cover image From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers

From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers

Marina Warner. Farrar Straus Giroux, $35 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-374-15901-6

Notwithstanding the prominence of the Grimm Brothers and Charles Perrault, most narrators of fairy tales, asserts Warner, have been women--nannies, grannies, 18th-century literary ladies, sibyls of antiquity. In this richly illustrated, erudite, digressive feminist study, cultural historian Warner (Alone of All Her Sex) argues that instead of seeking psychoanalytic meanings in fairy tales, we must first understand them in their social and emotional context. In her analysis, ``Bluebeard'' and ``Beauty and the Beast'' reflect girls' realistic fears of marrige in an era when women married young, had multiple children and often died in childbirth. Her delightfully subversive inquiry profiles reluctant brides, silent daughters, crones, witches, fates, muses, sirens, Saint Anne (image of the old wise woman), the biblical Queen of Sheba and Saint Uncumber, who grew a beard to avoid marriage but was crucified for her rebellion. Angela Carter's fiction, surrealist Leonora Carrington's comic fairy tales, Walt Disney movies and French aristocratic fairy tales of veiled protofeminist protest by Marie-Jeanne L'Heritier and Marie-Catherine d'Aulnoy provide grist for her mill. (Oct.)