1 Malagami

Briar Rose Essays

It is difficult to place Briar Rose in the category of typical fantasy because the plot contains very little concerning magic or the supernatural. The fairy tale around which the novel revolves serves as a metaphor and can be used as a framework for a story in any setting. The basis of this twentieth century novel is a traditional fairy tale full of magic, so Briar Rose can be categorized as fantasy. In addition, one of the main criteria for a fantasy or fairy tale is a protagonist who defeats incredible odds and wins; both the metaphor and plot of Briar Rose contain this ingredient.

Historically, fairy tales were intended for adult audiences and were much more brutal than the versions one might now hear as a child. For example, Walt Disney’s G-rated film Sleeping Beauty (1959) bears almost no resemblance to a sixteenth century Venetian telling, wherein the ensorcelled princess is made pregnant during her sleep and wakes to discover herself a mother. That version probably stems from an even older version with several variations.

The trends leading to Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose had been developing for more than a century. Victorian writers were instrumental in altering stories such as “Sleeping Beauty” to make them fit for young readers. The resulting collections of tales were favored by adults as well because of the fine illustrations.

The early twentieth century saw an outpouring...

(The entire section is 469 words.)

In an interview, Jane Yolen was asked, “What inspired you to write the story as a novel/fairy tale about the Holocaust? She replied,

  • Discuss the effectiveness of Yolen's use of “Sleeping Beauty” motifs in a novel about the Holocaust. How did her decision to do this enhance the power of the novel? “Sleeping Beauty” motifshow the novel's treatment of what Becca discovers relates to important issues that are still relevant today (for example, anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, and extremist movements.

  • Discuss the effectiveness of the novel without focusing on Yolen's use of “Sleeping Beauty” motifs. how the novel's treatment of what Becca discovers relates to important issues that are still relevant today (for example, anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, and extremist movements.

  • Analyze and interpret the character of Josef. Who is Josef and what is his role in the story? Why is he important to the novel? What is his importance in terms of educating Yolen's readers?  In an interview with Yolen, the interviewer said, "Portions of Briar Rose containing homosexual content are one of the reasons it's on the banned books lists." Yolen replied,  "The homosexual content is slight compared to 'homosexual'  books.  That is, there are no real sex scenes, and one bedroom scene that is really about politics, not sex.  But I did not make up the pink triangle camps.  Briar Rose deals pretty directly in one section with the infamous 'Pink Triangle camps' in which the Nazis' incarcerated known or suspected homosexuals.  In fact the "Prince" character is a gay man . . . . Because there is a homosexual character in the book, the novel has been banned in some places, and actually burned in Kansas City on the steps of the Board of Education by a right-wing religious group.  I do not believe they read the book." (Given that the Nazis burned books,  the Kansas group's actions are pretty ironic.) Your discussion of Josef's importance in the novel could also involve a discussion of book censorship.

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