I believe that many of our most popular fairy tales focusing on a central female character share an underlying structure that we can identify as a Fairytale Heroine’s Journey. That journey has a number of stages, which I list on the Journey page. They describe a woman’s life from birth to marriage. Why do these tales share a similar structure? Because they are a fantastical representation of the actual stages of women’s lives at the times and in the cultures when the fairy tales were told and eventually written down. In other words, this is not a universal “heroine’s journey” — I do not believe in universal journeys or story structures. It is a very specific journey coming out of specific cultures and times. Nor is it the only journey for a fairytale heroine — there are other models of female development, other fairy tales focused on central female characters that do not fit this pattern. Why, then, is this Fairytale Heroine’s Journey important? Because this particular pattern, told over and over again in our most popular fairy tales, has become the model of female development in our own culture. It has shaped women’s expectations and experiences. We learned it not only from the fairy tales we read and the films we watched as children, but from Jane Eyre and its legacy of romantic heroines — who may start out as Cinderellas and encounter Beasts to tame, unaware that they have entered Bluebeard’s castle.