|Grimm's Snow White|
Today we focus on what actually makes up a Victorian fairy tale.
Many fairy tales prior to the Victorian period tended to feature some grotesque or scary themes and events. There were ogres, scores of children being eaten up, magic, sexual references, violence etc. These tales were not seen as suitable for children because of these characterizations.
Enter the Victorian period. Literature during the Victorian period took on a unique style very much the opposite of its predecessor. The main focus of the tales from this time became issues of morality. There was almost always a message that the reader could take away from the story (sort of similar to the Aesop’s Fables of old).
Here is a great passage from my book of Victorian tales that pretty much sums up what these tales were about.
The coronation of Victoria in 1837 marked the arrival of a golden age for the literary British fairy tale. Even though initially there was still considerable resistance to these innocent amusements, by the queen’s fiftieth jubilee fairy tales were no longer regarded as the engines of mischief…, but rather, … “as engines for the propulsion of all virtues into the little mind of an agreeable and harmless form.” Clearly, their authors were mindful of the criticisms of earlier nursery lore. The new fairy tales were cleansed of the savagery and ethical ambiguity that had characterized many traditional stores: here there were no ogres who cut off children’s heads, as there were in Perrault’s “Hop o’ My Thumb”, and no rewards for the liar, as in “Puss in Boots.” Even when not overtly moralizing, these tales were always moral. Good always triumphed over Evil in these optimistic fantasies (Hearn xix-xx)1.Many of these tales from the Victorian period were written by very famous novelists (Dickens, Browning, Wilde, Nesbit and Barrie, to name a few). We will explore some of these famous tales later this week.
If you would like to read some of these Victorian tales, may I recommend The Victorian Fairy Tale Book by Michael Hearn?
1 Hearn, Michael. "Foreward." The Victorian Fairy Tale Book. New York: Pantheon, 2002. Print.
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