"God's Great Cooperator": Motherhood and the Feminine Genius in Selected Fairy Tales
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Archer, Emily Claire
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Within the past several decades, there has emerged a tendency among literary critics to denigrate fairy tales on the basis of their treatment of female characters. I argue, rather, that many fairy tales are rooted in deep and empowering theological truths about femininity and humanity in general. These truths are visible in some of the more traditional fairy tales – not despite the female characters’ roles, but precisely because of them. In my thesis, I explore ways in which a number of Grimm fairy tales shed light on what Pope John Paul II called “the feminine genius,” specifically as it manifests in motherhood. I consider fairy godmothers, wicked stepmothers, and heroines as different incarnations of the feminine nature. I use these fairy tale characters to illustrate what recent Catholic theologians have written about womanhood; by applying said writings, I also demonstrate how fairy tales can contribute positively to an understanding of motherhood and, more broadly, femininity.