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.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Children as Heroes

Children are often seen as the underdogs in life. They are younger, smaller, weaker than adults and therefore are less experienced.This however, is very untrue in many fairy tales, which portray children as the heroes of the story. For example, the well known story of Hansel and Gretel. The two children are left in the woods alone by their parents due to not being able to feed everyone in the family with what food they had. They make their way back after Hansel using his intelligence to leave a trail of small white stones. After they return home, their parents then use the same abandonment technique. The children wander all night until the come upon a house made of gingerbread and are welcomed by an old lady who feeds them and give then the care they need. This old lady however is actually a cannibal witch, who imprisons Hansel in attempt to fatten him up to eat him; Gretel is made to clean the house and various other chores. The children devise a plan to fool the witch and in the end, the witch is thrown into her own oven by Gretel and the 2 children escape home with jewels that they took from the witch's house. The children are now heroes to themselves for getting away from the witch safely but also heroes to their remaining family because of the jewels that they returned home with. In a different story, Pippety Pew, the father brings home a hare for a stew, that the mother accidentally eats. The mother then kills the son, puts him in a stew that the father eats, and the little sister buries the bones under a stone by the front door. The son transforms into a bird which then goes to 2 women washing clothes, and obtains the clothes by singing a song to the women twice. He also gets a lot of silver and a millstone using the same method, from a man and a miller grinding corn. He returns to the house to give the clothes to his sister, the coins to his father, and kills his mother with the millstone. The son is the hero because he has eliminated the villain in the story in exchange for making the lives of the rest of his family better.
From a psychological point of view, both stories show how the children are overcoming a Oedipal complex that they have to gain their independence from their attachments to their mothers. We can see this in Hansel because of the way that he plots against the witch, who sort of symbolizes a mother in the aspect that she fed them and sheltered them. In the end, the witch is killed and the mother back home has passed on (coincidentally as the same time as the witch). The children have successfully severed their attachment to a  motherly figure and also from each other. In Pippety Pew, the severance of the motherly attachment is obviously when Pippety Pew drops the millstone on his mothers head, ending her life. Another psychoanalytical idea is the id, ego, and superego of the children. In Hansel & Gretel, the id is represented by gluttony and the children immediately eating the gingerbread house when they come across it. The superego is said to be a variety of things, but I believe it to be the father because he is reluctant to leave his children out in the woods but he does so anyway. The ego in this story is the children bringing back the jewels to their surviving family members to help them live better lives. In Pippety Pew, the id the the mothers selfish need to avoid blame for eating all the hare in the stew and killing her son to make up for it. The ego is the son as a bird, giving his father the coins and the daughter the clothes, while the superego would be the younger sister of Pippety Pew burying his bones under the stone by the door.
Even though some children are said to be inferior in some situations, there are instances where they are actually stronger than the adults that are around them. In some cases where a parent cannot support their children anymore, they chose to leave them somewhere instead of doing all they can to help their children have a good life, even at the cost of not having a good life themselves. Some children have the ability to create happiness out of nothing, and chose to work on bettering their lives instead of just letting their parents abandon them. They can mature and grow up quickly which makes them the heroes of their own stories as well.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Definitions of Fairy Tales

When most people think "fairy tale", their minds immediately go to the stories that they were read when they were younger. Most people think this is really the only definition of a fairy tale, when it is actually a bunch of different ideas and interpretations all rolled into one. Fairy tales can actually be for anyone of any age, not just a toddler who likes hearing about prices and princesses. A child can often take out of a fairy tale what they want to hear and relate to it. But the same thing can also be true to an older individual who hears a different version of a fairy tale from a different culture. These interpretations that they create can also be a way to shape the reader's personality and/or morals in life. All fairy tales have a villain/hero, good/bad aspect to them. These conditions of the story sort of define the meanings of fairy tales to the audience and can differentiate a myth/legend/fairy tale from other stories. A child's fairy tale often ends with "And they lived happily ever after", with a scene of the prince and princess riding away into the sunset or getting married or something along those lines. These versions are often written like they are to be suitable for young children to watch/read. They way that most fairy tales were ended in the old times were often of the hero/heroine dying or something terrible happening to them as a result of their actions. Not everything is a happily ever after scene. I get the feeling that the writers of the original fairy tales wanted the stories to be fantasy with a touch of reality, because nothing in reality can really be as perfect as some fairy tales try to make it. They just created archetypes to give some sort of symbolism to certain things that readers could relate to. So in the end, a fairy tale is a story that is full of lessons to be learned for an audience of any age/culture to connect to and model themselves after.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Wondrous Wonderland

Why did I choose this class? Actually, I didn't right away. I was in a different SIS. But when I heard about this one, I thought about how cool it would to be able to reconnect with all the stories that I had read growing up. I was the bookworm of the family, so I had all kinds of different books with many different versions of the same stories. Fairy tales could go anywhere that the mind pleases and it's always so interesting to see where the storyteller gets his ideas from and how it comes to life. 

From the class, I guess I just wanted to learn more about the process of bringing fairy tales together to make a tale that lasts for years. I know Disney brought them somewhat to reality with animation, but how did those stories come to mind in the first place? I also wanted to hopefully read and learn about the different variations of fairy tales from different countries. It's always interesting to see something from another persons point of view. It would be even more interesting seeing something that you knew and took for granted in a completely different way!

My favorite fairytale? Automatically, The Lion King pops up in my mind from the countless times that I've watched it when I was little, holding a stuffed lion over my head. But actually, my favorite fairy tale would be Alice in Wonderland. Alice is just a girl who seems to think of everything in a logical manner, never really doing anything that seems to be out of the ordinary. But she questions everything, and I just love that. Why shouldn't you question things sometimes? And her curiosity just makes her even more inquisitive and she becomes courageous to find out all the answers.  Alice is also just an adorable girl who is prim and perfect but wants to have a life full of adventure and all things odd. Another reason why I consider Alice in Wonderland to be my favorite is the ending, of Alice waking up from a dream. If people in reality had dreams like that, I would be asleep all the time. The imagination is a powerful thing, and her imagination created a wondrous world of talking rabbits, size-changing cakes & drinks, a crazy queen and a cat that disappears as it pleases! You can do anything with your imagination and that's what really fascinates me with Wonderland.