Special Issue "Severed Limbs and Monstrous Appetites: (Re)Defining Fairy-Tale Horror from the Seventeenth Century to the Present"

A special issue of Literature (ISSN 2410-9789).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 April 2023 | Viewed by 1715

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Laura Tosi
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Linguistics and Comparative Cultural Studies, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Venice, Italy
Interests: British children’s literature; fairy tales; adaptation; literary fantasy; Victorian culture; gender and sexuality; early modern drama and Shakespeare
Dr. Alessandro Cabiati
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
1. Department of Linguistics and Comparative Cultural Studies, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Venice, Italy
2. Department of French and Francophone Studies, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA
Interests: comparative literature; French and Anglo-American literature; fairy-tale studies; fantastic and Gothic literature; decadence and modernity; deviance and monstrosity; history of psychiatry

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In a Christmas 2017 interview for the British magazine Fortean Times, celebrated Mexican filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro described ‘Hansel and Gretel’, ‘the original Cinderella’, and ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ as ‘a horror story’, before affirming that, in his opinion, ‘horror and the fairy tale walk hand in hand’. This statement is hardly surprising coming from a director whose oeuvre includes such films as Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) and The Shape of Water (2017), which strive to merge fairy-tale and horror themes, motifs, and imagery. Contemporary cinema and literature have frequently combined fairy-tale and horror elements, introducing twentieth-century horror visuals into fairy-tale narratives and reinterpreting characters and settings of the fairy-tale tradition through a horror lens. Examples include Gothic retellings of the ‘Snow White’ story, such as Michael Cohn’s Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997), or the various horror adaptations of ‘Hansel and Gretel’, including Pil-Sung Yim’s film Hansel and Gretel (2007). Similarly popular has been the transformation of Little Red Riding Hood’s wolf into a werewolf, featuring in Angela Carter’s short stories ‘The Werewolf’ and ‘The Company of Wolves’—part of her collection The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories (1979), which reworks classic fairy tales from a Gothic horror perspective—but also in Catherine Hardwicke’s 2011 film Red Riding Hood.

If horror and the fairy tale are so easily intermingled, can horror then be considered as a distinctive feature of the literary fairy tale? In ‘Bluebeard’ (1697), after all, Perrault creates an atmosphere of mystery and expectation of violence before describing Bluebeard’s closet, which contains the numerous corpses of his murdered wives, whose clotted blood covers the floor. Blood, bodily mutilation, and body parts are in fact extensively represented in fairy tales. Before Disney’s sanitized film adaptations, tales such as the Grimm’s versions of ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Snow White’ (1812) depicted horrific images, such as severed limbs, cannibalism, and other types of bodily violence. As far as cannibalism is concerned, the Grimm’s ‘Hansel and Gretel’ and Perrault’s ‘Le Petit Poucet’ are among the most famous stories, but cannibalistic acts or desires are also central in lesser-known tales, such as Perrault’s version of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ or the Grimm’s ‘The Juniper Tree’.

What are the roles, functions, and meanings of horror in a fairy-tale narrative? This Special Issue of Literature aims to answer this question, inviting proposals for essays that consider, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • The evolution of fairy-tale horror in its various forms and iterations, from the seventeenth century to the present;
  • The contemporary questioning of the boundaries between the genres of fairy tale and horror and its theoretical implications;
  • The moralistic and/or educational purposes of horror scenes in fairy tales (the horrors of a transgressive act and its violent punishment);
  • The subversion of traditional morals and happy endings in horror retellings of fairy tales;
  • Nineteenth-, twentieth-, and twenty-first-century Gothic and horror adaptations of literary fairy tales, in literature as well as in other media (cinema, theatre, TV, comics, and video games);
  • Literary experimentation and the interaction of fairy-tale and horror elements in Romanticism, Decadence, modernism, and postmodernism;
  • Fairy-tale monsters (such as ogres, witches, and cannibals) in the horror tradition;
  • Freud’s concept of the ‘uncanny’ and its possible applications in the study of fairy-tale horror;
  • The transformation of anthropomorphic animals of fairy tales into (post)human characters (for instance, wolves into werewolves);
  • The interplay between psychological terrors and visual horrors in the fairy-tale tradition.

Please send a proposal of around 500 words, along with a biographical note, to both guest editors by 30 November 2022. Full papers are due on 30 April 2023.

Prospective contributors are also invited to read the following critical works before submission:

Armitt, Lucy, ‘Gothic Fairy-Tale’, in The Handbook of the Gothic, ed. Marie Mulvey-Roberts (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), p. 135.

Bacchilega, Cristina, Fairy Tales Transformed? Twenty-First-Century Adaptations and the Politics of Wonder (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2013).

Hubner, Laura, Fairytale and Gothic Horror: Uncanny Transformations in Film (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018).

Piatti-Farnell, Lorna, ‘Blood Flows Freely: The Horror of Classic Fairy Tales’, in The Palgrave Handbook to Horror Literature, ed. by Kevin Corstorphine and Laura R. Kremmel (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), pp. 91-100.

Tatar, Maria, ‘Table Matters: Cannibalism and Oral Greed’, in Off with Their Heads! Fairytales and the Culture of Childhood (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), pp. 190-211.

We look forward to receiving your contributions.

Prof. Dr. Laura Tosi 
Dr. Alessandro Cabiati
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Literature is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • fairy tale
  • horror
  • terror
  • monsters
  • the Gothic genre
  • werewolves
  • Grimm
  • Perrault
  • cannibalism
  • mutilation

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission.
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