ALG: Voice and Agency in Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose

Series: Archetypal Looking Glass

Spoiler Warning: Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

Trigger Warning: Briar Rose is about the Holocaust. I don’t talk a huge amount about the camps themselves in this post, however.


Image Description: Cover of Briar Rose, by Jane Yolen. Roses grow on barbed wire. In the background there is the shadow of a face: closed eyes, nose, and a mouth. Picture taken from Amazon.

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Archetypal Looking Glass: Disney’s Maleficent

Series: Archetypal Looking Glass

Spoiler Warning: Spoilers for Maleficent. Basically just all of the spoilers for Maleficent.

Trigger Warning: While I do think Maleficent is potentially triggering for some people I don’t know how best to express the specific triggers. I think that some of the relationships and events in the movie could hit some very specific abuse related triggers, and I discuss some of those relationships and events in this post. I can imagine that the loss of Maleficent’s wings, which I do not discuss at length, could also be triggering.


Image Description: A poster for Maleficent, taken from Maleficent, played by Angelina Jolie, takes up most of the foreground. She wears a black cloak and has her horns wrapped in leather. Her lips are full and bright red, and her skin is white. Her cheekbones are high and enhanced, and there is a crow perched near her shoulder. Behind her is Aurora, who long blond hair and is wearing a light blue dress. The background shows a large kingdom with a castle on one side and a wall of thorns on the other.

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ALG: Sex, Sleep, and Saviors From Aurora to Zelandine

Series: Archetypal Looking Glass

Spoiler Warning: Mild thematic spoilers for Maleficent

Trigger Warning: Discussion of rape

The_Rose_Bower_Buscot_Park (1)

Image Description: This Pre-Raphaelite painting by Edward Burne-Jones shows a sleeping maiden surrounded by her slumbering courtiers. The painting is the last major painting in a series of four entitled The Legend of Briar Rose. A poem was written by William Morris to accompany the paintings, which can be read here.

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Archetypal Looking Glass: Agency in Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland

Series: The Archetypal Looking Glass

Spoilers: Spoilers for The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente. Major spoilers at the end of the review have a warning and several line breaks before them.


Image Description: Cover of “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in A Ship of Her Own Making. A red cover with an oval image of a little girl and a wyvern with it’s wings chained. The little girl is holding an over-sized key.

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The Archetypal Looking Glass: Folktales and Representation (An Introduction)

People’s opinions on fairy tales vary widely, and even the question of terms—what qualifies as a fairy tale or a folktale, and whether there’s any difference in the two—is highly debatable. However folktales, to use a more general term, are unquestionably a major part of pretty much any culture. My interest in folklore is partly due to my upbringing—many days spent watching Faerie Tale Theatre and The Tenth Kingdom, and reading  books like Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko’s The Paper Bag Princess and Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles left me with the impression that fairy tales could be comforting, empowering, and a little frightening. Then there were the Renn Fairs, the music my parents listened to, and the general love of books and storytelling that filled my house—fairy tales are comfortable for me. Beyond that, though, as a writer I have long been interested in language, not only in literal meanings, but also in connotations. A lot of connotations come from folklore, the archetypal stories that became integral to their particular culture.  From archetypal stories we get archetypal tropes, characters, even images—all the things that are so important to storytelling. And storytelling, after all, is exactly what this blog is about: the stories that we tell, the stories that we listen to, and how these stories both reflect and influence our world and our perceptions of that world. Stories are a mirror in which people can view their society and their humanity, and one can learn a great deal about a culture by looking at the stories they tell and the way they tell them.

And so this post is the beginning of an exploration I will be doing on this blog of folklore. I will mostly be looking at European fairy tales, as those are the ones that are most often adapted—or at least, their adaptations are by far the most prevalent in American culture (and, I believe, other European or formerly European cultures). I will look at folklore from other cultures, though, and I might be looking for some guest posts at some point—I’ll talk more about that in a later post.

I’m going to start by talking about agency and sexism in American and European fairy tales—how do our modern perceptions of fairy tales compare to the older stories, and how does context affect stories now and in the past? The issue of agency is often brought up with fairy tales, particularly Disney’s adaptations, and female empowerment and the fear of said empowerment figure strongly in character archetypes like the witch. But are all fairy tales full of bad witches, evil queens, and helpless princesses? Do they really all reflect the same damsel in distress dynamic as Snow White and Sleeping Beauty? The short answer is no, they don’t—but if that is the case, why are those archetypes so strongly associated with this kind of story? Over the next several posts I’ll look at some old stories as collected by people like Andrew Lang and the Grimm brothers, and some adaptations of these stories, such as Disney’s princess films. I’ll also be looking at the first book in a recent series, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente.

Before I close this post, though, I want to go back briefly to the question of definitions: For the purpose of this series, I’ll include in my definition not only archetypal folktales, but also some more modern stories that are sometimes referred to as “modern fairy tales,” either due to their explicit use of archetypes or through their entrance into canon. Stories like The Wizard of Oz, for instance, have been adapted and retold so many times since their inception, and have become such an ingrained part of the cultures of their creation that it seems worthwhile to examine them alongside traditional folktales,  and to see what archetypes they might incorporate or create. In addition, recent stories like the aforementioned book The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making, while not necessarily adaptations of any one specific fairy tale, examine tropes and archetypes both explicitly and inexplicitly, and as a result they also have a place in the discussion.

One last unrelated announcement: next Friday I’ll be posting something for Blogging Against Disablism Day. I’m hoping to make two posts, one here about disability representation in Doctor Who, and one on my other blog, Scribbling on Seashells, about my own experiences.