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.