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Off with Their Heads! Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood.

A new text of fairy tale definitions is particularly timely in light of the recent political emphasis on interpretations of family values. Traditional tales have long been regarded as reflective of cultural values. Maria Tatar's Off with Their Heads! Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood presents fresh explanations of both common and obscure fairy tale motifs and the manner in which they affect society today.

Tatar, a professor of German Literature at Harvard University and traditional literature scholar, discusses the notion that fairy tale readings remain adult-oriented and, as current reading theories suggest, interpretations vary as each adult imposes a personal set of childhood experiences on the stories. What messages a child will receive from a fairy tale are largely determined by the particular adult reading the tale. As a result, children may not always be positively presented in the tales.

Tatar discusses fairy tales as "moral magnets, picking up bits and pieces, if never entire blocks of a value system." Tatar again raises the issue that certain fairy tales promote stereotypical female behaviors in regard to men and beauty and that certain tales explain a societal preoccupation with graphic violence.

By presenting her own interpretations of major fairy tale motifs, Tatar reminds us that the importance of personal readings cannot be underestimated. We gain needed insight into current societal values by continuously re-examining those of the past.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Association for Childhood Education International
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Gilstrap, Robert L.
Publication:Childhood Education
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1993
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