Fairy tales between transformation and repetition: How audiences rethink the big romantic myth through Disney princess stories

  • Tatjana Menise Department of Semiotics, University of Tartu, Jakobi 2, Tartu 51005
Keywords: fairytales, repetitions and transformations, mythopoetics, participatory culture, semiotics of culture


One of the ways in which culture becomes enriched is through reconsideration and reinterpretation of well-known stories, and classic fairy tales provide promising material for investigation of the nature of this complex process. The Walt Disney Company is among the most powerful tellers of classic tales, its line of princess animations being an example of simultaneous development and preservation of the fairy-tale phenomenon in a changing cultural context.

We analyse the dialogue among classic and modern princess stories and the discussions that these stories give rise to in English-language academic criticism and English-based participatory culture. We focus on the interaction among authors, texts and readers, showing how traditional tales balance between mythological and nonmythological consciousness, between innovative and canonical art.

The diversity of fans’ practices may be seen as a key to possible explanation of why fairy tales exist in culture as a complex, constantly growing web, not as a limited number of selected final versions. Amateur authors demonstrate their interest in the mythopoetics of classic fairy tale plots. They are attracted by the old romantic myth that stands behind princess stories, participate in the creation of the romantic antimyth that is supported by the professional critics, and expect the appearance of new modern myths that might be generated by the new productions of Disney. New fairy tales appear, but this does not result in the disappearance of the old ones. Not only the interests towards the plots themselves, but also discussions and conflict around classic stories keep them topical for contemporary heterogeneous audiences.


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Author Biography

Tatjana Menise, Department of Semiotics, University of Tartu, Jakobi 2, Tartu 51005