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polkadottedsheep
Registered User
(2/20/07 1:38 pm)


Red hair
Hey everyone,

I'm currently working on a project looking at redheads in fairy tales and folktales. I thought I'd ask here to see what tales people can identify as having characters with red hair. I also have a question for you all that may (or may not) cause some debate -- If a character has "golden" colored hair, are they a blonde or a redhead? What are your thoughts on this?

Thanks!

Writerpatrick
Registered User
(2/20/07 2:08 pm)


Re: Red hair
Golden would be a blonde. At one time it was believed that anything that was gold in color might actually contain gold, hence the idea of turning straw into gold. It's also why many heroines were blondes. Though I don't believe there are a lot of tales that specifically mention hair color. The only red-head off-hand I could think of would be Rose Red from Snow White and Rose Red. There may be some Scottish stories which use red-heads.


Veronica Schanoes
Registered User
(2/20/07 3:13 pm)


Re: Red hair
If you're willing to expand to mythology, I believe that Loki is a redhead.

Random
Registered User
(2/20/07 7:50 pm)


Red Hair
The villain of the Yellow Dwarf has red hair, with which he makes a ring to bind the heroine to her promise.

Rosemary Lake
Registered User
(2/21/07 12:17 am)


Re: Red Hair
I see 'golden' as blonde too, tho perhaps a richer color than light blonde. Not that I recall any traditional fairy tales making that distinction.

I can't think of any red-haired heroines. Some of the 'unpromising hero' boys (Scandanavian?) might have had red hair.

Cabinet des Fees did odd things and went into more detial than the Grimm/Lang/Perrault kind. That might be a place to look for red-haired characters.

katherine
Registered User
(2/21/07 5:38 am)


Re: Red Hair
Hi there
In Hans Christian Andersons tale 'The Golden Treasure', the little boy in it has red hair and his mother calls him her 'golden treasure'.
In Angela Carters 'The Magic Toy Shop', one of the female characters who is mute, has red hair - it is meant to symbolise restrained passion.

Katherine

bluewyvern
Registered User
(2/21/07 8:59 pm)


Re: Red Hair
The impression I've received is that hair color in tales, especially "fair" hair, can be a pretty vague thing. I do think that yellow/gold/blond are pretty interchangeable, and I recall hearing it suggested that "fair" can mean either any of these, or just "not dark/black" -- many "fair" maidens in myth and folklore were probably what we would describe unhesitatingly as brunette, especially in stories deriving from Mediterranean cultures and others where the dominant shades would tend to be dark.

A Scandinavian princess we can probably take for genuinely blond, but what about, for example, the Aeneid's Dido? A lock of her hair is described as "flavus," which is yellow, flaxen, or golden, but would we really expect to see a blond Queen of Carthage? Even, for that matter, a blond Roman, for whom "fair" was considered the ideal of beauty? Even the fairness of "fair Desdemona" in Shakespeare's Othello was probably emphasized for poetic contrast with Othello's blackness (although his coloration, too, has been subjected to doubt) -- but it is difficult to envision her, an Italian woman, as much fairer than a light brunette with pale skin.

So while all those fair, golden, and flaxen-haired beauties can probably occupy a wide range of shades, I think that red is the one color they definitely are not. Strawberry-blond, maybe, but outright redheads were stigmatized, and red would have been considered remarkable, striking, and ill-omened, in the way a real blond or a mousey light brown would not. "Golden" would be tied to "fair" and all the rest, signifying general beauty, goodness, and desirability (with perhaps the added sense of richness and worth), but "red" is a separate (and fairly definite) category, reserved for witches, loose women, and other dangerous free spirits.

Rosemary Lake
Registered User
(2/22/07 1:50 am)


fair
From "Snowdrop" in Lang's RED FAIRY BOOK:

[[ `Oh! what wouldn't I give to have a child as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as ebony!'

And her wish was granted, for not long after a little daughter was born to her, with a skin as white as snow, lips and cheeks as red as blood, and hair as black as ebony.
....
and when she was seven years old she was as beautiful as she could be, and fairer even than the Queen herself. One day when the latter asked her mirror the usual question, it replied:

`My Lady Queen, you are fair, 'tis true, But Snowdrop is fairer far than you.' ]]


This version doesn't specify the Queen's coloring, but I think here 'fairer' just means 'more beautiful', not 'more pale'. Obviously in this contex, 'black as ebony' is part of the overall 'fairness.'

Rosemary Lake
Registered User
(2/22/07 2:52 am)


fair as gold or yellow
Here 'fair' seems to mean gold or yellow.

"and combed out her long fair hair till it floated round her like a golden mantle" -- Lang's "GRACIOSA AND PERCINET."

"her long, fair hair seemed to wrap her round like some costly mantle" -- Lang's "THE CRYSTAL COFFIN"

ErmineLady
Registered User
(2/22/07 12:34 pm)


Re: Red hair
I don't know if you are including literary fairy tales, but in LUD IN THE MIST by Hope Mirrlees red hair is identified (and not in a good way) with fairies and one of the shiftier characters (who turns out to be Robin Goodfellow) is a young man with red hair, which he disguises by a black wig.
In real life red hair was regarded with suspicion - in some cultures vampires had red hair, and in many it was a tradition that Judas was red-haired. Golden hair, seems to have been much admired (there is even a Chinese folktale in which the hero has golden hair...).
Btw blondes are not that uncommon even in Italy (Lucrezia Borgia was fair).

agathajun
Registered User
(2/25/07 8:08 am)


Andersen
Also - the old soldier in Andersen's the Red Shoes has a red beard, that shines through the forest when Karen is first being danced away by the shoes. Various sources who have left the top of my head discuss red hair being a mark of the devil, Yeats considers red hair a marker of faery.
Maybe also look at connection of red with the head - Mother Redcap, the Scottish iron man (??) who dyes his cap in the blood of his victims. All a bit dark anyway.

Dyeing hair blonde has been known in Italy since Roman times. Many exotic and alarming recipes exist for achieving the desired fairness, and it's speculated that the flyaway qualities of the blonde hair in some Renaissance portraits is due to the harshness of the chemicals used to bleach them. Plus ca change...!

PWCatanese
Registered User
(2/26/07 8:03 am)


re: red hair
My novel "The Riddle of the Gnome" is coming out March 7, and coincidentally its hero has red hair. From the storyteller's point of view, I made him a redhead for the reasons bluewyvern cites here -- it makes him striking and distinctive. That worked for the story because this boy happens to be cursed to bring bad luck to everyone who comes near him. The red hair also factors into the plot in another important way that I won't say here because I hate spoilers.

maggy moulach
Registered User
(5/16/07 10:28 am)


red hair
I'm new to the board so hi!

Red haired characters in folktales:
Morrigan (Celtic death/battle Goddess)
Pech (fairies of lowland Scotland who live underground)
'The Red-Headed Man'- an ambiguous figure who helps out humans stuck in Fairyland.
Witches and fairies are often discovered by red hair.

Red as a colour has many links with the supernatural, it is the colour of blood, fly agaric, sunset, harvest, fire. Very powerful, and scary. Perhaps this explains why the Irish were often wary of red-haired people, not letting them in the house.



Crceres
Registered User
(5/16/07 5:46 pm)


Auburn
Just to add a little etymological confusion, doesn't "auburn" currently mean brown with reddish highlights? Or is it just brown? I bring it up because auburn originally meant white or blonde hair, and has changed over the centuries. As has the meaning of blonde, I think, which has been used to describe any brown-or-lighter hair color.

mmcphie
Registered User
(5/16/07 11:33 pm)


Red Hair
Brave Margaret (from Robert San Souci's picture book) is described as "a red woman" having hair "the color of burnished copper." He says his souces for the tale are old and Irish, and although he doesn't specifically say that the main character of the old, Irish tales has red hair, it seems likely.

MaryCatelli
Registered User
(5/17/07 5:03 pm)


Re: Red Hair
>The impression I've received is that hair color in tales,
>especially "fair" hair, can be a pretty vague thing. I do think
>that yellow/gold/blond are pretty interchangeable, and I
>recall hearing it suggested that "fair" can mean either any of
>these, or just "not dark/black" -- many "fair" maidens in
>myth and folklore were probably what we would describe
>unhesitatingly as brunette, especially in stories deriving
>from Mediterranean cultures and others where the dominant
>shades would tend to be dark.

Dominant, yes, but the outliers would be all the more striking.

(I've heard of a textbook publisher being told that to meet its diversity requirements, Hispanics had to have dark hair; lighter-haired Hispanics, a.k.a. non-stereotypical ones, didn't count toward the quota. *sigh*)

Edited by: MaryCatelli at: 5/19/07 10:08 pm
bluewyvern
Registered User
(5/19/07 5:43 pm)


Re: Red Hair
From the Online Eymology Dictionary:

auburn
1430, from O.Fr. auborne, from M.L. alburnus "off-white, whitish," from L. albus "white." It came to Eng. meaning "yellowish-white, flaxen," but shifted 16c. to "reddish-brown" under infl. of M.E. brun "brown," which also changed the spelling.

Fascinating. I had no idea.

(While I'm at it...)

blond (adj.)
1481, from O.Fr. blont, from M.L. adj. blundus "yellow," perhaps from Frank. *blund. If it is a Gmc. word, possibly related to O.E. blonden-feax "gray-haired," from blondan, blandan "to mix" (see blend). According to Littré, the original sense of the Fr. word was "a colour midway between golden and light chestnut," which might account for the notion of "mixed." O.E. beblonden meant "dyed," so it is also possible that the root meaning of blonde, if it is Gmc., may be "dyed," as the ancient Teutonic warriors were noted for dying their hair. Du Cange, however, writes that blundus was a vulgar pronunciation of L. flavus "yellow." The word was reintroduced into Eng. 17c. from Fr., and was until recently still felt as Fr., hence blonde for females. As a noun, used c.1755 of a type of lace, 1822 of people.

Van45us
Registered User
(5/31/07 7:23 pm)


Re: Red Hair
I've found, over the years, people's definitions vary widely on colors, no matter what the reality. I've always thought of auburn as red-brown, but if it is really important that your character have reddish brown hair, it's probably best if she/he is described that way. Same with white-blonde, golden-blonde, or yellow-blonde. There's no mistaking it after that. Hair is a funny thing - I have seen hair on both females and males which changes hue in different light. Outside, they may have gold hair, and I mean like paint, but in a dim room it could take on a reddish hue.

Does "Red Sonja" count as myth? ;)

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