Lecture 15

Grimms’ Fairy Tales


  • What can the names that are guessed for Rumpelstiltskin tell us about motherhood? (They’re guesses by a mother.)
    • All these names were invented by Wilhelm, so it’s kinda a peak into what Wilhelm thinks motherhood should be.
    • The themes of the names (included by Wilhelm): women are particularly well-suited as wives and mothers, because they care about human life more than political power, etc.
  • Wilhelm edits the story to make a man (Rumpelstiltskin) do some spinning (how strange! for the time, at least).
    • If a man can spin better than a woman, all that women are left to be is a bearer of life.
  • Is Rumpelstiltskin a microbe or a virus?
    • Terrorizing the mother and baby.
    • Being able to name it is a way to start to treat it.


  • Spinning is a bummer, so society made it “women’s work.”
  • Then, in Britain, spinning moved to factories. This just industrialized how bad it was, and moved the work to women and younger children.
    • Children developed deformaties and could no longer spin after they passed their “productive prime.”
      • Mostly hip and lower spine deformaties. People had to hunch over.
  • The Grimm brothers were kinda fans of spinning as a metaphor for industriousness.
    • The women (who told the Grimms these stories) were not a fan.
      • So there are two voices in a lot of these stories.