Thursday, April 1, 2010

No Beast So Fierce by Patrick Garson

I've been dealing with spotty internet connection all week. Which means that several items I've had in draft have not received final edits and been published. Most were not time critical so I'm bumping them to later this month. This explains late posts and my random timing, if anyone is noticing.

A recent post on discussed Beauty and the Beast as well as some of its illustrations. See No Beast So Fierce by Patrick Garson.

In writing on fairy tales, there’s often a functionalist bent to the analysis. This means that tend we view fairy tales as fulfilling societal need: they contribute to the stability of a group or culture. In this way, characters and predicaments become allegories: practice for situations we may face ourselves in real life, or a form of ‘safe’ role play. Red Riding Hood is not about hiking in the forest; it’s a warning about wolves, about prostitution, a tale of sexual awakening, and so on, and so on.

I like this kind of analysis. It’s important because it dives under the smooth-looking surface of fairy tales, and stirs up a surprising turbidity. It makes us question unspoken assumptions (why is the youngest child always the special one?), and highlights the significance of story-telling in learning. However, I don’t think it’s always perfect. By our very framing of fairy tales in this way–somewhat didactic way, orientated around adherence and cohesion—I think we sometimes lend them a static quality that they don’t always deserve.

And, of course, you may explore more images of the Beast in the Beauty and the Beast Illustration Gallery on SurLaLune. To be candid, searching for different renditions of the beast was part of my motivation in gathering illustrations to share so many years ago. It is still one of my favorite galleries to explore.

(And Gypsy at Once Upon a Blog has also referenced this post this week. I am glad things are going well, Gypsy. You're in my thoughts and prayers!)

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