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Enchanted Brides

Page history last edited by Abigail Heiniger 7 years, 11 months ago

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  • Visual media project was due TODAY before class (posted to your Roster and SafeAssign).
  • The scaffolded assignments for the final project begin right away (February 12).





Group 7 Zipes

Enchanted Brides: "The Little Mermaid" and "Tatterhood" 


The enchanted grooms we analyzed last week brought a new layer of complexity to the fairy tale. Unlike most male characters encountered in fairy tales, enchanted grooms have needs. They are not the self-sufficient "bold boys" described by Ruth Bottigheimer (in Bad Girls and Bold Boys). These needs can only be fulfilled in an interpersonal (marriage) relationship; thus, the enchanted groom demands a complex wife (who has the power to disenchant him within herself). 


The enchanted "brides" we examine today are also complex - individuals with complex needs. Are these needs fulfilled by their (potential) spouses? How does this create a commentary on the gendered hierarchy/expectations within a (traditional heteronormative) marriage? 


All Creation's Mutants


In Woman and the Demon, Nina Auerbach argued that in Victorian iconography (i.e. images with iconic meaning), women are frequently depicted as a non-human other: 


"The nineteenth-century woman's angelic and demonic identities are not as exclusive as they may seem: her being extends as well through the magical and monstrous ream of more-than-human early lifeā€¦. Victorian iconography abounds in less canonical alliances between women and fairies, goblins, mermaids, vampires, and all varieties of creation's mutants; the Victorian universe crawls with anomalies from whose weird energy only man is excluded." (65)


Auerbach concludes with the claim that the supernatural depictions of women in Victorian art are ultimately empowering: 


"In Ainsworth own day, woman's tacit association with 'the black arts' was a source of torture laced with hope, hinting at new sources of transfiguration that found final shape in the characters whose vitality lived beyond history. An answer to this resonant question that is truer to the Victorian vision of our artists might be: woman is not frailer than man is, but stronger and more powerful; her nature is broadly demonic rather than fallibly human; she must lead us out of history towards a new dispensation; in short, woman is 'so much more addicted to the practice of the black art' because by definition, woman is an angel." (108)


Do you agree with Auerbach? What is an argument in support of Auerbach's claims? What is an argument against it? How do the narratives today demonstrate an innate desire for human identity rather than the (exalted) non-humanity assigned to women? 


Auerbach's claims (about the empowerment of women through supernatural motifs and images) is based upon her analysis of Victorian art produced solely by Victorian men. A broader analysis of art and literature may produce a more ambiguous conclusion about the non-human woman.


Seeing Is Believing 


How do these images create an alliance between women and the non-human world? What is the significance of this alliance? 


Appleton. Ca. 1900. 












Discussion Questions

  • How is the sexual identity of the little mermaid emphasized in these images?
    • Does that sexuality humanize or objectify her for the viewer?
  • Do any of these images capture the little mermaid's loss of self? 
  • There are no images for "Tatterhood." Why do you think this fairy tale has not been illustrated (or that images are not readily available)?
    • What would you do to illustrate this tale in a single image? 


Group 8 Talairach-Vielmas



More Enchanted Brides


Group Project:

There are no illustrations for Tatterhood or the Frog Princess. Break into groups and draw a single illustration for each tale (what image would you use to capture the entire narrative). 




  • Peter Christen Asbjornsen and Jorgen Moe
  • Norway 
  • 1842-52 


The Frog Princess 

  • Annonymous 
  • Russia


Discussion Questions

The enchanted bride tales we are reading today are both from traditions outside of France and Germany (the main focus of this course). The gendered narratives are remarkably different from other narratives we've read. Could we create a cultural explanation for the narrative phenomenon? 


  • How is power illustrated in these narratives?
    • Movement
    • Language
    • Magical Creations
    • Social Status
  • Who has that power?
  • How does that power drive the action in the plot?
  • What relationships do we see in these narratives? 
    • How are relationships illustrated?
  • Compare the power and relationships of these enchanted bride tales with the enchanted groom tales of last week.
    • What does this illustrate about gender roles and expectations?

Looking Ahead:

Consider the gendered characterization of the characters in these ATU 425 tales as we move on into other fairy tale types. Comparing and contrasting the enchanted bride/groom with other stock characters is often illuminating (and fun).   









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