Thursday, May 9, 2013

And They Lived Happily Ever After

This semester, I feel as if I've traveled all about the Western hemisphere. Except, it was by fairy tales rather than actual traveling! I feel as if I've been to Africa with the guest speakers vividly telling us tales that they learned growing up in villages or passed down through the generations. From them, I also learned that there can be a story for anything at all, if you use a little bit of imagination. I feel as if I have traveled to Jerusalem, where the Jewish religion originated from, and talked to Rabbi's who impart witty wisdom in every story they tell. I feel as if I've traveled to various Arabic and Indian countries to see how they bring their stories to life with paintings and dances (and even "possession"). And I feel as if I was taken back to the Renaissance times of Europe, with the many different German folk tales which all had their different symbols and motifs. And each tale is different; be it the characters, the settings, the language, the symbols relating to that specific time period. But they all can have the same motifs no matter what culture the tale comes from. All the tales that we discussed in class were all very entertaining, and very thought provoking in the idea that you had to know a bit about the culture/time period where the story originated from. That was one of the challenging portions of the course - knowing specifics about cultures and what was happening in them around the time that the story was told/written/interpreted, etc. I spent a lot of time reading the stories, mostly before bedtime to relax myself, but learn something new everyday (reading before class helped to refresh my memory too).

In my first post for this class, I asked myself, " but how did those stories come to mind in the first place?". Now that this semester is over, I can answer; Fairy tales are created to become answers for inquisitive children, to impart wisdom on any person at any time, to teach lessons of good/evil & right/wrong to young children, and to give something for a troubled person to hold and have faith in. They're a solace to some, and to others they may just be simple things to pass the time with.
As for my personal take, I gained a few new favorite stories! The Selfish Giant was one that I had read a loooong time ago, but was reminded how beautiful of a story it was when I re-read it for class. The same with Hans Christian Anderson's Little Mermaid tale and The Beauty and The Beast (although I still love the Disney version too). This class was a pleasure to take and I'm glad that I enjoyed it all through the semester!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Happy Rabbis

Jewish Folk tales are like the clever uncle that comes around once in awhile. When they're here, they're the center of attention and everyone likes them, but when they're not, their meaningful messages are still there. Growing up half Lutheran-Christian and half Jewish enabled me to hear the fairy tales from European origins as well as the traditional tales that surrounded the Jewish religion. A very similar aspect that I noticed is that they all have the same ideals as to a single person who controls and created every living thing. It may not be as evident in the European tales, but in many Jewish folk tales, there is mention of a higher power. Jewish tales are based from the morals that are presented (and interpreted) from the Torah, the Jewish Holy Book. This book contained mostly the word of God, different stories passed down over the years, and laws that were to be followed. These created the morals that Jewish folk were expected to follow in order to keep in the faith of Judaism. Just as in the European fairy tales, there were hidden morals that children were encouraged to follow and perhaps even identify with. It's also very close to the idea of Zietgiest, as in how the Jewish folk are always re-interpreting the Torah in different ways as society changes. It is changing the stories and creating new ones based on the new additions that they have produced. European and Jewish tales are also very similar in the components of the tales. They have the same archetypes and magical elements that would contribute to the story being called a folk tale in the first place. There is even a book titled "Great Tales of Jewish Fantasy"!
Although they are very similar, they do have different terms for things. In all of the European folk tales that I've read, I've never come across the mentioning of a Rabbi. In every Jewish tale however, there is a Rabbi in every story. This is because the Rabbi is seen as the person who interprets the Torah, and therefore brings knowledge of the morals to the rest of the followers. European tales are mostly thought of before the Jewish tales, but the Jewish versions came before the Europeans even started producing their tales, possibly leading the Europeans to combine ideas for all their tales together. This could have produced the morals and superstitions that we have today.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Circle Around the Baobab Tree

Dr. Johnson-Ross's lecture was really one of a kind. Hearing about her stories of traveling the world, living in 21 different houses, and many different countries in Europe showed how well learned she was about the different customs and traditions that can be seen in the various stories that we have been learning in the past few weeks. Dr. Johnson-Ross also showed a great amount of pride in the work that her sister and the traditions that her family was involved in. It was beneficial to the information that we learned because of the perspectives that she was able to provide, being part of the de-segregation movement and the life experiences she gained because of it. The progression of her presentation was very well set up and each piece of information lead to the next idea in African-American story telling. One of my favorite things that was discussed about African storytelling was the Baobab tree.
 This special tree has a very large trunk that the Africans used to gather around and tell various folk tales to the entire village, which they also built around the whole tree. The various storytellers were given the title of Griots and Griottes. These family members passed down the tradition from one to another, creating long lineages of storytellers, into what consists of the entertainment business of modern society today. These entertainers would sing tales in the form of songs, but they would either sing in the language of their home country or French. These modern griots and griottes could also have been historians, diplomats, translators, musicians, and/or teachers. In the olden days, the storytellers and their families were requested to live with and be supported by the royal families because of the value placed upon folk tales and tradition in society.
The differences between the folk tales that we have been reading and the folk tales that we discussed on Thursday would be the adaptation aspects. The German and various other fairy tales tales that originated from the same areas all have modern adaptations to them, to stay with the current cultures and societies today. The African stories had the same language, characters, and  morals that was used in the olden days.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Curiosity Killed the Cat

Bluebeard has always been the odd child in the fairy tale family. It has never had a Disney movie, possibly because of the gruesome image that seven beheaded women might make to the young children who watch Disney movies. As for each individual tale, I personally like the Bluebeard story as told by Charles Perrault. I used to have many different fairytale books when I was younger, one of which was vividly illustrated. I can't recall any of the other stories in the book, but I do remember the pictures from the tale of Bluebeard, and Perrault's version was the one that closely resembled the one from my book. The other stories that were included in the Bluebeard section were rather different than Perrault's tale. One of the main motifs in this version is the importance of family. In the Brother's Grimm tale, Fitcher's Bird, the 3 daughters learn from the mistakes of the two older ones and therefore makes it possible for her to piece together her cut-up sisters and eventually get back at the sorcerer.  In the other Brothers Grimm story, The Robbers Bridegroom, almost the same situation happens where the family members help the heroine eliminate the robber gang. In the tale of Mr. Fox, the same situation as in The Robbers Bridegroom occurs and the family does away with the villain before he can kill again. In the Bluebeard story, the sister of Bluebeard's bride actually lives with the couple, a difference between these two stories. The heroine in the story is also very dependent on the sister and two brothers in get rescued from Bluebeard. In all the other tales, the brides all bring forth the evidence themselves or trick their husbands into getting caught. In Perrault's story, her safety is completely dependent on the arrival of her brother's planned visit, hoping that they will get to the castle before she is beheaded. Another noticeable difference is the way that all the previous women/wives were killed. In all the other tales except for Bluebeard, the women were either "cruelly murdered and chopped to pieces" (Fitcher's Bird), "put her on a table, chopped her beautiful body into pieces, and sprinkled them with salt" (The Robbers Bridegroom), or have their hand cut off and brought to a room filled with the skeletons of other ladies (Mr. Fox). This is the only tale where they are beheaded. I can only guess that beheading these women showed that they meant enough to their husband (probably their beauty) that he would want to look at them from time to time, but they had still done something wrong in his eyes which justified their killings.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Snow White and Her Alternative Personality

When most people think of the fairy tale Snow White, they think of the picturesque Disney story with the cute animals and funny little dwarves. But in the music video for Rammstein's song, "Sonne", Snow White is portrayed as having a very vicious and unsettling personality. The similarities between the video and the story are some very obvious aspects: the dwarves working in the mine, the color scheme of Snow White's dress, the glass coffin, and the importance of apples.
 The story line is sort of cut shorter than the others, but the chain of events from the time Snow White resides at the dwarves house to her death are pretty much the same (living with the dwarves, the poisoning, the glass coffin on the rooftop, awakening). There are a lot of major differences though. Snow White in Rammestein's video is seen as a seductress to the dwarves, someone who they seem to worship unconditionally. I say unconditionally because it seems as if she uses the dwarves as means to fuel her "drug" addiction and they seem to understand its a bad thing, but don't do anything about it. This also made me think of how in the stories, Snow White takes the dwarves for granted and didn't listen to their warnings when the evil stepmother came around to hurt her. Another difference would be the way that Snow White dies. In the video, she is shown to have overdosed by shooting up gold like a drug while in the books, it is said to have been a poisoned apple or comb that kills her. Thinking about the drug being gold however makes me think of how gold is seen as an expensive, shiny, pretty thing. Snow White in the other stories falls for the old witches trick with pretty objects and pretty words. Rammestein's Snow White could have fallen for the pretty substance and how it made her feel. A sizable difference would be how large Snow White seems compared to the dwarves in the video. This could possibly show how she controls the dwarves and how they do 

anything for her. At the end of the video, Snow White is woken up by an apple falling onto her crystal coffin instead of from "true loves first kiss". I find this pretty ironic because the apple is what killed her in the Disney version of Snow White but in the video, its what saves her from eternal sleep. As for my personal preference, I like the Disney version the best. It could be from being brought up watching it but I always loved how naive and sweet the movie showed her as. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Jungian Jungle

Jung and Freud were the two most interesting psychologists that one could possibly learn from at anytime. Freud and Jung have their similarities with their theories and thinking on the id, ego, and superego. They both thought that there were three different levels to the human mind, although Jung thought that the mind had an ego, personal conscious, and a collective unconscious. The collective consciousness can be very closely related to fairy tales by looking at the different versions of fairy tales across different cultures or countries. A Russian fairy tale can have the same morals as a South American legend, which any one who reads them can learn from. The collective unconscious of people can help us create an idea of what is right and what is wrong, all of which can be displayed through fairy tales. Jung created certain archetypes and the idea of psyche to explain the theories on people's personalities as well. One of the most common archetypes would be the "Wise Old Man". As shown by Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy or Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter, this archetype is often the one who gives the main character the push to start off on their legendary journey or give them strength to rely on themselves to get the job done in the end. Another example of an archetype would be the Primeval Forest.

This could be any forest in any fairy tale, often symbolizing how a certain danger that the main character must overcome. My personal take on this would have to be the reality of the world, how someone has to struggle and fight to stay on top of it all. Some other things that our guest speaker talked about besides Jungian Psychology was the Hero's Journey, or the progression through the story. It follows the format of what most stories are modeled after and they way that is best to get their morals across. Another aspect (and a very sneaky one at that!) is the science of alchemy. It is often represented by something being of gold in a fairy tale, such as golden thread, golden balls, or even golden eggs!

Apologies for this being late, had the stomach virus :c

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Splinter & Knothead - Red Riding Hoodlum

This cartoon of Little Red Riding Hood is actually titled "Red Riding Hoodlum", the Woody Woodpecker version of the classic fairy tale. Instead of having a single little girl be the main focus of the story, we have Splinter and Knothead, the two red-headed niece/nephew's of Woody Woodpecker. They set off for Grandma Woodpecker's house where they encounter a wolf, and have a conversation with him. Instead of telling the wolf where they are going, the wolf automatically takes a shortcut to try and beat the two kids, but instead the 2 children end realize the similarity between their situation and Little Red Riding Hood, and take an even shorter shortcut to Grandmothers. They then run into a few other classic fairy tale characters (a very important National Fire Safety bear along the way), and get to grandma's house before the wolf does. Once the wolf arrives, they do all manner of things to get rid of him, but in the end, granny becomes aware of what is going on and actually marries the wolf! There were a lot of references to other fairy tales in this cartoon, possibly to help make connections between the good and bad sides of what the readers are supposed to be focusing on. But back to Little Red Riding Hood, the main difference between this cartoon and the various versions from out book, is the fact that Splinter & Knothead had a warning about the wolf trying to eat granny by reading Little Red Riding Hood. When children are well informed, dangers can be prevented and nothing bad will happen to them. With Smokey the Bear appearing every so often, I assume that they were trying to give kids subtle hints at fire safety and how even bad guys should be safe about using dangerous things. If kids become informed about how fire is a dangerous thing, they will be less likely to use fire in the future. As for the ending of the cartoon, Grandmother Woodpecker marrying the Wolf could go along with a few of the theories that Bettleheim talks about in the Little Red Riding Hood chapter, about the grandmother being a more experienced person than Little Red is.