Last fall, when I was at the Omaha Lit Fest (are you getting tired of me talking about that yet?), there were a couple of names I had never heard before that kept coming up during the panel discussions. With my interest in fairy tales piqued, I decided it was probably important to learn more about those people. Included in that group were Italo Calvino, Angela Carter, Joy Williams, and Maria Tatar. Carter, Calvino and Williams are all highly respected authors whose works include fairy tales and I'll get to them soon. This week I want to introduce you to Tatar.
Maria Tatar is a teacher and a writer, two things that make her interesting to me immediately. She's not just any teacher though; Tatar teaches folklore, children's literature and Germanic culture studies at none other than Harvard University. She chairs the Program in Folklore and Mythology. In an interview you can see at the Barnes & Noble website, Tatar says that the combination of horror and beauty is what drew her into the study of folklore. The woman is a prolific translator and annotator of classic fairy tales and has made herself "the" expert in the field.
In this interview for the Harvard Gazette, Tatar talks about writing her book The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales (W.W. Norton 2002), teaching fairy tales and why she thinks the tales appeal to such a wide age group. Those morals I was looking for when I started reading fairy tales? Tatar says that fairy tales don't provide them. Any morals you find in the stories were probably added by the people that made the tales into stories for children. Sometimes the morals even run counter to the stories, she says.
Enjoy what Ms. Tatar has to say about storytelling, folklore and children's literature at her blog, Breezes From Wonderland.