Every one looks forward to having children or nieces and nephews so they can relive the childhood fascination with the fairy tales they grew up with. Being mindful of nasty gender stereotypes, it is safe to say that women have a slightly different relationship with these stories then men. Kate Bernheimer acknowledged this when she compiled Mirror, Mirror on the Wall in1998.
The book is a series of essays reflecting on classic fairy tales by female authors. The authors are not referring to the Disney cartoons that can probably be sited as one of the first examples of blatant censorship. Snow white, one of the more popular subjects in the book, was prophesized by her mother from an image of red blood against white snow. In these stories, glass is not just something beautiful and clear, it is dangerous, sharp and often put into the story to teach a lesson.
Women of my generation look forward to sitting down with little girls to see Ariel become human and find her happy ending with her prince. Putting aside the possibility of body dimorphic disorders that can occur from never being skinny enough to parade around in a seashell bra, our stories are happy and simple.
The original tales may not cause eating disorders or extravagantly high expectations for the men in our lives, but they are terrifying in their own way. Reading the insightful words of these women who have chosen literature as their profession, it’s amazing that these stories were intended for children at all. The authors are able to find incredible symbolism and meaning in the stories that kept them company as children. Are children really insightful enough to understand the meaning behind these stories?
By dumbing these fairy tales down, we are not giving children enough credit. Even as babies, humans can pick up stress around them and it always makes them cry. Will a 5 year old look up from Blue Beard and tell her mother that he is a misogynistic creep for expecting his wives to be the perfect woman? Probably not, but she can make up her own opinion and decided if that is really what a marriage should be.
Each author takes a different aspect of a fairy tale and relates it to her life. Either she fights to not be the evil stepmother, tries to gain courage from her favorite character, or draws inspiration to write a fairy tale of her own.