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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Ariès, Philippe. (1962). Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life. Trans. Robert Baldick. New York, NY: Vintage.
Baker, Caroline and Freebody, Peter. (1989). Children’s First School Books: Introduction to the Culture of Literacy. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Baxter, Nicola. (1993). Rapunzel: Favourite Tales. London: Ladybird Books.
Bettelheim, Bruno. (1976). The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. London: Penguin.
Bourdieu, Pierre. (1983). Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. London: Routledge.
Cole, Babette. (1986) Princess Smartypants. London: Picture Lions.
Crew, Hilary S. (2002). Spinning New Tales From Traditional Texts: Donna Jo Napoli and the Rewriting of Fairy Tale. Children’s Literature in Education, 22(2), 77–95.
Fairclough, Norman. (1989). Language and Power. London: Longman.
Faludi, Susan. (1991). Backlash: The Undeclared War Against Women. London: Chatto & Windus.
Grena, Nathan and Howard, Byron. (2010). Tangled. Walt Disney Studios.
Halliday, M.A.K. (1985). An Introduction to Systemic Functional Grammar. London: Edward Arnold.
Hourihan, Margery. (1997). Deconstructing the Hero: Literary Theory and Children’s Literature. London: Routledge.
Hunt, Peter (Ed.). (1992). Literature for Children: Contemporary Criticism. London: Routledge.
Knowles, Murray and Malmkjær, Kirsten. (1996). Language and Control in Children’s Literature. London: Routledge.
Levorato, Alessandra. (2003). Language and Gender in the Fairy Tale Tradition: A Linguistic Analysis of Old and New Story Telling. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Lyne, Adrian (Director). (1987). Fatal Attraction. Hollywood, CA: Paramount Pictures.
Macdonald, Myra. (1995). Representing Women: Myths of Femininity in the Popular Media. London: Arnold.
MacInnes, John. (1998). The End of Masculinity. Buckingham: Open University Press.
Munsch, Robert and Martchenko, Michael. (1980). The Paper Bag Princess. Toronto: Annick Press.
Perkins, Margaret. (2008). Literature for the Very Young. In Prue Goodwin (Ed.), Understanding Children’s Books: A Guide for Education Professionals (pp. 21–32). London: Sage.
Roberts, David and Roberts, Lynn. (2003). Rapunzel: A Groovy Fairy Tale. London: Pavilion Children’s Books.
Rutherford, Jonathan. (2003). Preface. In Bethan Benwell (Ed.), Masculinity and Men’s Lifestyle Magazines (pp. 1–5). Oxford: Blackwell.
Southgate, Vera. (1968). Rapunzel: A Ladybird “Easy-Reading” Book. Loughborough: Wills & Hepworth.
Sunderland, Jane. (2011). Language, Gender and Children’s Fiction. London: Continuum.
Talbot, Mary. (1995). Fictions at Work. Harlow: Longman.
Talbot, Mary. (2010). Language and Gender, 2nd edn. Cambridge: Polity.
Wilcox, Leah and Monks, Linda. (2003). Falling for Rapunzel. London: Penguin.
Zipes, Jack. (1983). Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion. New York: Routledge.
Zipes, Jack. (2006). Why Fairy Tales Stick: The Evolution and Relevance of a Genre. London: Routledge.
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.
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.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
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
- Fairy tales
- Cultural capital