The Twelve Dancing Princesses

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The Twelve Dancing Princesses is a German fairy tale published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812 (BBC, 2012:online). The text depicts the story of twelve princesses who are locked in their room every evening by their father, the King. Upon opening the princesses’ door each morning however, to the King’s bewilderment, their dancing shoes are found to be worn and so he promises a princess and the kingdom to any man who could determine the location of their nightly festivities. The fable, through the foregrounding of the soldier’s actions and subsequent remuneration, overtly promulgates the invited reading that ‘initiative and resourcefulness are rewarded’. Conflictingly, its discourses connote more covert hierarchal and patriarchal power relations. With these I have taken issue and will hence propose, through textual intervention, an alternative invited reading which is that ‘actions have their consequences’. Language is a heterogeneous mass of articulations wherein each linguistic term, each sign, is a “two-sided psychological entity” (De Saussure, 1916: p. 964), composed of intimately united elements: the signified (concept) and the signifier (sound-image). The correlative qualities of arbitrariness and difference are what constitute a signifier whose value is acquired “only because it stands in opposition to everything that precedes or follows it” (De Saussure, 1916: p. 974). Moreover, signifiers follow Barthes’ ‘symbolic’ code and form ‘binary opposites’ or Levi Strauss’ ‘dyadic pairs’ which, like the tale in question, express hierarchies as one element of the dyad will be positively marked by society (in this case, the term on the left of the ‘/’) (Phillips, n.d.) (Barry, 1995: p. 46) (Klages, 2006). This is where the reader contributes to “the active attribution of significance to signifiers” (Furman, 1978: p. 184), thus privileging a certain discourse

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