Not Another Grim(m) Tale: The Rights of Passage in Marie von Olfers' 'Little Princess'


  • Bernadette Hyner Independent Scholar



My analysis of Von Olfer’s depiction of family, sisterhood, and agency is informed by Shawn Jarvis’, Karen Rowe’s, and Jeannine Blackwell’s research on fantasy narratives.2 These scholars concur that fairy tales originated primarily as parts of a female oral tradition, which, after the Grimm brothers, Hans Christian Andersen, and even Johann Wolfgang von Goethe appropriated it, was then reclaimed in women’s literary circles such as the Kaffeter.

An additional cornerstone for my understanding of von Olfers’ subversive tale is Jack Zipes’ research on the metamorphosis of fairy tales as “an enrichment process” that gives birth to something new and unique in its own right.3 Zipes welcomes counter narratives as “progressive” since they frequently challenge the canonical narrative’s “sexist and conservative [...] approach to [...] gender, justice, and government.”4 The modus operandi in Speaking Out, Zipes’ urban story-telling project, aims to alert youngsters to the manner in which canonical tales “reveal[] the triumph of the oppressed” while their conclusions often “involve[] a restoration of the status quo with power largely in the hands of men” (115). My study builds on the critical observations made by Jarvis, Rowe, Blackwell, and Zipes in an attempt to delineate von Olfers’ literary recasting of the conventional quest for autonomy. 


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