Folk Tales Produce Ideas About Gender

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“The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms” (Rukeyser M 1968, cited in Daniels K 2000, p. 135), therefore, it is no wonder how folk tales have managed to enrapture people from all over the globe, spanning throughout history and culture. These tales are told from to the young, teaching morality and proper societal behaviour. However, as folk tales depict differing behaviours for boys and girls, ideas on gender are created. Despite this, changing attitudes towards gender roles alter the content of folk tales to suit such changes, producing new, different, gender ideas. This can be seen by comparing the Red Riding Hood Tales: ‘The Grandmother’s Tale’ and ‘Little Red-Cap’ set 400 years apart as women's place in the story, the process of becoming a woman and on which gender blame tends to be put is analysed.
The place of women in ‘The Grandmother’s Tale’ and ‘Little Red-Cap’ differs due to the time period difference, thereby creating two distinct expectations on the ideal characteristics women should possess. In ‘The Grandmother’s Tale’, women are shown to be their own person, able to live without a man. The girl, after realising the bzou is not her grandmother, devises a plan immediately and tells him “ … I must go and relieve myself … [and] must go outside,” thereby attempting to save herself using her wits. Furthermore, the laundresses tricked the bzou into thinking they would obediently help him cross the river, but instead drowned him when crossed halfway. The ideas produced by ‘Little Red-Cap’ portray women to be trophies of men, unable to live without a man. Red-Cap tells the wolf, a stranger, where her sick and vulnerable grandmother lives, pointing out her naivety. She is objectified by the wolf, as he remarked “What a ten...

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...s the wolf’s choice to go after Red-Cap, and consequently he should be blamed for targeting her, rather than blaming Red-Cap who could not prevent the wolf from preying on her. Accordingly, as the idea that a woman is to be blamed for a man’s choice as seen in “Little Red-Cap’, contrary to “The Grandmother’s Tale’ where a man is blamed for his own choices, the shift in societal gender demeanours of men and women from the 14th to the 19th century is rather evident, with such a great change in the rewrite.
In conclusion, through critical analysis and comparison of the two tales, it is evident tales shape gender mindsets at certain points in time whilst being shaped by changing mindsets, thereby producing more and new ideas on gender through women's place in story, the process of becoming a woman and on which gender blame tends to be put.

Works Cited

Rukeyser M 1968
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