Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



This study examined the responses of two 11-year-old African-American girls to two folktales: one with a passive female protagonist and one with an active female protagonist. The goal of the study was to add to the small body of previous research on children’s responses to folktales by exploring the opinions of African-American girls, who had been thus far overlooked, and to illuminate areas for future research. Data were collected through a series of four interviews with each girl and analyzed using qualitative research methodologies. Some of the data reflected previous findings from studies of Caucasian girls’ responses to folktales. The data echoed the finding that children are “active makers of meaning” (Trousdale, 1987) in responding to folktales. Both girls in this study related the stories to their own lives by inserting modifications into the original tales. The data also suggested that the girls were drawn to active, helping female characters but held mixed feelings about emulating such active characters, reflecting a 1995 study (Trousdale). The study challenges the assumption that children necessarily identify with the protagonists in fairy tales. In both types of tales the girls seemed to make qualified identifications with the main characters. The study also suggests that girls’ readiness to identify with active female characters may depend on their prior experience with such characters. Moreover, the study found that both girls were reluctant to describe the characters in terms of specific physical traits. Further research was called for to determine whether such responses are typical of children from ethnic groups who do not often see themselves represented in literature.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Ann Trousdale



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