Fairy Tales in the modern context Modern Phenomenon essay

Modern fairy tales can be written for both ”“ adults and children and can have not only entertaining, but also educative purpose. Nowadays fairytales are considered to be a controversial genre in literature. Some researches state that modern stories can be considered as fairy tales, others insist that can not. Today there are a lot of stories written in a simple and fairy manner oriented to adults. These stories are called “fairytales for grown-up”. They reveal human relations and psychological problems with the help of fairytales. Some authors use fantastic motives in such fairytales, others use them to achieve a comic effect. The example is Jon Scieszka’s The Stinky Cheese Man. The author creates a fairy world where all the main characters know about their function in this story. “Some writers use fairy tale forms for modern issues;[69] this can include using the psychological dramas implicit in the story, as when Robin McKinley retold Donkeyskin as the novel Deerskin, with emphasis on the abusive treatment the father of the tale dealt to his daughter” (Briggs, 181). This is a very popular tendency nowadays.

Some authors develop a genre of fantasy and sometimes it is rather difficult to find a difference between a fantasy story and a fairytale. Fairy tale and fantastic motifs are closely interwoven. Nevertheless, such distinctions exist: fairytale fantasies, as all fantasies, have peculiar set of images, settings and characters. That is why analyzing George MacDonald’s work we can say that The Light Princess, The Wise Woman and The Golden Key are fairytales, while Phantastes and Lilith are fantasies.

It goes without saying that modern social tendencies leave their mark on contemporary literature in general, and modern fairy tales in particular. Some fairy tales have specific social motifs, such as racial or feminist. For example, “other authors may have specific motives, such as multicultural or feminist reevaluations of predominantly Eurocentric masculine-dominated fairy tales, implying critique of older narratives” (Jones, 15). Nowadays there are a lot of fairy tales written from the female point of view. Te bright example can be fairy tale The Bloody Chamber written by Angela Carter or The Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch, in which the princess instead of prince rescues the prince. Such kinds of fairy tales are criticized by some critics, but, nevertheless, they become more and more popular.

Modern fairy tales can not be called fairy tales in the classic understanding of this concept. All in all, we can distinguish two kinds of modern fairy tales: fairy tales for grown-ups and fairy tales for children. Fairy tales for grow-ups are becoming more and more popular. Their popularity may be explained by the fact that authors describe modern problems and issues in a funny fairy way. Modern authors of fairy tales for children are James Thurber, Robin McKinley, Cameron Donkey, Jasper Fforde, Robert Coover, Terri Windling, Gail Carson Levine, Robert Bly and others. Their fairytales are oriented on children, though they also are marked by modern social tendencies.

These fairytales have the main characteristics peculiar to classic fairy tales. The plot is very simple and all the events take place around one theme. The settings are open and nonspecific. “Characters in folk tales are also flatter, less well-developed than they are in well-written modern stories and novels” (Jones 15). Modern fairy tales have all these features but depict the main subject in a new way.  Literature is the mirror of the society and fairy tales are not an exception.


Annotated Bibliography

Briggs, K. M. The Fairies in English Tradition and Literature.  pp. 181”“182, University of

Chicago Press, London, 2001.

This book gives us an idea of classic fairy tales in English tradition. We can compare features peculiar for fairy tales of the 20th century with the features peculiar for fairy tales of the 20th century and see possible differences. The Fairies in English Tradition and Literature is a book that helps us to find roots of modern fairy tales.

Chance, Rosemary. “Familiar fairy tale picture books transformed into teen novels”.

ALAN Review. Winter 2003. FindArticles.com. 05 Nov. 2007. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4063/is_200301/ai_n9186311

The article written by Rosemary Chance presents main features and characterizes of classic and modern fairy tales.

She pays great attention to picture books and their meaning for children and their parents. The book gives annotations to 31 titles of picture fairy tales and novels for young adults. The author states that comparing novels for teenagers and children books it is possible to estimate all the beauty of illustrations of picture book. Adults appreciating these beautiful books can transfer this appreciation to their children and so make them interested in modern fairy tales.

Jones, Steven Swann. The Fairy Tale: The Magic Mirror of  Imagination. Twayne

Publishers, New York, 1995, p. 15.

The Fairy Tale: The Magic Mirror of Imagination presents the historical background of the appearance of such a genre as fairy tales and traces its development from the very beginning till the recent days. The fairy tale origins to ancient society and comes through different transformations and changes on its way to the contemporary society. Jones, the author of the book, investigates psychological and social aspects of fairy tales on examples of The Cat in the Hat, Where the Wild Things Are and The Wizard of Oz. On the examples of these fairy tales he investigates the gender role, prospective mates, and influential social figures in the context of the modern society.  

Zipes. The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and  Basile to the Brothers

Grimm. Twayne Publishers, New York, 2003.

The author of the book gives a detailed analysis of the origin and development of fairy tales. He investigates the role and function of fairy tales during different historical epochs and compares them to the function they have now.

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