Fairy tale origins arguably display a clearer sense of a historical period and its ideological traits of highest importance better than any other texts. The symbolism masked behind stories of regular, everyday individuals encountering unusual situations or magic can explain to a reader vividly the state of the specific society and its social structures. It was stated throughout our text’s introduction at various points that fairy tales were often used as an oral tradition in which families and close-knit groups would gather round to alleviate the anxiety of a stressful work day while simultaneously entertaining each other and teaching valuable lessons to children about morals rooted in fantastic stories of similar characters encountering magical creatures and adventure. Maria Tatar also warned readers to not become too preoccupied with uncovering symbolism seemingly blanketed across various generations as said symbolism could fluctuate in its relevance to a specific culture or time period due to differing interpretations and relevance. This specific facet of the tales interested me in that many occurrences and resulting lessons may remain stable through various generations although readers will find that characters will symbolize the most important aspects of the specific time period from which the text was gathered.
Maria Tatar stated in her novel The Classic Fairy Tales, “Some versions of Little Red Riding Hood’s story or Snow White’s story may appear to reinforce stereotypes; others may have an emancipatory potential; still others may seem radically feminist. All are of historical interest, revealing the ways in which a story has adapted to a culture and been shaped by its social practices. The new story may be ideologically correct or ideologically suspect, but it can always serve as the point of departure for debate critique, and dialogue” (Tatar XIV). The classic tale of “Snow White” by Brothers Grimm tells the story of a young, beautiful girl who falls victim to the jealousy of her father’s wife. The evil queen plots to end the girl’s life so that she may remain as the most beautiful woman in the kingdom, but ends up falling victim to Snow White’s clever plan to punish her for her wrongdoings. Despite this, Snow White seems to maintain her sense of beauty, dignity, and, most importantly, purity throughout the story, which was representative of the expectations of women, and more specifically, young girls, of the time.
In our contemporary society where issues of equality—whether it be gender, racial, sexual, etc.—reign supreme in the realm of social significance, we find that fairy tales are being recreated in the vision of authors who support the changing ideologies. A more modern Snow White developed by Rupert Sanders in his film Snow White and the Huntsman displays a courageous young female who doesn’t necessarily adhere to societal rules or roles. She wears armor rather than dresses as she fights monsters and beasts until she eventually returns to the kingdom to murder the Queen and reclaim her thrown. This is obviously a result of a society shaped by feminist views and gender equality as the main character serves more as a strong and independent heroine rather than a damsel in distress. I feel that this is one of the most crucial interpretations of Tatar’s novel that we can gather—fairy tales are classic tales passed on through generations but cannot remain unchanged as they gather cultural relevance and are shaped accordingly based on the need for certain lessons of morality incorporated into the upbringing of that society’s youth.