Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Women in Folklore Month: Maria Tatar

Maria Tatar is one of the leaders in fairy tale studies today. Since she is very much active and working in the field, I will focus on her publications today and only quote this information from her Harvard University webpage.

Maria Tatar is the John L. Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures. She chairs the Program in Folklore and Mythology at Harvard University, where she teaches courses in German Studies, Folklore, and Children’s Literature.

Like many of her contemporaries, Tatar comes to the field of fairy tale studies on the slant, not through folklore, but through an expertise in a foreign language. She adapted many of her interests to create a successful and laudable career. Many young students interested in fairy tales think they must approach the field only through one line of study, that of folklore, but many avenues are available according to experience and interests.

To the layperson, Tatar is perhaps best known for her annotated fairy tale series of three books: The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales (2002), The Annotated Brothers Grimm (2004), and The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen (2007). Of all her publications, these are the best for the casual reader, filled with illustrations and annotations of fairy tales and other supplemental materials.

Tatar has a new collection of Grimms coming out later this year, The Grimm Reader: The Classic Tales of the Brothers Grimm.

From the publisher:

Forty of the most famous and celebrated stories from the Brothers Grimm translated and edited by a leading professor of folklore. Even after two hundred years, the tales collected by the Brothers Grimm remain among our most powerful stories. Their scenes of unsparing savagery and jaw-dropping beauty remind us that fairy tales, in all their simplicity, have the power to change us. With some of the most famous stories in world literature, including “Cinderella,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Hansel and Gretel,” “Snow White,” as well as some less well known stories like “The Seven Ravens,” this definitive collection promises to entrance readers with the strange and wonderful world of the Brothers Grimm.

Maria Tatar’s engaging preface provides readers with the historical and cultural context to understand what these stories meant and their contemporary resonance. Fans of all ages will be drawn to this elegant and accessible collection of stories that have cast their magical spell over children and adults alike for generations.

Last year, Tatar focused more on the children's literature side of her experience wtih her book, Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood, a book about the importance and power of childhood reading.

But Tatar also has many books about fairy tale studies alone, including a few that appear on many course lists, such as The Classic Fairy Tales, one of the books I cut my own fairy tale studies teeth upon.

And just to round out the list, The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales and Off with Their Heads! Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood and Secrets Beyond the Door: The Story of Bluebeard and His Wives.

For more detailed descriptions of these books, you can also visit the Maria Tatar page on SurLaLune.

Tatar also has a blog forum open to the public at Breezes from Wonderland: A Forum for Folklore, Children's Literature, and Storytelling.


  1. Excellent post, Heidi!

    I have the Classic Fairy Tales Norton book--I need to read more of it! :)

  2. I've casually read Maria Tartar for several papers, but I had no idea she had such a large body of work. Definitely something to save my money up for!

  3. I have most of these books and every single one of them has been worth buying. When I'm researching I often have her books close by. Her blog is great to keep up with too.