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.

No comments:

Post a Comment