A fairy tale as a mem carrier

Yes, fairy tales can be looked like a possible transmitter of ideas, norms, values, etc., - shortly - memes. The term meme was first used in Richard Dawkins’ revolutionary and controversial book The Selfish Gene. Richard Dawkins is one of the greatest advocates of Darwin’s evolutionary theory and brilliant author who is constantly fighting with creationists. A meme is like a virus. It can be transferred from person to person, use all kinds of media (books, internet, movies, ...) as hosts and it can survive for centuries. Or even evolve like a real virus. a meme can carry a lot of power. It can change human behavior, inflict laws and influence the whole society.


What exactly have all this to do with fairy tales?

Looking for a meme?

Memes are analogues of genes. If genes carry physical information like the color of hair, height or inclination to some sorts of diseases, memes carry  ideas, instructions or symbols and as such directly influence our behavior. Fairy tales in their numerous forms look as perfect medium for memes.


1. In memes from fairy tales we can find out what is appropriate and what not, what is right and what is wrong. We can see the patterns in human relationships, we can learn the har cold truths of growing up an taking responsibility. In its very special way fairy tales offer every reader to experience many feelings without being the part of an event where such experience could be obtained.


2. Memes in fairy tales can be great supporters of stereotypes but they can also ignite a revolution (in fairy tale everything is possible). This means we can use the memes from stories to educate younger educations about the rules in the society and we can also introduce new rules when some kind of change comes.


3. Memes tend to replicate themselves and this is their main goal. If we are limited to person to person relation, a mem can travel very slowly, but with a help of book one author can offer the same idea to thousands of readers, sometimes expanding it through several continents and decades or even centuries


Memes, like genes, are placed in very competitive environment. If they want to survive, they have to constantly pass from one carrier to another, from one human to another, from one book to another … And they also have to adapt, just like genes.


Some typical memes from fairy tales:


  • child abuse (Cinderella),
  • test (Bluebeard, Rumpelstiltskin),
  • sexual awakening (Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel),
  • children abandonment (Hansel and Gretel),
  • sacrifice (The Beauty and the Beast),...


Like it or not, most of us tend to live their own fairy tales, dictated by memes, which thought us to find the princess, kill the dragon, build a castle, take responsibility – and live happily ever after!


Nice start for a serious academic career in local children’s library, huh?

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