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The Americanization of the Grimms' Fairy Tales: The Many Fortunes of Persecuted Snow White

Professor Jack Zipes examines the historical process of the globalized Americanization of Grimms’ fairy tales with a focus on Snow White and the consequences the process has had for understanding the intentions of the Brothers Grimm and the meaning of the tales that they collected and edited.

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Americans (if not most people in the world) tend to view the Grimms’ tales in all their forms—books, films, theater and popular culture—as American. Translated and adapted first by British writers, the Grimms’ tales were changed into entertaining and moral tales for children during the course of the nineteenth century. There were no great signs of Americanization. At the beginning of the twentieth century, however, American writers, illustrators, playwrights, and filmmakers began to experiment with the tales and radically transform them into American stories, whether produced for young or old. Any allusion to Germanic qualities or characteristics of the Grimms’ tales was minimal. Essentially, any credit to the Grimms and their original designs and intentions were more or less effaced. Nevertheless, the Grimms’ tales did become a kind of exotic brand that connoted fairy tale, and fairy tale was associated with children’s culture. The most significant American adaptation of a Grimm tale was Walt Disney’s animated film, Snow White, in 1937. Other Grimms’ tales were also fully Americanized and altered according to American “global” norms and standards.

Professor Jack Zipes examines the historical process of the globalized Americanization of Grimms’ fairy tales with a focus on Snow White and the consequences the process has had for understanding the intentions of the Brothers Grimm and the meaning of the tales that they collected and edited.

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Recorded Thursday, September 27, 2012 at Goethe-Institut Chicago.

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