Readers' Guide: From the Beast to the Blonde by Marina Warner

From the Beast to the Blonde

by: Marina Warner

Category: FICTION
Guide Created By: JoanP
Discussion Leader(s): JoanP & JoanR (Guest)
Read our discussion of this book

Book Description Book cover for From Beast to Blonde

Marina Warner's From the Beast to the Blonde is a fascinating and comprehensive study of the changing cultural context of fairy tales and the people who tell them.

Relevant Links

Andrew Lang's Colour Fairy Books
Sur La Lune Annotated Fairy Tales
A Roundtable Discussion: "How Fairy Tales Cast Their Spell"
Little Red Riding Hood (Charles Perrault - 1697)
Little Red Riding Hood (Brothers Grimm - 1812)
Little Red Cap (Brothers Grimm - second version see end)
Charles Perrault's Cinderella
The Brothers Grimm ~ Cinderella, 1812
The Grimms' 1857 version of Cinderella
Earlier version- Cinder Maid
9th century Chinese Cinderella
Giambatista Basile's Sleeping Beauty-(The Sun, the Moon and Talia) 1657
History of Sleeping Beauty-from Arthurian legend Perceforest 1567
Charles Perrault's Sleeping Beauty in the Wood 1697
Brothers Grimm - Little Brier Rose - Sleeping Beauty
The Little Mermaid, Grimm, Andersen
Hans the Mermaid's Son (Lang's Pink Fairy book - Andersen)
The Mermaid and the Boy (Lang's Brown Fairy book- Andersen
The Twelve Months
Snow White and Rose Red

For Your Consideration

Part I
1. As an educator and therapist, why do you think Bruno Bettelheim found fairy tales more rewarding than any other children's stories in helping severely disturbed children?

2. Why does he think that fairy tales are more important than ever to a child's development today? Do you agree?

3. Why does explaining a fairy tale destroy the story's enchantment according to Bruno Bettelheim? Have you ever done this when reading to a child?

4. What do you think Bettelheim means when he says the fairy tale must be told in its "original form?" Did you wonder what he considers the "original form" of a fairy tale?

5. Let's consider and compare the print versions of Little Red Riding, as these are the ones to which Bettelhiem seems to refer. Which of these two versions of Little Red Riding Hood would you prefer to read to a child? Little Red Riding Hood (Charles Perrault - 1697) or Little Red Cap (Brothers Grimm - 1812) ?

6. Why do you think Bettelheim discounts Perrault's version of the story?

7. Charles Perrault brings these tales to the drawing room of the elite and wows them. What is his background? Is he a writer? Is he a member of the aristocracy in France?

8. How has Perrault tamed the oral tale, The Story of Grandmother, on which he based his own "Little Red Riding Hood"?

Part II
1. Have you wondered how female writers treated the tales they heard from nurses and servants? Would they stick to the oral tales as they were told? Would they cast LRRH in a better light than their male counterparts?

2. Were the oral story tellers primarily men or women? Were those who collected the tales and wrote them down predominately men or women? What might this information tell you about the tales as they are written? (See Warner's book for more.)

3. "Spin a yarn" ~ "weave a plot" How do these phrases relate to fairy tales? (See Warner's book.)

4. Do you agree with Warner's description of a fairytale - "a moralizing from deep inside."

5. Are you ready for a new fairytale? How do Perrault's Cinderella and the Brothers Grimm's 1812 version of Cinderella differ? How do both of them compare to the earlier version- Cinder Maid ? Don't miss the Grimms' 1857 version of Cinderella!

6. Have you found any information on the silent fathers, the absent mothers and the presence of stepmothers in these fairy tales?

Part III
1. "Spin a yarn" ~ "weave a plot" - have you noticed the numerous references to spinning and weaving in fairy tales? What do they reveal about the sources and the tellers of the early tales?

2. What do you remember about the story of the Sleeping Beauty? What was its message? Do you remember it as "bawdy, comic, and erotic," as Warner tags it?

3. Can you imagine telling a child this version? - Giambatista Basile's Sleeping Beauty - (The Sun, the Moon and Talia)1657 What was Basile's source? Who was his intended audience?

4. As usual, Charles Perrault cleaned up the story, but what remains of Basile's story in 1697? Charles Perrault's Sleeping Beauty in the Wood 1697

5. What did the Brothers Grimm accomplish with their version in 1812? Did they completely change the message of the tale? What is the message now? Brothers Grimm - Little Brier Rose - Sleeping Beauty

6. How do you think men reacted to Perrault's tale of rape and adultery in the salons of France? Is the king portrayed as evil, or is this more the story of the ogress, the mother-in-law?

7. Do you notice the lack of male evil doers in fairy tales, or are they mostly stepmothers, witches...and mothers-in-law? If so, why do you think this is the case?

8. Would you be interested in examining Bluebeard and/or Beauty and the Beast to see how evil or weak men are portrayed?

Part IV
1. What do you think? Can we call Hans Christian Andersen's "Little Mermaid" a fairy tale since it is a re-telling of a long line of mermaid tales?"

2. Have you ever read The Little Mermaid? Why do you think Andrew Lang included previous tales Andersen wrote about mermaids in his colour books, but not this one?

3. What did you think of the Grimms' treatment of The Little Mermaid - after reading Andersen's stories Lang included in his pink and brown Colour Fairy Books? - Hans the Mermaid's Son AND The Mermaid and the Boy

4. What do you think was the message behind the story? The moral? Was this a fairy tale? Did it have a happy ending?

5. Do you want to nominate a favorite fairy tale or one that you haven't read yet for discussion here in the coming days while we are still together?

6. Have you read The Twelve Months or do you remember Snow White and Rose Red ? What determines the difference between these two sets of sisters?

7. Can you think of any fairy tale heroines who were NOT blonde? Why do you think the old story of Silverhair was turned into "The Story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears?" Do you see blondeness as a symbol of innocence in this tale?

8. Were all the blondes of fairy tales innocent and virtuous?

9. Do the beloved old fairy tales of Perrault and Grimm still have significance for today's children?

10. What effect did the feminist movement have on children's books and fairy tales?