Thursday, May 9, 2013

Final Blog


     This class has probably been the best class of the whole semester.  I have learned so much from it.  I learned about Snow White and the different motifs and symbols.  I watched Pretty Woman and related it to the Cinderella story.  I watched Pan's Labyrinth and found it to be one of the best movies I have ever seen in my entire life.  I have learned about Jung and Freud and their theories on fairy tales and archetypes.  I also found a new hero in Angela Carter and her rewriting of fairy tales from a feminist perspective.  I also learned that fairy tales are so much more than stories for children.  I also was introduced to new cultures and their folklore stories.  I especially liked the Native American folklore because it was creative and the language was so descriptive and powerful that you felt like you were there hearing the stories as they were being told long ago.

     I loved the material covered this semester.  I felt like we went to different countries and experienced different cultures.  I loved the Arabian nights with the frame story and how everything connected.  I loved Schezedaze and her cleverness of using stories as a way to save herself and her sister from being killed.  I loved the Jewish folktales and how the rabbis would not just tell you the answer to your problem but instead tell a story to have you figure out the solution.  I admired the bravery and wit of different animals in the Kenyan stories.  I loved the stories of Oscar Wilde and Hans Christian Anderson for they touched me deeply and made me feel something that the other fairy tales we had read never made me feel before.  I loved looking at Pan's Labyrinth and connecting it to Propp's 3l functions because it made the story all the more clearer.  I also loved watching films in class cause some of the films were like a return to my childhood. 

     Some of the material was challenging for me.  An example would be the Indian tales because they didn't seem to have a plot.  Also, the fact that the Indian stories aren't really studied as much made it harder for me to appreciate them.  I also had trouble with some of the theories of Freud and Jung since psychology isn't an area I'm very interested in.  However, most of the material was fun to read because I had been exposed to some of the material before.  I also liked hearing different people's interpretations of fairy tales I had read as a child because it opened a new plane of thinking for me.  I also learned a lot of German words and culture and since I'm part German, this stuff has meaning for me.

     I think I spent enough time reading the required material because I did well on the tests and the midterm.  I also felt like reading the material helped me to understand more of the class.  I especially liked reading the fairy tales because they were a way for me to escape my anxieties and troubles in the real world.  Sometimes I'll admit I didn't read some of the material carefully enough but that was generally because I was too tired or too stressed with other homework.  I feel though I have given my all for this class and it has all paid off this semester.  I feel I can pass this class knowing that I have taken a hard journey that was worth taking and that will influence me in my career path for years to come.  

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Kenyan Folktales


     I thought that Dr. Ochieng's lecture on Kenyan folktales was fascinating and interesting.  Some of the stories teach children morals and explain interesting phenomena that happen in nature that the elders of a tribe could not explain since science was not available such as the story with the bat who has to come out at night because he is hiding from a tribe of rats.  The bat killed the rat by tricking him into bathing himself into a pot of hot water in order to make some good soup and as a result, the rats went out hunting for him and the bat realizes that if it he goes out at night then the rats won't find him.  These stories however are different from the fairy tales we have read so far because these stories don't contain princesses or heroes or castles or villains.  They contain animals and don't have the hero's journey really.  They seem to be more oral than written which folktales generally are.  Fairy tales are more written than oral.

     However, the Kenyan folktales seem to resemble a lot of the Native American folktales because both tell about the beliefs and traditions of each.  They are also wise and very entertaining.  They are also very imaginative.  The language in both the Kenyan and Native American folktales is very focused in imagery which makes sense since these are oral stories which means that the people listening would have to use their imagination to picture the creatures and events happening in the story.  I found his lecture and presentation more interactive than the one Dr. Alles gave on the folklore of India.  Also, the folklore of Kenya actually made more sense than the Indian ones.  I found I could follow and identify with the characters that Dr. Ochieng presented to us.  However, the Indian ones sounded random and like a drunk person's ramble (I apologize but that's really what it sounded like to me).  What I also liked about the Kenyan presentation was that we learned new words for mom or dad or wife while in the Indian presentation, we never really learned new words.  Also, it appeared that Dr. Ochieng's topic has been closely studied and presented by not just him before while Dr. Alles is the only one in the United States who is translating these Indian tales into English and presenting on them.

      Also, the presentation that Dr. Ochieng gave was more organized.  He knew what he was doing and didn't sound like he was laughing half-way through like Dr. Alles was sounding to me.  Dr. Ochieng also even told us the stories the way that the stories would be told in a traditional Kenyan tribe, making me feel like I was really there in Kenya listening to the stories being told.  I also liked the fact that he praised Chinua Achebe who's book, Things Fall Apart, I have read and loved.  This lecture on Kenyan folklore really enriched my knowledge of folk and fairy tales because I feel like I have gotten to see another culture and understand its own traditions and beliefs, many of which I share such as the value of thinking fast on your feet and being intelligent.  The Kenyans seemed to be very intelligent even if they didn't have modern technology and I feel that the British could have learned a lot from them just like the Americans could have learned a lot from the Native Americans.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Jewish Tales vs European Tales


     Reading the Jewish tales we have read, I was interested in how they were very different from European tales.  In one way, I was interested in the antisemitism that was portrayed in each story.  In the story, "A Dispute in Sign Language," the story begins with the priest saying he hates Jews.  To me that is interesting since in most of the European tales we have read, there is no statement of racism or any hatred of a group of human beings.  In fact, we generally don't know if the heroes in the fairy tales are jewish, catholic, black, white, or anything.  Generally, I feel as if I can picture myself as the princess in any story.  In the Jewish tales, you have to be Jewish.

    Also, I like the way that the Rabbi is the main character of most of these stories.  We learn about the Rabbi as an individual and how he makes an impact on the community.  Also, unlike European fairy tales, the  Jewish stories actually focus on the community.  In European fairy tales, they generally focus on the individual.  I also like the fact that the Rabbi can sometimes be portrayed as a trickster figure such as in that story where he swallows a piece of paper that has guilty written on it.

   The stories also show the Jewish tradition.  We can use these folktales as documents to what Jewish people back in the time of these oral stories believed or practiced.  I also like the morals they teach like the story about Rabbi Adam teaches its readers that magic can be risky and life-threatening.  Only in Harry Potter have I seen this presented just as well.  I also like how these stories have someone solve a problem with a story.  For example, I like how instead of the Rabbi just telling the man in the story called "It Could Be Worse" how to solve his problem of his house and family problems in a straightforward way, he teaches him to be grateful for what he has by having him put his animals in his house so he can truly see how much worse off he could be.  Now I will admit that sometimes I do like a straightforward answer, but sometimes I also like the way that people come up with a creative solution to a problem.  I think that if the rabbi had just told the man to be grateful for what he had instead of teaching him how to be grateful, the man would not have absorbed and really taken that lesson to heart.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Cinderella: A Rags to Riches Tale

     Cinderella.  Almost everyone has heard of this story.  A beautiful young girl is mistreated by her stepmother and stepsisters.  She works tirelessly as their servant and doesn't even get a nice place to sleep.  One day the prince holds a royal ball looking for a bride and every maiden in the kingdom is invited to attend.  When Cinderella hears this, she begs to go and her evil stepmother gives her impossible tasks to accomplish leaving her little to no time to get ready.  Soon, Cinderella is left alone crying and then a fairy godmother comes and transforms a pumpkin into a coach and gives her a beautiful dress and glass (or gold or red or wooden) shoes to wear.  She goes to the ball and the prince dances with her AND ONLY HER

     Soon, the clock strikes midnight and she has to leave, but upon leaving leaves behind one of her shoes.  The prince declares that he shall marry no one but the girl whose foot fits in the shoe.  Soon, the Prince comes to Cinderella's house and the stepsisters try to make the shoe fit but fail and soon Cinderella comes and tries on the slipper and it fits perfectly.  She marries the prince and lives happily ever after.

     Many people have called this tale an example of the very popular "rags to riches" tale where a character from a low background rises to the top of society (generally through magic or marriage or luck or hard work).  An example of this can be found in the movie "Pretty Woman" staring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere.  Not surprisingly enough, this story does take a lot of its plot from the "Cinderella" story.  Julia Roberts plays Vivian (the "Cinderella" of this story), a witty and strong-willed prostitute (a low background) who one night is picked up by a ruthless yet handsome business man (the "Prince" in this story) named Edward (Richard Gere).  She sleeps with him and then the next morning he proposes a business deal to her.  He will give her $3,000 if she agrees to stay with him for the week and be his escort to certain social events.  She agrees, not believing her good luck.  He tells her to go buy some fancy clothes for the first social event:  a dinner with the grandson and the owner of a company that Edward wishes to buy.  She goes out to a fancy dress place, but because of her appearance and seemingly low background, she is turned away by the snobby owners of the store. 

      Upset and downcast, she returns to the hotel where she is accosted by the seemingly snobby hotel manager who tells her that once Edward leaves the hotel for good, she is never to come back.  Her kind is not welcome there.  This seems to be the breaking point for Vivian as she breaks down into tears and tells the Hotel Manager her woes about not being able to get nice clothes for the dinner she is going to with Edward.  She shows him all the money she has and seeming to take pity on her, he calls a friend who helps her get ready for the dinner.

     Later, after sleeping with Edward again, she tells Edward about her experience at the shop and he takes her to another fancy clothing store and with the credit card (the key to the high life) she is able to buy many fancy clothes and comes out completely transformed into a beautiful woman of high society.  To keep in with her character however, she goes to the store that turned her down before and rubs it in their faces what a "big mistake" they made by turning her away.  She turns heads as she walks back to the hotel and even the Hotel manager smiles approvingly at her as she walks pass him.

     Soon, Edward and Vivian start to fall in love with each other and one night, the definitive night where everything changes, she wears a beautiful red dress with white gloves and then Edward puts on her a very expensive necklace which he got on loan.  Leaving the hotel, you can see how everyone working there is seemingly rooting for her and see her as the beautiful woman she really is (a transformation motif here as well as when she gets the clothes from the fancy dress store).  After they go to the opera, they come back to the hotel and make love for the first time (the previous times they had sex it wasn't as lover-lover).  Soon, the week ends and we find that Edward has changed as well (more personality wise) and has decided that money isn't everything.  He decides to become a partner of the company he wants to buy instead of buy it (this shows how much he has changed).  His lawyer, who is angry about this, goes to his hotel and tries to rape Vivian (damsel in distress) and Edward comes to her rescue, firing his lawyer (Knight on a white horse symbol (Edward not the lawyer).

     In the end of the story, Edward goes to Vivian's apartment and climbs up the stairwell outside her window (which is amazing given his fear of heights) and comes to her with roses in his hand.  She goes down to him and hugs him and kisses him and he asks her what happens after the prince rescues the princess from the tower, to which she replies that she rescues him right back.  So we are left with the implication that they are going to get married and have kids.  This is a rags to riches story because she changes like Cinderella from a low class person to a person of high society (by becoming involved with Edward) through luck, love, and eventually (implied) marriage.

    While this is a nice motif, it isn't too realistic.  I don't think a person can reach success or riches with just marriage or magic or charm.  I think in order  to get to the top, one needs to work hard and make a lot of money and have a lot of luck on their side.  Relying on getting through the top through marriage is not only lazy but also unrealistic.  There is a very low chance that an ordinary girl will marry a billionaire.  And if this happens, generally the billionaire (like Hugh Hefner for instance) is very old and wants someone young.  Also, thinking you need charm and not intelligence kind of insults me and sounds anti-feminist.  I believe that a woman should get to the top by intelligence, friends, and hard work.  Don't get me wrong, there are stories where people have gotten to the top by marriage and charm, but as sweet and romantic as that is, it's not very common in real life.  I mean, let's face it, no one gets anywhere anymore except with hard work.  The only instance in which I can think of someone getting to the top by marriage is Kate Middleton (a commoner) marrying Prince William.  However, she got very lucky I think. 

     "Rags to Riches" may seem like a wonderful motif to pass on in a fairy tale like Cinderella or a romantic comedy like "Pretty Woman" but it's just not realistic to me.  It takes hard work and money and luck to reach the top.  It doesn't just happen randomly.     

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Bluebeard as the Villain

    Bluebeard is an interesting villain.  He's like no villain I have ever encountered before in fairy tales.  He's cunning, psychotic, and daring.  He's probably the first and only serial killer to be found in fairy tale lore.  He marries a woman and then kills her and hides her in a chamber and then goes and marries another woman and the pattern continues until one woman is brave enough and clever enough to stop him.  One of the things that interests me about this story is it takes a woman, not a man, but a woman to defeat him.  Not that I'm trying to be sexist here, believe me I'm happy that a woman defeats him, but generally women are the rescuees, not the rescuers.  I also find the sexual symbols (such as the key (or egg in some versions) and the blood that covers the key or egg when the heroine or a future victim of Bluebeard enters the chamber) interesting and enlightening. 

     Out of all the stories about Bluebeard that we have read, I find that I have enjoyed the one called "Fitcher's Bird" by the Brothers' Grimm the best.  The tale starts with a wizard who disguises himself as a beggar so he can steal girls.  He arrives one day to the house of this woman who has 3 girls and asks for bread and when the eldest gives him some bread, she is instantly whisked into his basket and he carries her back to his house where he reveals himself to be a wizard and he promises to give her everything she wants and so for a while they live together.

     Then one day, the wizard tells the eldest sister that he is going to go out for a while and gives her the keys to the house and an egg saying that she is allowed to go anywhere in the house she wishes except for "the room that this little key opens.  I forbid it under penalty of death."  So, while he is gone, the eldest explores the house and eventually comes to the little room.  She remembers her promise to the wizard but she is so overcome by curiosity that she opens the door and discovers that behind the door is a bloody chamber in which the hacked bodies of the girls the wizard has stolen are.  Horrified, she drops the egg which becomes covered in blood, and no matter how much she washes it, the spot on the egg will not disappear.  Soon, the wizard comes home and finding the spot of blood, realizes that the eldest has disobeyed him and kills her and adds her to his collection of dead ladies.

    Soon, the wizard comes back to the house where the eldest sister was and takes the middle sister and the same fate befalls her as it did the eldest.  Then, he takes the youngest one who is mentioned to be clever and cunning.  She is given the egg and the key but she does something wise.  She PUTS THE EGG AWAY BEFORE GOING DOWN TO THE CHAMBER and when she goes down to the chamber, instead of panicking, she immediately gets to work putting back her sisters together (literally).  As a result, the wizard doesn't think that she went into the chamber and she passes his test and as a result he has to do what she asks.  So before she agrees to marry him, she asks him to carry a basket full of gold and jewels over to her mother and since he has to do what she says, he agrees.  However, what he does not know is that the youngest has brought her sisters back to life and has put them in the sack that the wizard is to carry back to her mother's house.  The plan is for the sisters to get help for the youngest once they arrive home.  Before he leaves, she tells him that she will be watching him from the window and to not stop to rest.
    So, he begins his journey and because of the sisters' added weight, the bag is of course heavy.  And everytime he tries to rest, the youngest or her sisters say "I'm looking out my little window and I see that you are resting.  Get a move on."  As a result, the man wearily treks on until he reaches the house.  While he is gone, the youngest sets her trap.  She gets a skull and decorates it and puts it at the window that she is looking out of so it will fool the wizard into thinking that she is still watching him as he returns home even though she will be long gone by that time.  She then "crawl[s] into a barrel of honey, cut[s] open a featherbed and roll[s] in the feathers until she look[s] like a strange bird that not a soul would recognize."  Soon, she escapes in her disguise and runs into the wedding guests and they have this exchange of words:

Oh, Fitcher's feathered bird, where are you from?
From feathered Fitze Fitcher's house I've come.
And the young bride there, what has she done?
She's swept the house all the way through,
And from the attic window, she's looking right at you.

     She also runs into the wizard and tells him what she has told the other guests.  (The rhyme is basically the same except instead of "the" in the third line with the verse "And the young bride," that word is replaced with "my" which makes sense since it is the bridegroom who is talking).  Returning home, the wizard sees the skull and thinking it is his bride, waves to her and goes inside.  By this time, the youngest sister's brothers and relatives have arrived and they set fire to the house, killing the wizard and his cohorts. 
 (Note:  I found an interesting graphic novel about this tale and have included some of the pages throughout my summarizing of the story.  There is a real bird in the graphic novel that tells the youngest sister about the oldest sister.  Also, I believe it is a real bird that talks to the guests and the bridegroom instead of the bride herself.  However, I felt that this novel was close enough to the Grimm tale that it would be okay to put it here)

     I liked this story out of all the ones we have read for many reasons.  One reason was because the heroine in this story was brave and intelligent.  She finds out that her husband is a serial killer and instead of panicking, she actually puts her sisters' body parts back together (A grim task surely) and then comes up with a clever plan to get the sisters home with the wizard's aid (although of course he doesn't know he is helping the sisters get home).  I also liked the fact that it was the youngest sister who was the cleverest since I'm the youngest sister in my family.  It just goes to show you that sometimes it is the younger ones that have the most cunning.  I also liked the rhyme that she told to the guests and the bridegroom when she meets them in her disguise.  I found it wise and funny and ironic.  I also the fact that instead of the female being blamed for having curiosity and disobeying her husband, she is instead praised for defying her husband's wishes and saving her sisters.  It is a kind of feminist story since the youngest sister is the one who controls her fate and the fate of her sisters.

     The story of Bluebeard is very different from the previous fairy tales we have read.  One way it is different is that instead of the male saving the female, the female has to save herself.   Also, it takes the idea of marriage and gives us a dark and violent view of it.  It doesn't have a happy ending for the bride and groom like in Beauty and the Beast.  Instead, it has only a happy ending for the bride and that is because she is able to return home (which some view as a regression of the self).  It is also probably the first type of tale that portrays a serial killer and a male villain.  In most of the other tales we have read, the female (generally the mother or stepmother) is portrayed as the villain and the male is hardly present.  Also, the female villains in the stories we have read generally look to kill only one person, the protagonist.  In the Bluebeard story, the villain kills many people.  He doesn't set his sights on just one female.  I also like how this story doesn't end with everything being light and happy and tied up with a bow.   

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sonne and Snow White


     Let me say first that this song "Sonne" by Rammstein . . . completely different from what I expected.  First off, I didn't know what "Sonne" meant in English (I now know that it means "Sun").  Also, seeing Snow White and the dwarfs like that . . . well let's just say it was different from the Disney version *blushes*

    However, there were some similarities between the video and the Grimms' version of the story and the Disney version that I would like to point out.   One was the story in the video involved the primary characters in the traditional Snow White fairy tale:  The dwarfs and Snow White.  Also, like in the Grimm story and in the Disney version, the dwarfs were miners in the video.  The Snow White in the music video even wears the Disney Snow White costume so you can tell right away that it is Snow White.  She also goes into a "sleeping death" like in the stories we have read and the dwarfs build her a glass coffin and put it on top of a mountain and lay vigil to it.  Also, she wakes up like in the original versions, but not because of a kiss, but of an apple falling onto her coffin and shattering it.  The apple is also used as a motif in the video just as it is used in the Disney version and the Grimm Brothers' version.

     To me though, there were more differences than similarities in the video when one compares it to Disney and Grimm.  One was the way in which Snow White was portrayed.  In both the Disney and Grimms' versions of the story, Snow White is said to be a lovely, kind girl who is loved by everyone (expect her jealous stepmother of course) and when she meets the dwarfs, she treats them with respect and plays the role of mother for them.  She cooks and cleans and sews in order to stay with them.  In the video, Snow White is . . . well to put it frankly . . . a BITCH.  When she enters the house in the beginning of the video we get the feeling that she is a very commanding and active figure, different from the other versions of her we have seen.  The dwarfs actually serve her, mining diamonds for her.  When one of the dwarfs shows her the day's haul, instead of taking it and being kind and grateful like we would normally expect her to be, she instead punches that dwarf in the face, causing him to land on the table.  She then spanks one of the dwarfs as the others wait in line for their spanking.  Very different from the kisses she gives the dwarfs in the movie.  She is shown to be a sexual figure and very dominant.  Also, the dwarfs comb her hair for her and polish her apples while she looks on commandingly.  When the dwarfs embrace her, they look like servants embracing her out of fear rather than out of love.  She looks down at them like dirt and smiles wickedly as she caresses their heads with no love behind the touches.  She reminds one of the wicked queen, who surprisingly, is not featured at all in the video.  Also, she doesn't seem to play the traditional woman's role at all in the video.  In fact, I do not see one scene where she is cooking and cleaning for them.  In the video, she is in charge and woe to the dwarf or dwarves who anger her.

     Also, the dwarfs don't seem to like to mine for jewels in the music video as they do in the Disney version.  In the Disney version, they seem to like being underground and looking for gems (they even sing a merry song about how they love to dig, dig, dig).  They don't have soot covering them and they aren't sweating or at all looking uncomfortable.  All in all, an unrealistic portrayal of mining.  However, in the music video, there is a more realistic portrayal of mining.  The dwarfs are sweaty and tired and have soot on their bodies and faces.  They look unhappy and are using more advanced machines than pickaxes.  One gets the feeling that they would rather be doing anything than mining.  Also, the gems they find aren't as big or shiny as in the Disney film.

     Another difference is the fact that this video shows Snow White as a drug user.  When she sits down to dinner with the dwarfs, we see her snort up some gold-colored dust (probably meant to symbolize cocaine) and react to it like a drug addict would.  Snow White is not at all portrayed as a drug user in any of the stories we have read or seen.  In fact, drugs are not at all mentioned in the story.  Also, it is because of drugs that she dies.  She is laying naked in a soapy bath outside the dwarfs' house dead and when the dwarfs investigate, one of them finds an injection needle on a plate with some residue of dust (drugs) which implies that she died in the tub while taking an overdose of drugs.  In the stories, she "dies" because of a poison apple that the queen, who is disguised as a peasant woman, gives to her.  In the video she seems to die by her own hand while in the stories, she dies as the result of others (meaning she dies because of the apple from the queen who made the apple poisonious).

     Also, one notices that in the music video, there is no prince to save her from her "sleeping death" like in the traditional fairy tale.  In fact, as mentioned before, she wakes up because an apple falls onto her coffin, shattering it and exposing her body to the cold air.  She wakes up shocked to find herself wrapped up in silks and in a coffin while the dwarfs look at her, shocked that she is awake but making no attempt to embrace her like in the original stories.  Also, there is no implied happily ever after for one can assume that the pattern that is shown in the video will continue (meaning the dwarfs will keep mining diamonds for her and she will treat them cruelly).  This music video is very depressing and offers no sense of hope or redemption.  It portrays Snow White as the head of the household (a position not generally given to women in the original stories) and as a very sexual and treacherous creature (which is shown by her scanty costume and the way she treats the dwarfs).  In fact, one could say that this Snow White is the wicked queen.  It's as if it is the queen's personality in Snow White's body.

     Speaking of the queen, as mentioned before, she is not at all shown in the music video.  She isn't there to contrast the loveliness and purity of Snow White as she does in the Disney and Grimms' versions.  The main and only woman in the music video is Snow White.  Period.  She isn't at all like traditional stories portray her to be. 

     When comparing the music video to the stories, I find that surprisingly I kind of like the Grimms' version and the Disney version better.  This is because in those versions she is portrayed as very sweet and kind.  She is willing to serve others and is generous.  However, I don't like the fact that she is portrayed as a passive figure in those stories.  I find it anti-feminist.  When considering which I liked better though, I found myself in a conflict for on the one hand, I like how in the music video she was active and her own boss, but on the other hand, I hated how she treated the dwarfs like slaves and cared only for herself.  Similarly, in the traditional stories of Snow White, I liked how on the one hand, she was kind and thoughful, but on the other hand, I hated how passive and conforming she was to being a traditional woman.  So, I think I don't like either the stories or the music video because the stories portray Snow White as sweet but passive and the music video portrays Snow White as active, but a bitch.  I find that I could only like her if she was portrayed as sweet and active at the same time. 


Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Jungian View of Fairy Tales

    According to Jung, there are many things that make up fairy tales and how they connect to us on a psychological level.  One thing is archetypes.  An archetype is defined as an "unconscious mode of understanding that regulate[s] perception" (Mazeroff  "Fairy Tales").  It is part of the collective unconscious and comes from "universal experiences . . . and [is] . . . expressed in dreams, myths, and fairy tales" ("Fairy Tales").  Some of the most common archetypes are the wise old man, the mother figure, the forest, the so called shadow, and the ever lovable trickster figure ("Fairy Tales").

     Besides archetypes though, the most important thing to Jung is the so called "hero's journey" that the main character of a fairy tale must take (Mazeroff "Fairy Tales").  The journey is meant to change the character from a immature individual to a mature individual.  The journey beings with the hero leaving his old world (his comfort zone) and going out into the unknown (outside his comfort zone).  He is helped by animals or people he encounters along the way.  He also is faced with tasks and temptations that the hero eventually cannot complete or resist.  An example of this is the old and popular task of staying awake all night to help defend the princess of an enchanted castle.  When the hero fails the task, the hero dies in a sense (meaning his old self, his immature self dies) and like a phoenix, he is reborn (he becomes mature and learns his mistakes and takes care not to repeat them) ("Fairy Tales").  It is important and necessary for him to fail just like it is important for Red Riding Hood to go off the path.  If he did not do this, he wouldn't learn anything and the opportunity to grow would be wasted.  He begins to make up for his errors and soon achieves the ultimate goal and is rewarded (often with jewels, a life-long companion, or a kingdom).  He also returns to his old world (often with the help of magic) and is now able to be master of both worlds, the world he inhabits and the world he encountered on his journey ("Fairy Tales").  Jung views fairy tales as dealing with "growth and transformation" and dealing with problems that are represented by archetypes ("Fairy Tales").  Basically, one could say that fairy tales to Jung are self-help manuals for how to deal with life and its difficulties.

     However, while reading this, many people will be asking for supportive proof of Jung's theories of the fairy tale.  One fairy tale that proves this idea of growth and maturity is "The Frog Princess."  The story begins with a king having three sons, but no queen.  The king has his three sons shoot arrows into the sky and whoever returns the arrows to each of the sons will be their brides.  The sons do what he says without hesitation, showing that the sons, especially the youngest, Prince Ivan, are immature because they do what their father tells them without questioning the logic.  The oldest son marries a princess, the second oldest marries a general's daughter, and Ivan marries . . . a frog.  Literally a frog.  Now one may ask, why did the author of the fairy tale choose a frog?  Well looking at it from a Jungian point of view, we can see the frog as an archetype of uglyness/impurity.  People generally associate frogs with filth and warts and dirtiness.  So, this marriage to the frog will challenge Ivan's main problem, his obsession with superficiality and his lack of assertiveness.  After all, Ivan could have said no to marrying the frog and run away, but he blindly followed his father's orders.

     Soon, the king has each daughter-in-law perform certain tasks for him.  Ivan despairs each time because he doesn't think that his frog wife can do anything.  After all, to him, she is just a frog.  However, before each task, she tells Ivan to go to sleep and let her handle it, which he does and which again shows his unassertive side.  While he is asleep, the frog sheds her skin (transformation) and is revealed to be a beautiful maiden named Elena the Fair, and she has servants who perform the tasks (helpers) and as to be expected, the frog princess outdoes the other wives every single time.  Soon however, the king wants to see which of the wives dances best and this time, Ivan is sure he is going to lose.  However, his wife tells him to not worry and that she will be at the ball presently.  Soon, the frog (now again in her true form as a beautiful maiden) comes to the ball, and Prince Ivan is delighted with the discovery that his wife is actually beautiful.  Also, the princess outdoes the two wives again.  She slips bones and the last drops of water down her sleeves and the foolish wives do the same and Elena dances and causes birds and animals to appear with the help of the bones and the water.  The two other wives dance as well but instead, all that falls out of their sleeves are bones and water and naturally, the king is not pleased with this.

     Soon, Prince Ivan goes and burns the frog skin and this turns out to be a foolish decision because Elena tells him that now she must leave him and he has to find her.  This moment shows how immature Ivan is because instead of being patient and waiting for his wife to get rid of the skin on her own time, he is superficial and decides to get rid of it himself.  It also shows how he isn't ready for marriage because he doesn't really understand what it means to love someone.  To maturely love someone, you must look beyond the physical and love the psychological, the personality.  So, Ivan soon begins to go out into the woods (archetype) and begin the hero's journey.  He soon encounters each of Elena's sisters who tell him that she is forgetting him and getting married soon and he soon finds her at the eldest sister's cottage.  However, in order to get Elena back, he must turn her from a spindle into a human which he does (transformation).  Soon, they live happily ever after with Ivan having become more mature and learning about how to not be superficial and to be more assertive.  This connects to Jung in that the hero's journey is used in the fairy tale and the prince fails to keep his bride at first (death of immature self) and is reborn as a mature individual and goes through the woods (the unconscious) and soon finds her again having becoming assertive and caring (mature individual).

Work Cited
   Mazeroff, Paul.  "Fairy Tales."  Lecture in SIS 2015.  McDaniel College.  26 Feb. 2013.  Lecture.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Little Red Riding Hood Cartoon


     For my cartoon about Little Red Riding Hood,  I chose this humorous cartoon that gives perhaps a growing child's perspective on this classic fairy tale.  In this cartoon, the mother is reading the fairy tale to her child and instead of siding with Red Riding Hood, the child sides with the wolf instead.  The child lists his reasons for siding with the wolf as the fact that the story puts a label on the wolf and that we don't get the wolf's point of view, just Red's.  He calls it "typical media bias" but I see it as the result of a growing child's changing perspective on the story.  Perhaps when he was little, he didn't think about the wolf being labeled or the one point of view we get but now as he is getting older, his perspective is changing.

     One of the interesting things in this cartoon is the reverse of adult-child roles in that instead of the adult thinking this story has "typical media bias," the child thinks this.  The adult looks confused as a child might if the adult (a mother in this case) had said what the child in the cartoon said.  Instead of going along with the story like a child would, the child instead questions how the tale is written and why we aren't given the wolf's side of the story.  The child takes over the adult's role as questioner in this cartoon and shocks the mother.  Also, the fact that the mother is reading the tale may reinforce the idea of women reading or telling their children tales back before the invention of electricity or beds or even books.

     Also, there is the picture of the wolf above the child's bed.  Why is that there?  Perhaps this is showing that the child favors the wolf over Little Red Riding Hood.  He prefers the forbidden over the acceptable.  Perhaps the child is the wolf, expressing the wolf's point of view from the story.  After all, we never hear the wolf's side of things.  We just assumes he wants to eat Red Riding Hood and her grandmother because the story tells us that this is what wolves think about.  There are always two sides to every story after all.

     I like this cartoon a lot because it shows how I would view Little Red Riding Hood now as an adult.  Growing up, I used to take the story of Red Riding Hood for granted.  I would always side with the hero because like Bettleheim says, "the more simple and straightforward a good character, the easier it is for a child to identify with it and to reject the bad other" (Bettleheim 11).  Little Red Riding Hood was always portrayed as a sweet girl who everyone loves and how is the wolf portrayed?  As an evil bastard who likes to eat children and grandmothers.  Now, I have started to question the portrayal of the wolf and even the relationship between Red and the Wolf.  I like to see the wolf's point of view in this story and even more I would like to see if a relationship of love and companionship could or could not form between Red and the Wolf.  I've read many interesting fanfics focusing on this idea and I think I like them more than the actual fairy tale itself.  Like the child in the cartoon, I have grown up not taking fairy tales for granted and instead have thought more about the what ifs.  What if Little Red Riding Hood had gotten to the house before the wolf?  What if the wolf hadn't eaten the grandmother or Red?  What if the hunter was the villain in the story instead of the wolf?  The questions are endless and I kind of like this about fairy tales.  You can always reinvent the tale and shape it the way you want to.  Who says that all fairy tales have to have one point of view?  Who says that Red couldn't be the villain and the wolf the hero?  After all, the only limit we have is our imagination.  This cartoon shows me the idea of thinking beyond the story and not just accepting it at face value.

Work Cited

Bettelheim, Bruno.  The Uses of Enchantment:  The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales.  New York:  Vintage Books, 1975.  Print. 



Sunday, February 17, 2013

IT'S THE CHILD'S TIME TO SHINE! or The child as a hero

     In most fairy tales, the heroes of the stories are teens or adults which makes sense because teens and adults struggle through more than children.  Childhood is generally considered as a time of innocence and exploration.  Children are encouraged to learn about the world and themselves but are also not given the responsibilties that teens and adults are generally given.  However, just because a lot of the fairy tale stories contain adult heroes doesn't mean that ALL of them do.  In fact, there are a few we can examine that show the child as a hero.


     One of the stories that has the child as a hero is Hansel and Gretel.  Now, I'm sure a lot of people reading this are familar with this story.  A mother (stepmother usually) and her husband are facing a time of famine and leave their children alone in the woods with the hope that the children starve to death or are eaten by the wild animals.  The first time this is attempted, Hansel cleverly goes out the night before the carrying out of the plan and collects stones.  Then as the children are being lead into the woods, Hansel drops the stones one by one in order to make a path to lead him and his sister Gretel back home.  The plan works, but it only makes the stepmother angerier and she convinces her husband to try again.  This time, Hansel can't get pebbles and has to use bread that the stepmother gives them.  However, the birds eat the bread crumbs and Hansel and Gretel are truly lost in the woods.

   For a time, they wander around the woods looking for food and trying to avoid getting eaten.  Soon, they stumble upon a gingerbread house and begin eating the house out of hunger.  Soon, an old woman comes out of the house and at first the children are frightened, but the woman appears to be kind and takes them inside and feeds them and lets them sleep on warm beds.  However, we soon learn that appearances can be deceiving in that instead of being a kind old woman, the woman is really a witch who eats children and she was pretending to be kind in order to lure the children into her house.

     Soon, the witch begins to treat the children badly, locking Hansel up and feeding him in order to fatten him up and making poor Gretel perform chores and have little to no food at all.  However, all is not lost as the children appear to be clever.  For example, Hansel uses a bone as his finger in order to trick the witch into thinking that he hasn't gained weight at all and since the witch has bad eyesight, this works.  However, the witch grows impatient and decides to eat Hansel and has Gretel prepare the oven to cook Hansel in.

     Here, we see Gretel's opportunity to show her intelligence and show it she does.  The witch wants her to go into the oven and see if it is hot enough for baking (of course what the witch really wants to do is lock Gretel inside the oven and bake her).  However, Gretel realizes what the witch is up to and pretends to not know how to enter the oven.  The witch falls for Gretel's "stupidity" and climbs into the oven, resulting in Gretel pushing her and locking her in and the witch burns to death, freeing the children.

     Gretel frees Hansel and the two find jewels in the witch's house and they fill up their pockets with as much as they can carry and they soon leave the house and head for home.  Eventually, they encounter a river that they can't cross without help and Gretel gets a duck to help them by carrying them each across the river one at a time.  The children eventually make it to their house and their father is overjoyed at seeing them and since the mother has died (most likely of starvation) the three can live together in happiness for the rest of their lives. 

     Now, when reading this story, one may ask how Hansel and Gretel fit the role of hero (and heroine) in this tale.  Well, for one, the story uses Hansel and Gretel as the protaganists or the people that play the main roles in the story.  In this story, the reader follows Hansel and Gretel through their abandonment in the forest to their returning home after killing the witch.  Also, instead of having an adult come and save them, like the woodcutter saves Little Red and her grandmother from the wolf, Hansel and Gretel rely on their own intelligence and planning to get themselves out of the situation they are in with the witch.  Hansel takes advantage of the witch's poor eyesight by having her mistake a bone for his finger.  Gretel takes advantage of the witch's impatience and greed by having her get into the oven.  Also, like in most fairy tales, Hansel and Gretel are rewarded like most heroes with jewels and riches.  They are also able to return home and be with their father and be happy for all their lives. 

Another (more bizarre) story in which the child is the hero is "The Juniper Tree."  This story is very different from Hansel and Gretel, but never the less, a child is the one who plays the hero.  In the beginning of the story, we have a couple who longs for a child, but hasn't been able to have one.  One day, the wife sits under the juniper tree (the tree of said title) and she pricks herself, causing blood to fall from her finger.  She wishes for a child with black hair and red lips and she gets her wish, but unfortunately, she dies giving birth to the child, who is a boy.  (Now most who read the beginning of the Juniper Tree will find a startling similarity to the story of Snow White.  The Grimms often used and reused different plot devices in their stories and the black hair and red lips is just one of these devices).

     Soon, the father of the boy gets married again to a woman who has a child with the father, a girl named Marlene.  The stepmother shows great love to her own child, but she hates the boy because she fears he will take all of his father's inheritence.  So one day, Marlene and her stepbrother are coming home from school and Marlene asks her mother for an apple.  At first the stepmother gives Marlene the apple but upon seeing the brother, comes up with a devilish plot.  She snatches away the apple from the girl and says that her brother shall have one first.  So the boy goes up to the chest to pick an apple, and the stepmother closes the chest on his neck, causing the boy's head to fly off of his body and into the chest.  Soon after this, the stepmother reties the head of the boy onto his body with a hankerchief and has him sit by the window with an apple in his hand.

     Soon, Marlene comes to her mother, who is now making supper, and tells her that her brother is acting strange and won't give her an apple.  Her mother tells her to go and talk to her brother again and to slap him if he doesn't respond.  Marlene does this and his head flies off his body again.  Terrifed, Marlene runs to her mother and tells her what has happened and the quick-thinking stepmother decides to chop the boy up and put him in a stew.  Soon, the father comes home wondering where his son is, but the stepmother comes up with an excuse and serves her husband the stew.  The husband begins eating it and finds it so delicious that he soon eats the whole thing greedly, unaware that he is eating his own son. 

     After supper, Marlenne takes the bones of her brother and wraps them up in a hankerchief and buries them under the juniper tree.  Soon, the bones disappear and a bird appears (her brother reborn) and it flies off to a goldsmith and it sings a song that is sung throughout the story :

My mother, she slew me
My father, he ate me
My sister Marlene,
Gathered all my bones,
Tied them in a silken scarf,
Laid them beneath the juniper tree,
Tweet, tweet, what a beautiful bird am I
     Soon, the goldsmith asks the bird to sing it again and the bird does so in exchange for the gold chain the smith is working on.  Then the bird flies away with the chain in its claw and lands near a shoemaker and sings the same song again.  Like the goldsmith, the shoemaker is entranced by the song and asks the bird to sing it again and the bird agrees to do so in exchange for some red shoes he made.  Then it flies away with the chain and the shoes in its claws.  Soon, it comes to a mill and begins singing the song and the millers hear it.  Like the other two men, the millers beg the bird to sing the song again but like the other two times, the bird refuses to unless they give him something, this time the milestone.  They do and the bird flies away to its house with the chain and shoes in its claws and the milestone around its neck.
     This time, the bird sits on the juniper tree and begins singing the song for the stepmother, the father, and for Marlene to hear.   By this time, the stepmother feels guilty for killing the boy and when she hears the bird singing she starts going crazy riping at her breast and falling on the floor and pulling her hair.  The father and Marlene don't seem to notice and each go outside to see the bird and the bird gives the father the chain and Marlene the shoes.  The two go back into the house saying how beautiful the bird is and how it gave them lovely gifts.  The stepmother decides to go outside and get some fresh air and the bird drops the milestone on her head, killing her, and the bird is transformed back into the boy, and he and his father and stepsister live happily ever after.

     In this story, the hero is obviously the boy.  He is the protaganist and we see him get killed and join him on his journey to get his revenge on his stepmother.  He uses the gift of song to trick various people into giving him gifts and he uses these gifts to reward his father and sister and destroy his stepmother.  The sister is also a hero in that it is because of her act of burying her brother under the juniper tree that allows the brother to transform into a bird and get his vengence.  Also, like Hansel and Gretel, no adults help the boy solve the problem, unless if you count the goldsmith, shoemaker, and the millers.  But it is mostly through the boy's own intelligence and ingenuity that he is able to return back to his boy form.

     Now, from a Freudian psycholical point of view (here represented by Bettelheim) we see these children as heroes in that the children who read the stories envisge themselves as the heroes and overcome their own difficulties.  They learn how to become independent and learn how to rely on their own intelligence to get them out of problems, such as Hansel and Gretel did.  The children also mature and rely more on themselves and their peers than on adults or their parents.  The bird in the Juniper Tree uses song and kills the stepmother on his own and Hansel and Gretel trick the witch and kill her on their own.  In relying on their peers, Hansel and Gretel rely on each other and the boy in the Juniper tree relies on his sister who helps him to become a boy again.  Interestingly enough, in each of these stories the main adults are portrayed as the villians instead of helpers or guardians for the children.  This leaves one with a sense that it is up to the child to explore things on his or her own and come up with his or her own ideas for getting rid of the problems they are facing which can be represented in fairy tales by a witch or an evil stepmother.  They teach children to listen more to the ego than the id (especially in Hansel and Gretel) and eventually help chidren evolve into mature, intelligent individuals who are ready to tackle the world beyond their home. 


Sunday, February 10, 2013

What is a fairy tale?

        A typical fairy tale consists of a journey, could be psychological or literal, that a character takes.  It consists of helpers such as animals and nature or people.  It also has a beginning, middle, and an end.  In these, mostly literal, journeys the hero or heroine could be finding one’s true family, completing certain tasks to become a king or queen, finding one’s true love, etc.  Also, the hero or heroine generally has an interesting backstory such as they are the long lost son or daughter of a king.  It also has magic and tasks and adventures.
            The hero or heroine of a fairy tale is generally completely good, with no flaws of any sort.  Another term for this could be a Mary-Sue which is a character who is perfect and everyone likes.  Generally this is a negative term since no one in real life is perfect or completely good, but for the sake of the fairy tale, the hero has to be this way.  The villain of the fairy tale is evil and wants to get rid of the hero or prevent them from accomplishing their goals.  They will try to trick the hero and his friends or even try to kill them.  They generally use magic or give the hero impossible tasks to complete by a certain amount of time.
            A fairy tale sometimes starts with a preface.  By preface, I mean that we get an explanation of who the hero is, their qualities, such as beautiful, kind, humble, etc, and a backstory on the situation they are in.  Sometimes it can be that a member of the royal family is kidnapped or the kingdom is threatened and needs a hero.  Sometimes the hero lives in a family that treats him or her cruelly because of their goodness.  Sooner or later, the hero wants to be free of their family and be independent.  The hero starts out on their journey sometimes with food and money, or nothing at all.  The hero often meets animals or people who become his or her aids along the journey.  They protect the hero from danger and sometimes help complete tasks.  In the middle of the story, the tasks come into play and the hero must overcome them if they are to succeed in their quest.  The tasks generally come in threes, a magical number, and contain punishment if not completed in time.  Also, the tasks are impossible to do in a certain amount of time or impossible in general and require help from nature such as insects or birds or animals.  An example of an impossible task could be building a ship that runs on both land and water.  Sometimes, even characters who the hero helped out in the beginning of the journey such as an old man or woman, who is usually a magical creature in disguise, help the hero complete the tasks as a return of gratitude toward the hero’s kindness.
     The story ends generally in the same way.  The hero succeeds in his or her journey and is rewarded.  They generally become king or queen or get rich.  They also expose the villain and the villain is punished in extreme ways.  The helpers of the hero also are rewarded.  They sometimes become special members of the royal court or are free from curses that the villain had placed upon them long ago.  They also marry a prince or princess and have children.  Most importantly however, the hero doesn’t die or get sick, and neither does his spouse and they live happily ever after.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

     Growing up, I have always had a fasination with fairy tales.  I used to watch Disney versions of fairy tales all the time, but when I read the real versions of the tales, I found I liked the book versions better.  I felt betrayed by Disney when I learned that the Little Mermaid dies in the story but not the movie.  I chose this class because I feel you can learn a lot about life through fairy tales.

     I also chose this class because I've always been interested in examining fairy tales from a scholar's perspective.  I've always liked looking at female roles in fairy tales and how they either weaken or strengthen women from a mental point of view.  While I like the male helping the female, I also have respect (perhaps even more respect) for the woman who can take care of herself and is intelligent (Such as Fiona from Shrek and Belle from Beauty and the Beast).  After all, why should the male do all the rescuing?  I believe the woman should do some of the rescuing as well and that they can do it better. ;)  I also like looking at the symbols and motifs that come in fairy tales and exploring their significance such as the rule of three. 

     My favorite fairy tale is Beauty and the Beast because I like the Disney portrayal of Belle.  She is smart, likes to read, is not afraid to go against the status quo, and is willing to stand up to people (such as Gaston, that prick).  She saves the Beast instead of him saving her in the end, which I think is a nice change from fairy tales such as Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty where the prince saves the princess.  I also love the way she treats the enchanted objects of the castle as if they were still human.  She reminds me a lot of myself also.  I love the whole romantic aspect of it and the message that true beauty comes from within.