Fairtale Essay

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One of the most well known, well loved and influential genre of literature is the fairy tale. A fairy tale is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “A children’s story of magical and imaginary beings and lands”. Overtime the concept of fairy tales has changed. Fairy tales are being re-written and re-illustrated constantly, which makes fairy tales appealing to every generation. Fairy tales broaden the imagination of children. They allow us gain an insight into a world of magic and adventure- a world we will never experience but fantasize about. “Fairy tales are nothing if not realistic: and it is their cynicism that keeps them lively.” (Opie, 1980, p.19) “A characteristic of the fairy tale, as told today, is that it is unbelievable. Although a fairy tale is seldom a tale about fairy-folk and does not necessarily even feature a fairy, it does contain an enchantment or other supernatural element that is clearly imaginary.” (Opie, 1980 p.18). The origin of fairy tales is commonly unknown and more often than not never discovered by the reader. French writers Catherine Bernard, Marie-Jeanne Lhéitier, Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy are believed to be “chiefly responsible for the establishment of the fairytale as a literacy genre in Europe.” (Zipes, 2006,p.13) of the 1960s. However, it was Italian writers Giovan Francesco Straparola and Giambattista Basile who played a major role in the rise of literacy in Europe. “This is one of the best kept secrets that is well worth unlocking because it reveals just how closely tied the literacy fairy tale as genre is to spread of the civilizing process throughout Europe.”(Zipes, 2006, p.13) However, it was the influence of Boccaccio’s Decamerone that led to the production of various collections of ‘novelle’ that had an impact on the literacy fairy tale as a short narrative. Straparola was the first to publish his collection “Le piacevoli notti (1550 and 1553) from the example Boccaccio had set. Straparola was different from previous writers. He was the first European writer “to adapt many tales from oral tradition, creating approximately fourteen literacy fairy tales in his collection of seventy four novella.” (Zipes, 2006, p.14) Straparola’s work caused some controversy and at one time one of his collections was banned by the pope in 1791. This was due to themes which Straparola had included in his work. He introduced “plain earthy language” and “critical view of power struggles in Italian society”. Basile shared similar views on power and civility. (Zipes, 2006). Even form this early stage, fairy tales have always been connected to power, social class and gender stereotyping. Both Straparola and Basile recognised that Italian principalities were being damaged through family conflicts, the change in commerce and trade and war. They used fairy tale's as a written means of broaching their concern over the unexpected change of norms on human behaviour. Although time passes and things change, fairytales have not dated. The classic fairy tales that Basile and Straparola once told are still being told to children today all over the world. Thanks to the origination of the fairytale by Straparola and Basil “we still rely on its narrative strategy to see how dangerous it is to think that we live in more civilized and better world than the realms of the past.”(Zipes, 2006) For centuries young children have been enthralled by fairy tales. Tales of witches, wizards, princes and princesses, fairy godmothers and villains alike have been influencing how children view the world around them. This appears particularly true in the case of young girls, with whom these stories seem to resonate. However living in a contemporary 22nd century society the question needs to be posed; are these stories, written centuries ago, still providing a relevant and realistic portrayal of female role models to the youth of today? Or are these folktales of ‘prince charming’ and ‘happily ever afters’ corrupting ideals from infancy and...
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