Fairy Tales: Curiouser & curiouser!

Just as the woods are a recurrent setting in classic fairy tales, gardens are important to many stories told since the nineteenth century. Expectations of gardens as picturesque and orderly are often subverted in these tales. Following the White Rabbit into Wonderland, Alice remarks ‘curiouser and curiouser!’ at her strange surroundings; and Dorothy passes through…

Fairy Tales: Through the Looking Glass

Fairy tales transport us to faraway lands that exist out of time. In much-loved and endlessly retold stories overflowing with kings and queens, castles and carriages, feasts and riches, we find adventure, community, happiness and love. Celebrating classic tales of enchantment, transformation and caution, together with contemporary retellings by creative storytellers, the exhibition explores how…

Fairy Tales: Life at the margins

In the world of the fairy tale, witches and crones are not the only characters who generate mistrust and fear — ‘others’, outsiders and so-called misfits pushed to the margins of society, figure prominently in many tales. In these stories, people living outside the norm are branded as villains or monsters. The Beast from ‘Beauty…

Fairy Tales: Witchiness

In fairy tales, women are often cast in the role of maiden, (step)mother or crone, many stories focus on the transition from girlhood to womanhood, with marriage (and motherhood) the ideal outcome. Coming-of-age journeys in classic tales, however, are often fraught. There are dangers for girls who fail to adhere to societal expectations — they…

Fairy Tales: Lost children

Not all those who find themselves deep in the woods have gone there willingly, with lost or abandoned children recurrent characters in fairy tales — at a time when women frequently died in childbirth, their remaining children often faced challenging domestic situations. In ‘Hansel and Gretel’, the siblings are abandoned in the woods by their…

Fairy Tales: Far from home

Family dynamics play a crucial role in fairy tales. Many begin with a rupture in the home that compels a character to undertake a quest, which then provides the setting for lessons in independence and resilience. Estrangements come in many forms: between children and vindictive step-parents (with their equally unpleasant offspring), or between jealous siblings…