[DWJ] Feeling sorry for Penelope (was Fire and Hemlock Question)

Minnow minnow at belfry.org.uk
Tue Aug 22 16:40:00 EDT 2006

Dorian wrote:

>I always get annoyed when the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast" turns into a

I don't get annoyed exactly, I just think it's futile; the moral of that
story when I was told it as a child was "handsome is as handsome does", and
the Beast was already kind and lovable inside so he didn't *need* to be any
ol' boring Prince as far as I was concerned.

I *do* get annoyed with the Disneyesque version in which he's a nasty
person who is redeemed by The Love Of A Good Woman, because that's a wicked
thing to be teaching silly adolescents, that a horrible man can be made
nice if only a woman loves him enough.  It just is not true, and the
battered wives' refuges are full of people who are the living proof of

I wonder slightly whether the person who did the modern retelling of the
stories we think of as 'traditional fairy tales' always adds a major part
to their message.  Cinderella is a Charles Perrault, isn't it?  along with
The Sleeping Beauty and Little Red Riding Hood?  I think he was a bit of a
sentimental old thing, and not inclined to be even a tiny bit feminist; his
Cinders is a sweet and saintly brat who even offers to dress her nasty
step-sisters' hair for them without having to be ordered to, and she just
relies on her fairy godmother rescuing her, really, all very passive.  (And
then she forgives everyone at the end!  Argh!)  The Grimm Brothers' version
of Cinderella that I have is much darker and crueller, and Cinders does
have to do things for herself: tend the hazel tree on her mother's grave
and feed the bird that sings there, mostly, but still, show some initiative
and think for herself how to solve her problem about not being able to go
to the ball rather than being told what to do; at the end she rides away
without a second look at her nasty semi-siblings, who are struck blind as a
punishment for their wickedness as well as having mutilated their own feet,
and none of this loving-kindness nonsense thank you.

Some of the heroines of the Norse folk-tales are positively oomph-ful.  I
suppose it's not surprising.  That east-of-the-sun west-of-the-moon girl is
definitely in charge, and nobody's pawn: it's her idiot lover who is in
need of care-and-protection.

Where *does* the story of the girl who makes shirts for her six brothers
out of thistles to disenchant them from being swans come from?  (It's in
Grimm, but they just collected stories from all over, so I don't know where
they got it from.)  Now *there's* a girl with ooomph -- and not a male
protector in sight anywhere, as far as I remember, given that the King who
marries her whilst she's not-speaking because the spell requires silence
for its breaking isn't exactly supportive, what with sending her to be
burned at the stake for eating her children and all.


(who has been spurred, by a combination of this thread and a lot of books
being inherited from my father's house, into collecting all the folk- and
fairy-tale collections in the house into one book-case, and is in slight
shock about how many there are but not one of them has a version of "Beauty
and the Beast" in it!  It must be in the only Andrew Lang collection I
don't have in a Dover facsimile, the Blue Fairy Book.  Argh!)

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