Introduction

Fairytales and folktales are not only reflections of the values of their culture, but also the representation of their fears. Witches, dragons, and terrible curses stand as frightening threats that the hero would eventually have to defeat and overcome. But not all of the supernatural and surreal are purely malevolent forces. Shapeshifting brides aFairytales and folktales are not only reflections of the values of their culture, but also the representation of their fears. Witches, dragons, and terrible curses are frightening threats the hero would eventually have to defeat and overcome – either through force or through love. But not all of the supernatural and fantastic are purely malevolent forces. Shapeshifting brides and grooms straddle the worlds of the familiar and unknown, appearing in fairy tales and folktales around the world. More often than not, these Animal Brides, who transform into beautiful women, are wild animals when in their true form. Animal Bridegrooms, however, are usually men cursed to assume the form of a wild beast. For this project, I intend to take and compare Animal Bride and Bridegroom stories from around the world in order to prove that the wives in the stories, both the shapeshifters and the brides of beasts, are more closely tied to nature than society using a combination of distant reading and textual analysis.

The Texts

Before going into the conversation, I would like to go over the fairy tales and folktales that make up my corpus. My dataset comes from various different sources since they come from around the world.

I found my European fairy tales from the Project Guttenberg website, such as Joseph Jacobs’ Europa’s Fairy Book (Beauty and the Beast, The Swan Maidens), Walter Crane’s The Frog Prince and Other Stories (The Frog Prince) and Andrew Lang’s The Green Fairy Book (The Enchanted Snake), The Blue Fairy Book (The White Cat), and The Pink Fairy Book (Denmark’s King Lindworm). I also found some Korean Folktales from Project Guttenberg. While they will not feature greatly in my close readings of the text, they still serve as important texts for my corpus.

From D.L. Alishman’s collection of Animal Bride fairy tales, I used the Georgian, Russian, and Austrian/Italian versions of the Frog Princess fairy tale. I also included tales such as East of the Sun, West of the Moon, the Norwegian telling of Prince Lindworm, and The Brown Bear of Norway.

When looking for sources for stories outside of Grimm’s Fairy Tale collection, I found Faroe Island’s selkie tale, Kópakonan or “The Seal Woman” from their travel page. I also included the Scottish counterpart called The Selkie Bride. For Asian Animal Bride and Bridegroom folktales, I looked at a version of Tsuru no Ongaeshi, translated as “The Grateful Crane Wife” or “The Crane Wife” from the Japan Folklore blog. I used Kyoto University Rare Materials Digital Archive’s The Tale of Tamamizu.

Since my texts come from various places, I have compiled a map visualization using StoryMap to show the range of countries and cultures that my corpus covers.

It is important to note that the dates that I have included in the visualization only refers to the publication dates of the sources that the fairy tales and folklore are written in. Since most of the stories are passed down through oral tradition, it is unknown how old these stories truly are.

While the different origins of my sources may complicate my analysis, I believe that it is important to use and acknowledge since the Animal Bride and Bridegroom archetypes are not tied to a single culture but are, in fact, widespread thus, making the topic of this project relevant.

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