From the Beast to the Blonde

March 1st is almost here: only two more posts in which I dive into my bookshelves and pull out treasures from my reading past before we switch gears entirely.

For those of you who haven’t been here on the Margins before during Women’s History Month, we ramp up to five posts a week. Four of them are mini-interviews with people who are doing interesting work in women’s history: historians, podcasters, novelists, you name it. On Friday, I write a post featuring a women’s history story or idea. It is Big Fun as far as I’m concerned. (And yes, a lot of work.) I hope you enjoy it too.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers by historian, mythographer, and novelist Marina Warner.

Like much of Warner’s work, From the Beast to the Blonde explores tales of the imagination for the truths they reveal. Warner looks at story tellers as they appear inside the stories as well those scholars, collectors and writers who have transcribed, translated, and transformed familiar tales across centuries and cultures. She considers recurring themes—absent mothers, wicked stepmothers, reluctant brides, men transformed into beasts (and vice versa), the power of hair (length and color alike)—and why they have remained powerful, while rejecting the idea of universal archetypes in favor of solid historical and social grounding for individual tales. She draws surprising and illuminating connections across time and space and wanders off into fascinating digressions that enrich her central arguments.

In short, Warner leads us on a big, richly imagined, deeply researched expedition into the familiar land of fairy tales, which turned out to be less familiar than this reader expected.

If Warner’s approach to fairy tale appeals to you, you might also be interested in her book on the Arabian Nights, Stranger Magic.


At the risk of being obnoxious, allow me to remind you that The Dragon for Chicago is now available for pre-order wherever you buy your books. If you want a signed copy, you can order it through my local independent bookstore here: Use the special instructions block at the bottom on the order page to request a signed copy and tell me how you want it signed.

I wouldn’t keep repeating myself, but pre-orders makes a difference.


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