It’s my stop on the blog tour for Gender Swapped Fairy Tales. Wife and husband team, Karrie Fransman and Jonathan Plackett, have created a truly thought-provoking and gorgeously illustrated, collection of fairy tales.
The stories themselves are from the well-known Fairy Books edited by Andrew Lang, published around 1889-1913. All of the story text remains unchanged except for the gender identifiers which have been swapped using an algorithm, created by Jonathan. There are no reimagined endings, or twists, or indeed any other changes. As Karrie and Jonathan explain in their Authors’ Note, they didn’t want to influence the stories with their own prejudices about how each character should act.
Because the rest of the text has been left untouched, the stories feel so familiar and yet unfamiliar at the same time. As you read each story, you expect to know what is going to happen next, but it feels different. Suddenly something that felt acceptable now sounds questionable. And something that once felt dated, now feels modern.
Before I read this book, I was anticipating reading about strong female heroines and seeing male characters show a tender, vulnerable side. And there certainly are a lot of these characters throughout these stories – which is fantastic! But what I hadn’t considered was the impact gender-swapping the secondary characters would have on the story, like the seven dwarfs or a footman or a bystander. For me, some of the biggest questions about gender stereotypes were raised in the flippant descriptions of these secondary characters. Often these were descriptions I would have overlooked, but with the genders switched, suddenly they stood out and made me think twice.
The gender-swapping is also shown through the illustrations. Karrie studied traditional fairy tale artwork and noticed how each gender was portrayed, often with princesses in “passive stances” with “exposed throats”. So what did she do? Karrie recreated the style but with the genders swapped! The result is incredibly powerful. I love this illustration of Sleeping Handsome and his powerful princess in her armour, coming to rescue him.
This stunning collection of fairy tales is a book to be treasured by the whole family. My young daughters haven’t ever read some of the fairy tales included. I love that this alternative version will be the first way they hear some of these stories. For older readers, this book can open up discussions about prejudice and gender inequality. Why should a sentence or attitude sound more or less acceptable based solely on the character’s gender?
Gender Swapped Fairy Tales is a fabulous, thought-provoking read, that has been beautifully illustrated. It would make a wonderful gift as well as a fabulous learning resource in schools. I highly recommend it!
Published by Faber & Faber, 5 November 2020
Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour!
I am very grateful to the publisher for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book. This voluntary feature contains my honest opinion.