In one of the inaugural articles in feminist literary criticism, "Feminism and Fairy Tales," Karen Rowe followed Simon de Beauvoir's lead in claiming that fairy tales structure the consciousness of girls and women, and in a negative way. As Donald Haase has noted, "In Rowe's view, the fairy tale--perhaps precisely because of its 'awesome imaginative power'--had a role to play in cultivating equality among men and women, but it would have to be a rejuvenated fairy tale fully divested of its idealized romantic fantasies" (5). In the years since Rowe's essay first appeared, however, it has been unclear whether the structuring power of the fairy tale could indeed be reworked for more egalitarian uses, or whether in fact the "replication of an old content and mode of representation [would only] result in the further replication of for example, old masculinist and antifeminist metanarratives" (Stephens and McCallum 22). Whether they are empowering or disempowering, however, it is clear that fairy tales continue to provide structural and thematic elements for a wide variety of literature for children, especially for girls.

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Reproduced from Telling Children’s Stories: Narrative Theory and Children’s Literature, edited by Mike Cadden, by permission of the University of Nebraska Press. Copyright 2010 by the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska.

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