2015 Student Research Conference:
28th Annual Student Research Conference

Little Men: Degeneration and the Dwarfs of Fairy Tales
Danielle C. Bell
Dr. Sara Orel and Dr. Julia DeLancey, Faculty Mentors

Folklorists and archaeologists of nineteenth-century England believed that fairies were folkloric survivors of an ancient race. The scholars of this school of thought believed their theories were proven correct with the 1870 discovery, by George Schweinfurth, of a race of pygmies in central Africa. These pygmies were believed to be the source of the dwarfs and goblins of folk and fairy tales. The evidence of a living race of primordial, savage beings found during this era of archaeological discovery, which corresponded with Darwins theory of evolution, stirred amongst Victorians the fear of cultural regression. This paper will argue that the fear of degeneration was addressed in the artwork of Richard Dadd, John Anster Fitzgerald, and Robert Huskisson who used such influences as the theater, folk descriptions and interpretations, and living pygmies in their representations of dwarfs.

Keywords: fairy tale, fairy, dwarf, goblin, evolution, degeneration, Victorian Era, pygmy

Topic(s):Art - Art History

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 104-2
Location: OP 2210
Time: 8:15

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