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Friday, June 20, 2008

"How and When Did the Storybook Kingdom Become Canonical?"

Something a bit different. Anyone know the answer?:

Princes and princesses, kings and queens, by Andrew Gelman: Lots of stories for little kids have kings and queens, not many seem to have presidents, prime ministers, mayors, etc. I don't fully understand this. I mean, I see that these stories are traditional, or imitate traditional forms, and so it makes sense that you'd have a king or queen rather than a president. But there are lots of other traditional forms of government. You can see some examples in children's literature, but they're clearly exceptions. (For example, the wolves in The Jungle Book have a tribal council, and the animals in Winnie the Pooh don't have any government at all.) I guess what I'm asking is: How did the standard storybook world become codified, the world with a kingdom, a king and a queen living in a castle riding horses etc? Even in the late Middle Ages in Europe when, I suppose, such places really existed, there were lots of other, different, sorts of places nearby. How and when did the storybook kingdom become canonical? Maybe Jenny can answer this question--it seems to fall within her bailiwick.

Jenny replies:

I must get some proper work done this morning, so will NOT write a long answer! Some associative thoughts: literary fairy tale a product of later eighteenth and nineteenth-century literature, when kings and queens are already seeming under threat, so there is an inherent hint of Disneyan/Ruritanian nostagia in those princesses in their castles; stories in all cultures naturally cluster around characters distinguished by birth (with strength, talents, etc.) but also by high position in a hierarchical system of government (think of Greek myths re: heroes, gods); if you go to African folklore, say, you will find more of these other structure of government? NB: you do not need a PhD in literature to observe that little girls in particular want to hear stories about princesses in long flowing & preferably pink dresses & tiaras, it is one of the mysteries of life!

    Posted by on Friday, June 20, 2008 at 09:59 PM in Miscellaneous | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (13)


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