Article Summary of to Spin a Yarn

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“We can begin to explore the lineage of women as tale-tellers in a history that stretches from Philomela and Scheherazade to the raconteurs of French veillees and salons, to English peasants, governesses, and novelists, and to the German Spinnerinnen and the Brother’s Grimm.” (53-54) In the chapter “To Spin a Yarn: The Female Voice in Folklore and Fairy Tale” from Fairy Tales and Society: Illusion and Paradigm, Karen E. Rowe explores the depth and history of voicelessness of women and how the combination of spinning and tale-telling was their way of speaking in a society that would not let them. She takes the reader on a tale of a complex history that starts in ancient history with the Greeks, goes to the French, the English, German and ends with folk tale writers such as Perrault and the Brothers Grimm. The history that is exhibited displays that as long as spinning has existed, women and storytelling has existed. Women have forever used spinning or weaving as a way of having a voice in a time when they could not have their own. Philomela, in the tale as told by Ovid in Metamorphoses, was an important figure in this essay as well as in the history of the female voice. She was a woman who was violently and repeatedly raped by her sister’s husband, Tereus. After she threatens to tell everybody what he has done to her, Tereus chooses to cut off her tongue so that she cannot tell anyone about what happened, and even goes as far as to hide her in the woods so that her body shows no sign of the vile act. Without the power of her voice, which is arguably representative of the oppression of speech, Philomela uses her skills as a spinner to tell her story. When the old woman takes the tapestry to Philomela’s sister, Procne, it is immediately understood what has happened. Procne takes action against Tereus. “As such, she comes down to us as the archetypal tale-teller, one who not only weaves the revelatory tapestry but also sings the song which Ovid appropriates as his...
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