Heroes and Heroines: A study of Gender Roles in Historical Folklore Historically, fairy tales and other folklore have followed relatively strict gender role profiles. The heroes or heroines of the story all tend to be handsome or beautiful, compassionate and kind, which always wins out. Meanwhile the villains and antagonists are almost directly opposite in physicality, are ugly or brooding in nature, which shows a clear contrast between themselves and the hero or heroine, and an ever-impending conclusive loss at the end of the narrative. In the examination of folklore, one can see that common aspects of gender roles can be found in almost every fairy tale ever created. The Brothers Grimm are well known for their collection of fairy tales and folklore literature, many of which reflect these gender roles. An analysis of three of their more popular works; mainly Rapunzel, Rumplestiltskin, and The Old Woman in the Wood, show clear gender roles and allude to the perspective of the culture in which they were created. The story of Rapunzel reflects a clear gender role stereotype commonly found in fairy tales and folklore. Rapunzel is the helpless maiden in need of saving, stolen from her family and confined to a high tower by the evil Enchantress. The Prince would be considered the hero of this story, finding Rapunzel trapped in the tower and conspiring to help her escape from her prison. However, the fable of Rapunzel is unique due to the fact that the Enchantress exiles Rapunzel to the desert to live in misery for the rest of her life and swindles the Prince into becoming trapped in the tower as well. The Prince jumps from the tower and ultimately reunites with Rapunzel, where they live happily ever after. The gender roles of this story clearly reflect the beautiful (but quite helpless) female in need of saving, as well as the handsome hero coming to the rescue. Although the story takes a turn and the evil
Enchantress, who follows almost to the T a female
Cited: Carnegie Mellon School. "The Old Woman in The Wood." N.p., Nov.n2004. Web. <http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~spok/grimmtmp/009.txt>.
Carnegie Mellon School. "Rumplestiltskin." N.p., Nov. 2004. Web. <http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~spok/grimmtmp/044.txt>.
Carnegie Mellon School. "Rapunzel." N.p., Nov. 2004. Web. <http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~spok/grimmtmp/009.txt>.