Sexton’s Transfor-
8. Ethel Johnston Phelps, ed., Tatterhood and Other Tales (Old Westbury, New York: Feminist Press, 1978) xv.
9. Carter, Virago, xiv. 1. P. L. Travers, What the Bee Knows: Reflections on Myth, Symbol and Story (Wellingborough,
Northamptonshire: Aquarian Press, 1989) 232.
mations begins by staking a claim to producing fairy tales, by declaring herself to be the new source of folk wisdom and of oracular authority. She positions herself as speaker, “my face in a book” (presumably the Grimms’ Nursery and Household Tales), with “mouth wide, ready to tell you a story or two.” In a self-described appropriation of the Grimms’ legacy (“I take the fairy tale and transform it into a poem of my own”), Sexton creates new stories that stage her own “very wry and cruel and sadistic and funny” psychic melodramas.2 As “middle-aged witch,” Sexton presents herself as master of the black arts, of an opaque art of illusion, and also as a disruptive force, a figure of anarchic energy who subverts conventional cultural wis dom. Nowhere is her critique of romantic love, of the “happily ever after” of fairy tales, more searingly expressed than in the final strophe of “Cinderella”:
Cinderella and the prince lived, they say, happily ever after, like two dolls in a museum case never bothered by diapers and dust, never arguing over the timing of an egg, never telling the same story twice, never getting a middle-aged spread, their darling smiles pasted on for eternity. Regular Bobbsey Twins. That story.
Sexton’s transformations reveal the gap between “that story” and reality, yet at the same time expose the specious terms of “that story,” showing how intolerable it would be, even if true.
Sexton enters into an impassioned dialogue with the Grimm brothers, contesting their premises, interrogating their plots, and reinventing their conclusions. Other writers, recognizing the social energy of these tales, have followed her lead, rewriting and recasting stories told by Perrault, the Grimms, Madame de Beaumont, and Hans Christian Andersen. The dia logue may not always be as emotionally charged as it is in Sexton’s poetry. In some cases it will be so muted that many readers will be unaware of the intertextual connection with fairy tales. Few film reviewers, for exam ple, recognized the allusive richness of Jane Campion’s The Piano* which opens with a bow to Andersen’s “Little Mermaid,” then nods repeatedly in the direction of the Grimms’ “Robber Bridegroom” and Perrault’s “Bluebeard.”
With her collection of stories The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter joined Anne Sexton in reworking the familiar script of fairy tales, in her case to mount “a critique of current relations between the sexes.” Carter positions herself as a “moral pornographer,” a writer seeking to “penetrate to the heart of the contempt for women that distorts our culture.” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Puss in Boots,” and “Bluebeard”:
2. Diane Wood Middlebrook, Anne Sexton (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991) 336-37. 3. The Piano, dir. Jane Campion, Miramax, 1994.
all these stories have, according to Carter, a “violently sexual” side to them, a “latent content” that becomes manifest in her rescriptings of fairy tales for an adult audience.4 Carter aims above all to demystify these sacred cultural texts, to show that we can break their magical spells and that social change is possible once we become aware of the stories that have guided our social, moral, and personal development. Margaret Atwood’s novels and short stories also enact and critique the plots of fairy tales, showing the degree to which these stories inform our affective life, programming our responses to romance, defining our desires, and constructing our anxieties. Like Sally, the fictional heroine of Atwood’s “Bluebeard’s Egg,” Atwood questions the seemingly timeless and universal truths of our cultural stories by reflecting on their assumptions and exploring the ways in which they can be subverted through rewritings.
It was Charlotte Brontë who inaugurated with full force the critique of fairy-tale romance in fiction by women for women. The life story of the heroine of Jane Eyre ( 1847) can be read as a one-woman crusade and act of resistance to the roles modeled for girls and women in fairy tales.5 At Gateshead, Jane Eyre finds herself positioned as domestic slave, as a Cin derella figure in the Reed household. Employed as an “under-nurserymaid, to tidy the rooms, dust the chairs” (25), she is subjected on a daily basis to reproaches, persecuted by two unpleasant “stepsisters” and by a “step mother” who has an “insuperable and rooted aversion” (23) to her, and excluded from the “usual restive cheer” (23) of holiday parties. Jane, al though initially self-pitying and complicit, takes a defiant stance, refusing to be contained and framed by the cultural story that has inscribed itself on her life. Rather than passively enduring her storybook fate (which will keep her—as a “plain Jane”—forever locked in the first phase of “Cinder ella”), she rebels against the social reflexes of her world and writes herself out of the script.
Just as Jane refuses to model her behavior on Cinderella, despite the seductive, though false, hopes of that story, so too she refrains from ac cepting the role of beloved in Rochester’s fairy-tale fantasies. No beauty, Jane is nonetheless at first enchanted by the prospect of domesticating a man who is described as “metamorphosed into a lion” and who inhabits a house with “a corridor from some Bluebeard’s castle,” à house that contains the dreaded forbidden chamber familiar to readers of “Bluebeard.” Jane recognizes what is at stake for her in succumbing to a fairy-tale concept of romance: “For a moment I am beyond my own mastery. What does it mean? I did not think I should tremble in this way when I saw him—or lose my voice or the power of motion in his presence” (214). Jane Eyre rejects the cult of suffering and self-effacement endorsed in fairy tales like “Cinderella” and “Beauty and the Beast” to construct her own story, re nouncing prefabricated roles and creating her own identity. She reinvents herself and produces a radically new cultural script, the one embodied in
4. Robin Ann Sheets, “Pornography, Fairy Tales, and Feminism: Angela Carter’s ‘The Bloody Chamber,’ ” Journal of the History of Sexuality 1 (1991): 635, 642.
5. All parenthetical citations to }ane Eyre refer to Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre, ed. Richard }. Dunn (New York: Norton, 1987).
the written record that constitutes her own autobiography. Making produc tive use of fairy tales by reacting to them, resisting them, and rewriting them rather than passively consuming them until they are “lying in the stomach, as real identity,” Jane Eyre offers us a splendidly legible and luminous map of reading for our cultural stories.
Tke Texts of THE CLASSIC FAIRY TALES
INTRODUCTION: Little Red
Late in life, Charles Dickens confessed that Little Red Riding Hood was his “first love”: “I felt that if I could have married Little Red Riding Hood, I should have known perfect bliss.”1 Dickens’s sentimental at tachment to a fairy-tale character brought to literary life by Charles Perrault and reincarnated by the Brothers Grimm as Little Red Cap is hardly remarkable. But had Dickens been aware of Red Riding Hood’s folkloric origins, he might have been more guarded in his enthusiasm for Perrault’s “pretty village girl” or the Grimms’ “dear little girl.” Fairy tales, as folklorists and historians never tire of reminding us, have their roots in a peasant culture relatively uninhibited in its expressive energy. For centuries, farm laborers and household workers relied on the telling of tales to shorten the hours devoted to repetitive harvesting tasks and domestic chores. Is it surprising that, in an age without radios, televi sions, and other electronic wonders, they favored fast-paced narratives with heavy doses of burlesque comedy, melodramatic action, scatalog- ical humor, and free-wheeling violence?
The distinguished French folklorist Paul Delarue claims to have found an authentic peasant folk narrative in “The Story of Grand mother” [10-11] , a version of Little Red Riding Hood recorded in Brittany in 1885 but presumably told by the fireside at least a century earlier. While the tale recounts a girl’s trip to grandmother’s house and her encounter with a wolf, the resemblance to Perrault’s “Little Red Riding Hood” and the Grimms’ “Little Red Cap” ends there. This Gallic heroine escapes falling victim to the wolf and instead joins the ranks of trickster figures. After arriving at grandmother’s house and un wittingly eating “meat” and drinking “wine” that turns out to be the flesh and blood of her grandmother, she performs a striptease for the wolf, gets into bed with him, and escapes by pleading with the wolf for a chance to go outdoors and relieve herself.
Although Delarue’s “Story of Grandmother” was not recorded until 1885 (almost two centuries after Perrault wrote down the story of “Little
Bracketed page numbers refer to this Norton Critical Edition. 1. Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Tree,” Christmas Stories (London: Chaptman and Hall, 1898)
4 LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
Red Riding Hood” [11-13]) , it is presumably more faithful to an oral tradition predating Perrault, in part because the folklorist recording it was not invested in producing a highly literary book of manners for aristocratic children and worked hard to capture the exact wording of the peasant raconteur, and in part because oral traditions are notori ously conservative and often preserve the flavor of narratives as they circulated centuries ago. The “peasant girl” of the oral tradition is, as Jack Zipes points out, “forthright, brave, and shrewd.”2 She is an expert at using her wits to escape danger. Perrault changed all that when he put her story between the covers of a book and eliminated vulgarities, coarse turns of phrase, and unmotivated plot elements. Gone are the references to bodily functions, the racy double entendres, and the gaps in narrative logic. As Delarue points out, Perrault removed those ele ments that would have shocked the society of his epoch with their cruelty (the girl’s devouring of the grandmother’s flesh and blood), their inanity (the choice between the path of needles and the path of pins), or their “impropriety” (the girl’s question about her grandmother’s hairy body).3
Perrault worked hard to craft a tale that excised the ribald grotesque- ries from the original peasant tale and rescripted the events in such a way as to accommodate a rational discursive mode and moral economy. That he intended to send a message about vanity, idleness, and igno rance becomes clear from the “moralité” appended to the tale:
From this story one learns that children, Especially young girls, Pretty, well-bred, and genteel, Are wrong to listen to just anyone, And it’s not at all strange, If a wolf ends up eating them. 
Perrault’s Little Red Riding Hood has no idea that it is “dangerous to stop and listen to wolves” . She also makes the fatal error of having a “good time” gathering nuts, chasing butterflies, and picking flowers . And, of course, she is not as savvy as Thurber’s “little girl” who knows that “a wolf does not look any more like your grandmother than the Metro-Goldwyn lion looks like Calvin Coolidge” .
Little Red Riding Hood’s failure to fight back or to resist in any way led the psychoanalytically oriented Bruno Bettelheim to declare that the girl must be “stupid or she wants to be seduced.” Perrault, in his view, transformed a “naive, attractive young girl, who is induced to neglect Mother’s warnings and enjoy herself in what she consciously
2. Jack Zipes, ed. The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood, 2d ed. (New York: Routledge, 1993) 26.
3. Paul Delarue, “Les Contes merveilleux de Perrault et la tradition populaire,” Bulletin folk lorique de l’Ile-de-France (1951): 26.
believes to be innocent ways, into nothing but a fallen woman.”4 No longer a trickster who survives through her powers of improvisation, she has become either a dimwit or a complicit victim. Bettelheim was also sensitive to the transformations endured by the wolf. Once a rapacious beast, he was turned by Perrault into a metaphor, a stand-in for male seducers who lure young women into their beds. While it may be true that peasant cultures figured the wolf as a savage predator, folk racon teurs had probably already gleefully taken advantage of the metaphor ical possibilities of Little Red Riding Hood’s encounter with the wolf and also exploited the full range and play of the tale’s potential for sexual innuendo.
The Grimms’ “Little Red Cap” [13-16] erased all traces of the erotic playfulness found in “The Story of Grandmother” and placed the ac tion in the service of teaching lessons to the child inside and outside the story. Like many fairy tales, the Grimms’ narrative begins by framing a prohibition, but it has difficulty moving out of that mode. Little Red Cap’s mother hands her daughter cakes and wine for grandmother and proceeds to instruct her in the art of good behavior: “When you’re out in the woods, walk properly and don’t stray from the path. Otherwise you’ll fall and break the glass, and then there’ll be nothing for Grand mother. And when you enter her room, don’t forget to say good morn ing, and don’t go peeping in all the corners of the room” . The Grimms’ effort to encode lessons in “Little Red Cap” could hardly be called successful. The lecture on manners embedded in the narrative is not only alien to the spirit of fairy tales—which are so plot driven that they rarely traffic in the kind of pedagogical precision on display here—but also misfires in its lack of logic. The bottle never breaks even though Red Cap strays from the path, and the straying takes place only after the wolf has already spotted his prey.
The folly of trying to derive a clear moral message from “Little Red Riding Hood” in any of its versions becomes evident from Eric Berne’s rendition of a Martian’s reaction to the tale:
What kind of a mother sends a little girl into a forest where there are wolves? Why didn’t her mother do it herself, or go along with LRRH? If grandmother was so helpless, why did mother leave her all by herself in a hut far away? But if LRRH had to go, how come her mother had never warned her not to stop and talk to wolves? The story makes it clear that LRRH had never been told that this was dangerous. No mother could really be that stupid, so it sounds as if her mother didn’t care much what happened to LRRH, or maybe even wanted to get rid of her. No little girl is that stupid either. How could LRRH look at the wolf’s eyes, ears, hands, and
4. Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (New York: Knopf, 1976).
6 LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
teeth, and still think it was her grandmother? Why didn’t she get out of there as fast as she could? 5
In analyzing the rhetoric of the text and showing how it subverts the very terms it establishes, Berne performs a kind of protodeconstructive analysis that challenges the notion of an unambiguous moral message in “Little Red Riding Hood.” Still, both Perrault and the Brothers Grimm remained intent on sending a moral message, and they did so by making the heroine responsible for the violence to which she is subjected. By speaking to strangers (as Perrault has it) or by disobeying her mother and straying from the path (as the Grimms have it), Red Riding Hood courts her own downfall.
For every act of violence that befalls heroes and heroines of fairy tales, it is easy enough to establish a cause by pointing to behavioral flaws. The aggression of the witch in “Hansel and Gretel,” for example, is often traced to the gluttony of the children. A chain of events that might once have been arbitrarily linked to create burlesque effects can easily be restructured to produce a morally edifying tale. The shift from violence in the service of slapstick to violence in the service of a dis ciplinary regime may have added a moral backbone to fairy tales, but it rarely curbed their uninhibited display of violence. Nineteenth- century rescriptings of “Little Red Riding Hood” are, in fact, among the most frightening, in large part because they tap into discursive prac tices that rely on a pedagogy of fear to regulate behavior. A verse melo drama that appeared in 1862 made Little Red Riding Hood responsible for her own death and for her grandmother’s demise:
If Little Red Riding Hood only had thought Of these little matters as much as she ought, In the trap of the Wolf she would ne’er have been caught, Nor her Grandmother killed in so cruel a sort. 6
Or, as Red Riding Hood’s father put it in a version of the tale by Sabine Baring-Gould:
A little maid, Must be afraid To do other than her mother told her.7
The story of Little Red Riding Hood seems to have lost more than it gained in making the transition from adult oral entertainment to literary fare for children. Once a folktale full of earthy humor and high melodrama, it was transformed into a heavy-handed narrative with a pedagogical agenda designed by adults. In the process, the surreal vi-
5. Eric Berne, What Do You Say After You Say Hello? The Psychology of Human Destiny (New York: Grove, 1972) 43.
6. Zipes, Trials, 158. 7. Ibid., 200.
olence of the original was converted into a frightening punishment for a relatively minor infraction. It is only in the past few decades that the tale has been reinvigorated through the efforts of writers who have con tested the disciplinary edge to the story and challenged its basic as sumptions. Although the strategies for reframing the story vary from one author to the next, they generally aim to turn Little Red Riding Hood into a clever, resourceful heroine (“It is not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be” , as Thurber notes) or to rehabilitate the wolf (“Sweet and sound she sleeps in granny’s bed, between the paws of the tender wolf,” is the final sentence of Angela Carter’s story “The Company of Wolves”). 8
Just as writers have felt free to tamper and tinker with “Little Red Riding Hood” (often radically revising its terms, as does Roald Dahl [21-23]), critics have played fast and loose with the tale, displaying boundless confidence in their interpretive pronouncements. To be sure, the tale itself, by depicting a conflict between a weak, vulnerable pro tagonist and a large, powerful antagonist, lends itself to a certain inter pretive elasticity. Allegorical readings invest the story with a kind of interpretive plenitude, giving it a meaning, relevance, and sense that claims to transcend historical variation. Yet these readings, whether they take the form of political or social allegories can turn out to be re markably unstable.
Both Erich Fromm and Susan Brownmiller have trained their inter pretive skills on “Little Red Riding Hood.” Each has read the story in allegorical terms as depicting an eternal battle of the sexes, but those readings reach very different conclusions about what is at stake in that battle. Fromm, whose psychoanalytic account of “Little Red Riding Hood” came under heavy fire from the historian Robert Darnton, finds in the tale the “expression of a deep antagonism against men and sex.” 9
This story, presumably passed on from one generation of women to the next, portrays men as ruthless and cunning animals, who turn the sexual act into a cannibalistic ritual.
The hate and prejudice against men are even more clearly exhib ited at the end of the story. . . . We must remember that the woman’s superiority consists in her ability to bear children. How, then, is the wolf made ridiculous? By showing that he attempted to play the role of a pregnant woman, having living things in his belly. Little Red-Cap puts stones, a symbol of sterility, into his belly, and the wolf collapses and dies. His deed . . . is punished according to his crime: he is killed by the stones, the symbol of sterility, which mock his usurpation of the pregnant woman’s role.1
8. In The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories (New York: Penguin, 1979) 118. 9. Erich Fromm, The Forgotten Language: An Introduction to the Understanding of Dreams,
Fairy Tales and Myths (New York: Rinehart, 1951) 241. 1. Fromm, Forgotten, 241.
8 LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
The notion of a wolf suffering from womb envy may seem prepos terous, but Fromm is not the only interpreter of the tale to read the wolfs act of devouring as a cover for the desire to conceive. Anne Sexton’s wolf appears to be “in his ninth month” after gobbling down Red Riding Hood and her grandmother, and the two are liberated when a hunter performs “a kind of caesarian section.”2 A recent children’s version of the tale shows the wolf peacefully sleeping with a glowing belly, swollen to accommodate the body of a serene Little Red Riding Hood.3
For Susan Brownmiller, “Little Red Riding Hood” recounts a cul tural story that holds the gender bottom line by perpetuating the notion that women are at once victims of male violence even as they must position themselves as beneficiaries of male protection:
Sweet, feminine Little Red Riding Hood is off to visit her dear old grandmother in the woods. The wolf lurks in the shadows, con templating a tender morsel. Little Red Riding Hood and her grand mother, we learn, are equally defenseless before the male wolfs strength and cunning. . . . The wolf swallows both females with no sign of a struggle. . . . Red Riding Hood is a parable of rape. There are frightening male figures abroad in the woods—we call them wolves, among other names—and females are helpless before them. Better stick close to the path, better not be adventurous. If you are lucky, a good friendly male may be able to save you from certain disaster.4
Both Fromm and Brownmiller’s efforts to view “Little Red Riding Hood” as a repository for certain timeless and universal truths founder precisely because every critic seems to find a different timeless and universal truth in the tale. Allegorical readings tend to undermine and discredit each other by their very multiplicity. Their sheer number be gins to suggest that the story targeted for interpretation is nothing but nonsense, that it veers off in the direction of the absurd, signifying nothing.
“The Story of Grandmother” seems to support the notion that fairy tales function as little more than a diversion and that efforts to invest them with meaning inevitably misfire. But the excessive number of references to nourishment, starvation, cannibalism, and devouring in “The Story of Grandmother” also suggests that the interpretive stakes are high and challenges us to understand the story’s engagement with the basic conditions of our existence. Psychoanalytic criticism has worked hard to understand what Alan Dundes refers to as the strong
2. Anne Sexton, “Red Riding Hood,” Transformations (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1971) 72 – 79.
3. Beni Montresor, Little Red Riding Hood (New York: Doubleday, 1991). 4. Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape (New York: Bantam, 1976)
component of “infantile fantasy” at work in the tale.5 Dundes points out that “Little Red Riding Hood,” identified in the Aarne-Thompson tale-type index6 as AT 333 and known by the title, “The Glutton,” is probably a cognate form of AT 123, “The Wolf and the Seven Kids.” The only real difference, Dundes insists, is that the ogre goes to the house of the child in AT 123, while the child goes to the house of the ogre in AT 333. Dundes further argues that “Little Red Riding Hood,” at least in its early forms, had more to do with children’s anxieties about being devoured than with the adult sexual anxieties that came to be foregrounded as the story evolved. Chiang Mi’s “Goldflower and the Bear” (19-21) gives us an Asian version of “The Wolf and the Seven Kids” that reveals a clear kinship with early European versions of “Little Red Riding Hood” and suggests just how child-centered the tale was in its early forms.
Angela Carter recalls her first encounter with Perrault’s Little Red Riding Hood: “My maternal grandmother used to say, ‘Lift up the latch and walk in,’ when she told it [to] me when I was a child; and at the conclusion, when the wolf jumps on Little Red Riding Hood and gob bles her up, my grandmother used to pretend to eat me, which made me squeak and gibber with excited pleasure.”7 Carter’s grandmother, by impersonating the grandmother-devouring wolf who also imperson ates grandmothers, turns the tables by turning on her granddaughter, the girl who feasts on grandmother’s flesh and blood in folk versions of the tale. Carter’s account of her experience with “Little Red Riding Hood” shows the tale to be one of intergenerational rivalry, yet it also reveals the degree to which the meaning of a tale is generated in its performance. The scene of reading or acting out a text can affect its reception far more powerfully than the morals and timeless truths in serted into the text by Perrault, the Grimms, and others.
Consider Luciano Pavarotti’s childhood experience with “Little Red Riding Hood” and how markedly it differs from Carter’s:
In my house, when I was a little boy, it was my grandfather who told the stories. He was wonderful. He told violent, mysterious tales that enchanted me. . . . My favorite one was Little Red Riding Hood. I identified with Little Red Riding Hood. I had the same fears as she. I didn’t want her to die. I dreaded her death—or what we think death is. I waited anxiously for the hunter to come. 8
Little Red Riding Hood’s brush with death is no longer burlesque, playful, or erotically charged. Instead, it has become the site of violence,
5. Alan Dundes, “Interpreting ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ Psychoanalytically,” in Little Red Riding Hood: A Casebook, ed. Alan Dundes (Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1989) 225.
6. Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson, The Types of the Folktales: A Classification and Bibliography (Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 1961).
7. Angela Carter, ed., The Virago Book of Fairy Tales (London: Virago, 1990) 240. 8. Luciano Pavarotti, “Introduction,” in Morttresor, Little Red Riding Hood.
10 LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
melodrama, and mystery. The feeling of dread, coupled with a sense of enchantment, captures the fascination with matters from which chil- dren are usually shielded. Pavarotti, like Dickens, is enamored of Little Red Riding Hood, but his infatuation is driven by her ability to survive death, to emerge whole from the belly of the wolf even in the face of death’s finality.
The Story of Grandmothert
There was once a woman who had made some bread. She said to her daughter: “Take this loaf of hot bread and this bottle of milk over to granny’s.”
The little girl left. At the crossroads she met a wolf, who asked: “Where are you going?”
“I’m taking a loaf of hot bread and a bottle of milk to granny’s.” “Which path are you going to take,” asked the wolf, “the path of
needles or the path of pins?”1
“The path of needles,” said the little girl. “Well, then, I’ll take the path of pins.” The little girl had fun picking up needles. Meanwhile, the wolf ar-
rived at granny’s, killed her, put some of her flesh in the pantry and a bottle of her blood on the shelf. The little girl got there and knocked at the door.
“Push the door,” said the wolf, “it’s latched with a wet straw.” “Hello, granny. I’m bringing you a loaf of hot bread and a bottle of
milk.” “Put it in the pantry, my child. Take some of the meat in there along
with the bottle of wine on the shelf.”2
There was a little cat in the room who watched her eat and said: “Phooey! You’re a slut if you eat the flesh and drink the blood of granny.”
“Take your clothes off, my child,” said the wolf, “and come into bed with me.”
“Where should I put my apron?” “Throw it into the fire, my child. You won’t be needing it any
t Told by Louis and François Briffault in Nièvre, 1885. Originally published by Paul Delarue, in “Les Contes merveilleux de Perrault et la tradition populaire,” Bulletin folklorique de l’Ile- de-France (1951): 221-22. Translated for this Norton Critical Edition by Maria Tatar. Copy- right © 1999 by Maria Tatar.
1. Yvonne Verdier (“Grand-mères, si vous saviez . . . le Petit Chaperon Rouge dans la tradition orale,” Cahiers de Littérature Orale 4 : 17-55) reads the path of pins and the path of needles as part of a social discourse pertaining to apprenticeships for girls in sewing. In another region of France, the paths are described as the path of little stones and the path of little thorns. An Italian version refers to a path of stones and a path of roots.
2. Local variations turn the flesh into tortellini in Italy and into sausage in France, while the blood is often said to be wine.
PERRAULT / LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD 11
When she asked the wolf where to put all her other things, her bodice, her dress, her skirt, and her stockings, each time he said: “Throw them into the fire, my child. You won’t be needing them any longer.”3
“Oh, granny, how hairy you are!” “The better to keep me warm, my child!” “Oh, granny, what long nails you have!” “The better to scratch myself with, my child!” “Oh, granny, what big shoulders you have!” “The better to carry firewood with, my child!” “Oh, granny, what big ears you have!” “The better to hear you with, my child!” “Oh, granny, what big nostrils you have!” “The better to sniff my tobacco with, my child!” “Oh, granny, what a big mouth you have!” “The better to eat you with, my child!” “Ôh, granny, I need to go badly. Let me go outside!” “Do it in the bed, my child.” “No, granny, I want to go outside.” “All right, but don’t stay out long.” The wolf tied a rope made of wool to her leg and let her go outside. When the little girl got outside, she attached the end of the rope to
a plum tree in the yard. The wolf became impatient and said: “Are you making cables out there? Are you making cables?”
When he realized that there was no answer, he jumped out of bed and discovered that the little girl had escaped. He followed her, but he reached her house only after she had gotten inside.
Little Red Riding Hoodf
Once upon a time there was a village girl, the prettiest you can imagine. Her mother adored her. Her grandmother adored her even more and made a little red hood for her. The hood suited the child so much that everywhere she went she was known by the name Little Red Riding Hood.
One day, her mother baked some cakes and said to her: “I want you
3. Many oral renditions of the tale presumably drew out the story by dwelling at length on what happens to each article of clothing,
t Charles Perrault, “Le Petit Chaperon Rouge,” in Histoires ou Contes du temps passé. Avec des Moralités (Paris: Barbin, 1697). Translated for this Norton Critical Edition by Maria Tatar. Copyright © 1999 by Maria Tatar.
12 LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
to go and see how your grandmother is faring, for I’ve heard that she’s ill. Take her some cakes and this little pot of butter.”
Little Red Riding Hood left right away for her grandmother’s house, which was in another village. As she was walking through the woods she met old Neighbor Wolf, who wanted to eat her right there on the spot. But he didn’t dare because some woodcutters were in the forest. He asked where she was going. The poor child, who did not know that it was dangerous to stop and listen to wolves, said: “I’m going to see my grandmother and am taking her some cakes and a little pot of butter sent by my mother.”
“Does she live very far away?” asked the wolf. “Oh, yes,” said Little Red Riding Hood. “She lives beyond the mill
that you can see over there. Hers is the first house you come to in the village.”
“Well, well,” said the wolf. “I think I shall go and see her too. I’ll take the path over here, and you take the path over there, and we’ll see who gets there first.”
The wolf ran as fast as he could on the shorter path, and the little girl continued on her way along the longer path. She had a good time gathering nuts, chasing butterflies, and picking bunches of flowers that she found.
The wolf did not take long to get to Grandmother’s house. He knocked: Rat-a-tat-tat.
“Who’s there?” “It’s your granddaughter, Little Red Riding Hood,” said the wolf,
disguising his voice. “And I’m bringing you some cake and a little pot of butter sent by my mother.”
The dear grandmother, who was in bed because she was not feeling well, called out: “Pull the bolt and the latch will open.”
The wolf pulled the bolt, and the door opened wide. He threw him self on the good woman and devoured her in no time, for he had eaten nothing in the last three days. Then he closed the door and lay down on Grandmother’s bed, waiting for Little Red Riding Hood, who, before long, came knocking at the door: Rat-a-tat-tat.
“Who’s there?” Little Red Riding Hood was afraid at first when she heard the gruff
voice of the wolf, but thinking that her grandmother must have caught cold, she said: “It’s your granddaughter, Little Red Riding Hood, and I’m bringing you some cake and a little pot of butter sent by my mother.”
The wolf tried to soften his voice as he called out to her: “Pull the bolt and the latch will open.”
Little Red Riding Hood pulled the bolt, and the door opened wide. When the wolf saw her come in, he hid under the covers of the bed and said: “Put the cakes and the little pot of butter on the bin and climb into bed with me.”
BROTHERS GRIMM / LITTLE RED CAP 13
Little Red Riding Hood took off her clothes and climbed into the bed. She was astonished to see what her grandmother looked like in her nightgown.
“Grandmother,” she said, “What big arms you have!” “The better to hug you with, my child.” “Grandmother, what big legs you have!” “The better to run with, my child.” “Grandmother, what big ears you have!” “The better to hear with, my child.” “Grandmother, what big eyes you have!” “The better to see with, my child.” “Grandmother, what big teeth you have!” “The better to eat you with!” Upon saying these words, the wicked wolf threw himself on Little
Red Riding Hood and gobbled her up.
From this story one learns that children, Especially young girls, Pretty, well-bred, and genteel, Are wrong to listen to just anyone, And it’s not at all strange, If a wolf ends up eating them. I say a wolf, but not all wolves Are exactly the same. Some are perfectly charming, Not loud, brutal, or angry, But tame, pleasant, and gentle, Following young ladies Right into their homes, into their chambers, But watch out if you haven’t learned that tame wolves Are the most dangerous of all.
Little Red Capt
Once upon a time there was a dear little girl. If you set eyes on her you could not but love her. The person who loved her most of all was her grandmother, and she could never give the child enough. Once she made her a little cap of red velvet. Since it was so becoming and
t Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, “Rotkappchen,” in Kinder- und Hausmârchen, 7th ed. (Berlin: Dieterich, 1857; first published: Berlin: Realschulbuchhandlung, 1812). Translated for this Norton Critical Edition by Maria Tatar. Copyright © 1999 by Maria Tatar.
14 LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
since she wanted to wear it all the time, everyone called her Little Red Cap.
One day her mother said to her: “Look, Little Red Cap. Here’s a piece of cake and a bottle of wine. Take them to your grandmother. She is ill and feels weak, and they will give her strength. You’d better start now before it gets too hot, and when you’re out in the woods, walk properly and don’t stray from the path. Otherwise you’ll fall and break the glass, and then there’ll be nothing for Grandmother. And when you enter her room, don’t forget to say good morning, and don’t go peeping in all the corners of the room.”
“I’ll do just as you say,” Little Red Cap promised her mother. Grandmother lived deep in the woods, half an hour’s walk from the
village. No sooner had Little Red Cap set foot in the forest than she met the wolf. Little Red Cap had no idea what a wicked beast he was, and so she wasn’t in the least afraid of him.
“Good morning, Little Red Cap,” he said. “Thank you kindly, wolf.” “Where are you headed so early in the morning, Little Red Cap?” “To my grandmother’s.” “What’s that you’ve got under your apron?” “Cake and wine. Yesterday we baked and Grandmother, who is sick
and feels weak, needs something to make her feel better.” “Where does your grandmother live, Little Red Cap?” “It’s another quarter of an hour’s walk into the woods. Her house is
right under three large oaks. You must know the place from the hazel hedges near it,” said Little Red Cap.
The wolf thought to himself: “That tender young thing will make a dainty morsel. She’ll be even tastier than the old woman. If you’re really crafty, you’ll get them both.”
He walked for a while beside Little Red Cap. Then he said: “Little Red Cap, have you seen the beautiful flowers all about? Why don’t you look around for a while? I don’t think you’ve even noticed how sweetly the birds are singing. You are walking along as if you were on the way to school, and yet it’s so heavenly out here in the woods.”
Little Red Cap opened her eyes wide and saw how the sunbeams were dancing this way and that through the trees and how there were beautiful flowers all about. She thought to herself: “I f you bring a fresh bouquet to Grandmother, she will be overjoyed. It’s still so early in the morning that I’m sure to get there in plenty of time.”
She left the path and ran off into the woods looking for flowers. As soon as she picked one she saw an even more beautiful one somewhere else and went after it, and so she went deeper and deeper into the woods.
The wolf went straight to Grandmother’s house and knocked at the door. “Who’s there?”
“Little Red Cap, I’ve brought some cake and wine. Open the door.”
BROTHERS GRIMM / LITTLE RED CAP 15
“Just raise the latch,” Grandmother called out. “I’m too weak to get out of bed.”
The wolf raised the latch, and the door swung wide open. Without saying a word, he went straight to Grandmother’s bed and gobbled her up. Then he put on her clothes and her nightcap, lay down in her bed, and drew the curtains.
Meanwhile, Little Red Cap had been running around looking for flowers. When she finally had so many that she couldn’t carry them all, she suddenly remembered Grandmother and set off again on the path to her house. She was surprised to find the door open, and when she stepped into the house, she had such a strange feeling that she thought to herself: “Oh, my goodness, I’m usually so glad to be at Grandmother’s, but today I feel so nervous.”
She called out a greeting but there was no answer. Then she went to the bed and drew back the curtains. Grandmother was lying there with her nightcap pulled down over her face. She looked very strange.
“Oh, Grandmother, what big ears you have!” “The better to hear you with.” “Oh, Grandmother, what big eyes you have!” “The better to see you with.” “Oh, Grandmother, what big hands you have!” “The better to grab you with!” “Oh, Grandmother, what a big, scary mouth you have!” “The better to eat you with!” No sooner had the wolf spoken those words than he leaped out of
bed and gobbled up poor Little Red Cap. Once the wolf had satisfied his desires, he lay down again in bed,
fell asleep, and began to snore very loudly. A huntsman happened to be passing by the house just then and thought to himself: “How the old woman is snoring! You’d better check to see what’s wrong.” He walked into the house and when he got to the bed he saw that the wolf was lying in it.
“I’ve found you at last, you old sinner,” he said. “I’ve been after you for a while now.”
He pulled out his musket and was about to take aim when he realized that the wolf might have eaten Grandmother and that she could still be saved. Instead of firing, he took out a pair of scissors and began cutting open the belly of the sleeping wolf. After making a few snips, he could see a red cap faintly. After making a few more cuts, the girl jumped out, crying: “Oh, how terrified I was! It was so dark in the wolf s belly!” And then the old grandmother found her way out alive, though she could hardly breathe. Little Red Cap quickly fetched some large stones and filled the wolf s belly with them. When he awoke, he was about to bound off, but the stones were so heavy that his legs collapsed and he fell down dead.
16 LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
All three were overjoyed. The huntsman skinned the wolf and went home with the pelt. Grandmother ate the cake and drank the wine Little Red Cap had brought her and recovered her health. Little Red Cap thought to herself: “Never again will you stray from the path and go into the woods, when your mother has forbidden it.”
There is also a story about another wolf who met Little Red Cap on the way to Grandmother’s, as she was taking her some cakes. The wolf tried to divert her from the path, but Little Red Cap was on her guard and kept right on going. She told her grandmother that she had met the wolf and that he had greeted her. But he had looked at her in such an evil way that ” I f we hadn’t been out in the open, he would have gobbled me right up.”
“Well then,” said Grandmother. “We’ll just lock that door so he can’t get in.”
Not much later the wolf knocked at the door and called out: “Open the door, Grandmother, it’s Little Red Cap. I’m bringing you some cakes.”
The two kept quiet and didn’t open the door. Then old Grayhead circled the house a few times and finally jumped up on the roof. He was planning on waiting until Little Red Cap went home. Then he was going to creep up after her and gobble her up in the dark. But Grand mother guessed what he had on his mind. There was a big stone trough in front of the house. She said to the child: “Here’s a bucket, Little Red Cap. Yesterday I cooked some sausages. Take the water in which they were boiled and pour it into the trough.”
Little Red Cap kept carrying water until that big, big trough was completely full. The smell of those sausages reached the wolf s nostrils. His neck was stretched out so long from sniffing and looking around that he lost his balance and began to slide down. He went right down the roof into the trough and was drowned. Little Red Cap walked home cheerfully, and no one did her any harm.
The Little Girl and the Wolft
One afternoon a big wolf waited in a dark forest for a little girl to come along carrying a basket of food to her grandmother. Finally a little girl did come along and she was carrying a basket of food. “Are you carrying that basket to your grandmother?” asked the wolf. The little girl said
t James Thurber, “The Little Girl and the Wolf,” from Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems Illustrated by }ames Thurber (New York: Harpers, 1940). Copyright © 1940 by James Thurber, renewed 1968 by Helen Thurber and Rosemary A. Thurber. Reprinted by arrangement with Rosemary A. Thurber and the Barbara Hogenson Agency.
CALVINO / T H E FALSE GRANDMOTHER 17
yes, she was. So the wolf asked her where her grandmother lived and the little girl told him and he disappeared into the wood.
When the little girl opened the door of her grandmother’s house she saw that there was somebody in bed with a nightcap and nightgown on. She had approached no nearer than twenty-five feet from the bed when she saw that it was not her grandmother but the wolf, for even in a nightcap a wolf does not look any more like your grandmother than the Metro-Goldwyn lion looks like Calvin Coolidge. So the little girl took an automatic out of her basket and shot the wolf dead.
Moral: It is not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be.
The False Grandmother t
A mother had to sift flour, and told her little girl to go to her grand mother’s and borrow the sifter. The child packed a snack—ring-shaped cakes and bread with oil—and set out.
She came to the Jordan River. “Jordan River, will you let me pass?” “Yes, if you give me your ring-shaped cakes.” The Jordan River had a weakness for ring-shaped cakes, which he
enjoyed twirling in his whirlpools. The child tossed the ring-shaped cakes into the river, and the river
lowered its waters and let her through. The little girl came to the Rake Gate. “Rake Gate, will you let me pass?” “Yes, if you give me your bread with oil.” The Rake Gate had a weakness for bread with oil, since her hinges
were rusty, and bread with oil oiled them for her. The little girl gave the gate her bread with oil, and the gate opened
and let her through. She reached her grandmother’s house, but the door was shut tight. “Grandmother, Grandmother, come let me in.” “I’m in bed sick. Come through the window.” “I can’t make it.” “Come through the cat door.” “I can’t squeeze through.” “Well, wait a minute,” she said, and lowered a rope, by which she
pulled the little girl up through the window. The room was dark. In
t “The False Grandmother,” recorded by Antonio de Nino, 1883, in Italian Folktales, selected and retold by Italo Calvino, trans. George Martin (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980). Copy right © 1980 by Harcourt Brace & Company, reprinted by permission of Harcourt Brace & Company.
18 LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
bed was the ogress, not the grandmother, for the ogress had gobbled up Grandmother all in one piece from head to toe, all except her teeth, which she had put on to stew in a small stew pan, and her ears, which she had put on to fry in a frying pan.
“Grandmother, Mamma wants the sifter.” “It’s late now. I’ll give it to you tomorrow. Come to bed.” “Grandmother, I’m hungry, I want my supper first.” “Eat the beans boiling in the boiler.” In the pot were the teeth. The child stirred them around and said,
“Grandmother, they’re too hard.” “Well, eat the fritters in the frying pan.” In the frying pan were the ears. The child felt them with the fork
and said, “Grandmother, they’re not crisp.” “Well, come to bed. You can eat tomorrow.” The little girl got into bed beside Grandmother. She felt one of her
hands and said, “Why are your hands so hairy, Grandmother?” “From wearing too many rings on my fingers.” She felt her chest. “Why is your chest so hairy, Grandmother?” “From wearing too many necklaces around my neck.” She felt her hips. “Why are your hips so hairy, Grandmother?” “Because I wore my corset too tight.” She felt her tail and reasoned that, hairy or not, Grandmother had
never had a tail. That had to be the ogress and nobody else. So she said, “Grandmother, I can’t go to sleep unless I first go and take care of a little business.”
Grandmother replied, “Go do it in the barn below. I’ll let you down through the trapdoor and then draw you back up.”
She tied a rope around her and lowered her into the barn. The minute the little girl was down she untied the rope and in her place attached a nanny goat. “Are you through?” asked Grandmother.
“Just a minute.” She finished tying the rope around the nanny goat. “There, I’ve finished. Pull me back up.”
The ogress pulled and pulled, and the little girl began yelling, “Hairy ogress! Hairy ogress!” She threw open the barn and fled. The ogress kept pulling, and up came the nanny goat. She jumped out of bed and ran after the little girl.
When the child reached the Rake Gate, the ogress yelled from a distance, “Rake Gate, don’t let her pass!”
But the Rake Gate replied, ” O f course I’ll let her pass; she gave me her bread with oil.”
When the child reached the Jordan River, the ogress shouted, “Jordan River, don’t you let her pass!”
But the Jordan River answered, ” O f course I’ll let her pass; she gave me her ring-shaped cakes.”
When the ogress tried to get through, the Jordan River did not lower
CHIANG M I / GOLDFLOWER AND THE BEAR 19
his waters, and the ogress was swept away in the current. From the bank the little girl made faces at her.
Goldflower and the Beart
Long, long ago, there was a clever and brave girl called Goldflower who lived with her mother and brother. They were very happy.
One day, her mother said: “Your Aunty is ill. I’m going to see her and won’t be back tonight. Look after your brother and ask your Granny to stay with you tonight!” Then she left with a basket of eggs and a hen.
At sunset, Goldflower herded the sheep home. After penning up the sheep, she shooed all the chickens into the coop. Then, she and her brother climbed a small hill to call Granny. Usually, after one shout, there would be an answer, but today there was no reply after several shouts. Goldflower thought: “It doesn’t matter. I’m not afraid.” They went home and she bolted the door.
Lighting a wick, they sat by the fire-pan and she began to tell her brother a story. Suddenly they heard a knock at the door. Brother hugged her and cried: “I’m afraid!”
They heard a strange but kindly voice saying: “I’m Granny.” Brother was very happy and shouted: “Sister, open the door! Granny has come!”
Goldflower leaned against the door and asked: “Is that you, Granny? What’s wrong with your voice?”
“I’ve a cold.” Came the reply followed by coughs. The boy urged his sister to open the door. Meanwhile, the voice
continued: “My dear, there is something wrong with my eyes and I’m afraid of light. Please blow out the wick before letting me in.”
It was so dark in the room that they couldn’t see who was coming in. Goldflower invited “Granny” to a stool, but it cried out when sitting down. The children jumped in fright. The “Granny” said: “Dear, I’ve a boil so I can’t sit on hard wood. Please give me a wicker basket.”
The swishing of the Bear’s tail in the dark caused Goldflower to ask: “What’s making that noise?”
“Oh! It’s the fly-swatter your grandpa bought for me,” replied “Granny.”
The clever girl stoked the fire brighter and, wow, there was a pair of hairy feet! Now she realized this isn’t Granny. It’s the Bear which likes to eat children. Goldflower calmed and pretended to have seen noth-
t “Goldflower and the Bear,” in Jack Zipes, The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood (New York: Routledge, 1993). Recorded by Chiang Mi, 1979. Copyright © 1993. Re printed by permission of Routledge, Inc.
20 LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
ing. But how to deal with this wicked Bear? Her mother had told her that bears were afraid of lice. She grabbed a handful of seeds and took off her brother’s hat, pretending to be catching lice in his hair. She threw the seeds into the fire. They crackled. The Bear growled: “Don’t let him sleep with me with his lice. Let him sleep outside!”
Brother was so afraid that he began to sob. Goldflower coaxed him to go to the other room to sleep. She locked the door on her way back. When she got back, the Bear asked her to go to bed. The Bear was very happy because it could have a hearty meal at midnight. But the clever Goldflower was also thinking of a way out. After sleeping for a while, she cried: “My tummy hurts! I want to go on the pot.”
The Bear thought: She would not be good to eat like this. So, it tied one end of a belt to Goldflower’s hand and let her go outside. After a while, the Bear pulled and then pulled again. It seemed that the girl was still on the other end. A long time passed. The Bear called several times but there was no answer. It got worried and pulled hard. Clunk. Something tumbled. The Bear was puzzled and felt its way along the belt. There was nothing at the end but a pot. The Bear was very angry. It was already midnight and the Bear started bellowing for food like any beast. Failing to find Goldflower, it stopped to drink some water from a pond before continuing the search. It saw Goldflower in the water and was overjoyed. When the Bear reached into the water to grasp Goldflower, she disappeared. The Bear angrily watched. When the wa ter became still, Goldflower reappeared. The Bear reached out but Goldflower again vanished. The Bear did not know what to do. A laugh came from above. The Bear quickly looked up and saw Goldflower in a tree. The image in the water was her reflection. The Bear wanted to climb the tree, but Goldflower had covered it with grease. The Bear slipped again and again. The Bear could only wait under the tree hap less while Goldflower laughed up on the tree. “Granny, do you want to eat some pears? Please get me the spear in the house.”
The Bear was really happy to hear this and went to fetch the spear. The Bear handed her the spear and, pointing to a few big pears, it said: “Give me those.”
“Granny, open your mouth. Here comes the pear!” Goldflower threw one at the Bear’s mouth.
The Bear ate it in two bites and asked her to spear some more. “Granny, this time open your mouth wide. It is a real big one.”
The Bear opened its mouth as wide as it could. And with all her might, Goldflower threw the spear into its mouth. With a groan, the Bear fell flat. Goldflower slid down the tree and kicked the dead Bear. “Do you still want to eat children?”
Roosters crowed. Goldflower opened the door to her brother’s room. He was sleeping soundly. She woke him and took him to the dead body. Now he knew that it was the wicked old Bear. The sun was rising
DAHL / RED RIDING HOOD AND THE W O L F 21
red in the east. Mother came back. She was very pleased to hear what had happened and praised the brave little girl. The story of Goldflower and the Bear spread far and wide.
Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolft
As soon as Wolf began to feel That he would like a decent meal, He went and knocked on Grandma’s door. When Grandma opened it, she saw The sharp white teeth, the horrid grin, And Wolfie said, ‘May I come in?’ Poor Grandmamma was terrified, ‘He’s going to eat me up!’ she cried. And she was absolutely right. He ate her up in one big bite. But Grandmamma was small and tough, And Wolfie wailed, That ‘s not enough! ‘I haven’t yet begun to feel Tha t I have had a decent meal!’ He ran around the kitchen yelping, Tve got to have another helping!’ Then added with a frightful leer, T m therefore going to wait right here Ti l l Little Miss Red Riding Hood ‘Comes home from walking in the wood.’ He quickly put on Grandma’s clothes, (Of course he hadn’t eaten those.) He dressed himself in coat and hat. He put on shoes and after that He even brushed and curled his hair, Then sat himself in Grandma’s chair. In came the little girl in red. She stopped. She stared. And then she said,
‘What great big ears you have, Grandma. ‘ ‘All the better to hear you with,’ the Wolf replied. ‘What great big eyes you have, Grandma,’
t Roald Dahl, “Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf,” in Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes (New York: Penguin, Puffin Books, 1995). Copyright © 1982 by Roald Dahl. Reprinted by permis sion of Random House, Inc.
22 LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
said Little Red Riding Hood. ‘All the better to see you with,’ the Wolf replied.
He sat there watching her and smiled. He thought, I’m going to eat this child. Compared with her old Grandmamma She’s going to taste like caviare.
Then Little Red Riding Hood said, ‘But Grandma, what a lovely great big furry coat you have on.’ That ‘s wrong!’ cried Wolf. ‘Have you forgot T o tell me what BIG T E E T H I’ve got? ‘Ah well, no matter what you say, ‘I’m going to eat you anyway.’ The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers. She whips a pistol from her knickers. She aims it at the creature’s head And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead. A few weeks later, in the wood, I came across Miss Riding Hood. But what a change! No cloak of red, No silly hood upon her head. She said, ‘Hello, and do please note ‘My lovely furry WOLFSKIN COAT.’
The Three Little Pigst
The animal I really dig Above all others is the pig. Pigs are noble. Pigs are clever, Pigs are courteous. However, Now and then, to break this rule, One meets a pig who is a fool. What, for example, would you say If strolling through the woods one day, Right there in front of you you saw A pig who’d built his house of STRAW? The Wolf who saw it licked his lips, And said, ‘That pig has had his chips.’
t Roald Dahl, “The Three Little Pigs,” in Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes (New York: Penguin, Puffin Books, 1995). Copyright © 1982 by Roald Dahl. Reprinted by permission of Random House, Inc.
DAHL / T H E THREE LITTLE PIGS 23
‘Little pig, little pig, let me come in!’ ‘No, no, by the hairs on my chinny-chin-chinl’ ‘Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your
The little pig began to pray, But Wolfie blew his house away. He shouted, ‘Bacon, pork and ham! ‘Oh, what a lucky Wolf I am!’ And though he ate the pig quite fast, He carefully kept the tail till last. Wolf wandered on, a trifle bloated. Surprise, surprise, for soon he noted Another little house for pigs, And this one had been built of T W I G S !
‘Little pig, little pig, let me come in!’ ‘No, no, by the hairs of my chinny-chin-chin!’ ‘Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your
The Wolf said, ‘Okay, here we go!’ He then began to blow and blow. The little pig began to squeal. He cried, ‘Oh Wolf, you’ve had one meal! ‘Why can’t we talk and make a deal?’ The Wolf replied, ‘Not on your nelly!’ And soon the pig was in his belly. ‘Two juicy little pigs!’ Wolf cried, ‘But still I am not satisfied! ‘I know full well my Tummy’s bulging, ‘But oh, how I adore indulging.’ So creeping quietly as a mouse, The Wolf approached another house, A house which also had inside A little piggy trying to hide. But this one, Piggy Number Three, Was bright and brainy as could be. No straw for him, no twigs or sticks. This pig had built his house of BRICKS. ‘You’ll not get me\’ the Piggy cried. Ti l blow you down!’ the Wolf replied. ‘You’ll need,’ Pig said, ‘a lot of puff, ‘And I don’t think you’ve got enough.’ Wolf huffed and puffed and blew and blew.
LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
The house stayed up as good as new. ‘If I can’t blow it down,’ Wolf said, Ti l have to blow it up instead. Ti l come back in the dead of night ‘And blow it up with dynamite!’ Pig cried, Tou brute! I might have known!’ Then, picking up the telephone, He dialled as quickly as he could The number of Red Riding Hood. ‘Hello,’ she said. ‘Who’s speaking? Who? ‘Oh, hello Piggy, how d’you do?’ Pig cried, ‘I need your help, Miss Hood! ‘Oh help me, please! D’you think you could?’ ‘I’ll try, of course,’ Miss Hood replied. ‘What’s on your mind?’ . . . ‘A Wolf I’ Pig cried. ‘I know you’ve dealt with wolves before, ‘And now I’ve got one at my door!’ ‘My darling Pig,’ she said, ‘my sweet, ‘That’s something really up my street. ‘I’ve just begun to wash my hair. ‘But when it’s dry, I’ll be right there.’ A short while later, through the wood, Came striding brave Miss Riding Hood. The Wolf stood there, his eyes ablaze And yellowish, like mayonnaise. His teeth were sharp, his gums were raw, And spit was dripping from his jaw. Once more the maiden’s eyelid flickers. She draws the pistol from her knickers. Once more, she hits the vital spot, And kills him with a single shot. Pig, peeping through the window, stood And yelled, ‘Well done, Miss Riding Hood!’
Ah, Piglet, you must never trust Young ladies from the upper crust. For now, Miss Riding Hood, one notes, Not only has two wolfskin coats, But when she goes from place to place, She has a PIGSKIN TRAVELLING CASE.
INTRODUCTION: Beauty and tke Beast
“Beauty and the Beast,” unlike most fairy tales, accommodates two developmental trajectories. It not only charts the challenges facing Beauty but also registers the transformation sustained by Beast, showing how these two antithetical allegorical figures resolve their differences to be joined in wedlock. What makes this story especially attractive is the way in which it is deeply entrenched in the myth of romantic love even as its representational energy is channeled into the tense moral, economic, and emotional negotiations that complicate courtship ritu als. Virtually every culture knows this story in at least one of the variant forms of the tale type designated by folklorists as “The Search for the Lost Husband” or “The Man on a Quest for His Lost Wife.” 1 While we may be burdened with a version of “Beauty and the Beast” that reflects the social mores of centuries ago, we also have an array of adept rescriptings that address the rich complexities and troubling anxieties of contemporary romantic entanglements.
“Cupid and Psyche,” the earliest known version of “Beauty and the Beast,” appeared in the second century A.D. in Apuleius’s Transforma tions of Lucian, Otherwise Known as the Golden Ass. Told by a “drunken and half-demented” woman to a young bride abducted by bandits on her wedding day, it is described as a fairy tale meant to console the distraught captive. While “Cupid and Psyche” shares many features with “Beauty and the Beast” as we know it today, it deviates from what has become our canonical version of the tale in a number of key ways. Eros, the first “Beast,” is only rumored to be a monster, and it is he who abandons Psyche, after her sisters urge her to take a look at the “enormous snake” that is her husband. More importantly, Psyche’s story is what one critic has declared a “paradigm of female heroism.”2 The intrepid heroine, jilted by Cupid, never indulges in self-pity but sets off on an epic quest fraught with risks and requiring her to accomplish one impossible task after another. Unlike her elo-
Bracketed page numbers refer to this Norton Critical Edition. 1. Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson, The Types of the Folktale: A Classification and Bibliography
(Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 1961). 2. Lee Edwards, “The Labors of Psyche: Toward a Theory of Female Heroism,” Critical Inquiry
6 (1979): 37.
26 BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
quent avatars in European versions of “Beauty and the Beast/’ Psyche is all action and no words. She undertakes a mission that not only requires the performance of feats (sorting grains, fetching a hank of golden wool, bringing Venus a jar of ice-cold water from the river Styx), but also demands that she renounce that quintessential feminine virtue known as compassion—the very trait that comes to the fore in European variants of “Beauty and the Beast.”
The version of “Beauty and the Beast” best known to Anglo-Ameri can audiences was penned in 1757 by Madame de Beaumont (Jeanne- Marie Leprince de Beaumont) for her Magasin des Enfants. Based on a baroque literary version of more than one hundred pages written in 1740 by Mademoiselle Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve, Madame de Beaumont’s courtly “Beauty and the Beast” reflects a desire to transform fairy tales into what Angela Carter has called “parables of instruction,” vehicles for indoctrinating and enlightening children about the virtues of good manners, good breeding, and good behavior. But the lessons and moral imperatives inscribed in Beaumont’s “Beauty and the Beast” pertain almost unilaterally to the tale’s young women, who, in a coda, are showered with either praise or blame. As Carter points out, the moral of Madame de Beaumont’s tale has more to do with “being good” than with “doing well”: “Beauty’s happiness is founded on her abstract quality of virtue.”3 With nervous pedagogical zeal, Madame de Beaumont concludes her tale with a flurry of plaudits and aspersions. Beauty has “preferred virtue to looks” and has “many virtues” along with a marriage “founded on virtue” . Her two sisters, by contrast, have hearts “filled with envy and malice” .
Beauty’s virtues, as her story makes clear, stem from a willingness to sacrifice herself. After discovering that Beast is prepared to accept one of the daughters in place of the father, she declares: “I feel fortunate to be able to sacrifice myself for him, since I will have the pleasure of saving my father and proving my feelings of tenderness for him” . To be sure, not all Beauties are such willing victims. In the Norwegian “East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon,” the heroine has to be talked into marrying the beast (a white bear) by her father: “[He] kept on telling her of all the riches they would get, and how well off she would be herself; and so at last she thought better of it”.4 Marrying her daugh ter off to a swine does not appear to be a terrible prospect to a woman in Straparola’s “Pig King,” especially after she learns that the daughter stands to inherit a kingdom. And in words that read to us like a parody of paternal expectations, the king of Basile’s “Serpent” pleads with his
3. Angela Carter, “About the Stories,” in Sleeping Beauty and Other Favourite Fairy Tales, ed. Angela Carter (Boston: Otter Books, 1991) 128.
4. “East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon,” in The Blue Fairy Tale Book, ed. Andrew Lang (Harmondsworth: Penguin, Puffin Books, 1987) 2.
daughter to take a snake as her husband: “Finding myself, I know not how, bound by my promise, I beg you, if you are a dutiful daughter, to enable me to keep my word and to content yourself with the husband Heaven sends and I am forced to give you.”5
That the desire for wealth motivates parents to turn their daughters over to a beast points to the possibility that these tales mirror social practices of an earlier age. Many an arranged marriage must have seemed like marriage to a beast, and the telling of stories like “Beauty and the Beast” may have furnished women with a socially acceptable channel for providing therapeutic advice, comfort, and consolation. Yet what many of these tales seem to endorse in one cultural inflection after another is a reinscription of patriarchal norms, the subordination of female desire to male desire, and a glorification of filial duty and self-sacrifice. Angela Carter’s “Courtship of Mr. Lyon” is unique in its effort to demystify these “natural” virtues by subjecting them to gro tesque exaggeration. Her heroine, who is “possessed by a sense of ob ligation to an unusual degree,” perceives herself to be “Miss Lamb, spotless, sacrificial.”6
Madame de Beaumont’s version of “Beauty and the Beast” not only endorses the importance of obedience and self-denial, but also uses the tale to preach the transformative power of love, more specifically the importance of valuing essences over appearances. That the latter lesson should be inscribed in a tale with a heroine who embodies physical perfection and a seamless fit between external appearances and inner essences is an irony that seems to have escaped the French governess. In men, by contrast, external appearances, and even charm, count for nothing. As Beauty puts it, in Madame de Beaumont’s tale: “It is neither good looks nor great wit that makes a woman happy with her husband, but character, virtue, and kindness, and Beast has all those good qual ities. I may not be in love with him, but I feel respect, friendship, and gratitude toward him” . In an anonymous version of 1818, Beauty delivers a similar speech attesting to the way in which Beast’s kindness makes his “deformity” virtually disappear.7
Just as “Beauty and the Beast” was entering print, it took various didactic turns that had been absent from many of the folk versions. Madame de Beaumont’s tale, which has become the canonical text in Anglo-American and European cultures, erases the burlesque humor and bizarre twists and turns found in many folk versions of the tale. Written at the dawn of the Enlightenment, it attempted to steady the
5. Giambattista Basile, “Serpent,” in The Pentamerone, trans. Benedetto Croce, ed. N. M. Penzer (New York: John Lane the Bodley Head, 1932) 1:163.
6. Angela Carter, “The Courtship of Mr. Lyon,” in The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1993) 45.
7 Marina Warner, “Reluctant Brides: Beauty and the Beast I,” in From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994″) 295.
28 BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
fears of young women, to reconcile them to the custom of arranged marriages, and to brace them for an alliance that required them to efface their own desires and to submit to the will of a “monster.”
That there are multiple alternatives to the social norms presented in Madame de Beaumont’s story becomes evident not only in recent re- castings of “Beauty and the Beast” by Angela Carter and others, but also in earlier versions that found their way into print. Consider the comic possibilities inherent in tales about girls who marry pigs, hedge hogs, snakes, frogs, or donkeys and the ways in which folk raconteurs no doubt elaborated on courtship rituals and grew expansive about the wedding night. When the transformation from beast to man does not take place until the morning after—or many mornings after, as in Stra- parola’s “Pig King” in the Neapolitan Pleasant Nights—it is not difficult to extract humor from bedroom scenes:
As soon as the time for retiring for the night had come, the bride went to bed and awaited her unseemly spouse, and, as soon as he came, she raised the coverlet and bade him lie near to her and put his head upon the pillow. . . . When morning had come the pig got up and ranged abroad to pasture. . . . The queen went to the bride’s chamber, expecting to find that she had met with the same fate as her sisters; but when she saw [Meldina] lying in the bed, all defiled with mud as it was, and looking pleased and con tented, she thanked God for this favor, that her son had at last found a spouse according to his liking.
Or imagine how the grotesqueries of the Russian “Snotty Goat” (“snot ran down his nose, slobber ran from his mouth”) 8 and the Italian “Mouse with the Long Tail” (“a tail a mile long that smelled to high heaven”) 9 might have enlivened long winter evenings devoted to house hold chores.
These variants of “Beauty and the Beast” offered more than just the opportunity for pointed wisecracks, spirited banter, and bawdy humor. The heroine of “The Snotty Goat,” for example, is no self-effacing Beauty. She is described as “not a bit squeamish,” willing to tolerate the vulgar habits of her betrothed yet also defiantly slapping the cheeks of anyone who tries to belittle her. Defiance is, in fact, a characteristic trait of many of the folkloric heroines who find themselves pestered by beasts. In the Grimms’ “Three Little Birds,” the heroine and her two brothers encounter a large black dog who turns into “a handsome prince” after being struck on the face. The fairy-tale heroine who reacts with aversion, loathing, or anger to the beastly exterior of her prospec-
8. Alexander Afanasev, “The Snotty Goat,” in Russian Fairy Tales, trans. Norbert Guterman (New York: Pantheon, 1945) 201.
9. “The Mouse with the Long Tale,” in Italian Folktales, comp. Italo Calvino, trans. George Martin (New York: Pantheon, 1980) 653.
tive spouse seems no less likely to effect a magical transformation than her tenderly affectionate or compassionate counterpart.
The Grimms’ “Frog King, or Iron Heinrich,” although classified by folklorists as a tale type separate from “Beauty and the Beast,” bears a distinct family resemblance to it. Like Beauty, the princess in the Grimms’ tale must accept an animal suitor, but, despite her father’s admonition (“You shouldn’t scorn someone who helped you when you were in trouble!” ), she balks at the idea of letting the frog into her bed. Flying into a rage, she hurls the erotically ambitious frog against the wall: “Now you’ll get your rest, you disgusting frog!” .
Some variant forms of the Grimms’ tale feature a princess who ad mits the frog to her chamber despite his revolting appearance, but most give us a princess who is perfectly capable of committing acts rivaling the coldblooded violence of dashing a creature against a wall. Scottish and Gaelic versions of “The Frog King” show the princess beheading her suitor. A Polish variant replaces the frog with a snake and recounts in lavish detail the princess’s act of tearing the creature in two. A more tame Lithuanian text requires the burning of the snake’s skin before the prince is freed from his reptilian state. Acts of passion as much as acts of compassion have the power to disenchant. Although the princess of “The Frog King, or Iron Heinrich” is self-absorbed, ungrateful, and cruel, in the end she does as well for herself as all of the modest, obedient, and charitable Beauties of “Search for the Lost Husband” tales.
“Beauty and the Beast” stands as a model for a plot rich in oppor tunities for expressing a woman’s anxieties about marriage, but, in re cent years, it has turned into a story focused on Beast rather than on Beauty. As Marina Warner points out, “the attraction of the wild, and of the wild brother in twentieth-century culture, cannot be overesti mated; as the century advanced, in the cascade of deliberate revisions of the tale, Beauty stands in need of the Beast, rather than vice versa, and the Beast’s beastliness is good, even adorable.”1 While eighteenth- and nineteenth-century versions of the tale celebrated the civilizing power of feminine virtue and its triumph over crude animal desire, our own culture hails Beast’s heroic defiance of civilization, with all its discontents.
The happy ending to Angela Carter’s “Tiger’s Bride” reverses the traditional terms of “Beauty and the Beast.” Fulfilling a contract re quiring her to strip before the beast, the heroine approaches her op pressor as if offering “the key to a peaceable kingdom in which his appetite need not be my extinction” . Haunted by “the fear of devourment” , she nonetheless courageously approaches Beast, pre pared to hold up her father’s end of the bargain:
1. Warner, “Go Be a Beast: Beauty and the Beast II,” in Beast, 307.
30 BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
He dragged himself closer and closer to me, until I felt the harsh velvet of his head against my hand, then a tongue, abrasive as sandpaper. “He will lick the skin off me!” And each stroke of his tongue ripped off skin after successive skin, all the skins of a life in the world, and left behind a nascent patina of shining hairs. My earrings turned back to water and trickled down my shoulders; I shrugged the drops off my beautiful fur.
Jon Scieszka plays fast and loose with the ground rules of folk nar ratives in his recasting of “The Frog King” for children, The Frog Prince Continued. His story, which begins after the transformation into a prince, reveals “the shocking truth about life ‘happily ever after.’ ” The princess and the prince live in such marital discord that the prince flees, searching for a witch who can effect his transformation back into a frog. Yet in the end, as in the conclusion to “The Tiger’s Bride,” an authentic happy ending is found in a return to nature for both partners: “The Prince kissed the Princess. They both turned into frogs. And they hopped off happily ever after.”2 Scieszka has done more than give a clever new twist to an old tale. He has effected a profound ideological shift, transforming the tale from one that celebrates the superiority of culture over nature to one that concedes nature’s triumph over culture. Human beings, as it turns out, are the real beasts.
The profound shift in cultural values registered in Carter’s “Tiger’s Bride” and Scieszka’s Frog Prince Continued also finds expression in the Disney Studio version of “Beauty and the Beast.” The true villain in this cinematic tale is Gaston (Beast’s rival for Belle), a man who endorses the rigid, self-destructive logic of Western civilization and sanctions ecological devastation. Disney’s Beast, virile yet sensitive, re mains attuned to nature and open to the notion of regeneration by cultivating his feminine side. The Disney version in this particular case gives us a Beast-centered narrative devoted almost exclusively to the development of the male figure in the story. Marina Warner finds in Belle nothing but a cover for telling the story of Beast: “While the Disney version ostensibly tells the story of the feisty, strong-willed her oine, and carries the audience along on the wave of her dash, her impatient ambitions, her bravery, her self-awareness, and her integrity, the principal burden of the film’s message concerns maleness, its var ious faces and masks, and, in the spirit of romance, it offers hope of regeneration from within the unregenerate male.” 3
With such a profusion of tales about animal grooms, it is easy to forget that women also often fall victim to enchantments and suffer in silence as snakes, frogs, and ravens, waiting for the right man to come along. While these tales may have fallen into cultural disfavor, with few
2. Jon Scieszka, The Frog Prince Continued (New York: Viking, 1991). 3. Warner, “Go,” Beast, 314.
incorporated into the current canon of children’s literature, they are worth looking at to see the extent to which gender becomes destiny in folklore. Comparisons of the two tale types can reveal the degree to which the folkloric imagination constructs subjectivity and desire dif ferently for men and for women.
To begin with, it is important to bear in mind that the titles “The Search for the Lost Husband” (AT 425) and “The Man on a Quest for His Lost Wife” (AT 420) already reflect a certain degree of critical distortion. The two different lexical registers (“search” versus “quest”) speak for themselves (a quest is more noble than a search), as does the absence of the female subject in the title “The Search for the Lost Husband.” That the term quest is not always appropriate for describing a husband’s action becomes evident from a reading of “The Frog Prin cess,” a Russian tale about an enchanted bride. So resourceful, enter prising, and accomplished is this amphibious wife that she succeeds in earning the devotion of a human husband who does little more than burn her animal skin (and too soon at that). Yet the early burning of the skin leads to a second phase of action that demonstrates the hus band’s willingness to go to the ends of the earth for his wife’s sake and culminates in a joyous reunion of the pair.
One cultural variant of “The Man on a Quest for His Lost Wife” is particularly prescient in its representation of nostalgia for a return to an original, primordial state of being. “The Swan Maiden,” a tale wide spread in Scandinavian regions, discloses the secretly oppressive nature of marriage with its attendant housekeeping and childrearing respon sibilities. Swan maidens, domesticated by an act of violence, eventually seize the opportunity to return to an unsullied natural condition. The tormented Nora of Ibsen’s Doll’s House, a figure identified again and again as a bird or creature of nature, was clearly inspired to some extent by the swan maiden and her domestic tribulations. Instead of donning feathers (as swan maidens do), Nora rediscovers a diaphanous dancing dress and, after executing the tarantella, takes leave of Torvald. The symbolic nexus connecting animal skins, costumes, and dancing is so prominent in this tale type that it points to a possible underlying link with the Cinderella, Donkeyskin, and Catskin stories.
Barbara Fass Leavy has argued that tales of swan maidens must once have been far more widespread than they are today. She theorizes that the tales could be found “in virtually every corner of the world,” be cause in most cultures “woman was a symbolic outsider, was the other, and marriage demanded an intimate involvement in a world never quite her own.”4 Yet Leavy is also well aware that some female animal brides lure their mortal husbands into a hermetic world of timeless beauty, a world in which the husbands revel in pleasure yet never feel
4. Barbara Fass Leavy, In Search of the Swan Maiden: A Narrative on Folklore and Gender (New York: New York UP, 1994) 2.
32 BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
completely at home. Like Tannhàuser, who becomes Venus’s captive, Urashima, a Japanese fisherman, and his many folkloric brothers dwell in a realm where they’are the outsiders. Their stories reveal that the gender roles in “Beauty and the Beast” and other tale types are not as fixed as we are accustomed to believe. A look at the many extant vari- ants of “The Search for the Lost Husband” can unsettle our expecta- tions and show the extent to which fairy tales take us into regions that require constant reorientation.
JEANNE-MARIE LEPRINCE DE BEAUMONT
Beauty and the Beastt
Once upon a time there was a very wealthy merchant who lived with his six children, three boys and three girls. Since he was a man of intelligence and good sense, he spared no expense in educating his children and hiring all kinds of tutors for them. His daughters were all very beautiful, but the youngest was admired by everyone. When she was little, people used to refer to her as “the beautiful child.” The name “Beauty” stuck, and, as a result, her two sisters were always very jealous. The youngest daughter was not only more beautiful than her sisters, she was also better behaved. The two older sisters were vain and proud because the family had money. They tried to act like ladies of the court and paid no attention at all to girls from merchant families. They chose to spend time only with people of rank. Every day they went to balls, to the theater, to the park, and they made fun of their younger sister, who spent most of her time reading good books.
Since the girls were known to be very wealthy, many prominent merchants were interested in marrying them. But the two older sisters always insisted that they would never marry unless they found a duke or, at the very least, a count. Beauty (as I noted, this was the name of the youngest daughter) very politely thanked all those who proposed to her, but she told them that she was still too young for marriage and that she planned to keep her father company for some years to come.
Out of the blue, the merchant lost his fortune, and he had nothing left but a small country house quite far from town. With tears in his eyes, he told his children that they would have to live in that house from now on and that, by working there like peasants, they could man- age to make ends meet. The two elder daughters said that they did not want to leave town and that they had many admirers who would be more than happy to marry them, even though they were no longer
t Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, “La Belle et la Bête,” in Le Magasin des Enfants (London: Haberkorn, 1756). Translated for this Norton Critical Edition by Maria Tatar. Copy- right © 1999 by Maria Tatar.
DE BEAUMONT / BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 33
wealthy. But the fine young ladies were wrong. Their admirers had lost all interest in them now that they were poor. And since they were disliked because of their pride, people said: “Those two girls don’t de serve our sympathy. It’s quite satisfying to see pride take a fall. Let them play the ladies while tending their sheep.”
At the same time, people were saying: “As for Beauty, we are very upset by her misfortune. She’s such a good girl! She speaks so kindly to the poor. She is so sweet and sincere.”
There were a number of gentlemen who would have been happy to marry Beauty, even though she didn’t have a penny. She told them that she could not bring herself to abandon her poor father in his distress and that she would go with him to the country in order to comfort him and help him with his work. Poor Beauty had been upset at first by the loss of the family fortune, but she said to herself: “No matter how much I cry, my tears won’t bring our fortune back. I must try to be happy without it.”
When they arrived at the country house, the merchant and his three sons began working the land. Beauty got up every day at four in the morning and started cleaning the house and preparing breakfast for the family. It was hard for her at first, because she was not used to working like a servant. At the end of two months, however, she became stronger, and the hard work made her very healthy. After finishing her house work, she read or sang while spinning. Her two sisters, by contrast, were bored to death. They got up at ten in the morning, took walks all day long, and talked endlessly about the beautiful clothes they used to wear.
“Look at our sister,” they said to each other. “She is so stupid and such a simpleton that she is perfectly satisfied with her miserable lot.”
The good merchant did not agree with his daughters. He knew that Beauty could stand out in company in a way that her sisters could not. He admired the virtue of his daughter, above all her patience. The sisters not only made her do all the housework, they also insulted her whenever they could.
The family had lived an entire year in seclusion when the merchant received a letter informing him that a ship containing his merchandise had just arrived safely in its home port. The news made the two elder sisters giddy with excitement, for they thought they would finally be able to leave the countryside where they were so bored. When they saw that their father was ready to leave, they begged him to bring them dresses, furs, laces, and all kinds of baubles. Beauty did not ask for anything, because she thought that all the money from the merchandise would not be enough to buy everything her sisters wanted.
“Don’t you want me to buy anything for you?” asked her father. “You are so kind to think of me,” Beauty answered. “Can you bring
me a rose, for there are none here?” It was not that Beauty was anxious to have a rose, but she did not
34 BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
want to set an example that would make her sisters look bad. Her sisters would have said that she was asking for nothing in order to make herself look good.
The good man left home, but when he arrived at the port he found that there was a lawsuit over his merchandise. After much trouble, he set off for home as impoverished as he had been on his departure. He had only thirty miles left to go and was already overjoyed at the prospect of seeing his children again when he had to cross a dense forest and got lost. There was a fierce snowstorm, and the wind was so strong that it knocked him off his horse twice. When night fell, he was sure that he was going to die of hunger or of the cold or that he would be eaten by the wolves that he could hear howling all around. All of a sudden he saw a bright light at the end of a long avenue of trees. The bright light seemed very far away. He walked in its direction and realized that it was coming from an immense castle that was completely lit up. The merchant thanked God for sending help, and he hurried toward the castle. He was surprised that no one was in the courtyard. His horse went inside a large, open stable, where he found some hay and oats. The poor animal, near death from hunger, began eating voraciously. The merchant tied the horse up in the stable and walked toward the house, where not a soul was in sight. Once he entered the great hall, however, he found a warm fire and a table laden with food, with just a single place setting. Since the rain and snow had soaked him to the bone, he went over to the fire to get dry. He thought to himself: “The master of the house, or his servants, will not be offended by the liberties I am taking. No doubt someone will be back soon.”
He waited a long time. Once the clock struck eleven and there was still no one in sight, he could not resist the pangs of hunger and, trembling with fear, he took a chicken and ate it all up in two big bites. He also drank several glasses of wine and, feeling more daring, he left the great hall and crossed many large, magnificently furnished apart ments. Finally he found a room with a good bed. Since it was past midnight and he was exhausted, he took it upon himself to close the door and go to bed.
When he got up the next day, it was already ten in the morning. He was greatly surprised to find clean clothes in the place of the ones that had been completely ruined by the rain. “Surely,” he thought to him self, “this palace belongs to some good fairy who has taken pity on me.”
He looked out the window and saw that it was no longer snowing. Before his eyes a magnificent vista of gardens and flowers unfolded. He returned to the great hall where he had dined the night before and found a small table with a cup of hot chocolate on it. “Thank you, Madame Fairy,” he said out loud, “for being so kind as to remember my breakfast.”
After finishing his hot chocolate, the good man left to go find his
DE BEAUMONT / BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 35
horse. Passing beneath a magnificent arbor of roses, he remembered that Beauty had asked him for a rose, and he plucked one from a branch with many flowers on it. At that very moment, he heard a loud noise and saw a beast coming toward him. It looked so dreadful that he almost fainted.
“You are very ungrateful,” said the beast in a terrible voice. “I have saved your life by sheltering you in my castle, and you repay me by stealing my roses, which I love more than anything in the world. You will have to pay for your offense. I’m going to give you exactly a quarter of an hour to beg God’s forgiveness.”
The merchant fell to his knees and, hands clasped, pleaded with the beast: “My Liege, pardon me. I did not think I would be offending you by plucking a rose for my daughter, who asked me to bring her one or two.”
“I am not called ‘My Liege,’ ” said the monster. “My name is Beast. I don’t like flattery, and I prefer that people say what they think. So don’t try to move me with your compliments. But you said that you have some daughters. I am prepared to forgive you if one of your daugh ters consents to die in your place. Don’t argue with me. Just go. If your daughters refuse to die for you, swear that you will return in three days.”
The good man was not about to sacrifice one of his daughters to this hideous monster, but he thought: “At least I will have the pleasure of embracing them one last time.”
He swore that he would return, and Beast told him that he could leave whenever he wished. “But I don’t want you to leave empty- handed,” he added. “Return to the room in which you slept. There you will find a large empty chest. You can fill it up with whatever you like, and I will have it delivered to your door.”
The beast withdrew, and the good man thought to himself: ” I f I must die, I will at least have the consolation of leaving something for my poor children to live on.”
The merchant returned to the room where he had slept. He filled the great chest that Beast had described with the many gold pieces he found there. After he found his horse in the stable, he left the palace with a sadness equal to the joy he had felt on entering it. His horse instinctively took one of the forest paths, and in just a few hours, the good man arrived at his little house. His children gathered around him, but instead of responding to their caresses, the merchant burst into tears as he gazed on them. In his hand, he was holding the branch of roses he had brought for Beauty. He gave it to her and said: “Beauty, take these roses. They have cost your poor father dearly.”
Then the merchant told his family about the woeful events that had befallen him. Upon hearing the tale, the two sisters uttered loud cries and said derogatory things to Beauty, who was not crying: “See what the pride of this little creature has brought down on us!” they said.
36 BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
“Why didn’t she ask for fine clothes the way we did. No, she wanted to get all the attention. She’s responsible for Father’s death, and she’s not even shedding a tear!”
“That would be quite poindess,” Beauty replied. “Why should I shed tears about Father when he is not going to die. Since the monster is willing to accept one of his daughters, I am prepared to risk all his fury. I feel fortunate to be able to sacrifice myself for him, since I will have the pleasure of saving my father and proving my feelings of tenderness for him.”
“No, sister,” said her three brothers. “You won’t die. We will find this monster, and we are prepared to die under his blows if we are unable to slay him.”
“Don’t count on that, children,” said the merchant. “The beast’s power is so great that I don’t have the least hope of killing him. I am moved by the goodness of Beauty’s heart, but I refuse to risk her life. I’m old and don’t have many years left. I will only lose a few years of my life, and I don’t regret losing them for your sake, my dear children.”
“Rest assured, Father,” said Beauty, “that you will not go to that palace without me. You can’t keep me from following you. I may be young, but I am not all that attached to life, and I would rather be devoured by that monster than die of the grief which your loss would cause me.”
It was no use arguing with Beauty. She was determined to go to the palace. Her sisters were delighted, for the virtues of their younger sister had filled them with a good deal of envy. The merchant was so pre occupied by the sad prospect of losing his daughter that he forgot about the chest he had filled with gold. But as soon as he repaired to his room to get some sleep, he was astonished to find it beside his bed. He decided not to tell his children that he had become rich, for his daugh ters would then want to return to town, and he was determined to die in the country. He did confide his secret to Beauty, who told him that several gentlemen had come during his absence and that two of them wanted to marry her sisters. Beauty begged her father to let them marry. She was so kind that she still loved her sisters with all her heart and forgave them the evil they had done her.
When Beauty left with her father, the two mean sisters rubbed their eyes with an onion in order to draw tears. But the brothers cried real tears, as did the merchant. Only Beauty did not cry at all, because she did not want to make everyone even more sad.
The horse took the road to the palace, and, when night fell, they could see that it was all lit up. The horse went by itself to the stable, and the good man went with his daughter into the hall, where there was a magnificently set table with two place settings. The merchant did not have the stomach to eat, but Beauty, forcing herself to appear calm, sat down and served her father. “You see, Father,” she said while fore-
DE BEAUMONT / BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 37
ing a laugh, “the beast wants to fatten me up before eating me, since he paid so dearly for me.”
After they had dined, they heard a loud noise, and the merchant tearfully bid adieu to his poor daughter, for he knew it was the beast. Beauty could not help but tremble at the sight of this horrible figure, but she tried as hard as she could to stay calm. The monster asked her if she had come of her own free will and, trembling, she replied that she had.
“You are very kind,” said Beast, “and I am very grateful to you. As for you, my good man, get out of here by tomorrow morning and don’t think of coming back here ever again. Goodbye, Beauty.”
“Goodbye, Beast,” she replied. Suddenly the monster vanished. “Oh my daughter!” cried the merchant, embracing Beauty. “I am
half dead with fear. Believe me, you have to let me stay,” he said. “No, Father,” Beauty said firmly. “You must go tomorrow morning
and leave me to the mercy of heaven. Heaven may still take pity on me.”
They both went to bed thinking that they would not be able to sleep all night long, but they had hardly gotten into their beds when their eyes closed. While she was sleeping, Beauty saw a woman who said to her: “I am pleased with your kind heart, Beauty. The good deed you have done in saving your father’s life will not go unrewarded.”
Upon waking, Beauty recounted this dream to her father. While it comforted him a little, it did not keep him from crying out loud when he had to leave his dear daughter. After he had left, Beauty sat down in the great hall and began to cry as well. But since she was courageous, she put herself in God’s hands and resolved not to bemoan her fate during the short time she had left to live. Convinced that Beast planned to eat her that very evening, she decided to walk around the grounds and to explore the castle while awaiting her fate. She could not help but admire the castle’s beauty, and she was very surprised to find a door upon which was written: “Beauty’s Room.” She opened the door hastily and was dazzled by the radiant beauty of that room. She was especially impressed by a huge bookcase, a harpsichord, and various music books. “Someone does not want me to get bored!” she said softly. Then she realized: ” I f I had only one hour to live here, no one would have made such a fuss about the room.” This thought lifted her spirits.
She opened the bookcase and saw a book, on the cover of which was written in gold letters: “Your wish is our command. Here you are queen and mistress.”
“Alas,” she sighed, “I only wish to see my poor father again and to know what he’s doing now.”
She had said this to herself, so you can imagine how surprised she was when she looked in a large mirror and saw her father arriving at his house with a dejected expression. Her sisters went out to meet him,
38 BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
and, despite the faces they made in order to look as if they were dis tressed, they were visibly happy to have lost their sister. A moment later, everything in the mirror vanished. Beauty could not help thinking that Beast was most obliging and that she had nothing to fear from him.
At noon, Beauty found the table set and, during her meal, she heard an excellent concert, even though she could not see a soul. That eve ning, as she was about to sit down at the table, she heard Beast making noises, and she could not help but tremble.
“Beauty,” said the monster, “will you let me watch you dine?” “You are my master,” said Beauty, trembling. “No, you are the only mistress here,” replied Beast. ” I f I bother you,
order me to go, and I will leave at once. Tell me, don’t you find me very ugly?”
‘Tes, I do,” said Beauty. “I don’t know how to lie. But I do think that you are very kind.”
“You are right,” said the monster. “But in addition to being ugly, I also lack intelligence. I know very well that I am nothing but a beast.”
“You can’t be a beast,” replied Beauty, ” i f you know that you lack intelligence. A fool never knows that he is stupid.”
“Go ahead and eat, Beauty,” said the monster, “and try not to be bored in your house, for everything here is yours, and I would be upset if you were not happy.”
“You are very kind,” said Beauty. “I swear to you that I am com pletely pleased with your good heart. When I think of it, you no longer seem ugly to me.”
“Oh, of course,” Beast replied. “I have a kind heart, but I am still a monster.”
“There are certainly men more monstrous than you,” said Beauty. “I like you better, even with your looks, than men who hide false, corrupt, and ungrateful hearts behind charming manners.”
” I f I were intelligent,” said Beast, “I would pay you a great compli ment to thank you. But I am so stupid that all I can say is that I am very much obliged.”
Beauty ate with a good appetite. She no longer dreaded the monster, but she thought that she would die of fright when he said: “Beauty, would you be my wife?”
It took her a moment to get to the point of answering. She was afraid to provoke the monster by refusing him. Trembling, she said to him: “No, Beast.”
At that moment, the poor monster meant to sigh deeply, but he made such a frightful whistling sound that it echoed throughout the palace. Beauty felt better soon, however, because Beast, turning to look at her from time to time, left the room and said adieu in a sad voice. Finding herself alone, Beauty felt great compassion for poor Beast. “Alas,” she said, “it is too bad he is so ugly, for he is so kind.”
DE BEAUMONT / BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 39