“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, / Who’s the fairest one of all?” As anyone who has read the Brothers Grimm knows, the answer is “Snow White.” With skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as black as ebony, she surpasses her wicked stepmother in beauty and therefore seals her death warrant. But why does the stepmother sit around talking to a mirror? Why does Snow White have to escape from her stepmother by moving in with seven dwarfs? And why must she die before she can meet her prince? What’s really going on in fairy tales?
We will answer such questions by analyzing a range of fairy tales, from classics (such as the Grimms’ “Snow White”) to new hybrids (such as the graphic novel series Fables) to film adaptations (such as Tangled). In doing so, we will explore what a fairy tale is, how fairy tales change to meet the needs of different cultures, and why fairy tales continue to appeal to us. Assignments will include a short paper, a team-led discussion, a research project, an individual presentation, and the creation of our own book of fairy tales.