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Multi-Cultural Fairy Tales: Portals to the Humanities

Seminar Leader:
Mary T. Hufford


A seminar led by Mary Hufford, Adjunct Associate Professor of Folklore

One of the earliest purposes for print fairy tales was to instill the social values of an emerging European middle-class in children. Over the centuries a classic canon of fairy tales has been institutionalized as children’s literature. Including such standards as Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White, this canon represents a tiny sampling of the world’s offerings. Few people know, for example, that the earliest known version of Cinderella appeared in print in China in the ninth century, and that versions of all of the classic European folk and fairy tales have been collected all over the world.

This seminar will explore fairy tales and their international variants as portals to the humanities in multicultural classrooms. Working with six of the most widely known “classic” fairy tales, the seminar will familiarize teachers with critical concepts, research tools, and educational resources needed to teach any of the classic fairy tales using versions gathered from countries and cultures represented among West Philadelphia students. While fairy tales open onto universally shared aspects of human experience, variations from different traditions offer a framework for recognizing and appreciating cultural difference in the classroom. Fairy tales provide ample material for lessons in geography, history; language arts, speech genres and narrative performance; family and community life; and age-, class-, and gender- related social roles.

Teachers applying for this seminar should provide a list of the countries of origin and ethnicities represented among the students of their school, and, if known, the languages and dialects spoken by students.

Unit TitleAuthor


Fairytales, Folktales, and Animal Tales: A Culturally Responsive Approach to Literacy

Aimee Davis
Keywords: African American folktales, fairytales, West African Geography

Teaching Similar and Different Through Fairy Tale Variants

Melissa Freeman
Keywords: cinderella, literacy, multicultural

Once Upon an Opposite: Using Multi-Cultural Trickster Tales to Promote Literacy

Klair McGlynn
Keywords: fairytales, leprechaun, literacy, St Patricks Day, trickster stories

Using Variants of Red Riding Hood to Build Critical Reading Skills

Mindy Cohen
Keywords: fairytales, reading skills, red riding hood

Coming of Age in Never-land Transformation in Multi-Cultural Fairy Tales

John Pickersgill
Keywords: american dream, cinderella, fairt, seamstresses of france, sleeping beauty

Who is Cinderella, … or Cinderfella?

Donna Rohanna
Keywords: cinderella, literacy, Reading

La gramática a través de los cuentos de hada y leyendas: El imperfecto contra el pretérito

Diana Shortall
Keywords: fairytales, Foreign Language, La Llorona