Georgetown German professor G. Ronald Murphy, S.J., will receive a national award for his recently published book examining the cultural significance of Grimms’ fairy tales.

The Owl, the Raven and the Dove: The Religious Meaning of the Grimms’ Magic Fairy Tales is one of five 2001 Honor Books recognized by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities. Murphy, a Trenton, N.J., native, will receive his award at a luncheon Oct. 28.

Murphy said he wrote the book partially in response to criticism of fairy tales, which have been characterized by some as overly violent and sexist.

“Fairy tales have been attacked over the last 20 years . but I think [critics] are really wrong . they are reading very modern things against the fairy tales,” he said.

Murphy said that it is important to remember that the brothers Grimm were writing at the beginning of the 18th century.

“Fairy tales have been misunderstood in post-modern culture,” he said.

Murphy said because of their rich and varied composition, fairy tales are an important part of American history.

“These fairy tales contain the heart of western tradition and are helpful for us to stay in contact with our roots,” he said.

Smith College Professor Philip Zaleski said Murphy’s analyses, which trace symbolic meaning of various aspects in Grimms’ best-known fairy tales “Hansel and Gretel,”Little Red Riding Hood,”Cinderella,”Snow White,” and “Sleeping Beauty” give familiar stories a new outlook.

“Murphy has added several dazzling layers of meaning to the tales,” he said.

Murphy said fairy tales do have a place in today’s culture, as the popularity of author J.K. Rawling demonstrates. Judging by its success, The Owl, the Raven and the Dove, currently in its second printing, has also appealed to those outside academia.

“Fr. Murphy has produced a wonderful work of literary investigation into some of our most cherished cultural landmarks, uncovering the deep religious roots of these tales and exploring the spirituality of their authors,” College Dean Jane cAuliffe said.

The annual NJCH Book Award, begun in 1989, honors New Jersey authors in the humanities whose work balances scholarship with general public appeal. The New Jersey Council for the Humanities is a nonprofit organization established in 1973 to develop, support and promote projects exploring and interpreting the human experience, foster cross-cultural understanding, engaging citizens in dialogue about matters of individual choice and public responsibility.

The Georgetown University Bookstore will host Murphy for a book signing Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 5 p.m.

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