M. Allegra D’Ambruoso
Senior Thesis: Spring 2011
Dr. Thury and Dr. Kotzin
The Modern Fairy Tale: a study of Holly Black’s Tithe and Ironside
Tales of wonder, feats, and heroic deeds have always captured the imagination of their audience. Mythology tells the stories of gods and heroes. In its strictest sense, mythology refers to the “sacred stories handed down as part of religions, as well as the narratives that explain and define the great acts of nations and peoples” (Thury and Devinney 4). Myths and folk tales often go hand in hand, as folk tales also belong to the oral tradition. There is also overlap between myths and fairy tales, the prime example being the story of Cupid and Psyche.
This imagination extends into modern times. Modern authors like Holly Black have written their own versions of fairy tales, often for a young adult audience. Many of these are reutilized from older tales. A reutilized fairy tale is “one which retains its basic components according to the Aarne-Thompson classification, but revises the action to suit it to another audience” (Thury and Devinney 670). Black does this well, often utilizing some components of older tales and weaving a new story from them, as is the case with Tithe and Ironside. She does not just create her own fairy tales; she creates a unique story out of reutilized elements. These tales suit her young adult audience, especially those who are working on developing their own identity. In these novels, Kaye is a changeling, a pixie left in the place of a human child. Her alienation is a feeling to which most young adult readers would relate. Placing this plot in a fairy tale setting helps Black’s readers process the inherent lesson that it is okay to be different. Fairy tales “suggest that there are other views of human life besides those of the shopping mall and the corporation” (Lurie, Don’t Tell the Grown-ups xi). Black’s characters, Kaye especially, show that there is more to life than the commercial aspects of the American dream.
The study of the fairy tale genre can shed light on the way Black crafted her novels, shaping traditional elements to her audience. One of the most well known recordings of tales is that of the Grimm Brothers. However, they referred to their tales as Children’s and Household Tales, not fairy tales. According to Steven Jones: “various classic collections appeared in manuscript form during the Middle Ages in India, the Middle East, the Mediterranean area, and Europe, and they included fairy tales as part of their recording and reworking of the oral traditions of those cultures” (XV).
There are many systems by which one can use to study the composition of fairy tales and folk tales. One employed for the classification of folk tales is the Aarne-Thompson system. “Folklorists have often classified fairy tales according to the plot elements they contain. These elements are often called themes or motifs” (Thury and Devinney 497). “In 1910 the Finnish scholar Antti Aarne published his Verzeichnis der Marchentype (Index of Folktale Types). In 1928 American folklorist Stith Thompson issued an expanded version of this pioneering work, now in English instead of German, titled The Types of Folktale” (Ashliman 34). The classification system provides a way of grouping folk tales by the motifs they contain. However, these systems do not necessarily translate to a fairy tale. Another way to classify fairy tales is from the feminist perspective. In feminist fairy tales, “not only do the authors challenge conventional views of gender, socialization, and sex roles, but they also map out an alternative aesthetic terrain for the fairy tale genre to open up new horizons for readers and writers alike” (Zipes, Don’t Bet on the Prince xi).
Joseph Campbell as well has an analysis system for hero tales, which can be applied to both folk and fairy tales.
Apart from the omnipresence of magic, traditional fairy tales are also marked by a fairly consistent structure, as numerous scholars have noted, most prominently Vladimir Propp in The Morphology of the Folktale (1928) and Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949). Although fairy-tale formulas are not as reliable and universal as some structuralists might posit, the following outline does apply to a very large number of tales:
These three systems will be discussed below in the analyses of Black’s novels Tithe and Ironside.
It is hard to trace the beginnings of the transition from folk tale to fairy tale. “Like myths, they [fairy tales] are often related orally as stories, rather than being written down as literary works. This means that they change and evolve in the telling the way that myths do; folklorists have often been able to track versions of a story and note how it is told differently in various regions” (Thury and Devinney 495). However, this definition assumes that fairy tales work the same way as folk tales. Other authors have disputed these statements, arguing that the literary fairy tale genre’s history is different from the oral tradition of the folk tale. Thus, the literary fairy tale is well deserving of its own genre. Jack Zipes explains the literary fairy tale as:
(1) it distinguishes itself from the oral folk tale (das Volksmarchen) insofar as it is written by a single identifiable author; (2) it is thus synthetic, artificial, and elaborate in comparison to the ingenious formation of the folk tale that emanates from communities and tends to be simple and anonymous; (3) the differences between the literary fairy tale and the oral folk tale do not imply that one genre is better than the other; (4) in fact, the literary fairy tale is not an independent genre but can only be understood and defined by its relationship to the oral tales as well as to the legend, novella, noel and other literary fairy tales that it uses, adapts and remodels during the narrative conception of the author
Literary fairy tales are “unique in that they are deliberate, non-spontaneous artistic creations which are, of course, literary in nature and form” (Hixon 3). She continues: “folklorists define fairy tales, sometimes called wonder tales, Marchen, or contes merveilluex, as a specific type of folk narrative, on in which magic plays a role to some degree” (7). Jane Yolen states in From Andersen On: Fairy Tales Tell Our Lives “The art or literary fairy tale is a personal telling, too, but invented whole cloth (or patch-worked together from many disparate sources) into a single story. Often autobiography plays a key role.” Yolen is referring to Hans Christian Anderson, another literary fairy tale inventor. It is clear that she, Hixon, Jones, and Zipes all agree there is a significant difference between oral folk tales and literary fairy tales.
Therefore, for fairy tales, we have the written aspect which is related to oral folktales, but also more synthetic and elaborate; we have the magical aspect, which can be expressed in many ways; and we can also consider the “successful solving of a dilemma facing the protagonist [as] essential to the plot of a fairy tale” (Jones 17). Considering this clear divide between the literary fairy tale and the oral folk tale, we can now consider what comprises a modern fairy tale.
Many modern fairy tales are reutilizations of older literary fairy tales. One example is “The Tiger’s Bride” by Angela Carter. This is a story that is “readily recognizable as a close, but modern relative of the classic versions of the story we have known from childhood” (Thury and Devinney 670). “The Tiger’s Bride” is a reutilization of the Beauty and the Beast theme, as is Holly Black’s modern novel Valiant: a pretty girl falls in love with a hideous creature when she realizes that he has a heart of gold. Black’s graphic novels, the Good Neighbors series (Kith and Kin are the two novels currently published), appear to be a retelling of the Ballad of Tam Lin: a woman saves a man from the clutches of the evil fairies. However, Black’s two other fairy tale novels, Tithe and Ironside, which comprise one full story, do not seem to be a retelling of any older fairy tale, as discussed below.
Tithe and Ironside tell the story of Kaye, a pixie switched when young with a human girl. Tithe comprises Kaye’s introduction to the fairy world in the form of saving a handsome fairy knight, her realization that she is a pixie, and the beginning of a war between the Seelie and Unseelie fairy courts. In Ironside, a fairy war that was looming in Tithe begins and ends. Kaye and the fairy she loves, Roiben, defeat the machinations of the Seelie queen. It is implied that they then live happily ever after.
The complete tale places Kaye as the hero, making it different from many other literary fairy tales or folk tales. Often, it is the prince who saves the princess from some evil, as seen in Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, etc. There are some tales, like Tam Lin or Beauty and the Beast, where the girl saves the man from a form of evil or transformation. However, Tithe and Ironside represent a young fairy girl as the catalyst who first creates chaos and finally brings about order, temporary though it may be. This tale is a new twist on the literary fairy tale.
There have been comparisons of Tithe to
the some aspects of the Aarne-Thompson system, but the novel does not fit neatly into any one motif. It has been called an instance of the Ballad of Tam Lin, (“Kirks Book Review”) which is a Wild Hunt tale (Aarne-Thompson E501). A Wild Hunt is “the apparition of a hunter with a crowd of huntsmen, horses and dogs crossing the sky at night” (Thompson 257). There is no such hunt in Tithe or Ironside. One motif that is lightly touched upon is that of the Changeling (Aarne-Thompson F321.1). Kaye is a changeling, i.e., a fairy switched with a mortal child. However, in the typical fairy tale, the changeling is a more malicious creature who is “usually mature and only seems to be a child” (Thompson 248). Kaye was switched as a very young fairy and was unaware that she was not human:
The smoke burned Kaye’s eyes. “Have you ever thought about me not being your daughter? Like if I was switched at birth.” …
“It’s funny. There was this one time.” … “God, you were not even two, toddling around. I’d stacked up a bunch of books on a chair so you could sit at the table at your grandmother’s house. It wasn’t real safe, but I wasn’t real smart, either. Anyway, I go out to the kitchen, and when I come back, you’re on the floor and the pile of books is all over the place. I mean, clearly you fell and clearly I am a terrible mother. But you’re not crying. Instead, you have one of the books open and you’re reading out of it – clear as a bell. And I thought: My child is a genius. And then I thought: This is not my child.”
(Black, 64-65 Ironside).
Furthermore, Kaye’s human mother never wished to dispose of her changeling daughter, as specified in the Thompson analysis: “The problem then arises as to how he may be disposed of, and this is not easy” (248). In Black’s tale, even after Kaye’s mother, Ellen, is aware that Kaye is a pixie, she says to Kaye: “You’re exactly who I think you are. … You’re my girl” (Black, 242, Ironside). This affection shows that Ellen considers the changeling her daughter even though Kaye is a pixie and not Ellen’s biological daughter.
Another Aarne-Thompson element Black plays with is the romantic aspect of the motif. “The romantic imagination has long played with the idea of the fairy lover. There are many things that a young girl must not do – pluck flowers, lie under a tree, or pull nuts – or she may well be carried off by a fairy lover or elf knight” (Thompson, 247). When Kaye first meets Roiben, he is lying under a tree:
A man was sprawled in the mud only a few steps from her, clutching a curved sword in one hand. It shone like a sliver of moonlight in the hazy dark. Long pewter hair, plastered wetly to his neck, framed a face that was long and full of sharp angles. Rivulets of rain ran over the jointed black armor he wore. His other hand was at his heart, clutching a branch that jutted from his chest. The rain there was tinted pink with blood.
(Black, Tithe, 24-25)
This first meeting between Kaye and Roiben is darker than a simple scene of picking flowers; instead, Kaye helps pull an arrow from his chest. This is a clear difference than the Thompson idea of a passive female character. Kaye actively assists Roiben.
Also in Ironside, we see the Aarne-Thompson motif of the King Midas touch (J2072.1), but it is applied to Cornelius, Kaye’s friend, and not Kaye herself. This motif is that of the bearer’s “power to turn all things into gold, and his distress when his wish is fulfilled” (Thompson 265). Cornelius is cursed with a withering touch; that is, anything he touches withers and dies. This obviously causes distress, but it is easily circumvented by the wearing of gloves and easily removed with running salt water, i.e. tears.
Black makes similar use of feminist motifs. Since the main character is a teen-age girl, one might conclude that this story is a feminist fairy tale. Lurie describes a typical female character in fairy tales as follows, “As for the heroines, things just happen to them: they are persecuted by wicked stepmothers, eaten by wolves, of fall asleep for a hundred years” (xi). However, some reutilized fairy tales “are imbued with a particular vision of the world which I would call feminist. Not only do the authors challenge conventional views of gender, socialization, and sex roles, but they also map out an alternative aesthetic terrain for the fairy tale genre” (Zipes, Don’t Bet on the Price xi). In Black’s story, Kaye may be the hero and catalyst, but she is also passive at many times. Zipes continues that the narrative “concerns the heroine who actively seeks to define herself, and her self-definition determines the plot” (14). Kaye does not actively seek to find herself. She finds herself by others’ telling her what she is; in her own way, she is “waiting for something external to ‘transform [her] life’” (Dowling, qtd in Zipes. Don’t Bet on the Prince 9). She is no powerful feminist figure.
Feminist fairy tales must differ from typical tales and represent a powerful and intelligent main character. In classic fairy tales, “most of the heroines were passive, helpless, and submissive” (Zipes, Don’t Bet on the Prince 5). Feminist fairy tales should change this and have active, self-sufficient, and even dominant female characters. Kaye is strong willed but not quite self-sufficient. This makes her much more accessible to the young adult audience for which Black is writing. She retreats to the comforts of friends and home when she needs help. She always goes back to her grandmother’s house to regroup. After a particularly trying experience at the Seelie court, Kaye goes home to gather things and check on her family. She assumes that since she is now a pixie, this would be a last trip home.
Kaye headed for the kitchen door. She yanked it open, glad for the cold air on her burning face. Right then, she hated everyone…
“Kaye Fierch!” Ellen shouted from the doorway in her seldom used “mom” voice. “You get back in here right now.
Kaye stopped automatically.
(Black, Ironside 241)
The simple fact that Kaye
stopped shows that she is not self-suffienct and still needs her mother, just like Black’s young adult audience.
Black also makes use of a traditional element of the fairy tales in describing her heroine. Kaye is beautiful in her human disguise and not unattractive as a pixie: “Her upturned eyes were black as oil spills. She was too thin. Tall ears parted her tangled hair on either side of her head” (Black, Tithe 109). Having a pretty, female main character is stereotypical. After all, “girls are supposed to be beautiful and good and helpless and dull” (Lurie, Clever Gretchen xi).
Most female characters in Black’s novels are physically attractive, but the novels represent a range of moral ambiguity in female characterization, so there is no special feminist twist there. Both the Unseelie and Seelie Queens are evil, crazy women, reminiscent of the evil stepmothers of classic literary fairy tales. None of the fairies in the tale are moral or good characters; they are all either evil or morally ambiguous at least. This changes the normal stereotypical duality of fairy tales where characters “are always presented in opposing dualities: rich/poor, clever/stupid, beautiful/ugly,
good/evil” (Rettl 184). When the Tithe is broken and the solitary fairies are free from the fairy courts, chaos prevails for a day: animals switched in pens at the zoo; mortals forced to dance in the park; kidnappings of children. When Kaye asks the Thistlewitch, her longtime fairy friend who is depicted as an ancient wise woman, the Thistlewitch states: “Let the mortals suffer as we have suffered” (Black, Tithe 260). This shocks Kaye, who believed that her friends were always good. Here she learns that they are not.
Furthermore, much of the novels consists of Kaye’s relationship with Roiben, her fairy knight. She completes a near impossible quest in order to be with him. Since Kaye is fairly naïve and trusting, this is reminiscent of typical fairy tale girls, not feminist characters. She is also driven by her desire to be with the man she loves, again, not a feminist trait. Considering these facts, Black’s novels do not seem to subvert any established structure of the outcome of a typical fairy tale. Black utilizes typical fairy tale structure in Tithe and Ironside to appeal to her young adult audience. For the same reason, Kaye is not all-powerful, much like Black’s young adult readers. She is a girl, with flaws, who seeks help from her friends and family to solve problems. She is very different from them all, human and fairy alike, and has rather grandiose problems to solve. This feeling is not too far from average young adult readers who are developing their own identity, just like Kaye, and have their own new and difficult problems to navigate.
A final tool to analyze tales is the Campbell Monomyth. This refers to the Hero’s Journey, as explained above. When it is applied to Tithe and Ironside, one sees that Kaye’s story does follow some parts, yet Black modifies some of the elements. The monomyth can be described as follows “the hero is called to an adventure (Departure),” the “tests and trials (Initiation),” and the hero “returns with a boon that benefits his fellows (Return)” (Riggs). Tithe quickly launches Campbell’s monomyth when Kaye and her mother are forced to move back to the suburbs in New Jersey. This is her retreat from the world, the step that begins the monomyth; it is a “radical transfer of emphasis from the external to the internal world” (Campbell, qtd in Thury and Devinney 161). She leaves “Ironside” (i.e. the large city) for the quiet wooded suburbs where she grew up. This is a passive start to the monomyth, much like Odysseus who has to: “endure the winds of Poseidon blowing him across the seas like a chessboard” (Thury and Devinney 161). Kaye makes no conscious choice in her retreat; it simply happens and she is forced to comply.
The next step in the monomyth is the “refusal of the call” (Riggs). This is an optional step, and Kaye does complete it. While she is fairly accepting of her fate in being forced to move to New Jersey, she eventually rejects being a fairy and not a mortal girl. Instead of staying “glamoured” with magic covering her fairy form to make her look like a human, she learns how to show her true pixie self (Black, Tithe 102-112).
The next step of the monomyth is the discovery of “supernatural aid” (Riggs). Kaye saves Roiben and gains the right to ask him a question:
“What is your full name?”
He looked like he would choke on the air he breathed. “What?”
“That’s my third question: What is your full name?” She didn’t know what she had done, not really. She only knew that she was forcing him to do something he didn’t want to do.
(Black, Tithe 80)
This gives Kaye the upper hand with Roiben and gains her his supernatural aid.
The next step of the monomyth is the “Crossing of the Threshold” (Riggs). Kaye quite literally crosses a threshold when she enters the Unseelie court. The court is “full of creatures with unusual shapes and dark habits” (Thury and Devinney 162) much like the Mos Eisley cantina in Star Wars, which Campbell gives as an example of this step. She sees a “long-nosed woman with freckles and ears like a jackal’s juggled pinecones. Three men with red hair and double rows of shark teeth dipped their caps in a pile of carnage, soaking up blood. A huge creature with bat wings and limbs like stilts sat atop a table and lapped at beaten copper bowl of cream” (Black, Tithe 144). This new world opens up the rest of the monomyth to Kaye.
Her next step is to deal with the Guardian of the Threshold, Nephamiel, Roiben’s nemesis. Whereas Roiben is a Seelie Knight sent as a peace token to the Unseelie court, Nephamiel is the opposite: an Unseelie Knight sent to the Seelie court. He, however, is more often with his true ruler (the Unseelie queen). Nephamiel and the Unseelie queen discuss the Tithe, i.e. the sacrifice of a mortal to tie the solitary fairies to the Unseelie court, and they chose Kaye as the victim. He states: “I think I have heard of a very suitable candidate indeed – she’s already acquainted with a member of your court” (Black 157).
Here Black modifies the Belly of the Whale step of the monomyth. Instead of dying, like Osiris in Egyptian myth, or being swallowed up literally, like Pinocchio or Heracles, Kaye is taken back to the Unseelie Court with a new glamour thrown upon her by Nephamiel, one that she cannot break herself. With this, she is caught within the Unseelie court with no means of escape without assistance. This helplessness is yet another traditional fairy tale problem. “An examination of the best-known stories shows that active resourceful girls are in fact rare; most of the heroines are passive, submissive, and helpless” (Lieberman 387). ThisBelly of the Whale step is the last step in the first of the three sections of the monomyth.
The next section of the monomyth is the “tests and trials (Initiation)” (Riggs). One of the tasks that Kaye must complete is freeing herself from the Unseelie Court. She utilizes her knowledge of Roiben’s name to escape from the Tithe.
In order to do so, she first proceeds to the Seelie Court to talk to the queen. This step represents Campbell’s “meeting with the goddess.” Given the Freudian underpinnings of Campbell’s analysis, one could assume that, since our hero is female, this goddess would switch genders and become a god. However, “because stories of male heroes are so much more influential, we often find, even in stories with female heroes, that the villain is male and the apotheosis involves meeting with a goddess, not a god” (Thury and Devinney 163). This goddess comes across as good, if a little selfish, but is revealed clearly as devious: “In giving life, the goddess starts humans on their road to death: ‘she is also the death of everything that dies’” (Thury and Devinney 163).
Kaye now must face her temptress, or tempter, since the genders do switch for this step. Kaye is tempted by Roiben. She puts herself at risk to warn him about the Seelie queen’s plot to sabotage the duel he is to have with the queen’s chosen champion. This also allows her to answer Roiben’s riddle; thus, his role as tempter is what pushes her to complete her quest.
The next step of the monomyth is the “atonement with the father” (Riggs). However, again the genders are switched. Kaye has a reunion with Ellen, her mother. After leaving the Seelie court, Kaye visits her grandmother’s house to feed her pet rats. Instead, she runs into her grandmother and hears the story of how Kate, the real human Kaye, came to live there. Ellen finds Kaye and hugs her, proclaiming, “You’re my girl” (Black Ironside, 242). This reunion seems to heal all distance that Kaye’s quest had put between her and her human family. By reuniting with her mother, Kaye is able to reconnect with her human side, the one advantage she has over the fairy realm.
This advantage is also the “Apotheosis” as Kaye realizes that since humans raised her, she has a better grasp on word play and riddles than even the fairies. She simply thinks differently. She learns that because she is so different, she is able to answer the riddle that Roiben presented her with in the beginning of Ironside in order to be his consort and gain an established place in the realm of fairy. The riddle was to find a fairy that can lie, and Kaye is able to use word play to sort out the riddle. “She had to change the rules of the game. She had to solve the quest. She had to be the single variation. But how could she lie without lying?” (Black, Ironside, 282). By answering this question, Kaye is granted her wish to be Roiben’s consort. “Apotheosis often represents the achievement of such a new level of understanding by the hero” (Thury and Devinney, 165). Gaining her position as Roiben’s consort is Kaye’s “Ultimate Boon” (Riggs). It is the singular possession of sorts that Kaye set out to obtain. Considering that this is Kaye’s main goal, she relies upon Roiben to help define her, i.e. as consort. Even though she is the one who solved the riddle, it was he who subjected her to it. She has waited successfully for an external transformation of her life, the hallmark of the traditional, as opposed to feminist, fairytale heroine.
Finally, our hero must complete the last section of the monomyth, the step where s/he “returns with a boon that benefits his fellows” (Riggs). The first step is the “refusal of the return” (Riggs). Kaye’s refusal is her solving of Roiben’s riddle. This answer is the fulfillment of a declaration of her love for him (Black, Ironside 283). Answering it makes her the consort to the King of the Unseelie Court: “’From this moment forward, your fate is tied to the Unseelie Court. Until the time of my death, you are my consort’” (Black, Ironside 284), Roiben informs her. She is now forever part of the Unseelie Court.
The next step of the monomyth is the return. Here there are options for the hero. The first is leaving “in haste, pursued by forces from the land of adventure (The Magic Flight)” (Thury and Devinney 165). Kaye’s enemies are all fleeing, dead, or have sworn fealty to Roiben, so there is no pursuit. Another option is that “he may be brought back by other adventurers from his world (Rescue from Without)” (Thury and Devinney 165). Kaye’s friends are her helpers, but her return to the human world is not shown. A chapter ends with Roiben winning his duel and proclaiming that he will “be better ” than the Seelie queen (Black, Ironside 304)
The next chapter opens with Kaye and her friend Corny bringing Chinese takeout to Kate, the human girl with whom Kaye had been switched. In this way, Kaye returns to human life, but her world has changed due to her quest and time spent. This sudden switch from fairy realm to the Ellen’s apartment is the step of “The Crossing of the Return Threshold” (Riggs). She leaves the duel and the fairies for the very normal domestic scene of bringing food to the girl she considers her little sister.
Kaye also achieves “the ability to pass back and forth at will between the ordinary human world and the mythical land of adventure” (Thury and Devinney 165). As consort to the fairy King, she is truly a “Master of Both Worlds” (Riggs). She tells Roiben “’I was thinking that maybe I could move out of my grandmother’s – spend half my time working in the shop [a coffee shop she wants to open] and half my time in Faerie, with you. I mean, if you don’t mind me being around’” (Black, Ironside 321). Roiben then draws the connection of Kaye’s idea to the myth of Persephone:
“It’s a Greek story. A human one. The King of the underworld – Hades – fell in love with a girl, Persephone. She was a goddess too, the daughter of Demeter, who controlled the seasons and the harvests.
“Hades stole Persephone away to his palace in the underworld and tempted her with a split-open pomegranate, each seed shining like a ruby. She knew that if she ate or drank anything in that place she would be trapped, but somehow he persuaded her to eat a mere six seeds. Thereafter, she was doomed to spend half of each year in the underworld, one month for each seed.”
(Black, Ironside 322)
This connection to mythology brings the story full cycle from modern fairy tale all the way to the beginning of oral tales, the myth.
This mastery of both worlds allows Kaye the final step of Campbell’s monomyth: The “Freedom to Live” (Riggs). She knows she fought to prove her love to Roiben, and she won his acceptance, and now she is content to have as normal a life in the human world as she can. The ending shows Black’s young adult audiences that it is okay to be different, because all the things Kaye wants do come about. She has suffered loss and has struggled; she is still very different from her friends and loved ones, but she is finally content with herself.
Even though Tithe and Ironside together follow Campbell’s monomyth, the novels veer away from feminist analysis as well as the Aarne-Thompson motifs. At the same time, Black’s modern fairy tale still sums up the basis of these systems: “The journey of the hero is not, in Campbell’s view, a mere story. Nor is it merely a psychological phenomenon. Rather, it represents a spiritual reality: the hero is grappling with the place of all humans in the universe. It the world of human beings who are subject to death, the hero seeks, and finds that which is deathless” (Thury and Devinney 165).
We can see that Tithe and Ironside represent a complete a hero’s journey. Black utilizes some Aarne-Thompson’s motifs, but they do not apply nearly as neatly to this modern fairy tale as they would to a folk tale. In addition, these novels do not fit with typical views of a feminist fairy tale either. Rather, it is clear that Tithe and Ironside create their own story and are not simple reutilizations of one older tale. They do incorporate some common themes and motifs, but Black weaves these classic elements into a modern fairy tale designed to appeal to her young adult audience.
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The Modern Fairy Tale: a study of Holly Black’s Tithe and Ironside by M. Allegra D'Ambruoso is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.