On Feminist Fairy Tales | Elana K. Arnold

On Feminist Fairy Tales | Elana K. Arnold


Hi, I am Elana K Arnold,
author of Damsel and Red Hood. [MUSIC] Damsel is a novel length, original
fairytale about a world in which in order to become king the prince must
single handedly conquer a dragon and rescue a damsel that is
the way it has always been. But when the damsel wakes naked in his
arms with no memory and asks, who am I? Where am I? She’s basically told,
don’t worry about it. Sit there and look pretty. Don’t ask too many questions. When she does, however,
begin to ask questions, she finds that the world is perhaps even
more dangerous after waking than before. The response to Damsel has been divided. There are people who are angry
because they wanted a fairy tale and a happy ending that matches the fairy
tales that they were brought up on. That makes them feel a way
that is comfortable and Damsel is not a comfortable book. It was uncomfortable to write. I imagine it’s fairly
uncomfortable to read. But I’ve also heard from a number of
readers who say that the ending is triumphant. And that the struggle
that they go through as they read the book was well
worth the triumphant ending. Damsel is a question, it’s a book that
says what if everything we thought we knew about fairy tales wasn’t the whole story. And the answers,
like answers to any new question, aren’t going to be necessarily easy. But I think they’re worth it. [MUSIC] Red Hood is a contemporary novel about a
girl named Bizou Martel, who on the night of homecoming, finds herself alone in
the woods under the wide full moon and must survive an attack by
a creature she’s never seen before. And after the attack,
begins to investigate her own past, what’s happening to
the boys in her school and digs more deeply into powers she has
that she never knew could manifest. Like Damsel,
Red Hood is a fairy tale, sort of. I think Damsel and
Red Hood are thematic sisters. They are both fairy tales of sorts. Although Damsel is set long ago and
far away and Red Hood is set very much in the here and
now. But they both smash together paradigms
of the way things have always been with a bold feminist vision
of the way things should be. So I wrote Damsel and Red Hood for
the same reason I write all my books, because I’m struck with an idea that
seems to me too good to pass up. When I’m writing I don’t
really think about my readers, I think about my own love of the story,
questions of the story and I dig into the places that feel
uncomfortable to me and scary. I think teens want tor
read books like Damsel and Red Hood because they tell the truth
about embodied femaleness. Not all the truths, of course,
and not all embodied femaleness. No one book or two books could do that. That’s why we need so many books
told by so many different voices. But these books do tell some truths. They tell truths about what’s happening
inside a body, what comes out of a body, the emotions that aren’t
necessarily neat or pretty or tidy. And I think there’s something
gratifying in seeing those truths reflected in black ink on the white page. I think it’s important that women
have access to these books and books like these because they
center embodied femaleness, female triumph, female shame,
female pain, female exhilaration. But I think it’s equally important that
men and boys read these books too. Because women are whole people and
I think that when we say the books about women should be read just by women, or
they’re just for women, we are denying men the opportunity to see the world
from half the world’s perspective. So yes, I want girls and
women to read my books. I want men and boys to read my books too. Hey, if I had it my way I would want
everyone to pick up and read my books. [MUSIC]

One thought on “On Feminist Fairy Tales | Elana K. Arnold

  1. European fairy tales should be dismantled, deconstructed and shown for how white hetero normative and patriarchal they are.

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