Fairy Tale Reading

This semester, I’ll be teaching a class on fairy tales. I thought you might like to know what I’m asking my students to read, because if you read this blog, you’re probably interested in fairy tales. Right?

So here’s my reading list:

The central text of the course is Maria Tatar’s The Classic Fairy Tales, from Norton. It contains most of the tales we’ll be reading, as well as important criticism. As we study each tale, the students will read Tatar’s introduction to that tale to provide historical and critical context. We will also be reading Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment, not because I necessarily agree with his psychoanalytic interpretations (I usually don’t) but because they give students a useful theoretical stance to argue for or against. The semester is arranged by fairy tales, so I’ll give you the stories and poems we’ll be reading by tale, mostly in the order we’ll be reading them.

We’ll start the semester with J.R.R. Tolkien’s “On Fairy Stories,” so we can consider the question “What is a fairy tale?” And then we’ll get into the tales themselves.

Little Red Riding Hood:
“The Story of Grandmother”
Charles Perrault, “Little Red Riding Hood”
Brothers Grimm, “Little Red Cap”
James Thurber, “The Little Girl and the Wolf”
Angela Carter, “In the Company of Wolves”

Snow White:
Brothers Grimm, “Snow White”
Anne Sexton, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”
Neil Gaiman, “Snow, Glass, Apples”

Charles Perrault, “Donkeyskin”
Brothers Grimm, “Cinderella”
Anne Sexton, “Cinderella”
Aimee Bender, “The Color Master”

Beauty and the Beast:
Madame de Beaumont, “Beauty and the Beast”
Angela Carter, “The Courtship of Mr. Lyon”
Angela Carter, “The Tyger’s Bride”

Charles Perrault, “Bluebeard”
Joyce Carol Oates, “Blue-Bearded Lover”
Sylvia Townsend Warner, “Bluebeard’s Daughter”
Angela Carter, “The Bloody Chamber”
Margaret Atwood, “Bluebeard’s Egg”

Sleeping Beauty:
Charles Perrault, “Sleeping Beauty”
Brothers Grimm, “Briar Rose”
Ursula Le Guin, “The Poacher”
Jane Yolen, Briar Rose

We’ll finish the semester with a few classes on Hans Christian Andersen and Oscar Wilde. By Andersen, we’ll be reading “The Little Mermaid,” “The Shadow,” and “The Snow Queen.” By Wilde, we’ll be reading “The Selfish Giant” and “The Fisherman and His Soul.” To go with “The Snow Queen,” we’ll be reading Kelly Link’s “Travels with the Snow Queen.” We will also be reading two essays that touch on these stories: Jane Yolen’s “From Andersen On: Fairy Tales Tell Our Lives” and Ursula Le Guin’s “The Child and the Shadow.”

Throughout the semester, we will be reading critical articles, which I’ll list as well:

Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, “Snow White and Her Wicked Stepmother”
Robert Darnton, “Peasants Tell Tales: The Meaning of Mother Goose”
Karen Rowe, “To Spin a Yarn: The Female Voice in Folklore and Fairy Tale”
Marina Warner, “The Old Wives’ Tale”
Zohar Shavit, “The Concept of Childhood and Children’s Folktales”
Jack Zipes, “Breaking the Disney Spell”
Maria Tatar, “Sex and Violence: The Hard Core of Fairy Tales”

Of course, the students will need to go out and find articles themselves, for their papers. I always find that the most useful for them to start with are those by Terri Windling, and anything linked to on the Sur La Lune website.

So there you go. That’s what we’ll be reading during the semester. I hope you go out and find some of the stories yourself — or even the essays and articles, if you’re interested in fairy tales! (And I think you are . . .)

A Fairy Tale by Arthur Wardle

A Fairy Tale
by Arthur Wardle

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16 Responses to Fairy Tale Reading

  1. Nadia Qadeer says:

    So I might just follow your class and read these throughout the semester…maybe send you some analysis essays, hahaha. This is just an ideal list.

  2. Thanks so much for posting this. I would love to do your class, but since I can’t, perhaps I’ll just do the reading. πŸ™‚ I’ve read many of these texts already, but it will be good to revisit them. Thanks again!

  3. JAMESEILEEN@aol.com says:

    Hello Theodora, Best wishes on hte upcoming beginning of a new school year. How I would love to count myself among the students. And I would dearly love to read along with you in Maria Tatar’s “The Classic Fairy Tales”; but I can’t find an affordable copy…and our library does not have it either. Double drat! However, I do have and have reread Tartar’s classic tome — “Off with their Heads…” what an illuminating read that was!! Found out about that one when I took a course in Children’s literature while I was teaching at Headstart back in the 90s — it was wonderful! Do have a wonderful time teaching those young sponges this semester! We’re seeing our eldest dancing granddaughter, Ivy Elizabeth, off to Temple University this coming week where she has chosen to be a psychology major. Wish she could take classes with you — she is such a dear tiny fairy — she would do well in a fairy realm. I gave her my copy of “The Thorn and The Rose” and told her I do expect a studied critique at Thanksgiving! She has always been my reading buddy, and has kept a reading journal since she was 6– fun to look over that one too! Finally, after much prodding, her sister – our singing middle grand, Lily Marie (age 12) has acquiesced and discovered she does like to read — she is deep into fantasy. Although it was the werewolves and vampires of the Twilight series who got her there …so I suppose I must be grateful to that genre as well. Too bad she could not have started with someone like Anne Rice. Oh well, this too shall pass and Stefenie Meyer will eventually fade into the distance – hopefully to be replaced with literature’s finer gifts. And the littlest grand, our Olivia – at age 5, is just embarking on her educational journey, love it when she climbs into my lap and says “Please do tell me about the fairies, Grandma”! So there is still hope for the future

  4. Noella says:

    I recognize the Little Red Riding Hood stories from your lesson at Alpha? Are your students going to be writing their own version of Little Red Riding Hood as well? haha. I wish I could come take your class!

    • Hi Noella! Yes, I took those stories from the fairy tale class I teach, although in the class we focus on the tales, and for Alpha I focused on the writing, the choices the writers made. My students will be writing their own fairy tales, but they’ll get to choose which ones to write! πŸ™‚

  5. James Mender says:

    One more resource for your students. The old Endicott Studios Journal of Mythic Arts website archive is a treasure trove of fairy tale essays and artistic interpretations of the tales: http://endicottstudio.typepad.com/articleslist/

  6. Very nice list of tales and reference materials. Now THAT would be a fun class to take.


  7. Dana says:

    Such a shame that fairy tales are usually relegated to elementary school girls. The non-Bowdlerized versions have so much to think about for maids, mothers AND crones!

  8. gettyhesse1 says:

    I loved your Little Red Riding Hood lesson at Alpha… I wish I could take your class. Alas, I am still in high school.

  9. Thank you so much for sharing all this! The timing is wonderful for me, because I’ve been reading Grimm tales and writing fairy tale poems for almost a year now, and my fresh, new copy of The Classic Fairy Tales (Tatar) just arrived a few hours ago! So excited to have your list to supplement it….

  10. Priya G says:

    Hi! I just found this post/blog when looking for Joyce Carol Oates’ story Blue Bearded Lover. For school, we have to study an adaption of Bluebeard and i thought that this adaption seemed amazing, however, i can’t find it anywhere online and every book copy that i can see on the intenet is in the hundreds and they all seem to be part of a limited edition 100 copies. Because you are studying this with your class, i thought you must have been able to get a copy in some format! so i just wanted to ask how/where did you find the text and how are you reading it? thank you so much!

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