In Search of Cupid and Psyche: Myth and Legend in Children's Literature


Transcendent Realities

For the traditional literature section of this course, students are required to read no fewer than seven versions (a very "MC"--mythologically correct--number) of traditional folktales and fairytales. Discussion questions will center upon the following tales with which students must demonstrate familiarity (though not contempt). Nonetheless, students are also encouraged to extend their readings into folktales and/or fairytales not cited below, making appropriate connections in journal entries and Webboard discussions.This chapter of the course is designed to last from Week 4 -- Week 6

Beauty and the Beast

All versions are acceptable. See for example
The Illustrated Book of Fairy Tales: Spellbinding stories from around the world, retold by Neil Philip; illustrated by Nilesh Mistry (London: DK Publishing, 1997)

Beauty and the Beast Retold by Jan Carr; illustrated by Katy Bratun (New York: Scholastic, 1993).

The Shining Lodge: a Blackfoot Tale. A Harvest of World Folk Tales, edited by Milton Rugoff (New York: Viking, 1971): p. 108-110. A related tale, Falling Star, was particularly popular among the Cheyenne.

Snow White

All versions are acceptable. See the hypertext version on Kay Vandergrift's immensely helpful Snow White Website;

The Son of The Tortoise

This is a Zulu tale. I have put on "reserve" a version retold by Phyllis Savory, in Classic African Children's Stories: A Collection of Ancient Tales, edited and compiled by Phyllis Savory. (New York: Citadel, 1995): 24-28.

The Drum

The best known of this African folktale is by Chinua Achebe (The Drum. Nairobi, Kenya: Heinemann Kenya, 1980); but there are other lively versions of interest as well, including one by Okechukwu K. Uorji in The Adventures of Torti: Tales from West Africa (Trenton: World Press, 1991)

The Pot From The River

Another popular African folktale. A good version appears in Cyprian Ekwensi's collection The Great Elephant Bird. Nairobi, Kenya: Heinemann Kenya, 1990.

The Talking Eggs

This is an African-American version topologically related to the above title. Robert D. San Souci published a wonderful version--it earned a Caldecott Honor Book because of Jerry Pinkney's illustrations--(New York: Dial, 1989).

Toads & Diamonds

Yet another version of the universal tale type ("The Kind and Unkind Sisters")to which the preceding two titles belong. The earliest version in children's literature seems to have been Charles Perrault's, and the most recent Charlotte Huck's, published as Toads & Diamonds, retold by Charlotte Huck; pictures by Anita Lobel. New York: Greenwillow, 1996. Kate Greenaway illustrated another version in the nineteenth century, entitled Diamonds and Toads, and the McLoughlin Bros., the New York picture book publisher, issued several other versions and one Greenaway piracy.

The Frog Prince

First written down in the nineteenth century by the Brothers Grimm, any version of the tale, current or historical, will suffice. Again, a workmanlike version appears in The Illustrated Book of Fairy Tales: Spellbinding stories from around the world, retold by Neil Philip; illustrated by Nilesh Mistry (London: DK Publishing, 1997)


Another French tale first committed to paper by Charles Perrault. Any version will do. Philip's retelling acceptable. The Illustrated Book of Fairy Tales: Spellbinding stories from around the world, retold by Neil Philip; illustrated by Nilesh Mistry (London: DK Publishing, 1997).


Retold and perhaps reinvented by Perrault; attributed to the Chinese. See the very useful website. Cinderella Project mounted at the University of Southern Mississippi, in Hattiesburg.

East of the Sun, West of the Moon

An annotated version of this Norwegian fairy-tale at Surlalune. If this is of interest, check out the Surlalune page of Modern interpretations of East of the Sun, and the brief history too.

Supplementary readings: 

What is a myth? (various authors, incl. Northrop Frye, Robert Graves, David Leeming, and S.H. Hooke): An introduction to several useful and recombinant defintions of mythology from various sources.

Mythic elements (Joseph): Mythic elements (characters, plots, settings, time) crucial to our continuing investigations. I have drawn these from Apuleius.

"The Structure of Myths", chapter one in Myth and Reality, by Mircea Eliade (New York: Harper, 1963): Eliade's focus upon mythology beyond the customary Western orbit is very pertinent for us.

"Myths and Mythology" (Bryan S. Rennie); from his Reconstructing Eliade: Making Sense of Religion. Albany, NY: University Press of NY, 1996. A discussion of Eliade's notions of mythology within the context of contemprary thought. Rennie emphasizes the relevance of Eliade's thoughts about myth and traditional societies to an understanding of modern thought and behavior.

Images of Beauty and the Beast, (Joseph): Reasserts the mythic context for viewing images in traditional literature.

Cupid as Monster Husband, (Joseph): Considers the paradoxical nature of Cupid.

Further Reading 

Griswold, Jerome. The Meanings of "Beauty and the Beast": A Handbook. New York?: Broadview Press, 2004.

Hearne, Betsy. Beauty and the Beast: Visions and Revisions of an Old Tale. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1989.

The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales: The Western fairy tale tradition from medieval to modern, edited by Jack Zipes. New York: Oxford UP, 2000.

Traditional Literature A website created by Kay E. Vandergrift, with useful readings in folktale and fairytale, and links to other enlightening digital resources on the Web.