Whatever happened to the women in folktale?

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This study examines the representation and function of women in English romance, specifically their development from older traditional Western narrative forms. It considers three English romances and their analogues: Le Petit Berger from the Lorraine valley, Cu Chulainn and the Wooing of Emer from Ulster, both folktales, and The Lord of Learn, a Scottish ballad. Then to show how the function of women dilates in romance, Sir Orfeo, Havelok the Dane, and King Horn are examined. In Western folktales women are stock characters who symbolically complete the hero's experience; their marriage provides a resolution to the action. In romance, however, women begin to determine the hero's sense of himself and his role in the world. This study provides a new way to look at the structural function of women characters in a genre that is thought to reinforce the values of the ruling class.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-256
Number of pages6
JournalWomen's Studies International Forum
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1986

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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