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Feminist criticism of Lee’s Wolfland Essay

Tanith Lee’s Wolfland is a a retelling of the fairytale in Little Reid Riding Hood. The main protagonist in the Wolfland is named Lisel and is depicted as fearless, confident, daring and bold. The wolf in the fairytale is not depicted so much as a bad guy but rather the grandmother comes has the impression of the real villain. She is the kind of a lady who wanted to have total control over Lisel. This can be deduced from the opening parts of the fairytale when we find her giving strict instructions on how Lisel is to be brought up and the kind of education that is befitting her (Clarke & Clarke 625). This essay is aimed at analyzing the fairytale, Wolfland using the feminist criticism approach.

The fairytale, Wolfland is the story of a granddaughter and a grandmother. The grandmother deceives the granddaughter into visiting her into her chatteu which is in the forest. It is a deception because she does not reveal the purpose for the visit from the first instance. Lisel embarks on the long and dangerous journey under the guard of her father’s servants and is met by the grandmother’s servants on the way. From thereon, the journey is most frightening as a pack of wolves attacks the carriage. She has a dreadful first night with wolves at her grandmother when she plans to escape. She later realizes that her grandmother is a werewolf and has held her a prisoner so that she can take her place once she is dead. This is after she has been given a drink that would also make her a werewolf. The story ends with the two setting for the forest for the initiation ceremony that would make Lisel the heir of Anna and that would ensure she takes Anna’s place as a werewolf.

Feminist literary criticism uses the feminist ideological discourses and principles to critique the structure, language and being of literature. It seeks to analyze how literature reinforces the male domination ideas in regard to female bodies. This is done by exploring and analyzing all aspects of the literature work (Donovan 74). Tanith Lee’s Wolfland can be criticized and promoting male domination ideas on several instances. The first instance which comes out clearly in the story is the idea that women cannot take up some roles which are taken up by me. For instance, the role of security persons is reserved for men in the whole story. When Lisel has to travel, we find that she has to be escorted by men who are armed with pistols while she herself is not armed with anything. We do not find any single woman who acts as her security (Clarke & Clarke 626). Even when her grandmother sends an envoy to take her and release the father’s servants, we find out that they are all men. After her arrival and while talking to her grandmother, she reveals the shock that the grandmother’s coachman did not know how to carry a gun (Clarke & Clarke 629). Probably this can be interpretted as propagating the idea that some positions are solely made for men and women in their weakness can do nothing to help.

The fairytale can also be criticized for the manner in which the author uses that character of Lisel to paint a negative image on women sexuality. We are introduced to Lisel’s plan to escape when she discovers that she can no longer stay in her grandmothers place. She does not like the place and the constant fear of living with the wolves and is determined to take a flight at whatever cost. The author allows us to read into the thoughts of Lises and know what she has in mind. After thinking over how to effect the escape plan, she realizes that she might have difficulties in convincing the coachman to help in her flight. It is at this point that she plans to use her sexuality to convince the man to help her in addition to other expensive gifts (Clarke & Clarke 635). She prepares herself to utilize the nature of the time to seduce the man to sex and secure a flight from the place. Several inferences can be read into this scene. However, there is one that is the most remarkable and which cannot be refuted. It is the idea that the woman’s sexuality can only be used to seek favors from men. The author could have intended to give the impression that women have liberty to use their sexuality as they are pleased but there is also the picture that women are slaves to men in the use of their sexuality.

Lee’s Wolfland can also be criticized for the fact that, while explaining the dominance of male in the society, it overdoes it to the extent that a great portion of the story is telling of stories of male dominance. For instance, when the grandmother is explaining the ordeal she went through when she was living with her husband, she uses so strong language such that, one would think that she is advocating for male dominance. She begins by explaining the period when she was young and pregnant with Lisel’s mother; how the husband used to do nothing but drink and how he would torture her in the night even during and after her pregnancy (Clarke & Clarke 638). She tells through the whole ordeal, how she had to hide the child and finally how she had to become a werewolf in order to overpower him and kill him (Clarke & Clarke 641). Even though Anna is eventually able to overpower her husband and destroy him, the manner in which she does it can also be criticized. This could give the impression that women are too weak such that they have to result to unconventional methods to overpower men and gain the equal position in the society. Even though the transformation of Anna into a werewolf by the werewolf god-des and the enrolling of an heir can be seen as the empowering of other women in the society, there is also the danger of over emphasizing the male dominance to the extent of making the themes lost (Rohane 10).

In conclusion, the Wolfland can be applauded as a fairytale that carries great themes of empowering women to take up their right positions in the society the script is not without criticism. It has been established in this essay that the story can be criticized for allocating some roles in the society such as acting as guards and carrying weapons can only be done by men. It has also established that the story uses the character of Lisel to paint the picture of woman’s sexuality as being slavery to men and capable of only being used to solicit favors. Finally, it has been established that while explaining the evils of male dominance, there is an overemphasis that can lead to the dilution of the great themes contained therein.


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Donovan, Josephine. Feminist Literary Criticism: Explorations in Theory. Lexington, Ky: University Press of Kentucky, 1989. Print.

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Rohane, Shannon. Do not Stray From The Path: Moral Lessons in “Little Red Riding Hood” 2006. Vol. 26. The Write Stuff. Pp. 7-11.

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Clarke, Marlene B, and Arlene G. Clarke. Retellings: A Thematic Literature Anthology. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2004. Print.Bottom of Form

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