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 na├»ve 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.