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Letting Down Rapunzel: Feminism’s Effects on Fairy Tales

Abstract

The importance of stories written for young readers is undisputed, and in particular the central place of the fairy story in popular culture is clearly recognized. Whilst most of these stories are centuries old, they have been adapted by the cultures of the tellers to be more compatible with the ideological views of the audience. This article will explore how feminism has influenced two versions of the same story, published by the same publisher for comparable age groups through an exploration of the Ladybird versions of Rapunzel as published in 1968 and 1993. It will show how there are subtle changes in the text which do not affect the overall narrative structure but can offer an insight into the ways in which society has ideologically positioned men and women. Fairclough’s critical discourse analysis (CDA) will be used to show how a close linguistic analysis of the text can reveal the impact of feminism on the adaptation of children’s books.

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Acknowledgments

Many thanks to the editors and reviewers for their very helpful suggestions and recommendations, and to Michael Higgins for his invaluable advice in reading over drafts of this article.

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Correspondence to Angela Smith.

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Angela Smith is Reader in Language and Culture at the University of Sunderland. She has published widely in the area of media discourse and gender studies. She is co-editor of the I.B. Tauris International Library of Gender in Popular Culture.

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Smith, A. Letting Down Rapunzel: Feminism’s Effects on Fairy Tales. Child Lit Educ 46, 424–437 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10583-014-9239-6

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Keywords

  • Fairy tales
  • Power
  • Feminism
  • Masculinities
  • Cultural capital