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Author
Comment
Rachelbella
Registered User
(3/26/07 6:25 am)


Mothers' advice to daughters in fairy tales
I'm taking a fairytales/folktales/ballads/legends class this semester, and I'm having a heck of a time narrowing down a topic for my final paper! There's just too many things to talk about...

Anyway, one idea I'm really leaning toward is how "mother's advice" figures into the tales.

Two I'm specifically looking at so far are:
East o'the Sun - the daughter is cautioned not to speak alone with her mother, the mother gives her the candle to light the dark room
The Goose Girl - the handkerchief with three drops of blood serving as the mother's voice

Am I grasping at straws? Is this topic interesting/worthwhile? Is there any hope for me?

kristiw
Registered User
(3/26/07 7:51 am)


Re: Mothers' advice to daughters in fairy tales
I think analyzing mother/daughter relationships would be very interesting and rewarding. I had a section on that in my BA thesis in which, going off of something Maria Tatar said in "The Hard Facts of the Grimm Fairy Tales," I argued there are two types of mothers: bad/living, and good/dead. The Grimms tended to transform unnatural mothers into stepmothers to make it a less unflattering picture of German folk culture, but I think it has to do with the available roles for women in the story. If the story deals with a living mother/stepmother, the conflict always occurs when the heroine becomes marriagable or sexually mature. In other words, as she becomes "mother" material, the (step)mother has to become a witch-- the story doesn't allow for otherwise. If the mother dies before that point in the girl's life, there's no competition and therefore no need to become a witch, just a benevolent spirit.

AliceCEB
Registered User
(3/26/07 7:58 am)


Re: Mothers' advice to daughters in fairy tales
Vasilissa the Beautiful is another example of the dying mother giving her daughter an object (a doll) along with advice (listen to the doll) that ends up saving the daughter, this time from both her evil stepmother and from Baba Yaga who is both evil and good.

Edited by: AliceCEB at: 3/26/07 7:59 am
Veronica Schanoes
Registered User
(3/26/07 5:24 pm)


Re: Mothers' advice to daughters in fairy tales
There's a Donkeyskin variant in which the mother gives her daughter advice--I think it's a Romani variant. Let me see if I can find it. I think it's "Mossycoat."

bluewyvern
Registered User
(3/27/07 4:50 pm)


Mothers' advice
The bad/living good/dead distinction is a good one, and a lot of mothers' advice will come from the latter category...in The Goose Girl, as you mentioned, and also in the versions of Cinderella where Cinderella's helper is her dead mother's spirit instead of a fairy godmother. There's the one where her mother is a tree, for example, and drops the ball gown down from her branches. (Actually, this is the Grimms' version, isn't it?) I think there's also a Chinese version where the mother is a carp in a pond.

There are some good living mothers, too, and the advice they dispense can serve as the prohibition that the hero/heroine breaks. The mother in Little Red Riding hood, for example, gives the classic "don't stray from the path" warning.

ErmineLady
Registered User
(3/27/07 5:01 pm)


Mossycoat
The mother's advice in the story of MOSSYCOAT is a mixture of the morally dubious - she tells her daughter to get as much as she can out of the pedlar who wants to marry her, and then take off with the presents he's given her - and the typical Traveller's advice - go to the front door and ask for the mistress if you want something, don't be sidetracked by the servants...it works because she gets the beautiful clothes which enable her to go to the Ball and get the attention of the young master, but how far it is fair to the pedlar I am not sure...
A mother's blessing (sons going off to seek their fortune are often offered a large loaf with a curse, or a small one with a mother's blessing) is always worth having.

Rosemary Lake
Registered User
(3/28/07 1:30 am)


Mother Holle/Hulda, absent parents
There's "Mother Holle/Hulda."

One problem is that bad or absent or sick parents is a characteristic of many forms of fiction other than fairy tales. Good parents protect their children from adventures.:-)

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