Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Fairy Tale Princess Questionaire

I came across this questionnaire via, good friend's blog PyschedOutSocialWorker and since I have a love of fantasy stories, fairy tales, and real sympathy for anyone working on a graduate thesis I thought I would re post her questionnaire, with my responses. Pallid Regina is looking for anyone willing to respond to the questionnaire and you can do so by going to her site at or you can email a response to her at

So here is the questionnaire and my responses. She needs participants to respond by Jan. 19 th, 2009. So if you want to help a fellow academic out... do so.

1. Describe a fairy tale princess: what does she look like, what are her primary personality traits? She is beautiful, though often unaware of how beautiful she is. She has a fondness for animals or other small helpless creatures. Frequently she is told, don't do this one thing, which she then promptly goes and does (sort of like the girl who marries Bluebeard and then discovers that the one cabinet she has been told not to open contains the heads of all his previous wives.) She has someone (often a wicked female stepmother) out to get her. She often has curses or spells placed on her by an outside malevolent force. The sort of Walt Disney version, has blond hair, blue eyes, and flowing pink/pastel dresses and a crown. While she often is of royalty or wealth, she herself doesn't wield the power. Also, more often than not her mother (the figure most needed to educate her about the dangers of the world is dead or missing).

2. Describe any connection you feel, positively or negatively, to a fairy tale princess or fairy tale princesses in general.

When the princess (or in the case of the seven dancing princesses) are terribly passive or stupid seeming then I get annoyed and just want to bop the darn girl upside the head and say wake up and see the danger you are in. For example, Rapunzel's big claim to fame is that she has really really long hair, and is willing to let a prince climb up it to visit her (where is trapped passively bored out of her skull I imagined by the witch aka the only mother she's ever known).
Often the character that is more interesting is the one who has to go and figure out what the danger is or why the spell was cast in the first place and that's who I end up identifying (even though more often than not this figure is male). However, not all fairy princesses are alike. Beauty in "Beauty and the Beast" goes to live with the beast to save her father's life, unlike her more pretty older sisters who wanted fancy things (jewels, pretty clothes, ribbons) as presents from her father. She has her moments of selfishness (like asking for the rose in the first place and staying away from the beast too long when she knows he is suffering and ill) but overall she does the right thing. In one story I remember, the sister figure has her brothers all turned into swans, and in order to save them she undergoes a lot of hardship to free them and risks dying herself. She in this instance is terribly brave and as heroic as any of the "noble princes" that ride in to save the day in say Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. Generally the princess stories I liked the best were the ones where she undergoes a journey or danger to save someone else, where she got to be the hero.

3. Which fairy tale princess do you relate to the most?

The girl who goes to save her friend from the Ice Queen, Beauty from "Beauty and the Beast", and the Grimm's brother's stories "The Seven Ravens", and "The Six Swans", both of which have sisters saving their cursed brothers.

4. Please describe why/how you relate to this princess the most.

I related to the character of Beauty in large part because she felt that her request of the rose is what caused the Beast to threaten to kill her father and as she was responsible for his plight she went to save him. I also liked the fact that she was at first frightened and wary, but over time came to care about the beast not in a pitying way, but by being to see the inner person and his inner good. In the Grimm's brother's stories, the girls had to undergo hardship, and even possible death/physical pain to free their family from the curse and I wanted to be that kind of hero too. Cinderella, I liked because it was her kind nature that helped her get help to get around her step-mother (the birds who picked all the beans out of the ashes for her). I learned that one should be kind to others as it can be rewarded in unexpected or magical ways (i.e. the fairy god-mother).

5. What book versions of fairy tale princess stories did you/do you own?

The one Fairy tale books I had as a child included my mother's book the Giant Golden book of Elves and Fairies and I think a collection of Hans Christen Anderson stories. I did read lots of fairy tales from the library especially the Grimm's Brother's tales and the collected stories in the Andrew Lang's Fairy Book series (each book was a different color, red, blue, pink, olive etc.). While not quite fairy princess stories, I did also own the collected Borrower's books, by E.B Nesbit, and all of C.S. Lewis's Narnia books. I currently have by Robin McKinley, Spindle's End (Sleeping Beauty), Deerskin, Beauty; by Juliet Marrillier's I have, "Daughter of the Forest" which uses the Grimm's tale of The Six Swans. I own the complete Fairy Tales of the Brother's Grimm, which contains original versions of Rapunzel, Cinderella, Snow White (Brier Rose), etc. Also, I have Patricia A. McKillip's "Winter Rose" which is a greatly modified version of Snow White and Rose Red.

6. What movie versions of fairy tale princess stories did you see in the theatre?
Beauty and The Beast (as an adult) and The Little Mermaid, The Princess Bride.
Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty on the Wonderful World of Disney on TV as a kid as my parents didn't take us to movies much as kids.

7. What movie versions of fairy tale princesses did you/do you own?

8. In what ways do fairy tale princesses represent positive female role models?
Beauty takes responsibility for her request of a gift and saves her father's life, and later the life of the beast. She learns to love beyond the outer surfaces of people. The girl's in the Seven Raven's and the Six Swans, undertake difficult journeys/tasks to save their kin from curses. Cinderella doesn't meet cruelty and abuse with cruelty and abuse. She remains a kind and loving person like her father brought her up to be despite her current situation, she chooses to not become like her step-mother and step-sisters. In Snow White and Rose Red, the two sisters vow to support and love each other always. Being kind, giving, and loyal to family are all values I think are worth a lot.

9. In what ways do fairy tale princesses represent negative female stereotypes?
Being beautiful, passive and being praised simply for existing and pretty. Also, there is the idea that danger to beauty comes from other older women (step mothers, wicked witches) who despise the princess for her beauty etc. Also, the idea that the princess must be saved by a prince of some kind, rather than by their own efforts, cleverness, strength of character. Even that it falls to women to sacrifice themselves or their own lives to save others (male brothers) privileges the life of the prince over the princess.

10. Would you/do you read fairy tale princess stories to your child? I don't know. I think that discussing the stories with kids could be really good. I really like folk tales and fairy stories myself and would probably direct my kids towards ones where the main characters aren't so passive, or that the story happens to them.

11. Would you/do you take your child to see fairy tale princess movies in the theatre?
Depends upon the movie. I have no problem with the Disney Beauty movie (in fact I love the music), and really also like Mulan. I would avoid Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty (too passive), but Cinderella I really like. Would let them see Ever After, the Princess Bride but when they are older as I don't think really young kids would get them. I also really like the first Shrek film as an anti-traditional princess movie though, probably somewhat older as the torture of the gingerbread man would probably freak out really young kids. My favorite movies at the moment for kids are more things like Spirited Away, or Kiki's Delievery Service or even the film Matilda (based on the Roahl Dahl book).

12. Would you/do you allow your child to own fairy tale princess movies for repeated viewing?
Maybe. I don't think that repeatedly watching any kind of movie/TV over and over again is all that great for kids (or adults) as there other types of play/activities in life that are more creative and good for brains and bodies.

13. Describe your first memory of Cinderella.
Seeing the movie on TV. I loved the singing mice.

14. Describe your current opinion of Cinderella.
I still love the singing mice. I also, like the fact that some of the fairy godmother's are more on the plump side and have magic.

15. Describe your first memory of Snow White.
She had brown hair like me. The dwarves were weird.

16. Describe your current opinion of Snow White.
How can she not figure out that the creepy witch giving her an apple doesn't have her best interest at heart.

17. Describe your first memory of Sleeping Beauty.
Boring story, except again for the idea of fairy godmother's to give gifts you.

18. Describe your current opinion of Sleeping Beauty.
Her parents screwed up in forgetting someone and she basically reaps the problem they made. She does nothing and still gets the prince which in my mind is sort of how society still rewards people based on how "pretty" they are.

19. In what ways do you think fairy tale princesses are still relevant in today’s society?
They are stories about women and how to deal with the dangers that the world presents to us in various forms. Also, they are ways of mapping expectations about romance, who do you fall in love with and how do you get the "happy ending".

20. What else would you like to say about fairy tale princesses?
The fairy tale princess shows up in all kinds of places not just fairy tales. For example, Princess Leah from Star Wars could be read as a fairy tale princesses who is "saved" by a prince, but really she is more than that. She is a rebel leader, a member of the senate, a political power, plus she can shoot a laser gun with the best of them. Another place that I see fairy tale princesses get a recasting is in character's like River Tam from the Firefly series, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

21. Would it be OK if I asked you follow up questions on your responses?Yes
Sub-questionnaire (optional)1. Do you identify as male or female? female
2. What is your age range (under 18; 19-25; 26-30; 31-39; 40-50; 51 & older)? 40-50
3. What is your ethnicity? white, suburban, Midwesterner.
4. What social class do you identify with (poor, middle class, upper class, etc.)? upper class though income wise I currently would be middle class.
5. What country do you live in?USA

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