Fife Honor Lecture
Utah State University, Logan, Ut
In “Flying Folk and Fairy Tales,” I demonstrate the modes of reinterpretation utilized by the illustrators of fairy-tale postcards and the publishers, and I also show how the vital act of storytelling itself became a major concern of publishers of fairy-tale postcards, who have produced a goodly number of cards that depict acts of storytelling from 1890 to the present. I first focus on “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Frog Prince.” It is most important to study how the encounters between young women and wolves/serpents/frogs are often reinterpreted by the fairy-tale postcards. The singular depiction of the maiden with the beast often shows a naïve or kind young woman unaware of the danger she faces, but the cards also show young women who might be desiring an erotic adventure. The intriguing ambiguity of the cards may be a reason why the purchasers and recipients took pleasure in them. Most important is that these cards act as cultural memes to keep certain aspects of well-known fairy tales alive and relevant. These fairy-tale cards want to disturb the viewers and make them re-consider the fairy tale image which is used to evoke sentiments in the sender and receiver of the card, leading to a retelling or new telling of a fairy tale. In addition to retelling and representing well-known tales, the postcards often portray storytellers and scenes in which stories are recounted. In some ways, the postcards document the importance of storytelling for entertainment and also for socialization. It was through the oral tradition that children, depicted in many storytelling scenes, learned folk and fairy tales and passed them on. The postcards reinforced the significance of oral storytelling and provided images of the stories and the scenes in which folk and fairy tales were told and disseminated. Just as the tales flew through the air and stuck in the minds of young and old, so, too, the postcards flew through the air, landed, and marked a new telling of tales relevant to people’s lives.
Zipes, Jack, "Flying Tales of Wonder: Fairy - Tale Postcards as Memes" (2017). Fife Honor Lecture. Paper 4.