Friday, September 17, 2004

Hey There, Little Girl...

Ms. Magazine is featuring this fascinating article by Catherine Orenstein, which deals with the origins and versions of the Little Red Riding Hood fairytale. Evolving from a Seventeenth century warning about sexuality to a Nineteenth century lesson in obedience, the tale was finally reclaimed by females through some inventive films and a Beretta-packing internet tale.

Mae West, who mined the rich symbolic terrain of fairy tales, once famously quipped, “I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.”
These days the social and sexual messages of fairy tales are no secret. Feminists in particular have long recognized that fairy tales socialize boys and especially girls, presenting them with lessons that must be absorbed to reach adulthood.

But what exactly are those lessons? We tend to think of fairy tales as timeless and universal, but in fact they express our collective truths even as those truths shift over time and place.