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.