- From the Editors
In the early stages of their collecting and editing, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm had concerns that the fairy tale was on the verge of extinction. If those concerns followed them to the grave, the brothers can now rest in peace. Fairy tales had never really disappeared, of course, and there is a long and strong history of the genre in many variations and media that continues today, including tales that may have the Grimms rolling if not resting in their graves.
The year 2012 seemed to be one that witnessed what is often called a fairy-tale renaissance, but that phenomenon is arguably an optical illusion. The Internet and new media have simply made the fairy tale’s ubiquity more visible and accessible, and new technologies and media have encouraged experimentation, innovation, discussion, commentary, and play revolving around the genre. Along with the rapid production, immediate transmission, and widespread reception of the fairy tale and its motifs on the Internet, the year 2012—which is the bicentennial of the first publication of Grimms’ Kinder- und Hausmärchen—provides an occasion to capitalize on the already popular genre and to further capitalize on the continuing interest in fantasy, horror, and the supernatural evident in the success of books, films, and other lucrative tie-ins based on Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Lord of the Rings. So although the fairy-tale films and television series that premiered to much ado in 2012 may have heralded a fairy-tale renaissance to the news media, blogosphere, and entertainment industry, these were simply more visible and powerfully marketed examples of a cultural phenomenon that was already present, albeit in the past not so easily tracked.
The availability of so much material has naturally excited if not overwhelmed fairy-tale scholars. A researcher sitting in even the best archive or library may have never had as many primary materials available as we do now when conducting research or digital fieldwork on a laptop or even smartphone, [End Page 9] which also gives us access to fairy-tale items produced and received in entirely new contexts and media. Conventional scholarly discourse on fairy tales also faces challenges and change as it comes to grips with forms and forums for discussion and commentary that lie outside or on the margins of the institutionalized discourse of fairy-tale studies.
Marvels & Tales will continue to look back at the history of fairy tales, for there is still important work to be done in that arena; but we are also keenly interested in research that documents and illuminates the contemporary expressions and transformations of the fairy tale; the new contexts in which it is produced, transmitted, and received; the new uses to which it is being put; and new theories, frameworks, and interdisciplinary collaborations that enable us to understand twenty-first-century manifestations of the genre more fully. With so many scholars working on the fairy tale internationally and with the prodigious number of papers presented at the many Grimm conferences in 2012—most of them produced by a new generation of fairy-tale scholars—the editors of Marvels & Tales look forward to receiving, as our editorial policy states, “rigorous scholarly work dealing with the fairy tale in any of its diverse manifestations and contexts.”
The current issue exemplifies our interest in those diverse manifestations and contexts. The first three articles, by Christine A. Jones, Anne E. Duggan, and Jennifer Schacker, are based on papers that were initially presented for the panel “Fantasies of War: Cross-Dressing and Identity in the Fairy Tale,” which was sponsored by the Folk Narrative Section at the 2011 annual meeting of the American Folklore Society. These articles illuminate the history of cross-dressed characters from the seventeenth to the twentieth century by focusing, respectively, on French literary tales, Japanese manga and French cinema, and Victorian pantomime. Complementing this cluster of articles is Kendra Magnus-Johnston’s contribution on the Brothers Grimm as they are depicted in three American biopics from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Cross-dressing and gender identity play crucial roles here too, as the author “explore[s] the tension between feminized oral traditions and masculinized literary heritage.”