D&T's previous owner, Kate, had the privilege of interviewing Zipes in 2009, for those interested in hearing firsthand some of his thoughts on fairy tales.
Before I give my thoughts on this book, I should mention that I am (alas) not an expert in fairy tales and The Irresistible Fairy Tale is the first scholarly book I've read on the topic. Since I began writing for this blog, I've been trying to turn my hobby-level interest in fairy tales into something more professional and I'm glad I've been given the opportunity to read some of Zipes' work since he is such an important figure in the field.
The Irresistible Fairy Tale's target audience is a little tricky for me to place. In many ways it feels like an addendum to his other books, choosing specific areas to cover (possibly in an effort to plug various gaps left in previous publications?). For example, he devotes a full chapter to the lesser known folklorist Giuseppe Pitre. In other ways, it feels like an overview of fairy tales, examining the evolution of the genre.
Occasionally, the pages contain the entire text of tales as examples, but the author usually assumes his readers are already familiar with the titles he references. These range from the common, such as Cinderella, to the lesser known, like Baba Yaga. While the writing style is accesible to anyone, I would judge this book to be most interesting to readers with at least an intermediate knowledge of fairy tales.
|Baba Yaga by Rima Staines|
Highlights of The Irresistible Fairy Tale:
1. Zipes' examination of how females are treated in fairy tales. He concludes that most females in the popular fairy tales are either witches or persecuted heroines because our culture has marginalized tales written by females. He gives several examples of female folktale gatherers as well as tales by female authors.
2. Zipes' biographical chapters about specific folk tale collectors and storytellers, giving the reader a much broader scope of names in the genre beyond Grimm and Perrault.
3. The best explanation of why someone dislikes Tangled. Zipes says the movie subverts the original tale's representation of the witch. In the original tale, the witch represents an Artemis-like figure who wants to protect Rapunzel from the wickedness of men. In Tangled, the witch is only concerned with selfishly pursuing youthfulness. Not saying this changes my love of the adorable Disney movie, but it's a better explanation than simply complaining that it sugar-coated the original story.