Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

The Dichotomy of Gender in Relation to Honor as Shown in the Language of Irish Fairy Tales and Folktales Printed After 1800

The Dichotomy of Gender in Relation to Honor as Shown in the Language of Irish Fairy Tales and Folktales Printed After 1800

Tabitha Trembley

Fairy tales seem to be such an important part of our lives, both as children and as adults.  We enjoy the stories of the prince saving the princess, fairies that play in the water and with the mortals, or even the evil stepmother who is always up to no good.  On a deeper level, when looking at these stories there is a clear dichotomy of language used to describe not only males and females, but also the character traits they possess.  My interest specifically is how “honor” is described between males and females, if there is a difference, if it is specifically stated or is it assumed based on other words.  While “honor” itself may not always be stated, there are descriptions that lead to the assumption of honor and dishonor.  It is these terms I choose to focus on.  I did this by focusing on analyzing a handful of Irish folktales, researching scholarly articles written by those specializing in fairy tales, and combining it all into a cohesive and easy to follow analysis.  I hope that this work can lead into what these stories tell us about ourselves, how they effect the way we see male/female roles and the differences of honor between the two.

 

Fairy tales seem to be such an important part of our lives, both as children and as adults.  We enjoy the stories of the prince saving the princess, fairies that play in the water and with the mortals, or even the evil stepmother who is always up to no good.  On a deeper level, when looking at these stories there is a clear dichotomy of language used to describe not only males and females, but also the character traits they possess.  My interest specifically is how “honor” is described between males and females, if there is a difference, if it is specifically stated or is it assumed based on other words.  While “honor” itself may not always be stated, there are descriptions that lead to the assumption of honor and dishonor.  It is these terms I choose to focus on.  I did this by focusing on analyzing a handful of Irish folktales, researching scholarly articles written by those specializing in fairy tales, and combining it all into a cohesive and easy to follow analysis.  I hope that this work can lead into what these stories tell us about ourselves, how they effect the way we see male/female roles and the differences of honor between the two.

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April 5, 2019 - Posted by | abstract

3 Comments »

  1. Just a quick thought: it seems in the narrative trajectory of folk- and fairy-tales, “honor” for the male character is typically an opportunity, something to be gained; whereas for the female character, it is at risk, something to be lost. In either case, there is The Ordeal to be undergone.
    Sounds like fun– but then, I’m Irish.

    Comment by Daniel Harrison | April 5, 2019 | Reply

    • Hello Mr. Harrison,
      What I have found is that the opportunity, the something to be gained is often the quest that the character is sent on, while honor is accomplishing it in the “right” way and being rewarded for that. Playing one’s role is honorable, while doing that which hurts others, or goes against one’s nature is found to be dishonorable, within the confines of the fairy tale. As for the females, the honor you speak of is one aspect of it, if we relate honor to virginity but it is also playing their roles correctly. The mother who leaves her kids is shown to have little honor, but the wife who follows her husband, even on a ridiculous quest is often to be considered honorable.

      If you are interested in further exploring this or any other analysis on Irish Folktales, I would suggest Richard Cashman and Alan Dundes. There are many other others of this nature, and I don’t mean to exclude any, but these are two that I have used, read many of their books and am familiar with their work, meaning I can recommend them from experience and a bit of knowledge.

      In either case, I am free to answer questions or start a discourse on the subject of Fairy Tales.

      Comment by Tabitha Trembley | April 5, 2019 | Reply

  2. Honor seems to be a recurring theme in most historical folk tales. It’s interesting to see that this paper focuses on both male and female honor seeing as the phrase typically relates to male characters only. Is there a noticeable difference in how honor portrayal in Irish literature differs from other prominent cultures? What does the difference between the male and female portrayals of honor day about Irish culture overall and do these ideas still exist today?

    As a person of Irish decent, Irish folklore has forever interested me. I look forward to a chance to read your paper.

    Comment by Shannon McKeown | April 23, 2019 | Reply


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