Maria Tatar is the John L. Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures and Chair of the Program in Folklore and Mythology at Harvard University where she teaches literature for children, German culture and folklore.;she studied in Munich and Berlin and wrote several articules for The New York Times, The New Republic and Slate.com.
This intellectual woman based her investigations on the analysis of different versions of traditional fairy tales and related them to a sociocultural perspective which recognises the effects that these tales cause on children.
Supported by the cultural background,she states that the ‘pedagogical purpose’ of fairy tales did not always work out the same. At the beginning, by 1814 with Grimm brothers, for example, the goal had to do more with the passage from childhood to adulthood than with the fact of conveying a moral learning, so that stories were rather violent and bloody that nobody cared of children’s emotional impacts. Many years later, as time went by, new authors critisized this way of storytelling because of the damages they could provoke on a child at a phychological level: what children are told is inherited and internalized and their later reactions might not be the most adequate ones.
Opposed to this point of view, Tatar argues that the natural enchantment, beauty,astonishment and magic of fairy tales derive,exactly, from cruelty,cannibalism, horror and fears the plot creates on the reader’s mind:in the end horror takes revenge and happily-ever-after triumphs; moreover she helds that what no one can deny is the socializing function of tales as a model of helping children to understand how to outlive in a world ruled by adults. The point is that, initially, stories were originated in a culture of adults so that questions of loss, death, punishment, anxiety, desires,love and passion were not a strange matter to include when writing them.
Maria Tatar has written "Spellbound: Studies on Mesmerism and Literature," "Classic Fairy Tales," The Annotated Brothers Grimm and Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood" (April 2009, W. W. Norton). In this last one she compiles forty new translated stories of the Brother Grimm with 150 pictures