A Grimm Reminder: Representations of Female Evil in the Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm Ouimet, Kerstina Reba
Although Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm wrote their fairy tales in the early 19th century, their stories have maintained their popularity and have been continuously adapted and reimagined. The importance of this popularity should not be underestimated: the analysis of the tales and their characters is essential to understand the potential to perpetuate negative female fairy tale archetypes. This essay will examine the ways three popular Grimm fairy tales construct evil women through a close reading of their characteristics, their roles, and their motivations. As readers, it is important to be suspicious of the rewards given at the closure of these tales. The fates of these older women perhaps indicate what is to befall the young heroines in the future; once their beauty is diminished, will they too become evil, undesirable, and jealous crones? Indeed, although there is no instance of marriage portrayed as happy in any of the three stories, the plots culminate in the marriage of the heroines to the handsome princes. If the examples in the stories are to be trusted, why should the audience believe the notion of “happily ever after?” Is the “reward” of marriage truly a reward at all? Or could marriage be an introduction into a life consumed by jealousy, competitiveness, and bitterness, perhaps as a result of no longer being desirable to men?
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