Violence central to fairy tales?

Violence as a form of entertainment is not a new concept. People think that violent video games or movies or entertainment in general is new phenomena, but in reality violence has captured the people’s attention for generations. In the beginning stages of most fairy tales, they were told for their entertainment value and to pass the time (Tartar 3), and therefore violence is important in these texts because that’s what made the stories serve their purpose for the listeners or readers.

Throughout the development of the purpose of fairy tales, violence began to be used much less and as a scare tactic instead of entertainment. For the reader of this new type of fairy tale, violence was used to teach a lesson or moral. In the case of Bluebeard, however, violence is used to challenge “the myth of romantic love encapsulated in happily ever after of fairy tales” (Tartar 139) and challenges social norms.

For most readers of fairy tales, violence helps in the reading of the text. Realistically, it makes the stories more interesting and therefore grabs the attention of the reader more. It’s the same concept of not being able to look away from something violent or disturbing even if you one wants to; this is human nature.

For the characters in the texts, however, violence is not as unilaterally beneficial. The heroine, Little Red Riding Hood, or her equivalent is eaten in many versions of the tale, and sometimes even more violent action, such as cutting open the wolf’s stomach, occurs. The violence in Bluebeard is even more extreme, and includes corpses hanging from hooks and dismembered bodies. While we never actually see violence occur in this text, the fear from knowing what had been done in the past is still as effective as actually seeing the violence.

When we think of fairy tales nowadays, violence is nowhere near the first thing to cross our minds. However, violence is crucial to these stories because that is how they entertained and taught the morals, and therefore violence embodies the purpose of these tales.




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One response to “Violence central to fairy tales?

  1. I have to agree that violence is an effective device to carry the plot, as well as excite the reader. The way violence is carried out in the way that is sensational and incorporates fantasy into the story that intrigues the read. It is not as if someone experiences a mutilated body being magically revived too often. Violence also contributes to the plot by giving the characters motivation: had Blubeard’s wife not been in danger, would she have acted as frantic as she had? I also have to agree that incorporating violence can effectively scare a moral into the reader, especially a young, impressionable child.

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