What’s your daughter thinking when she’s reading those fairy tales?

My older sister, Kim, a voracious reader and great artist even as a tiny kid, made this Make-a-Plate when she was about ten years old. Kim was obsessed with fairy tales. She owned every color of Andrew Lang’s fairy books and also the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen. I wasn’t as big a fan– the middle of three sisters, it pissed me off that all the exciting adventures usually happened to the youngest or oldest girl. Though regardless of birth order, most female characters don’t fare too well is this genre. A girl in a fairy tale is likely to end up one of two ways: married off or murdered. Sometimes both.

I think this particular plate– one of a series– was inspired by Blue Beard. It’s fascinating to me how much care Kim took to represent ethnic diversity in these women. Also, their faces are so animated, even though they’re dead.

I was impressed but grossed out and disturbed when Kim drew this. She wanted to know which one I thought was the prettiest.

12 thoughts on “What’s your daughter thinking when she’s reading those fairy tales?

  1. I’m avoiding fairy tales as much as possible at the mo as my girls are 2 and 4. A friend suggesting not avoiding them but using them as teachable material, but I don’t think that’s going to work while they’re so small. I would spend too much time teaching around the stories and they wouldn’t understand much anyway. I am afraid all the bad stuff would get soaked up anyway.

  2. Annoying birds acknowledged; yes, that’s the fully Disneyised version of Snow White I’m referring to. I see your point about her cleaning up after the guys, perhaps they could have had her joining the dwarves in the mines along with teaching them some manners.

    Indeed, precious little room for any fully redeeming heroines in any fantasy literature; at least any beyond the past 50 years. Science fiction would be the only place I’ve seen better, but much is still in the context of women making their way in a man’s world.

  3. It goes back to what you brought up in your recent post about helping our daughters make Princesses brave persons of value outside the context of whether thay are pretty, or if their Prince rescued them. Within traditional literature, there simply aren’t any good examples to draw from.
    It could be argued that shacking up with seven guys disqualifies her, but Snow White would be the first contemporary example I could think of that doesn’t scream patriarchy. Though evil by way her vanity, the wicked Queen was no less beautiful as well. Albeit hetero-centric in presentation, it was love’s first kiss that saved Snow White, not the fact her first love was a man.

    • Putergurl,

      I need to familiarize myself with the original Snow White. I know Disney’s version– we have the video or DVD and also the Disney book. Isn’t this the one where she sings about waiting for her prince to come with all the annoying birds? Also, she doesn’t just live with seven guys, she cooks for them and cleans up after them. Its kind of a Wendy/ Lost Boys role. I never differenciated between the kiss itself and who was doing the kissing but it’s an interesting take.


  4. Too funny. The irony isnt lost on me — they’re all impaled but you’re still expected to decide who’s prettiest. Cuz it still matters even if you’re dead! Typical. Peggy Orenstein needs to see this!

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