From wicked queens, beautiful princesses, elves, monsters, and goblins, to giants, glass slippers, poisoned apples, magic keys, and mirrors, the characters and images of fairy tales have cast a spell over readers and audiences, both adults and children, for centuries. These fantastic stories have travelled across cultural borders, and been passed on from generation to generation, ever-changing, renewed with each re-telling. Few forms of literature have greater power to enchant us and rekindle our imagination than a fairy tale.
But what is a fairy tale? Where do they come from and what do they mean? What do they try and communicate to us about morality, sexuality, and society? The range of fairy tales stretches across great distances and time; their history is entangled with folklore and myth, and their inspiration draws on ideas about nature and the supernatural, imagination and fantasy, psychoanalysis, and feminism. In this Very Short Introduction, Marina Warner digs into a rich hoard of fairy tales in all their brilliant and fantastical variations, in order to define a genre and evaluate a literary form that keeps shifting through time and history. Drawing on a glittering array of examples, from classics such as Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and The Sleeping Beauty, the Grimm Brothers' Hansel and Gretel, and Hans Andersen's The Little Mermaid, to modern-day realizations including Walt Disney's Snow White, Warner forms a persuasive case for fairy tale as a crucial repository of human understanding and culture.
About the Author:
Marina Warner's award-winning studies of mythology and fairy tales include Once Upon a Time (OUP, 2014) Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary (OUP, 1976; re-issued 2013), Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights (Vintage, 2012), and No Go the Bogeyman: Scaring, Lulling and Making Mock (Vintage, 1998). Her Clarendon Lectures Fantastic Metamorphoses; Other Worlds were published in 2001 by OUP; her essays on literature and culture were collected in Signs and Wonders (Vintage, 2000), and Phantasmagoria, a study of spirits and technology, appeared in 2006 (OUP). In 2015 she was awarded the Holberg Prize, and in 2013 she was awarded a Sheykh Zayed Prize and the Truman Capote Award. She was awarded a CBE for services to Literature in 2008. She is a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, an Honorary Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the British Academy.