Research Project: Setting Things Up

As a student of Professor Rikk Mulligan’s Digital Approaches to Literature, I will be expanding on my interests through this course’s research project. With this opportunity, I plan to deepen my knowledge on my subject of interest while also defining the scope of the research project. While the details of this project may change over time, I am currently interested in the pattern in Animal Bride stories.

My Initial Parameters:

  1.  Primary and Secondary Period of Texts:
    1. Medieval Period (and maybe even before that) – Texts from this period will focus on primary sources such as fairy tales, folklore, and myths. Since some of the tales were orally passed down and not written down until later, I will also be including the ones transcribed too.
    1. 19th -20th century retellings, articles, academic journals, and media – While most fairy tales/folklore/myths were written before this time period, there are still retellings of the traditional stories that I can explore. I would also like to potentially include media since it is a modern form of storytelling. Seeing fairy tales and folklore changing in response to different times and cultures would be interesting to potentially explore.
  • Critical/Theoretical Approaches that I Might Apply:
    • Feminism
    • Queer Theory
    • Cultural Studies
  • Nonfiction Genre(s): Biographies – My focus may be solely on the domain of fiction, but I also believe that it is important to look into the cultures and lives which had inspired the creation of these stories. The lives of those who have created or transcribed the stories that have survived to this day most likely influence and reflect themselves to these stories. Fairy tales and folktales may be stories that are untrue, but they are inspired by real events, which I am open to learning more about. I may not end up using them in the end, but it is always good to keep this option open for my research.
  • Fiction Genre(s): Fairy Tales, Fables, Folklore, and Mythology
  • Authors:
    • Brothers Grimm
    • Hans Christian Anderson
    • Donna Donoghue
    • Angela Charter
    • Boria Sax
    • Ellen Kushner
    • Tanith Lee
    • Lucius Shepard
    • Jane Yolen
    • Terri Windling

*For now, this is the list of authors that I have found related to this subject though I am certain that this list will grow the more I look into the subject. I look forward to exploring and discovering authors and their stances.

Research Questions:

  1. When animal brides and monsters appear in stories, what do they represent in relation to the beliefs of the real world? Would these archetypes appear the same in different times?
  2. In myths and fairy tales, which characters/archetypes seem to conform with the structure of the stories’ world? Which don’t? And how are the ones who don’t portrayed?
  3. In fairy tales and folklore, animal brides and monsters have a connection to nature and follow laws beyond those created by man. What does this pattern imply?
    1. Specifically for Animal Brides, why is it that the ending for most of these stories involve the bride returning to the wild at the first chance that they get?
    1. For Animal Brides, they are required to conform to their human spouse’s laws and world. Why is it that the same is not required for the Animal Groom?

Extra Research Question: Why do fairy tales and folklore focus so much on the sacrifice of children? At least in Grimm’s Fairy Tales, the heroes and heroines begin as orphaned and/or abandoned children who are thrust into situations that force them to grow up. Why is this pattern necessary?

  • And after their growth, what expectations are put onto the hero and heroine respectively? What happens to the characters who resist against these expectations?

While my list of authors focuses mostly on European stories and folktales, I would like to expand my reading list to folktales and myths surrounding Animal Bride figures in cultures outside of Europe. This is reflected in the possible sources I have collected so far in a brief search.

Sources I Found So Far:


  1. Animal Brides, translated/edited by D.L. Ashliman
  2. In Search of the Swan Maiden: A Narrative on Folklore and Gender by Barbara Fass Leavy


  1. “Is the Animal Woman Meek or an Ambitious Figure in Japanese Folktales? An Examination of the Appeal of Japanese Animal-Wife Tales” by Fumihiko Kobayashi
  2. “A Different Logic”: Animals, Transformation, and Rationality in Angela Carter’s “The Tiger Bride” by Caroline Webb and Helen Hopcroft
  3. “Beauty and the Beast: Classic Tales About Animal Brides and Grooms from Around the World” by Jeannie Coutant
  4. “Slipping Off the Sealskin: Gender, Species, and Fictive Kinship in Selkie Folktales” by Peter Le Couteur
  5. “Controlling Nothing, the Selkie Sends a Message Through the Water” by Jennifer Kanke


  1. “Myth and Moor” by Terri Windling


2. “In the Labyrinth” by Midori Snyder


3. Transmundane Press, Fairy Tale Category


1 comment

  1. This sounds like a wonderful project to embark upon. I personally love fairy tales, and perhaps I was seduced by old structuralists…but it seems to me that fairy tales do have common elements across cultures. I wonder how you’ll be setting up/defining your terms in order to run an analysis that will help you answer your questions. This is an earnest question because I personally have been struggling with, on the one hand, use computational tools to ask, on the other hand, the same kinds of questions that you are posing here.
    Some random questions: will you be using literary models to analyze fairy tales? Or will you also use (explicitly) anthropological models?
    I don’t know why…but reading your blog triggered Tzvetan Todorov’s “The typology of detective fiction” for me. Perhaps how he created discreet categories for detective fiction suggests preparatory work? (Please take this last association as pure speculation, which it certainly is…so, ignore ignore ignore.)

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