Female heroes in myths and fairy tales

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Female heroes in myths and fairy tales

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Publication Conference Paper, other
Title Female heroes in myths and fairy tales
Author(s) Sundmark, Björn
Date 2007
English abstract
Female Heroes in Myths and Fairy Tales Myths and fairy tales express, among other things, what it means to be an ideal woman and man. Both genres have gone through various permutations over time, and fullfilled different cultural needs. This is certainly the case with female heroism in myths and fairy tales, which is the subject of my presentation. Although the mythic hero has “a thousand faces,” to borrow Joseph Campbell’s phrase, the feminine is doubly featureless in the index to Campbell’s classic work of comparative religion - not heroic, not present. In Campbell mythic heroism is a male reserve. By contrast, the canonical western fairy tales has been described as an essentially feminine genre: women protagonists predominate, feminine (circular) plot structure is the rule, implied female narrators are conventional (“Old Wives Tales”, “Mother Goose”) etc. But feminine heroism is passive and suffering, hardly ever the active heroism that is the stuff of myth and legend. This does not mean that there are no such tales - stories like Kate Crackernuts and Molly Whuppie present another picture. But editors, anthologists and folklorists - mostly men - have consistently and successfully favoured the Cinderellas over the Whuppies. Today we see a resuscitation female heroes through the rediscovery of “forgotten” fairy tales, non-western fairy tales and myths, and through popular, multimodal retellings. Does this bring the case of female heroism in myths and fairy tales to a happy end after a century or so in Bluebeard’s secret chamber? I think not. One needs to address what kinds of heroism is sought after in different historically and culturally determined societies (pre-industrial to post-industrial), to what extent these qualities are gendered, and, finally, how these notions are given narrative expression today. Björn Sundmark
Language swe (iso)
Subject(s) role models
fairy tales
Humanities/Social Sciences
Research Subject Categories::HUMANITIES and RELIGION
Handle http://hdl.handle.net/2043/5141 (link to this page)

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