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In 1947, Tolkien published “On Fairy Stories”, an essay on fairy tales which grew out of his 1939 Andrew Lang Lecture and has since become the basis for the theorisation of the modern Fantasy genre. This essay popularised the terms secondary world, subcreation and subcreator in specialist criticism. Yet Tolkien’s text, often presented as being more a reflection on the author’s own literary conception and his Fantasy work, is indeed supposed to be about fairy tales and to offer a definition and presentation of their main characteristics, such as the notion of eucatastrophe, a concept coined by Tolkien to refer to the happy ending of fairy tales and which can be put into perspective with the naïve ethics of these tales, as examined by André Jolles in his book Simple Forms (1930).
While it might therefore seem remarkable that Tolkien’s essay has become the basis for the theorisation of Fantasy, this is hardly surprising to Fantasy scholars, as Fantasy regularly borrows from the marvellous staff and structure of the fairy tale. It should not be forgotten that Tolkien himself considered The Lord of the Rings to be a fairy tale for adults and that his work is not free of elements and motifs from fairy tales. Moreover, the rewriting of fairy tales is recurrent within Fantasy to the point of having become an obligatory part of the genre for authors, willingly encouraged by publishers. One can mention in this respect the series of anthologies edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow, Snow White, Red Blood, the first volume of which is dedicated to Angela Carter, herself known for her rewrites of fairy tales. The Fairy Tale Series, also directed by Terri Windling, includes White as Snow by Tanith Lee (a rewriting of Snow White) and Briar Rose by Jane Yolen, based on Sleeping Beauty.
Fantasy authors’ appetite for fairy tales and their universe seems to have become a particularly lively trend in recent years with the publication of numerous works inspired by them, such as Katherine Arden’s The Winternight Trilogy, Naomi Novik’s Uprooted and Spinning Silver, and, more recently, Hannah Whitten’s For the Wolf and Alix E. Harrow’s A Spindle Splintered. The preponderance in this field of works signed by women and having a woman as the main protagonist invites us to question the potential feminist dimension of these stories often referred to as Fairy-tale Fantasy, and lends credence to Terri Windling’s assertion that Fantasy can be divided into two main categories, a masculine epic Fantasy and a more domestic and feminine Fairy-tale Fantasy (Terri Windling, “On Tolkien and Fairy Stories”, in Karen Haber ed., Meditations on Middle-Earth, New York, St-Martin’s Press, 2001, p.215-sq), even if we can observe that male authors are not left out. Examples include Neil Gaiman’s “Snow, Glass, Apples” and The Sleeper and the Spindle.
Moreover, we have seen in cinema Fantasy invest the tale of Snow White under the epic prism of High Fantasy with the Snow White and the Huntsman franchise, an example of the multiple re-appropriations of fairy tales by the genre.
Therefore, for its 12th issue, the journal Fantasy Art and Studies invites researchers to submit papers on the relationship between Fantasy and fairy tales. Topics may include:
- the place of the fairy tale in the development and theorisation of Fantasy,
- rewritings of fairy tales in Fantasy,
- Fairy-tale Fantasy and women’s and/or feminist writing.
Please send your paper proposals in English or French (abstracts, 500 words max.) in .doc or .docx format to firstname.lastname@example.org by 25 October 2021.
Submission of full papers: 5 March 2022.
Submission guidelines: https://fantasyartandstudies.files.wordpress.com/2020/05/submission-guidelinesen.pdf