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April 16, 2008


These reviews are promising. I'm going to look for a copy of "The Book of Blood" at once.

Have you been watching Lisa Stock's work with the Armless Maiden in her current film project? Here's the site:

You can also read reviews of her project at the Dante's Heart blog:

Her work is poignant and dark with just the right amount of lyricism; Stock is very much one of those "women storytellers, stretching back and back through the centuries, who have used fairy tales as a metaphoric language with which to speak of the stark realities of women's lives."

The tale of the Armless Maiden is a tale rich with metaphor and pathos; it is a small tragedy that in the U.S. relatively few readers have encountered it. I look forward to discovering the tale again through Feaver's poetry.

(What an apt name for a mythic poet, too...fever....)

The trifling problem with the thesis that "women cut off their own hands to live through powerful and creative men." is that in the stories the women lose their hands in order to NOT live through powerful and creative men.

The One-handed Girl of the picture lost her hand trying to protect her means of livelihood and indepedence from her brother.

Penta of the Chopped Off Hands lost her hands in order to repulse her brother's advances; others do the same to their brothers or fathers, or lose their hands because of their stalwart resistance to such advances.

Grimms' Armless Maiden loses her arms because she resists her father's ability to sell her to the Devil.

The only one I can even think of that matches it is a Russian Armless Maiden who loses her hands when her jealous sister-in-law slanders her and persuades her brother to multilate and abandon her -- and she's surprised by the assault, not doing it herself.

Furthermore, once they've escaped, their handless state is a positive impediment to attaching themselves to men. In-laws, particularly mothers-in-law, take it as evidence that there's something wrong with them.

Daniel: yes, I love Lisa Stock's work! We'll do a post on it here soon.

Mary: Marie Louise von Franz's take on the Armless Maiden/Handless Maiden folktale is a specifically Jungian one, in which every character in folktales (as in dreams, according to Jungian theory) represents parts of the dreamer's own psyche rather than literally a brother, a father, etc. Von Franz makes a better case for this interpretation in her lecture/essay on the subject than Feaver can convey in a short quote -- but it only really works if you're willing to accept Jung's ideas about fairy tales along with it.

And, of course, it's only one way to interpret the tale. For me, the fascinating thing about fairy tales is that there is there is no single way to interpret them; they have as many different meanings as they have tellers and listeners/readers.

Personally, I tend to read the Armless Maiden tale more literally. For me, this is tale about physical abuse by a family member (father, brother, uncle, etc.), portraying a heroine with the strength to move away from that toxic environment into one of temporary (but illusory) safety... and, finally, a place of true healing. Nonetheless, I find the Jungian view an interesting one, and since it seems to resonate so strongly for Feaver, I quite like the poem she has made from the tale. I also thought Midori did a good job in her article in looking at a variety of interpretations of the tale.

Have you ever read the "solar myth" interpretations of fairy tales?

Sleeping Beauty is a solar myth. The Frog King is a solar myth. Hansel and Gretel is a solar myth. Reading the works in which this is laid out in great length makes you skeptical about any and all perported interpretations of fairy tales.

I'm grinning.

I think the best thing is to take each interpretation as just that: an interpretation - one moment in an exciting conversation. There isn't anything definitive you can say, but each hypothesis or suggestion opens a window for us to look out on those tales in a fresh way. If we try to take the interpretations as authoritative, we'll either go batty or get skeptical in ways that provoke us to close too many windows.

Great Review I have read a few of these.

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About this blog

  • The Journal of Mythic Arts was a pioneering online magazine dedicated to Mythic Arts: literary, visual, and performance arts inspired by myth, folklore, and fairy tales. Published by The Endicott Studio, co-edited by Terri Windling & Midori Snyder, JoMA ran from 1997 to 2008.

    This blog was active from 2006 - 2008, and is kept online as an archive only. Please note that no new material has been posted since 2008, and links have not been updated.

    For more recent discussions of Mythic Arts, fantasy literature, and related topics, visit Terri Windling's Myth & Moor and Midori Snyder's Into the Labyrinth.

Where you'll find us now

  • Visit The Endicott Studio website here, and our news blog here.

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