Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Reflection of the Course

 Looking back on my blog it is interesting to see how I reacted to each topic and what reflection that has on both the impression I got from reading and analyzing the stories in this class, as well as the preconceived notions I entered the class with. In my first blog I said that my favorite fairy tale was Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, and while I can tell you that that has certainly not changed, I have definitely developed an appreciation for other fairy tales, some, like Snow White, that I had heard before but was never particularly fond of, and others, particularly tales from non-European nations, that I had never heard of before, but now that I have read them I very much enjoyed them.

 If I have one criticism of the selection of stories for the class, other than the fact that Peter Pan was not included, it would be that we had essentially no stories from Eastern Asia or the pacific. While we did talk about how some European tales had Eastern Asian influences brought about by the silk road, both Eastern Asia and the pacific have a wide array of stories there own stories that I think would be worth including. Even including something well known, like Mulan, or including the Modern Chinese take on Little Red Riding Hood in Lon Po Po would fill in the clear international gap of the stories we read.

 On the whole, however, I very much liked the material covered. What I think I got the most out of it was probably how one could analyze a culture based on its stories, and vice versa; for example, Jewish tales not only highlighted elements of Jewish culture, but also understanding Jewish culture helped in giving a better understanding of the tales. It is particularly for this reason why I think a more culturally diverse selection of fairy tales would be better, including ones from Eastern Asia and the Pacific as mentioned above, opposed to so many tales from Europe and in specific Germany and France. A larger diversity would allow us to explore more cultures through the lenses of their stories, rather than exploring the same French and German culture over and over.

Seriously, I get that most Fairy Tale scholars focus on Germany, but that doesn't mean we have to!
 As for the course itself, I thought it was acceptably challenging, but could have certainly been more stimulating. Honestly I think we spent a little too much time drawing and I don't think we got quite as much out of those drawings as one might think. I would have greatly preferred had we had some sort of discussion of debates about the fairy tales and their analysis, rather than simply hearing Bettelheim's Freudian approach,  not discussing it or discussing alternatives to it, and then drawing our favorite scene from the story. I honestly did not consider "draw the scene that stuck out to you" as requiring much critical thought.

Monday, April 30, 2012

A Walk Through Pans Labyrinth


 Dr. Deveny's lecture on Pans Labyrinth was very unique compared to other classes and fairy tales we have discussed primarily because Pans Labyrinth takes place in a much more contemporary setting than most stories we have looked at. Although it took place a seventy years ago, it is still far more contemporary than any of the other stories, most of which were written at least several hundred years ago, and probably originated far before then.

The contemporary nature of Pans Labyrinth is distinct in the war setting of the movie, in which it portrays the 1940's Spain and the fear and distrust of authority that was prevalent among the rebels at the time. This was well tied in to the story as it was properly intertwined with the fairy tale characteristics of the story, in aspects such as the magical mandrake root that was supposed to heal the mother. Not only was the mandrake root taken by the authority, but even the mother herself had grown too pessimistic to believe in it.

The magical Mandrake Root


Furthermore, Pans Labyrinth replaces the classical one evil model of the fairy tale and replaces it with a dual evil model. In more classic fairy tales, like Snow White, and Little Red Riding hood, the evil character, the witch and the wolf, are combined with the magical aspects of the story. In this story however, there is evil in the natural, in the form of the Franco government, and there is also a separate evil supernatural, in creatures such as the pale man and the toad. This separation is interesting, as they are not actually directly connected, except via Ofelia, other than her they don't much acknowledge each others existence and deem each other far less important than themselves.

The Pale Man


These distinctions in Pans Labyrinth are made more interesting by the fact that it follows that functions of a fairy tale very accurately. In our discussion, Dr. Deveny mentioned that all but one function, the false hero, is found somewhere in the movie, and most of which occur more than once. This causes the movie to be a very archetypical fairy tale in a very non-archetypical setting. Even classic stories such Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood did not nearly follow every function, but Pans Labyrinth took it to the extreme and attached almost all functions.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Look into the Adivasis


   I found Dr. Alles' talk on folk tales of the Adivasis people of India to be truly fascinating a look at a culture whose tales are completely unique from the others we have studied thus far this semester. Beyond the stories, this talk gave an interesting look into another culture and how one can learn about a culture by looking at its stories, and at the same time learn more about its stories simply by looking at the culture.

Several Adivasis people participating in a ritual celebration. 

  On particularly interesting story was a creation story that gave an explanation for the creation of alcohol. This story was quite interesting in that it could never have taken place in a Judeo-Christian-Islamic culture because it centered around the fallibility of gods. In Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions, not only are gods all-powerful but they are all-knowing and just about in every way perfect, and to perhaps think that god made a mistake or could not do something is considered blasphemy. Meanwhile, humans are distinctly seen as fallible, and the idea of a human without flaw is seen as equally blasphemous. This story would have made no sense to these people, because god was out-smarted by a mortal.

  Another interesting story was The Tigress and the Bullock. Was I found unique about this story was how much the “good” and “evil” characters switched throughout the story. At first the cow is evil, because he is a pest to his master, then the cow and tigress are good for helping each other and deciding to go against their nature and work together, then the tigress is evil for eating the cow, then the babies are both good for rejecting the parents, then the baby cow turns evil by testing the friendship and finally the baby tiger turns evil by basically killing everyone. As you can see, the line between good and evil is very complicated but its always there, yet shifting. This is in contrast to most fairy tales where there are clear “good” or saintly characters interacting with clear “evil” or devilish characters, again stemming from the Judeo-Christian-Islamic notion of pure evil. This is even in contrast to Hans Christian Anderson's work which is often void of an evil character, as there are definitely evil characters in this story, their identities are just non-static.

  In all, I believe these stories don't just give us an interesting look at stories from a new culture that we are not familiar with, but also help teach us more about the stories we are familiar with. By looking at what is different in these stories, we can see which values and motifs are culturally relevant to us or at least to our cultures at the time these stories were written. They show us what is unique about are stories by showing us what is unique about theirs.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hans Christian Anderson Take on the Fairy Tale.


  Hans Christian Anderson has a unique style to his writing that is very judgmental and christian based while still standing apart from other christian folk and fairy tale. In his tale “The Little Mermaid”, he teaches children the importance of being baptized and giving their life to Jesus, by the children of the sky teaching the little mermaid how to achieve and immortal soul. He also teaches them the christian value of sacrifice, where the little mermaid must sacrifice her tongue for legs, her sisters must sacrifice their hair for their sister and then the little mermaid must sacrifice her own life for the prince's. All these Christian metaphors have been hit by fairy tales and folk tales in the past, but rarely so glaringly.


 Anderson also takes an odd twist on Christianity in that he incorporates many non-christian motifs in his work. Mermaids themselves, for example, are not traditionally christian being, but Anderson adapts them for his christian narrative. He does an interesting integration of the two by having the mermaids long to be human, where a core belief in Christianity is that humans are the center of the universe and created long before other creatures. Most other mermaid tales the mermaids are out to kill humans, or live in a world outside humans, but in Anderson's not only are they in the same Christian world as humans, but they realize how subversive their species is the human race.

An artistic rendering of Anderson's The Little Mermaid

 Another interesting characteristic of Anderson's tales is that, for the most part, they do not contain a particular villain. Contrary to Walt Disney's version of the little mermaid, the sea witch of Anderson's mermaid is actually not portrayed and an evil character, but rather as a necessary balancing force. This is actually an interesting way to portray christian values, where no creatures are inherently evil, they are just good creatures influence by the devil. In many other tales, the direct implication is the one of the characters are the devils themselves, but rather Anderson takes a more creative, more stylistic approach in which the devil has influence, but does not show himself.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

African American Folk Art: A Close Neighbor


 As Dr. Johnson-Ross was speaking of African American Folk tradition, its history and its motifs, I could not help but think of how similar it was to the culture I wrote about in last weeks blog, Jewish Folk tradition. While this is surprising, as Jewish and African American is a seldom seen overlap, it is not actually a complete surprise. Last week I spoke about how one of the main characteristics of Jewish Folk tradition that separated it from a previous folk traditions we had learned about was that it was a diaspora based tradition, and this holds true for African American Folk tradition as well.

The diaspora aspect of African American Folk tradition plays itself out very similarly to the how it does in Jewish Folk tradition. We for one, get to see how this intertwined traditions blends and melds itself with other traditions around the world. Furthermore, the protagonists in these stories are often the minorities or oppressed people in the stories themselves, and the stories often revolve around a particularly clever person tricked and overcoming a majority of oppressive force, be it a frog tricking the oppressive alligator, and a rabbi tricking a corrupt court system.

Alligators, always so mean to frogs.


Many things Dr. Johnson-Ross said specifically of African American culture also reminded me of Jewish culture. For example, Dr. Johnson-Ross talked about how it was very typical for African American mothers to be overly protective of their sons. To this point, overly caution and overly protective Jewish mothers are a classic Jewish archetype.

Sooo many Jewish mother cartoons to choose from!

Ok... one more...


Despite their similarities, there are differences between African American and Jewish folk tradition as well. One of the main differences is that Jewish folk tradition has a religious mythology intrinsically behind it. While African American folk tale very often has religious motifs, most often Christian, in it, it is not specifically a religious tradition and many stories have no religious motifs, or have religious motifs from classic religious indigenous to Africa.


What truly amazes me is how similar Jewish and African American folk tradition are for how typically distant we think of them. One tradition came out of the Middle East and Europe, while the other came out of Africa and the Americas. In many of our minds, Jewish and African American are mutually exclusive characteristics for a person. Jewish and African American are even two groups whose communities have been at strife at times in American history. Despite these differences, these two folk tale traditions are about as close as two traditions can get. In a way it reminds me of the origin of dragons, how they arrived in both far east Asian and far west European art long before the two cultures had any contact with each other. This really just goes to show that all over, people are just people, we go through the same experiences are gravitate towards the same ideas, no matter where we are from.

A traditional Chinese Dragon painting.

A traditional European dragon statue in Ljubljana.








Really, dragons are all the proof you need that we as a species are just not that original. These African American and Jewish folk tradition just back up this claim.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Jewish Folktales


  Many of the characteristic elements of Jewish folk tradition can be found in many similar traditions. Religious motifs and religious lessons are very common in many traditions, be it classical Christian tales, or traditional Chinese religious tales, the vast majority of tales have some sort of religious basis. The one characteristic of Jewish folk tradition that is rather unique from most others is that it is a diaspora based tradition.
Jewish tales take place almost exclusively in other cultures, very few take place in the Jewish Holy land. This gives each tale a blending sort of element, it is never solely a Jewish tale but its a Spanish-Sephardi Jewish tale or a Russian-Ashkenazi Jewish tale, and as such we get to see how Jewish motifs interact with other regional motifs.

The Rabbi and the Inquisitor for example very clearly could not equally take place in any region, it is definitely a Spanish tale. It takes place in a land where Christianity is prevalent and even more there is an inquisition against the Jewish people. These are clearly Spanish theme that are pivotal to the story as a whole.
Seville, Spain
Chelm, Poland

In comparison, Chelm Justice could not be a Spanish tale. It is in every way a Polish tale, taking place under the corrupt Chelm Justice system that plagued Poland. Moreover, the style of story is much more similar to the other stories we have read from eastern Europe, while The Rabbi and the Inquisitor is more similar to the western European stories.
Jewish motifs of punishment and justice are clear in both these tales.

While these stories are each distinctly different based upon there location, it is clear the Jewish element in them as well. Chelm Justice and The Rabbi and the Inquisitor are both stories filled with Jewish motifs. They are both punishment stories, and both rather deal with an unfair justice system. These stories are clearly members of the same family but at the same time members of different families.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Rags to Riches, Cinderella Style

 The rags to riches story is the epitome of Cinderella, but how realistic is it really? Truth be told it is entirely realistic, at least in today's society, to rise from rags to riches, but to do it in the manner that it occurs in Cinderella, specifically through the means of magic and marriage is utterly absurd. People rise to riches primarily through a combination of intelligence, work, and luck, none of which can be attributed to either magic or marriage.

People do not simply become rich, they must do something for it, be that start a very successful company or win the lottery, it does not magically happen. While one might argue that this involves a large amount of luck, and luck is an equivalent to magic, this is simply not true. First of all, luck is very different from magic. Magic is, for one, supernatural, which by its very definition means “That is above nature; belonging to a higher realm or system than that of nature; transcending the powers or the ordinary course of nature.” (Oxford English Dictionary) [1] and thus does NOT occur in nature or the real world. Luck on the other hand, very much exists, and can be placed squarely in the realm of “natural”. Furthermore, luck is non-judging. Magic on the other hand, is very judgmental. In fairy tales, the magic always works out in favor of the kindest, or the hardest working, or even the prettiest one. In Cinderella for example, the magic chooses Cinderella over her step sisters because she is kind, hardworking and pretty, while they are mean, lazy and ugly. Luck in real life has no bias, and is thus in no way analogous to magic.

Only pretty girls get fairy god mothers.

Furthermore, while some people do get rich via marriage, this is a very rare occurrence. The idea that people try to marry rich is one that originated in fairy tales and has little to no basis in the real world. [2] Inter-class marriages are among the most rare, and is not a real source of rags to riches stories.

As said above, the real source of rags to riches stories is personal motivation. The vast majority of the world's wealthiest people have their wealth self-made. They did not, stumble upon a four-leaf clover, or marry the heir to a kingdom, they made their riches themselves. To think otherwise is quite frankly naïve.



[2] Do American Women Marry Up?
Zick Rubin
American Sociological Review , Vol. 33, No. 5 (Oct., 1968), pp. 750-760


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Barnabas' Blog!

Barnabas' Blog!



I would like to start my review of Barnabas' blog by pointing out the ironic fact that on his blog, Barnabas links to everyone other person in the class' blog; that is every other person in the class, except me. Other than this glaring flaw, Barnabas' blog is, in general, quite well constructed an aesthetically pleasing with a interesting, albeit a bit random, use of a baseball theme. In addition to the links, he includes a poll and and picture that help keep the blog lively.
Barnabas' first two post are about why he signed up for the course, and what his favorite fairytale was. The two posts were very different in style, the first, why he signed up for the course, was written in a very informal and humorous manner. He starts off at a very fundamental level; rather than beginning his post with why he decided to take the course, he rather begins his post why he decided to go to college in the first place, and then why he chose to join the honors program. For this he uses an economic explanation, that he does it so he can get a good job, and he believes going to college and participating in the honors program will help him with this. It is not till the very last paragraph (out of nine) that he finally begins talking about the course itself. Here he is very blunt, freely admitting he had no idea what the course would be like when he signed up for it, even quoting himself in the line “How was I to know we would be blogging? “. This paragraph does feel like quite a bit of an addendum, however, despite the fact it is supposed to be the purpose of the blog post. Here he completely drops all connection to the previous thought of going to college in order to have better economic prospects and in no way explains how this course will help with that goal.
The second post about his favorite fairy tale, although from the same assignment as the first, is in a very different style. Barnabas discusses The Emperor's New Clothes, his favorite fairy tale, but does so in a much more formal fashion than the first entry, using formal psychoanalytical terminology such as “the Lake Woebegone effect”. He again likes to talk in abstract terms, looking at the underlying themes rather than specific details, as he did in his previous post were he spent more time on the broader issue of college than the more specific issue of this class in particular. This tendency towards the abstract is a recurring theme I found in many of Barnabas' posts.
This can particularly be seen in his third blog post, in which Barnabas creates a definition for fairy tales. While there are many ways to define fairy tales, Barnabas chooses to do so in a very abstract way. He defines it primarily in three aspects: fairy tales must have magic, fairy tales are adaptable, and fairy tales lack emotion. While most definitions try to define this in abstract terms, Barnabas does this to a degree more than most, avoiding any specifications in his definition, and having his definition be more concepts than actual things a story does or does not include. This creates an effective definition of the genre, as it is an abstract genre to begin with, and Barnabas helps clear up any ambiguity left by these abstract terms by providing good examples of things he would, and would not classify as a fairy tale or an excerpt from a fairy tale. Barnabas definition is also a well suited one, particularly interesting is his claim that fairy tales have a lack of emotion in their climax. This is a very good point and one that is not often brought up, but while it is true in many fairy tales, I do believe something can be a fairy tale with an emotional climax, and thus it is not entirely appropriate for a definition. Even Barnabas' wording of “if the culminating scene, the climax, shows a complete lack of emotion and of detail, you are reading a Fairy Tale”, is a one directional implication, i.e. if the climax lacks emotion, then it is a fairy tale. But a definition should really be a two directional, or an if and only if, implication, i.e. if the climax lacks emotion, then it is a fairy tale, and, if it is a fairy tale, then the climax lacks emotion.
In his fourth post, Barnabas shies away from his tendency towards the abstract and gets into specifics in is discussion of psychoanalysis of Freud and Jung in fairy tales. While he does talk about the larger structure of the two psychoanalysts theory of the human psyche, Jung's self, shadow, anima and animus, and Freud's id, ego and superego, he also talks about more specific instances of their theory such as the archetypes of Jung. He goes on to list and evaluate several of Jung's archetypes and how they are present in and reflect upon fairy tales. He also talks about Freud's stages of consciousness and even gives example from himself in explaining Freud's theory. These specific examples are very effective in this post as Freud and Jung are both famous for their general theories of the psyche, but its the specifics of the theories that are really the most applicable to fairy tales. By going into these specifics, Barnabas is able to directly show in what fairy tales each element of their theories plays a role.
For his fifth post, Barnabas analyzes a Japanese commercial that uses Little Red Riding Hood as its base. For this entry, he returns to the humorous and informal style of his earlier posts, first of all choosing a sexual and humorous clip, and then analyzing the sexuality of the clip and why the company would want to use Little Red Riding Hood for such humor. He claims that Little Red's innocence, and subsequent transformation into a sexual object, makes the clip even more provocative and effective as advertising. He goes back to general abstractions, mentioning the general themes of Little Red Riding Hood, like the loss of innocence rather than any specific parts of it. To me the clip is very reminiscent of scenes in many version of the tale where the wolf tries to seduce Little Red in the woods, and discussing these scenes in his analysis would have made it more rigorous.
Barnabas' next post is actually one highlighting other blogs in the class, and adds a nice break to the string of assignment prompted blogs. After that one he does an analysis of the tale of Cupid and Psyche. In this entry Barnabas gets very specific, comparing the story to that of Urashima. He actually compares them in specific detail, including elements such as mortals marrying immortals, and not being allowed to open a box, while contrasting them in more general terms, explaining how Cupid and Psyche has more of an ancient Greek mythology feel to it, while Urashima has more Japanese style and motifs. This analysis seemed a little trivial, and the comparison contained only events that happened, and not really any analysis behind them, and the contrast really only pointed out what cultures these two stories originate from. Some specific explanation of what made one story seem 'more 'reek' or 'more Japanese' would have been helping in improving this analysis.
Barnabas' final blog entry to date is an evaluation of Rammstein's song “Sonne”. The primary focus of Barnabas' analysis is how many aspects of the traditional story are simply omitted in the song. “Where is the Queen? the King? The hunter? The Prince? All are omitted. ” he writes. He continues on in this manner, analyzing the effect these omissions have on the story, and then considering what elements of the classical story were not omitted, and what purpose that might serve. Here Barnabas takes one abstract concept, which elements of the story are omitted and which aren't and then delves into the specifics of that concept, creating a very effective analysis of the song.
While Barnabas' blog has a clear affinity towards the abstract, his posts do range the spectrum in this manner, providing good examples when necessary to clarify this though. This, along with Barnabas' straight forward style of writing made his blog particularly easy and pleasant to read. This ease of reading is very good, especially for a blog. Barnabas' blog is quite successful, nearly every post has comments on it and already 40 people have voted on his poll. I believe that the easy readability has had a great deal to do with this, and is probably the biggest strength of his blog.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sonne of a Bitch!


 The music video “Sonne” by Rammstein gives an interesting twist on the Snow White story, in which the evil queen and the prince are physically omitted, but whose presence can still very much be felt. For example, in many versions of Snow White, the evil queen is displayed in the 'evil stepmother' archetype, being jealous and angry at Snow White, and while Snow White is not actually her daughter, the fact that many stories end with Snow White replacing the evil queen, narcissism intact, show that Snow White is a daughter figure to her. In “Sonne” however, Snow White herself gets placed in the role on evil stepmother. She clearly acts as a mother figure to the dwarves, ordering and disciplining them, and at one point even spanking them. The evil queen's presence, however, does not get solely placed on Snow White; the dwarves take over the role of poisoner, as they are the ones to poison Snow White, presumably as a sort of a vengeance upon being an evil stepmother, as opposed to as some sort of jealousy motive.

 The role of the prince similarly gets dispersed among two parties, the apple and again the dwarves. In “Sonne”, Snow White is awakened by an apple, and in this sense acts as the prince does in the stories. In one sense, this follows classic Christian motifs of the apple by giving the apple ultimate power, as it both put Snow White to sleep and woke her up. On the other hand however, the apple can be seen as an unconscious entity and can therefore not be seen as what is responsible for waking Snow White up. Rather, in the scenes right before and after the apple falls on Snow White's coffin, the dwarves are seen mining underground. This gives the implication that it was actually the mining that disturbed the earth and caused the apple to fall, and in this point of view the dwarves take the roll of the prince entirely. This is furthered by the sexual aspect of the interaction between Snow White and the dwarves. While Snow White is an evil stepmother, the dwarves are male, not female, so rather than having a jealousy aspect to her punishment, there is a sexual one taking the form of a Oedipus complex. Snow White treats the dwarves as sexual objects, spanking the bare bottoms, and so the dwarves replace the prince as the her sexual object. Looking at it from an Oedipus complex perspective, Snow White is not just the superego of the dwarves, but also their sexual id. In this light the dwarves can be seen as intentionally waking Snow White up subconsciously; they placed her upon a pedestal (atop a mountain), and more precisely above where they are digging, her always being above them allows her to sexually dominate asleep as she did awake.

 The combination of Snow White and the evil queen is not something completely new done by “Sonne”, but rather the same idea as earlier versions of the tale presented in a different way. In many versions of Snow White, Snow White does end up being evil and in fact, transforms into the evil queen by the end of the story; Rammstein, rather started with the two from the beginning, and could even be seen as a sort of epilogue to other versions, as Snow White's return after her transformation, and the dwarves attempting, unsuccessfully, to quell her new narcissistic ways.

 I personally preferred the “Sonne” version of Snow White to the Grimm's version, or any other version I have seen or read, primarily because the dwarves are so much more interesting in this version. First of all, the dwarves have sexuality. In all versions of the tale, Snow White is depicted as beautiful, if not the most beautiful girl in the land. Despite this, the dwarves never seem to display any sort of attraction to her. This causes the dwarves to appear unrealistic, and is many cases dispensable. In many version of the tale, the dwarves simply do nothing of great significance; they'll either only guard her once she's already asleep/dead, or they'll give her warning that she promptly ignores. “Sonne” on the other hand, puts the dwarves in the forefront of the story, they are critical to every aspect of it. As the dwarves are probably the most unique characteristic of the story, they really should be given a more prominent role; I mean, really, how many stories are there with an evil queen, a girl put to sleep, or a tempting apple. I remember as a child I would constantly get Snow White and Sleeping Beauty confused, because, replacing dwarves with fairies, they really are the exact same story, so Snow White tales should play up the dwarves, and their differences from fairies, not hide them as insignificant gimmicks as is in many the case. 

 I also actually liked the fact that Snow White is evil (or as my title my suggest, a bitch) from the beginning. It not only adds a new twist to the story, but also adds a new dimension to the story; who really is the evil one? Snow White certainly seemed evil, but was she really just acting as a strict mother? Did the dwarves have the right to put her to sleep? The story becomes a lot less black an white than the the original.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Cupid and Psyche Glorious Tale


 The story of Cupid and Psyche, while containing elements both similar to and unique from all the Beauty and the Beast tales we read, is, in my opinion, actually quite similar to the tale, The Frog Princess. One very noticeable similarity was that in neither story was there actually a beast. In The Frog Princess, the princes was actually a lovely maiden who was disguised as a frog, but could take off the frog skin and return to her pure and beautiful form, she was simply made to have the prince think she was a beast. Similarly in Cupid and Psyche, there is again no beast, save the one Psyche does not fall in love with. In this story, the primary beast is the lie told to Psyche about the identity of Cupid, as serpent intent on eating her. In actuality, Cupid is a god and about as far from a beast as one could get, but again he is made to appear to Psyche as a beast. These similar themes show the dangers in making judgments on people without full knowledge of the situation. It was not simply the case, as in many of the Beauty and the Beast stories, that the beast had a good inner character that needed to be brought out, but rather there never really was a beast, just a false perception of one.
Cavano's statue Cupid and Psyche at the Lourve
 depicts the two embraced in love.

Another striking similarity between the two stories is the trials the girl is put through, and how she accomplished them. When reading about the many tasks Venus sent Psyche to accomplish, I could not help but be reminded of the tasks the Frog Princess was made to partake in. The way external influences assisted Psyche, such as the ants and the tower, have clear parallels to the way the nurses helped the Frog Princess in her trial to construct a shirt for her prince. These trials show a dependence on others, often overlooked people, such as the nurses and ants. They show the importance of being good, and it the girls' virtue which allows them to receive the help they need in order to which their man.
Viktor Vasnetsov's Frog Tsarevna depicts the
 ballroom scene from The Frog Princess
The main way in which these two stories are different is in their ending. Cupid and Psyche has a nice resolute ending where everything comes together. They get to live as god and immortal atop Mount Olympus, with the blessing of Jupiter, and even Venus and Psyche make up. The Frog Princess, on the other hand, while it does have a happy ending, has a much less clean one. They escape to Russia being chased by another suitor. There is no nice conclusion or return to home. In this sense Cupid and Psyche is the much more classic fairy tale, as the return to home after the adventure is usually a key element in the archetypal fairy tale. The Frog Princess' flight ending takes it away from the usual narrative, and, in my mind at least, helps to make it stand out more among the cloud of similar stories.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Modern Riding Hood


Little Red Riding Hood
By Joseph Mahoney


 This cartoon is a humorous satirical take on a sort of modern day version of Little Red Riding Hood. While there have been many 'modern day' takes on Little Red Riding Hood, this one has the unique aspect in that there is nothing blatantly modern in it, other than the dialog. The comic actually takes place in a completely ambiguous setting, and the characters are drawn similarly ambiguously, and with little color, although Little Red's hood is interestingly yellow. This ties into the first revelation that this is a more modern version of the tale, as when questioned as to why she has a yellow hood, despite being named, Little Red Riding Hood, she responds “red is sooo last season”. This is a sort of mockery in the fact that Little Red Riding Hood is always red, but the story has been around for centuries, times and styles have changed, as should Little Red's.

The wolf further ironic response to this “wot” a quick handed substitute for the word 'what' exemplifies an further modernization of the tale, with both Little Red and the wolf talking quite colloquially. Little Red also makes ample use of the word so, with varying number of o's, as in the line mentioned above and later even adapt the usage of the word “wot”. Later the wolf also replaces the word 'and' with a plus symbol, giving the cartoon the feel of a hasty and impromptu conversation. There is also little care for punctuation or capitalization, satirizing the formal, and structured language of the classic tale, with repetitive and formal lines.

The story has its next interesting twist when Little Red asks why the wolf plans on eating her and her grandmother. The wolfs only response is “that's the way its meant to be”. After the wolf explains the classic story line to her, Little Red merely rejects it as “gross”, which is quite apt considering how gross the story actually is. After the wolf rebuts, Little Red finally declares the whole this quite stupid and suggests they just go see a movie instead. This is a wonderful satire of the original story because it not just shows how oddly unrealistic the characters in the original story are, but moves them into unrealistic in a different spectrum. Little Red goes from being too naïve that she can't even tell the difference between a wolf and her grandmother to now being too confident that she's willing to invite to the movies someone who wants to eat her. This juxtaposing of extremes is highly effective in showing some of the ludicrousness of the original story.

The story ends with a small verbal exchange that contains my favorite line of the whole story. When asked what will happen to the grandmother if they leave her to go to the movies, Little Red responds with “oh forget her, she's kind of weird anyway”. I thought this was not just hilarious but also a great way to summarize the ridiculousness of the original story by again putting the characters into udder ridiculousness in the complete opposite direction.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


 As Dr. Mazeroff expressed in his presentation, the psychoanalysis of fairy tales developed many years after the origins of fairy tales themselves. There are two main psychologists who were highly influential in the development psychoanalysis of fairy tales, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.

According to Freud, the human psyche has three primary components, the id, the ego, and the superego. The id being the primal, base instincts, the superego being the repressive , controlling part, and the ego being the balance of the two. These components appear in many of the classic fairy tales. One prime example is Peter Pan, where Peter, who is always free and does what he wants, represents the id, and Hook, who hates Peter for how free he is, represents the superego. Wendy and Smee, who are the balances of Peter and Hook, forming some balance between fun freedom and control, represent the ego. Similarly, in Little Red Riding Hood, the mother who warns Riding Hood not to go flirting with strangers, is the superego. The wolf, with his lure and primal lust, is the id, and Riding Hood who must choose between the two, the ego.

Jung on the other hand, puts the human psyche into four different categories. The anima, the animal, the self and the shadow. The anima and animal are similar to Freud's id, and represent the animal-like, primal instincts of a person, with the anima representing the feminine portion, and the animal representing the masculine person. The self represents the good aspects of a person, who they want to be, and the shadow the negative aspects that people try to fight in themselves. This model, too, is found in many fairy tales. For example, in Hansel and Gretel, the children represent the animal and anima, as they are craving primal needs such as food. In the story they not only eat their fill of the ginger bread house, but continue to engorge themselves on the house. Hansel, being male and taking initiative and showing ambition, is the masculine animal, and Gretel, who is female, submissive and good at house work, is the feminine anima. The father and mother, who are supposed to be kind and loving, if not slightly corrupted, are the self, while the step-mother and witch, who are evil and have notable bad qualities represent the shadow.

I personally find Jung's model to be more accurate at analyzing fairy tales than Freud's. Particularly, gender is very important in fairy tales, and males and females act very differently. Jung's separation of anima and animal, while I don't find it particularly true in real life, is a very accurate analysis of fairy tales.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Quick Definition of Fairy Tales


  The distinguishing element of the genre of fairy tales is magic; every fairy tale has a magically element that separates it from regular stories. Whether it is a magical fish, an ogre, a witch, a sorcerer or a warlock, every fairly tale contains some sort of magical element. This is, however, just one characteristic that creates fairy tale, and cannot alone be credited with defining the genre. One very important characteristic of fairy tales is that they are written works. Folk tales, for example, similarly contain a magical element, but can be clearly distinguished from fairy tales due to the fact that they are shared orally, not through written works. This is an important historical distinction because it tells us that fairy tales originated in a higher class than folk tales. Had fairy tales been for the lower class, they could not have been written as the lower class was not in general literate in 16th, 17th and 18th century Italy and France where fairy tales originated. Furthermore, the fact that the fairy tales were written in Italian, that is the fairy tales written in Italy, and more than that, the dialectic Napoleonic Italian tells us that fairy tales were generated in the middle or bourgeoisie class, as the aristocratic class at the time read and wrote in Latin. Jack Zipes confirms that the major literary forces of the time, Straparola from Venice, Basile from Naples, and Perrault and D'Aulnoy from France were all members of the upper-middle class.

  This upper-middle middle class origins has been another key characteristic of fairy tales as it has shaped the message of fairy tales. The upper middle class at the time of fairy tales origins were educated and proper, and considered themselves civilized as compared the lower classes. What primarily kept the out of the upper or aristocratic class was the mere fact that they were not already members of aristocratic class. Now consider that the two main goals of early fairy tales were to educate the masses class with civilite, that is the proper form of civilized society, and to insult the court system that ruled society at the time and enforced the class structure. This coincides well the sentiment of the upper middle class at the time, frustrated at both the lower class, for failing to have civilite and acting like uncivilized barbarians, and the upper class for unfairly keeping them out of the elite of society. These themes civilizing the uncivilized and social mobility are persistent in many fairy tales, even modern day Disney versions of them, Beauty and the Beast and Princess and the Frog type fairy tales involve a proper, well behaved woman civilizing an unruly beast and turning him into a proper prince. Even, Tangled, a take on the classic Rapunzel adds this element, where now Rapunzel takes a wild thief and tames and turns him into a proper gentleman and a prince. Similarly many fairy tales promote the deserving rising to levels of prominence, and even make fun of the classical requirements for elitehood. In tales like Cinderella and Puss in Boots, the characters of Cinderella and Puss are instantly transformed from the lowest class to highest simply by changing their clothing. This illustrates the superficiality of the elitism and aristocratic class felt by the upper middle class authors of these tales.

  One very important feature of fairy tales is the hero, fairy tales always have a designated hero. These heroes were used to demonstrate the ideals of what the author believes a civilized, proper person should act. This has lead to a vast difference between male and female heroes in fairy tales, as, according to civilite, men and women had very different purposes in society and thus had very different ideals to live up to. Women were supposed to be patient, submissive, good at house work, beautiful and humble. Their goal in life was to wait for a man to complete them. Men on the other had, were supposed to be curious, clever, brave and ambitious; their goal was to attain as high a social status as possible, which often, but not always, included finding a princess or noble of some sort to marry.

  The contrast to the hero, the villain, is another fairy tale staple. This villain is often the example of the opposite of civilite, and exemplifies the wrongs caused by a lack of it. This is not always the case, however, where sometimes rather than being a specific example of lack of civilite, the villain rather exploits a lack of civilite in another character. For example, consider Little Red Riding Hood, the wolf actually contains many qualities of a civilite male, he's clever and ambitious, his physical appearance is lacking but that is not so much a requirement for civilite men. Rather, the wolf exposes the dangers of little red riding hood not having civilite, being too curious and not humble enough.

  These four elements, the magic, the moral, the hero and the villain are found at the basis of all fairy tales and form a definition of the stylistic elements of the genre; while the written element and upper-middle class language and origins further help define technical aspects of fairy tales and allow us to completely define the genre completely.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Why Peter Pan is an awesome fairy tale.


I took this course because I have always been interested in the more gruesome details of original versions of fairy tales. Having read some of them on my own, such as the original The Little Mermaid, the original The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the original The Jungle Book, I thought this class would be a good opportunity for me to learn more about these and other original fairy tales. Some fairy tales that I actually did not like, or at least was apathetic towards at a child with the Disney versions I have found to be great as originals, while in other cases, the Disney version is just much better.
My favorite fairy tale is Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. As a child I never really had any affinity for the Disney version of this fairy tale, and while the Disney version really changes very little of the story, upon reading the original I loved it. I particularly like the development of the character Captain Hook, who in the Disney version is a very one dimensional character who is just evil, but in the original is a very complex character who is not so much evil as he is sad. Another great aspects of Peter Pan include the fact that the villains are often more likeable than the ‘good guys’, like Hook’s underling Smee is described as irresistibly loveable, while Peter Pan’s underling Tinker Bell is described as stuck up and bothersome. This well developed villains is something found in very few fairy tales and really drew me in to this one.