Fairy Tales 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010

Into the Woods vs. Fables - Fairy tale or not?

In Into the Woods, there is an interesting split between the first and second acts. In my opinion, the first act is clearly a fairy tale. It follows the stories of Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, LRRH, and Rapunzel to their traditional ends with traditional, happily ever after stories. Even the invented story, that of the baker and his wife, ends happily with a baby. The woods, also, retain the fairy tale motifs of a mysterious place of magic and change. However, the second act departs grievously from the first act. The second act, perhaps because of the loss of the narrator, becomes somewhat chaotic and un-fairy tale-like. Good characters die, which never happens in fairy tales, and the characters are also forced to re-think how they actually liked their happily ever after endings, usually to a negative conclusion. This half of the play ends somewhat unhappily, with everyone having learned a valuable lesson but with sadness and disillusionment all around. So, the first half is definitely a fairy tale, the second half definitely not.

Fables, although it retains all the fairy tale characters, retains them in name only. These characters are far too deep, especially Snow White and the Big Bad (Bigby) Wolf, to be fairy tale characters. The plot, too, is not at all reminiscent of fair tale stories. I would have to conclude very decisively that this, although playing off the fairy tale motifs, is not a fairy tale.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Into the Woods and Fables: Fairy tales or not?

Into the Woods: This musical certainly has some fairy tale elements... for one, it combines several fairy tales into one grand production. Most important, however, the "woods" are explored in the musical as a source of excitement, danger, and mystery. LRRH, Jack, Cinderella, and others go into the woods either in search of something or take it as a path in order to deliver and/or receive items. Into the Woods presents the woods as a sort of test or battle ground. Characters are dealt tasks and it is up to them to make it safely through the woods. The woods can be scary, like when the giant wanted the boy who killed her husband, or exciting, like when the childless woman and the prince had their intimate meeting. This is a fairy tale because it follows the stories visually. Even in viewing it, the musical presented itself like a read, for me at least.

Fables: I don't know if I would call this one a fairy tale. It was an interesting read, however, it's comic book genre strays it away from the fairytale genre. Fables offers a cool spin to fairy tales. It's funny and it gives some of the fairy tales characters a more invloved voice in their stories. Some things are more of the author's voice, of course, and we loose the fairy tale quality.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Into the Woods and Fables

Both Into the Woods and Fables contain elements from different fairy tales. They are both mash ups of various story lines. Into the Woods contains plots from Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and jack and the Beanstalk. Fables has characters from all sorts of different fairy tales. The characters have been forced out of their homelands and are living in New York.
Since both have characters and stories from traditional fairy tales, surely they can be considered fairy tales themselves. There are however, some key differences between Fables and Into the Woods and traditional fairy tales as well as between the two of them.
In Into the Woods, the basic story lines and endings of the various fairy tales are the same as the traditional ones. Also, there is a narrator as in many traditional fairy tales. The movie also opens with the line "Once upon a time." In Fables, the tales have been altered and they are in a modern setting rather than the setting in which they were originally written.
A difference that both fables and Into the Woods have from the traditional tales is the role of men in the stories. In both the men are not typical examples of princes from fairy tales. In fables for example, Snow White and her husband have split up because he was cheating on her. In Into the Woods, the Princes married to Cinderella and Rapunzel end up getting bored with their respective marriages and start to lust after new princesses and show a fickle nature not generally associated with fairy tale princes.
The differences in these representations and the traditional fairy tales from which they were adapted are I believe a reflection of the times that each were produced. Clearly, Into the Woods and Fables both have modern twists like the infidelity of the princes.

Sexuality in the Modern Fairy Tale

Both the Fables series and the Into the Woods production have modernized the fairy tales we have been learning about. The creators of both adaptations have chosen to make the allusions to fairy tales obvious while still inserting their own artistic voice into the final product. There are certain obvious modernizations in each version: Snow White talking about her divorce in Fables and the narrator making side comments to the audience about the improbability of certain plot lines in Into the Woods. However, while I was looking at these two modern fairy tales, it was the sexuality that struck me most fiercely. As we have discussed, many of these tales were devoid of obvious sexuality. While it may have been insinuated, it was never outright stated. The modern adapters are not so prude. In fables there are multiple comic sex scenes, complete with the woman's feet thrown up in the air and wrapped in sheets whilst in bed. The approach to sex may have been most shocking in Into the Woods. The wolf, who is admittedly the most threatening sexual character in the Grimms' stories, is taken to a new level. In Into the Woods, the wolf took the time to put on his socks and jacket, but unfortunately forgot the undies. During his entire scene with LRR he was bouncing around with his "junk" flopping to the rhythm. I don't know that Soderheim could have made this threat anymore obvious without tearing across the line of obscenity. Also of note, the wolf's phallus is not a wolf phallus. It is a human appendage, just slightly grayer and hairier. The modern audience is more tolerant of, and expects more sexuality in their entertainment. The creators push the boundaries because that is what the consumers want; something shocking and memorable.

AGONNNYYYYY, misery, and strife.

I love this song, and I can't really even put my finger on a reason why I love it more than any of the others in the play. Nonetheless, even when I first saw a production of Into the Woods years ago, I was immediately drawn to this song. Sure the song is amusing, but so is the rest of the play. I think more than anything it is the tongue-in-cheek misogynistic humor and the interaction between the two princes that draws me to this scene.

The two princes share their problems with their women, problems drawn directly from old fairy tales. Rapunzel's prince is saddened because he must climb a tall tower to reach his love, while Cinderella's prince is distressed because his damsel continues to flee from him into the woods. Both princes are absolutely perplexed as to why ANY woman would spurn the advances of such dashing young men. This confusion only deepens their heartbroken agony, and, being a musical, they are therefore required to sing about it.

The scene is amusing not only because of its absurdity, but also because of the shared confusion these men feel because their "loves" are not jumping directly into their waiting arms. As fairy tale princes, they are physically perfect in beauty and bearing, but unlike more traditional princes who are wholly flat, static characters, these two are not only confused by their predicaments, but also somewhat offended that these women do not see how beautiful and perfect the princes are. All these two poor men want is to be able to be with their beautiful princesses, but they cannot.

If only there were doors...

You've got the cape!

While I think Fables is more a murder mystery using fairy tale characters than a fairy tale itself, it nonetheless can be considered a fairy tale. It begins with "Once upon a time" and follows Propp's five functions of a fairy tale.
1. lack (unknown murderer)
2. quest (to find murderer)
3. encounters magical helper (wolf, pig, etc.)
4. tests (eliminating suspects and all the obstacles, ex. stopping the murder of Jack by Bluebeard)
5. reward (well, I guess Snow White got her sister back and she could've had her wolf-prince if she wanted)
Into the Woods definitely appears more like a fairy tale, at least initially. It is spoken in the form of a fairy tale by a storyteller. It relays classic fairy tales in the Grimm tradition and invents its own that follows the same style. Morals are clearly spelled out at the end of each act, and although things totally change after the narrator is eaten, the stories still end in their traditional way (ex. Cinderella's eyes plucked out by birds), so the lack of narration changes the way the story is relayed but not it's content.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

So as not to spark any controversy...

As a lover of peace and despiser of conflict, I have chosen only to present a completely factual and therefore in no way hostile or biased exposition on the series "Fables" by Bill Willingham et al.

The graphic novel has been in circulation for the past eight years, making its debut in 2002. It is a monthly publication which boasts 93 issues currently, 85 of which have been collected into trade paperbacks. From this series has spawned a novel (Peter and Max), another unique comic book series (Jack of Fables), and multiple related comic book miniseries. The series has won a Hugo award and 12 Eisner awards.

Now close your eyes because this is where the controversy starts...
It is a brilliant rethinking of the characters from fairytales, placing them in a much more realistic psychological set of motivations as well as making the characters relatable and coherent. Willingham creates a unique and intriguing world that resurrects the value of fairytales for the modern reader, allowing thought and analysis to drive the reader as opposed to a need for release--not that he fails to provide this. His work examines psychological motivations and extrapolations of the characters that we have known for many years (or forgotten with the passing of time). The fluid writing styles of Willingham and Sturgis further contribute to the brilliance and coherence of the series. The only limitation which vexes me is that of the nature of monthly issues, which limits the length and breadth of that which can be discussed, but with this, the writers and artists work brilliantly and do not allow the limitations of the genre to have an ill effect, sometimes even using these minor limitations to their advantage. Also, the formating and style are beyond compare... If only modern writers of fiction novels had such a grasp of style or literature...

But alas, I have said too little...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Lady and the Merman, by Jane Yolen

This story is a fairy tale in a number of ways. It begins with an unnamed father and mother receiving an unwanted child into the world; because the father does not want the child, the mother dies soon after. This is true in many fairy tales, where the mother dies/is killed and the child is left to be raised by the father only. It also follows the course of many fairy tales in that the child (named Borne) is ignored by her remaining parent and is forced to live life almost entirely alone. Borne ends up lamenting her failed relationship with her father while on the beach, and she happens to see a merman. This is another very fairy tale-esque feature of this story: the magical creature, and the hope for a 'happily ever after' ending. Borne cries to the merman, requesting him to "come up and be [her] love". However, the merman doesn't appear until the very end of the story. When he does, the jumps up on her rock and motions out to sea, suggesting that she follow him to some unknown kingdom of merpeople. If this was a traditional fairy tale, the ending from here would be clear: the unloved girl would join the merman and they would live happily forever under the sea. However, Jane Yolen takes the story in an entirely different and decidedly non-fairy tale direction: Borne jumps into the ocean to follow the merman, and promptly drowns.

This story has the fairy tale elements such as the dead mother, familial issues, and magical creatures, yet the ending gives it a much more modern twist (the story was written in 1976). The ending implies that the merman is all an object of deluded fantasy, and Borne kills herself out of depression at never having a true relationship with her father.

How's That A Fairytale! Episode 97: Hans Christian Andersen and "The Little Match Girl"

doo do doo dee do dee doo (*This is the theme song, Ladies and Gentlemen*) doot doot doooooo. What do you get—doot doot doo—when you put a writer in a blender and puree him too then add a little fairy dust? What's that do? It gives you something—doodily doo—but not just anything. No! It gives you something that's something like a fairy tale, but maybe not a fairytale even if the writer says it’s a fairy tale. So what do we—doot doot—do? We ask the question. Yes, we ask the question. What's the question that we ask? (*You are supposed to shout this next line with the TV screen so as to add to you experience*) HOW'S THAT A FAIRYTALE!

Host: Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is that time again. Time for everyone's favorite show that answers the question that everyone's asking: How's that a fairytale? Today we'll be discussing—or maybe I should say listening to me lecture about—


Host: The Little Match Girl. This story chronicles the death and redemption of a poor child whose livelihood and family's security is contingent on her ability to peddle matches to the public a penny apiece. On the night of New Year's Eve, the time over which our entire acquaintance with her takes place, we learn that life has been a cruel mistress to the child, who fears the beating and reproach she is destined to receive upon returning home to her father without having sold a single match the entire day and not having earned a single penny. Her dread is compounded by the lack of heat in her house which is so very similar to the cold of the streets as it starts to snow. In irony, she holds the matches, a source of heat unconsumed as she slowly freezes to death. It is in this revelation that she chooses to warm her numb hands by expending but a single match and letting her body and soul be relieved of their plight. The light afforded by the match incites the young girl to dream and imagine, in short, to be uplifted to a higher plane of existence wherein her suffering does not matter and she can overcome the world. Unfortunately, the single match lasts for only a short while and the girl is left cold and wanting in the snow, so she, of course, lights another. Then, when it is spent, she lights the remainder of the matches in order to truly transcend the material world—by dying… She is found in the morning by the townspeople frozen to death and everyone thought that the girl's death was a tragedy because they couldn't understand or know of the radiant visions she had had or her transcendence. She died with a smile on her face. The end… Wow! That was a doozy. Sorry about the uncharacteristically long exposition, and especially the lack of humor involved. To make up for it, I'll try to refrain from listless gravity for the remainder of the show. I know I'd turn me off if I were as boring as that last bit!


Host: Well, it appears that I have, here, my work cut out for me today. How could I ever hope to prove that this unusual allegory is a fairytale? … I can't. … Just kidding!


Host: I tricked you! How naïve! Of course I can prove it is a fairytale and why, otherwise I wouldn't be the host of this show. But if I'm going to answer the question, I'm going to need your help. I need you to ask it.


Host: How's that a fairytale indeed, Folks. Well, let us start off by analyzing from this tale some of the important markers of the author's project. He wants reevaluate our perspective in order to do two things: emphasize a very aesthetic value system wherein the imagination and creativity are considered in their own right as worthy ends and convince the poor to commit suicide…


Host: No, but really, his other objective is to present a very Christian set of values and considerations of such things as poverty and suffering—which suggests that the poor should commit suicide in order to evade the hardships of the world…


Host: Now, with these aims in mind, we can understand the very clear project Hans Christian Andersen saw in this piece. As an extension to the fairytale genre which he was attempting to found in his collection of works, this was one of the less characteristic stories. Good thing too…


Host: In this particular story in spite of its rarity, Andersen does still utilize magic. He uses, however, magic in a very unique way among fairytale writers such that the magic is from only one source, God in the Christian tradition. Even the magical transformative powers of the imagination in this story are implicit of the power of God. Luckily for fireplaces everywhere, however, God chose not to inspire any other match girls.


Host: So it really utilizes magic in a very traditional way as the solution to the problem and ends with the positive resolution rampant in the fairytale genre… It just has a really twisted interpretation on what those are… And That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how "The Little Match Girl" is a fairytale!


Host: Goodnight, everybody. Thank you for watching, I hope to see you again next week when answer the question


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Fairy Tale of the King

Summary: A king is worshiped by everyone around him. For example, if he laughed, his royal court laughed or if he cried his royal court cried. Because of this the King grew bored and went in search of the truth. Was he really powerful and would people still mimic him if he took of his royal garments? The King then disguises himself and found that people laugh at him and not with him... he even gets kicked. In searching for truth, he finds a young woman who has lost her parents and bridegroom due to high tax debts commanded by the king. He consoles her and is seized by love for her, and she for him. She becomes Queen and he finds a new realm, "The realm of Love". The tale states it is a "fairy tale ream in which even fish mate in the air."

This can be called a fairytale mainly because of the romance. There are other fairy tale elements as well, like "Once upon a time", the establishment of a king in general, and disguise. At the heart of the fairy tale element is romance. I say this because like so many other stories we know, the love happens like magic. Unlike Disney film adaptions that build up to the eventual love scene, most written fairy tales do not mention a possible romantic spark until you read to a certain page number and conveniently the maiden stumbles across a handsome young man. One paragraph (or less) and they are married. The truth of life that the king went on a search for is somehow love. And just like that she becomes Queen. Sounds like a fairytale to me.

Cinderella Continued, or the Rat and the Six Lizards

Cinderella Continued is the story of what happens to the rat and six lizards that Cinderella's fairy godmother turned into the coachman and footmen. They are allowed to stay in their transformed states even after the clock strikes midnight. The rat, who was transformed into the coachman, decides that he will take charge of the footmen and they will become highwaymen.
They spend years amassing a fortune and then retire. The rat becomes obsessed with learning and buys many books to read. He also compiled many works himself. He also educates the six former lizards in various arts and they all are successful. After awhile the rat and four of the lizards die leaving only two of the band alive. These two fail to live within their means and are forced to once again steal to make their way. They wind up stealing a pair of Cinderella's slippers and one takes all the blame and is killed. The other does not live much longer himself.
The story is a fairy tale for a couple of reasons. There are elements of magic and a surprising ending. The whole story is based on the fact that the story of Cinderella occurred and the fairy godmother did in fact change the animals into men. This is obviously a magical feat. Also, the fact that the animals have human equivalent intelligence is unrealistic and so fairytale-esque in that it personifies the personalities of the transformed coachman and footmen.
Also, at the end of the tale, the reader is told that the fuzzy slippers taken by the two footmen are now on display at a museum in Pittsburgh and are being called pin trays. This is offering a fantastical explanation for the actual objects at the museum.

The Fairy Tale of the King... and other things.

Georg Kaiser presents a story of a king who is so well loved, that his every action is mirrored by the whole of his court. One day the king begins to question his power, and wonders if perhaps he is not all powerful himself, but rather his power is merely an illusion because of his court. He therefore leaves his palace and journeys among the common folk, to see if they respect him without his court surrounding him. Unsurprisingly, people really don't care too much about this random dude who has no robes, gold, or court followers. However, he does meet a beautiful young woman, whose family has just been put to death, on order of the king, for not paying their taxes. He consoles the young woman, they fall in love, and then decide to found a new kingdom, one based on love.

Up to this point, the tale is fairly mundane. It's horribly cliche and predictable, but nonetheless does present a moral. Up until the very last sentence that is. "With her as queen, he decided to found a new realm, the realm of Love, a fairy tale realm in which even fish were seen to mate in the air." Now really, I can't even think of a valid quizzical response to that that doesn't include one or two vulgarities at the very least. ~ la la la ~ Fairy tale of a king learning a lesson that all of us should learn ~ la la la ~ fairy tale fish having sex in mid-air.

I can't even come up with a good BS reasoning for this. Sure it's something fantastical to denote the realm as fairy-tale like, but why not talk about galloping unicorns, or dancing pixies. Pretty much anything but the copulation of fish in mid-air. Maybe Kaiser was going for some sort of satirical commentary on the nature of romantic literature. Maybe he honestly though that fish mating in mid-air was a valid fairy tale occurrence that audiences would enjoy. Hell, maybe the guy who translated it to English was just having a bad day and decided to take it out on this poor Georg Kaiser dude. Your guess is clearly as good as mine. Or Georg Kaiser's. Or his translator.

Rumpelstiltskin by Rosemarie Künzler

The version of Rumpelstiltskin that I read is by Rosemarie Künzler whom has published many poems, stories and children books. It is about a miller who proudly talks about his daughter and assures everyone that she can spin straw into gold. As a result, a King takes the girl to a room and tells her that she must spin the straw in the room to gold by the next morning or she will die. As the girl began to cry because she can't really turn the straw into gold, Rumpelstiltskin appears and makes a deal with her. He says that she has to give him something and he will turn the straw into gold. The king sees the gold and becomes greedy. He takes her to a bigger room with the same ultimatum. Rumpel makes the same deal with her and spins the straw into gold. The next day, the king takes the daughter to an even bigger room and says that if she spins the straw into gold again then he will marry her. Rumpel appears again but the girl has nothing so Rumpel wants the the daughters first born after she has married the king. The daughter says she didn't want to marry him in the first place. Rumpel gets mad because he doesn't get what he wants, swears the he will never spin again because he spun in vain and stamps his foot so hard that it creates a crack in the ground that opens the door and frees the girl. This is an obvious fairy tale because Rumpel shows up without being called or anything and acts as the daughter's fairy god-mother. Rumpel is able to create gold out of straw which is an attribute of a fairy tale and the girl is freed quite easily with no harm done to her. I feel the moral of the story is not to always expect to get what you want in turn after you've willingly helped somebody.

The Story of the Fairy Tale in "The Story of the Fairy Tale"

"The Story of the Fairy Tale" is about five men who set out to find Truth, returning with ideas like Science, Theology, Love, Gold, and Wine. No one can agree on who is right, and they fight until a girl shows them truth: an indistinguishable figure with soft, bird-like wings. The creature tells them he is truth, and the people proclaim, "It's a Fairy Tale." The men then continue their fighting, but some of the people stay in the meadow with the Fairy Tale.
This story was written in 1905 by Carl Edward, a danish social novelist who manipulated fairy tales to symbolically include his political and social messages. Interestingly, he was greatly influenced by social Darwinism, shown in this tale by the battle of the seekers of the Truth in which the little girl proves to have won "the survival of the fittest."
Like a fairy tale, the story begins with "Once upon a time" with men sent out on a quest ("in search of Truth"). Like a fairy tale, the characters are nameless ("wise men," "little girl"), and the location is extremely non-specific ("one in this direction and one in that"). True to its title, the tale explains what constitutes a fairy tale in the characterization of one. This fairy tale is of indistinguishable gender, age, and explanation. The fairy tale is the truth for the individual, whatever one takes from its indistinguishable nature defines personal truth. The ones who stay with the Fairy Tale are the believers, here predominantly women and children (those most likely to believe).

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The role of magic in The Oriental Saint

In "A wondrous Oriental tale of a naked Saint", by Wilhelm Wackenroder magic takes on the role of a natural event. In romantic style, Wackenroder highlights an ideal of nature surrounding the remote cave of saint. He described how the land around the saint changed, as if by a magical transformation, into the setting where the tortured genius could be released from his terrible duty turning the wheel of time. In effect, this is the same as any other fairy tale: a magical transformation, helped along by the actions of supernatural or magical beings, enable the change of the main character. The only major difference is that in this case the magic is nature, and the 'supernatural beings' are two young lovers engaged in a song so magical that it releases the saint from his torture.

This really emphasizes the theory of the romantic era that nature is idealized. Wackenroder, in this tale, is making nature into all the magic that supernatural beings normally create. The idealization of young love and all things natural is enough power to release the tortured soul of the saint.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


After reading "A Wondrous Oriental Tale of a Naked Saint" by Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder, I have come to the conclusion that magic exists only in the story as a sort of bridge to freedom. The saint is stuck in a roll of winding the wheel of time. He sits and critiques the pilgrims that he observes as they visit with a disdain. He does so because he views the world differently than them. Magic comes into play when one night when "the homes of the people were transformed into the dark shapes of boulders and dusky supernatural palaces." He says from that point "the people, no longer blinded by sunlight, lived with their eyes fixed on the firmament, and their souls were mirrored beautifully in the heavenly glow of the moonlight night. The magic freed the people to see what they could not see before when they were blinded by the light. They were freed to add additional perspective to the world they once knew. This too goes with the saint. After the people sing the song that magically releases the saint from being imprisoned in his job, and his imprisoned human form. He goes from being full of disdain to a grander feeling of happiness related to freedom. Magic serves to open people's eyes to a new world that they either did not pay attention to at first or never really knew.

Magic in the Philosopher's Stone

In the Philosopher's stone magic is regarded in different ways by different people. The King clearly is in awe of magic since he is looking for the Philosopher's stone which will enable him to have all the gold he desires. However there are others that "regarded magic with disdain." It could be said that they had the right idea since his pursuit of magic caused the King such grief throughout the story. However, it does all work out in the end.
First, the King gets swindled by scores of people who know how gullible he is. They offer him outrageous ways of getting the stone and wind up taking his money and running. Then a man comes who the King is sure is the real deal. He believes he is friends with this man and spends all sorts of money to make sure the man has all that he desires. Then when the man tells the King that he only needs to provide a few hundred precious gems to make the stone the King rapidly agrees and the man ends up leaving with all of the gems.
Magic strikes the King again when a man gives him a stone and tells him to rub it on his chest. Believing it to be the Philosopher's stone the King does and is then turned into a donkey. While in donkey form the King sees the error of trying to get the stone and then eventually is changed into a peasant man and falls in love with his former wife. When given the option to be the King again he says no because he now sees what a terrible life he had. So in the end, magic has made him happy which ties in with most fairy tales with a magical element.

Allow Me, If You Will, the Express Opportunity to Establish the Validity of My Tale So that You Will Not Overlook It as Inauthentic and Therefore Un-

worthy of Your Time Since All Credibility Originates in the Source of the Work which I Feel Compelled to Defend for Your Sake Lest You Refuse to Benefit from the All-Important Message for which this Tale Is the Vehicle…
A Comedy

(My apologies for part of the title getting cut off... Aparently there is some sort of a word limit--note to self or any aspiring bloggers: 150 characters--to this thing... Who knew? Guess they don't deal in Academic Writing with much frequency...
But now that that nasy business has been settled let us embark on the actual purpose of this particular presentation, the project of the article in question)

One interesting thing to note about literary fairytales, depending in part how you define the genre, is the inexorable lengths that the authors go to in efforts to establish the credibility of the source and the authenticity of the tale(s). Barring, for the sake of argument, such examples as Giambattista Basile's The Pentameron—wherein the individual stories are presented within the structure of a frame story that creates the "authentic" storytellers as the "sources" of the individual tales so as to legitimize the tales presented—and the Grimm brothers' versions of tales—where, in the interest of presenting themselves as authentic sources for fairytales catalogued with great detail their own sources while simultaneously partaking in certain actions as changing the style and presentation of the tale (by their own hands) for the sake of making them seem much more rustic and therefore credible—literary fairytales often tend towards an incomprehensible drive to prove their non-existent pedigree even when it is clearly the case that no such pedigree exists (the reason it becomes necessary, for the purpose of this explication, to ignore the types of examples above described).

Both "The Philosopher's Stone" and "A Wondrous Tale of a Naked Saint" present cases for their own authenticity and significance—though notably by different means which link in turn to their particular and exact projects in the genre. Because I feel like it, I am going to start by discussing the case of Wieland. I am going to pretend that this is due to the chronological perspective, which is in faith the order of Zipes' arrangement and therefore also presumably the order in which I read them, but is actually because I know that it is better form in writing (for the sake of seeming coherent and structured to and of elucidating and simplifying for the reader by means of a much easier style to follow which in turn will increase my reputation with said reader increasing, in turn, my credibility as well—or at least not harming either, which would be a likely outcome of using inconsistent ordering of the same subjects) and when I started writing the paragraph I already wrote "Both 'The'" before referencing the text to determine recall the precise titles of the two tales and it would have been too much effort for me to have deleted that extent of my progress or to reorder them by the time I actually explained that I was going to discus them individually. In Wieland's case, the tale begins by referencing, in historical form, the recounting of the lives of Tristan and Isolde, a well-known detail in the tapestry of tales—and also a tale which, itself, claims to be historical—beyond mere name-dropping to the point of presenting a thorough knowledge of the history—accurate or otherwise—in depicting some of the more a-contextual details, as the alternate name of the fair Isolde. Of course, this lends itself well to his own period and style of writing, in the mode of Enlightenment, since it presents a very rational and precise type of account of the tale's pedigree. Simultaneously—and also in the name of the Enlightenment—he undermines his own façade in the purposeful insertion of inaccuracies to the end of acknowledging and advertising to the reader that the tale, though it fits keenly into a tradition, is by no means a truth, most likely because of the irrationality that is presented in it (of magic and transformation).

Because I really don't feel inclined to write any more on the topic right now, I am strongly tempted to just give up and call it quits right now without even attempting to discus the way in which Wackenroder employs similar techniques to a different ends, but I do not want to take all of the extra energy necessary to delete and rework the first couple of lines in the preceding paragraph. Of course, I could always simply request of you, the reader, a slight favor, that you might indulge me by pretending that I did discus and reveal to you this truth since it should be evident when you read the text, but then I am reminded that you cannot be trusted in such an event, so I cannot achieve my desire. I am relegated to following through on my promises and actually answering the expression of Wackenroder's credibility. The credibility comes, in this case, from its "foreignness" since, by Wackenroder's time, the Enlightenment had made great strides in eliminating any sense of mysticism in Germany—to which Romanticism was the direct answer—and the Middle or Far East, source of the One Thousand Nights and A Night and numerous other tales that would just have been getting published and translated, was considered to be a place where magic was still believed in—and perhaps even possible. By linking to that tradition, the newness and inconsistencies with the European folktale genre would not be taken into question, and because the "Orient" was considered to be a place engulfed in mysticism, the absurd tale secures more credibility than if it were to be successfully accounted for as a traditional German folktale.

I am going to sleep now.

The Sorcer- er, Philosopher's Stone

In Christoph Martin Wieland's The Philosopher's Stone, the story initially appears to debunk what I love about fairy tales: the magic. It ridicules wonder and science and, even more, those who buy into either. However, this perception changes as the story within the story changes. The king is magically turned into a donkey and his wife into a rose-colored (how necessary) goat, a types of transformation extremely common in the magical realm. Also, while it initially seems that the old man tricks the king by donning a false beard (a very non-magical disguise), his female counterpart is able to change herself so much as to make her convincingly male in every sense (a very magical disguise). This paradox of the simultaneous existence and non-existence of magic makes this story very different from the traditional tales. I don't fully understand the satirical dichotomy of magic as real and utterly ridiculous, but I like to think of it as conveying the magic that exists in our real world. The fact that the male and female fell in love with each other even in their newly peasant forms reflects the magic of love and belief in a soul-mate. Also, while there is no such thing as the tangible philosopher's stone of tales, there does exist the philosophical equivalent that comes with understanding of what's important in the world. Furthermore, there is the magic of fate or the idea that everything happens for a reason. The ones who appeared to be traditionally evil in the story are "those who took it upon themselves to make you happy... at a time when you both considered yourselves the unhappiest creatures in the world." This is real magic.

Welp...now you're a fairytale, there's a transformation story

In the very beginning of Wieland's literary fairytale, we learn that King Mark is "arrogant without ambition, sensuous without taste, and greedy without knowing how to be economical." Yet by the end of the tale, we have been introduced to a new character, someone by the name of Sylvester - "I'm the happiest creature in the world just as long as you remain Sylvester." And Sylvester also adds that he is the "happiest of men just as long as you (she) never stops being Rosine." And who is this Rosine? Could she be the wife and former Queen of King Mark? Is she the same woman Sylvester has called "too monotonous, too tender, too virtuous, and too jealous"? What gives here? How can Sylvester and Rosine possibly be former royalty?

In between the first and last pages, one of the most important things to consider is the transformation of the two into donkeys. Now it all makes sense. For many fairy tales, a transformation signifies some lesson that must be taught...and it is as if transforming a person into a nonhuman object is the trustworthy method in bringing about some needed change. For example, in a lot of Beauty and the Beast stories, Beast, once a handsome prince, has some negative quality (perhaps he doesn't help an old woman in need) that turns him into a frightful being. Or even with the Wild man stories, the man is not quite human and only turns back into his natural form when he can prove to be a good father. Although we don not know why exactly he was transformed, we do know it had to be for some reason (based on numerous other stories).

It seems in the case of King Mark, simply put he was stupid. Of course this is mixed in with other negative attributes, but it covers a wide range of reasons why it was necessary for this transformation to occur. This transformation links this tale to the fairytale genre. In the end, Sylvester has a sense of work ethic and does not his royalties. He and Rosine can live happily ever after, as all good people do in fairy tales. Perhaps, if he was a jealous sister or evil stepmother though, things might not have fared so well.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Male Ideal

Iron Hans is at its root a story to teach a young boy how to be an "ideal man". The character at the heart of the story is, of course, the young boy/gardener/prince. He goes through a series of trials meant to teach him how to be a man, and in the end he gets the princess because he exemplifies the qualities that were hammered into him during the course of the story. Hans shows one side of the male ideal, that of the gruff woodsman and excellent warrior. He epitomizes the wild side of a man, a side that apparently all males should contain within them. However, this side need not take over the outward appearance of a man and should only show up when engaged in violent activities such as war. This is shown by the fact that the young man receives all of this equipment and army from Iron Hans before heading off to war, and he returns them before getting back. In many ways, Iron Hans is analogous to being a part of the boy's inner psyche, one that should always be there, but should only appear when it is needed.

Another side the boy learns while at the court of the emperor as a gardener. He learns to be modest and humble, traits which are also becoming for a male. However, it is not all about the inner self of the man; men also must look good to catch the eye of the princess. The princess first notices the boy not because of his modesty or humbleness, or his skill at war, but rather for his striking looks, especially the hair. So men must have a good exterior to match the good interior. Lastly, a man must fulfill his destiny and not try and change it. The boy was born a prince, and although he was off working and learning to be a man this was only a temporary activity. This shows how the tale supports the social structure of the time: one is born into one's final activity, but one must take active steps to be the best that one can be at that activity.

So, all in all this tale discusses the ideal of "maleness", and what it should and should not entail. It does not so much teach young men as give them an example for their final product.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Question: How many times do males need to fail before they can succeed?

Answer: 3.
Iron Hans begins with the story of a king who sends a huntsman into the forest who never returns. The next day he sends two huntsmen who never return. What does he do the following day? Sends more huntsmen who meet the same fate. It is only after failing three times that the king can learn not to send anymore into the forest. This in itself says a great deal about the male educational process.
The same educational process happens with the boy. He has a simple task: keep things out of the water, yet he fails three times. Only then can he move on to another task. It takes the boy three requests of Iron Hans before he can win the war. Iron Hans also must have his name called three times before he can respond. All of this repetition, while required my male stubbornness or stupidity, is nevertheless rewarded by riches, weddings, or spells breaking.
Funny how females never get a second chance. They drop the key once and they deserve to die.

Picture, If You Will, a Good Character… Now Pretend It's Not a Lie

The characters of any fairy tale (and almost any other type of story) are such typical stereotypes of polarized good vs. evil paradigms as to make the story almost laughable. The fairy tales are almost all populated by the same stock characters used to incite the reader's (listener's) internal biases and predispositions in order that the plot be made much more simplistic and almost all need for exposition is eliminated. The teller of the tale need not even describe the character beyond a title for the audience to have prescribed all of the necessary background, subtext, and emotional investment. Automatically, the prince is a hero, the princess a prize for him to WIN by means of a certain form of trial, the devil is a villain that gets outwitted by the hero, the beastly man is a king/prince under a spell and therefore inherently good and misunderstood. These make most fairy tales follow the same types of trends.

In the male growth/triumph stories, the social values of the people are presented in the ways in which the characters are portrayed. Handsomeness and royalty are two of the highest values, followed by wealth with modesty. Cheerfulness and cleverness follow in kind. If the hero is not liked by all, then the credibility is diminished. That is what allows them to overcome the devil or witch or spell.

The Godfather Death story was especially interesting for the very distinct ways in which the story itself broke the stereotypes of most conventional stories. The first major difference is obviously how, in the conclusion, the hero fails in his quest. There is a type of poetic justice and dramatic irony presented in the tale that most fairy tales lack. Also noteworthy is the reason Death is chosen and how that becomes the boy's undoing. It is interesting that the boy wins the princess still, however, even though he dies before being able to collect his prize.

All in all, the male heroes tend not to change over the course of the story beyond superficialities. The "individualized" or "distinguishing" traits that they have at the beginning are the same reasons that they are successful in the end. The only thing that changes is their geography.

Wild Men make great kings

The "Wild Man" stories present an interesting contradiction. The wild man is perceived to be wild, untamed, and uncivilized, and therefore is not to be trusted. However, it eventually is revealed that the wild man is a kingly figure, and rewards the young boy who assists him with a kingdom of his own. The reader is supposed to be wary of the wild man, but at the same time understands that he is more than a simple beast. He embodies certain characteristics that are intended to be positive in a masculine sense, while simultaneously serving as an unknown and untrustworthy character.

Especially in the shorter of the two versions, the wild man is portrayed as a drunk, and it is his "despicable" desire for alcohol that ultimately leads to be captured in the first place. The puritan writers of the story clearly intend his alcoholic consumption to be a vanity, an aspect of his character that the audience will despise. However, he is ultimately revealed to be a king, albeit one under an unexplained spell, which explains his drunken behavior.

The wild man is a contradiction precisely because he is intended to be admired and distrusted simultaneously. Although it is not apparent at the outset that he is a king, his bearing combined with the audience's knowledge of fairy-tale types leads one to understand that there is more to him than meets the eye.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Iron Hans: Responsibility

I feel the overall moral of Iron Hans is that one must learn how to take responsibility for their actions. The king's son looses his ball. He can leave the ball in the cage and take responsibility for loosing it. He could also tell his parents and get help from them. Instead he chooses to deal with it on his own. When he gets his ball back, he realizes that he will get in trouble for letting the prisoner free and leaves with the prisoner to avoid taking responsibility for what he has done. When Iron Hans asks the kid to guard the spring, the kid fails three times and doesn't take responsibility for what has happened. He tries desperately to hide his failure and is kicked out of the forest because of it. When the kid gets to the kingdom, he still doesn't take responsibility for he has done. He tries to hide his hair because it reminds him of his inability to handle responsibility. His growth into a man is shown through his decision to complete selfless deeds for the kingdom and through the fact that he doesn't take on a character focused upon greed. He finally takes responsibility for his actions when he tells the truth to the king and no longer attempts to hide behind the cap on his head.


Bearskin is a tale filled with morals. The major one is that if you are good and generous you will wind up living a happy life. The main character in the story makes a deal with the devil that if he doesn't wash, shave, or cut his nails for seven years he will receive riches. The man is never tempted to go back on the deal and instead spends the seven years doing everything he can to help others so that they will pray for him. In the end, he makes it through and is given great wealth and his handsome face back.
This theme is also shown through the woman that the main character winds up marrying. When Bearskin helps her father, her father offers one of his daughters to him as thanks. The two older sisters find him repulsive and refuse to associate with him but the youngest is kind and thankful for what Bearskin did and so agrees to marry him. She is rewarded when Bearskin's seven years are up and she ends up with a handsome, wealthy husband.
Another theme is that the wicked get punished. The two older daughters both want Bearskin after he returns since he is now handsome and rich. They cannot have him however and so they kill themselves.
The deaths of the older sisters also adds a bit of a dark cast to the otherwise happy ending. Although it is the two "bad guys" in the story who die, the story ends on the note of the devil saying how he has won after all because he got two souls out of the bargain rather than just Bearskin's.

Clever Hans

Reading Clever Hans, it seems that this particular fairy tale is meant for humor, rather than adventure or moral example. Hans continues to go back and forth from Gretel's house to his own, asking for and retrieving gifts, and all the while is being chastised by his mother for doing things wrong. In Hans' defense, he is just doing what his mother is telling him to do, but unfortunately he ends up with a calf on his head and his bacon on a leash. This tale is much different from the traditional coming of age tales. Instead of venturing into the wild and becoming a man with flowing golden hair, Hans ends up lonely after cutting out the eyeballs of all of the livestock and throwing them at Gretel. In fact, by the end of the story it does not seem that Hans has changed even a little bit! This tale, unlike the others, obviously was not meant to teach an example for young coming of age men. It seems that even 18th and 19th century Germans needed a little slapstick comedy, too.

Godfather Death

Unlike other tales we have read this week, Godfather Death does not include any type of detail about the young boy. In this story, the father was simply a poor man and needed a godfather for his thirteenth child. After a careful selection process, he chooses Death as the right match for the job. After we learn this, the tale is absent of the boy's growth into manhood. Instead, we are just told that "when the boy was old enough, his gosfather appeared one day and told him to come along with him." Does this mean that Death had not seen his godson until now? Where is his mother? How have things faired for the boy? We don't know and these things simply remain as mysteries. The boy becomes a famous doctor and as readers we are left out of any information that would give us a sense of whether he is ready for such a title or not. Clearly, however, he is not because he disobeys Godfather Death and has to pay the price with his life. In other tales, like "Clever Hans" or "The Wild Man" we see the boy grow into a man, and in the end he lives happily ever after. What are we then to make of the omission of the doctor's boyhood and the ending of this particular fairytale? Do they have some sort of correlation?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Dwarves

In comparing the dwarves (as a unit) from the Brothers Grimm tale and the Disney movie, one notices substantial differences. In the Grimm tale, the dwarves are treated as one character. They are never given individual names, and when they speak it is usually in the form "the dwarves said" or "they thought"; not once did they have a thought independent from the group. In Disney's Snow White, however, they all have their own personality reflected by their names: Doc, Sleepy, Sneezy, Happy, Bashful, Dopey, and Grumpy. This is probably the case for cinematic filler; in the Disney movie, in order for it to be a full length film, the dwarves have to contribute a significant amount to the plot.

Another interesting change in the dwarves' characters is how they first react to Snow White. In the Grimm's tale, "they were so delighted to see her". This could not be more different from the Disney movie. In Disney's interpretation, they were scared and confused when they saw what had happened, and they had no idea who or even what she was. All they knew was that she had cleaned their house for them unasked (which she doesn't do in the original tale; she must wait until asked to do so by the dwarves).

These changes represent a significant change in the nature of the tale. Now it was no longer a tale of simple familial conflict, now it was a tale that had dragged others into it as well. Disney's development of the dwarves gave Snow White some valuable aid and accompaniment that she hadn't had in the tale version; perhaps this implies that in Disney's mind, the children cannot live without parental figures. Snow White could not have survived on her own, she needed the dwarves as active participants in her flight.

Wherein I Talk about Snow White, Sleep to Dream, and Receive a HowDo from the Universe Stating that I Am an Utter Failure...

I have decided that, for one in my life, I will be complacent and act in a way such that my musings may seem normal and even perhaps a bit mundane. I shall therefore, as a result, present the most controversial views that such a perspective can: the blatantly obvious or inaccurate. I will start with the obvious and move on from there.

1) Pretty things are pretty.
2) Snow White is pretty all the time because she is pretty.
3) The step-mother is only pretty when she is pretty.
4) Pretty things are often prettier than things that are less pretty.
5) The holocaust was not good.

I'm bored.

Perhaps instead of stating trite observations and incosequentialities I should discus something slightly more fruitful—but still entirely profane and mundane in the spirit of complacency. I will analyze, then, the change of a character diachronically, but who and why and how… It must be something obvious, of course, that is not really worth discussing for the reason alone of its being so obvious or clearly analyzed previously such that nothing contributed here is of any value. I know… I will discus the evil queen. Be amazed at my talent for banality!

1) The queen is originally the mother (not step-mother) of the girl Snow White in the Grimms' version, which was a bad moral representation of the mother and was therefore altered to accommodate the laws of civility and propriety in Germany at the time.
2) The queen became a step-mother in order to appease the better judgment of the public in the Grimms' later publications.
3) The queen was then split into a witch and queen in order to abstract out the blame and evil aspects and focus them on an external avatar for the 1916 silent film version.
4) Then the queen becomes a complete magical witch for Disney since it is focused on the child audience and use of fantastical effects to shock the audience. Also, this simplifies her character into a much more easily recognized archetype and further polarizes her so that it is both clearer that she is evil and more allowable for her to perish… Damn it! I think I just said more than I should have in order to respect my oath… Oh well… Screw it… The true transformation of the witch into an old hag is the most intriguing aspect of this entire version, however. Whereas in the other versions the transformations tend to be much more superficial—with the notable exception of the silent film wherein her beauty is not even her own, so the abstraction of her disguises being similarly procured is not surprising. Her transformation into the old hag is a form of irony that Disney purposefully plays but simultaneously plays on himself because the hag, ugly and decrepit, gleefully declares "Now I am the fairest" when Snow White eats the apple even though she is clearly not fair at all. Unfortunately, Disney misses the greater irony which he plays upon himself by clearly telling the audience that the evil thing cannot actually be beautiful and that only an ugly thing can be worthy of death, undermining the nature of the step-mother as beautiful BUT evil, one of the few truly interesting and unique elements of the Grimms' Snow White.

The Queen

In the Disney version of Snow White the queen is clearly evil from the start since she plans to kill Snow White because she is more fair. She is the stepmother in the Disney version and the Grimm tale. She is sexualized in these versions. We know she is beautiful because before Snow White comes along she is the fairest in the land. Also in the Disney version she is portrayed to have defined curves.
The biggest difference is between the queen in the film version we looked at in class today and the Disney and Grimm versions. In this version the queen has a name and so becomes more of a fleshed out character. Also, in this version the queen and the witch are separate and so the queen seems a little less evil because she is not the one making the poisoned apple.
Also, in the Disney film the queen does not find Snow White to be a problem until she is in her late teens or so. In the Grimms tales the queen finds her to be a threat at 7 years old. This shows that in the Disney film there is more sexualization of the characters because this time Snow White isn't a threat until she is past puberty.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Snow White

In most Snow White tales, Snow White dies, or at least it seems that way, but she later regains consiousness and is brought back to life. In "The Three Little Gnomes in the Forest" Snow White has a stepsister as well as a stepmother, and instead of the step stepmother being her rival for a man (even though she too is jealous of Snow White's beauty), it is the stepdaugther who in the end, sneaks into Snow White's bed and pretends to be her. Because Snow White is obedient, a prince just so happens to ride by and asks her to be his wife. Upon the Queen finding this information out, she and her ugly daughter go to the castle and this is where she ugly stepsister acts as if she is her fairer sister. Snow White is pushed out of a window but she never dies...she transforms and takes on the form of a duck. This transformation has a magical quality and it could possibly be interpreted to suggest such a good girl defies death, simply taking the form of another creature. As this other creature, she still watches over her son and after the King is informed that the "Queen" is an imposter, the fake Queen pronounces her own death and the real Queen is revealed in her human form. This transformation aspect of the story differs from most versions. What does the tale gain and loss from such a stylistic choice?

Sexualized beauty in Disney's Snow White

Although Disney's Snow White is ostensibly a tale for children, the theme of "beauty" in the story is strongly sexualized, compared to the more traditional tales in which Snow White's beauty is linked to her snow white skin, blood red lips, and black hair. In the Disney film, however, the Queen is presented as a very sexual being and Snow White only becomes a threat as she grows older - her beauty as a child only becomes threatening as she matures into womanhood.

For example, in the Grimm story Snow Whites is imprisoned even at the age of seven because the Queen perceives Snow White as a threat to her own beauty. In the Disney version, the Queen only concerns herself with Snow White once the girl has become a woman, a sexual rival. This idea of a "sexual threat" is particularly ironic considering the lengths that Disney goes to to completely de-sexualize the rest of the story - from the asexual dwarves to the chaste Prince Charming. Marriage, and romantic relationships in general, are de-sexualized by Disney, yet the main conflict in the story arises from a perception of sexual threat.

The Different Faces of the Queen

The queen in the various versions of the Snow White stories proves to be a dynamic character. She assumes slightly different roles across each version examined. Looking at her roles in the 1916 silent film, the Disney version, and the Annie Sexton story will provide three unique queens. She can be dumb and selfish, a conniving sorceress, or just a vindictive and cannibalistic stepmother.

In the 1916 silent film, the queen approaches a witch to do her bidding. In exchange for making her beautiful so she can seduce the king, she promises to give Snow White to the witch. This version is interesting in that the queen starts out as an ugly woman. The change from the beautiful but vain woman from the Grimms' tales to the ugly woman who needs a magic potion to transform her physical appearance. It's almost as if the filmmakers took away the single positive quality the queen had to make her an even more detestable figure.

The Disney version of this story opens with the queen summoning her (dark?) magical face in the mirror. She sounds as if she is saying an incantation and it draws an immediate parallel to witchcraft for the viewer. She goes on to brew a potion with which she poisons Snow White. She is clearly not completely human as far as Disney is concerned. If she were at Hogwarts, she would most definitely be meddling in the Dark Arts.

The last version by Annie Sexton is the only one that pays homage to the cannibalistic queen of Grimms infamy. Not only is the queen evil and murderous, she also wants to eat Snow White. It is not enough for her to have Snow White's heart presented to her, she must also have it artfully prepared like prime filet mignon; quite the epicurean. It makes sense that this graphic and twisted scene would be removed from films marketed to mass audiences, but it is nice to see that this interesting little twist would not be forgotten by 1971.

the Queen

In the Disney film, the Queen is explicitly stated as being vain and jealous, and more importantly, a stepmother. Likewise, in the 1916 version, there is a blatant disclaimer that the Queen is not the real mother. While the Queen is clearly the antagonist of every version, her characterization differs significantly across the films.
In the 1916 version, the Queen has a name to distinguish her character. Rather than being the sole source (or even the main source) of evil, Queen Brangomer has an evil witch helper, further removing genuine peril from within the family circle. This stepmother's evilness is simply the result of a stupid, foolish woman's dark dealing with a non-familial witch. Furthermore, this woman is not born attractive, but becomes beautiful (aka possesses long, thick hair) with the witch's help.
While the other movies begin with the audience's loyalties tied to Snow White, Disney's Snow White's first frame sets up the audience to view the story from this villain's perspective.
This Queen is a film vamp, with her femininity sexualized by her curvy figure, dark eyes, and red lips. In this version, beauty equates to sexual threat, and the Queen (who is arguably more physically beautiful than Snow White) only views the girl as an enemy when she is a capable sexual being.
In the 1961, it is evident that the Queen inspires fear in her subjects, exemplified by her handmaid who has no choice but to obey. This Queen, unlike the others, is blonde and (in my opinion) the only queen who is believably not "fairer" than Snow White. She is not a witch nor does she have a witch helper. Instead, she simply dons a disguise using her own craft, rather than enlisting the use of the dark arts. This Queen's ending is one of psychological torture rather than of physical murder, unlike its 1916 and Disney counterparts.

Snow White: The Stepmother

In comparing and contrasting the stories of Snow White and The Three Little Gnomes in the Forest, I wanted to focus on the step-mother. In the Three Little Gnomes, the step-mother started out as a normal wife and became a widow. She married the Snow White figure's father by asking the Snow White figure to convince him to do so and by pure chance of a boot filling up with water. In Snow White, the step mother marries and becomes queen. In the Three Little Gnomes, the step-mother is deeply focused on the hatred of her step-daughter while trying very hard to promote her own daughter. This could be the step-mother trying to vicariously live through her daughter or she just really wants to see her daughter happy. This neccesity to see her daughter be better than the snow white figure manifests itself into jealousy and hatred. In Snow White, the step-mother is focused purely on herself. She is the second fairest in the land but has to be number one and it just so happens that snow white is standing in her way of accomplishing that. The queen is focused on physical greed that manifests itself into jealousy and hatred. The step-mothers are similar in the fact that their dealings of jealousy lead to their own death. In the Three Little Gnomes, the step-mother dies because she lied to the king after throwing snow white out of the window. Her punishment is she is rolled down a hill in a barrel that is nailed with the daughter whom she had to see best her stepdaughter. In Snow White, the wicked queen is forced to dance to death. Both stories are similiar in that there is jealousy focused towards the younger person by the older person and the jealous people do not succeed.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Castle of Murder

We've discussed in class how many of the Bluebeard stories are more closely related to the horror genre than that of a fairytale. "The Castle of Murder," despite its horrific and straight-forward title, however, has a lot of tropes of a fairytale. For one, it begins with "Once upon a time..." and ends in a marriage (which is unlike other Bluebeard tales where the maiden lives happily ever after with her family).

What's interesting is that Bluebeard himself, asks the maiden if she is "feeling any doubts," and although she does feel a "certain uneasiness" she replies no. Not only does she say no, but she provides an explanation for her answer. Also interesting, in this tale the man is not called Bluebeard, but the rich gentlemen is referred to as the "nobleman." It's amazing that we don't get an image of the man as being old, ugly, or having a Bluebeard. Judging from his physical appearance, we have no reason to assume he is not a suitable match for the maiden. While his physical appearance does not seem harmful, the maiden still senses something is not quite right...but she hides her uneasiness.

The nobleman also does not tell of a forbidden room, which suggests he is willing to share everything with the maiden. At the same time, it too seems like maybe he wanted her to enter, which seems more likely when we meet the old woman sitting in the cellar. Her existence is very unique within the Bluebeard tales and her character is some mix between good and evil. On one hand she's scraping intestines, and on the other she helps the maiden escape from this horror.

Upon escaping and telling the story of the madness inside the castle, the maiden does not need a finger like in other tales. Her words are believed without evidence and the castle is destroyed. The maiden then goes on to marry the lord's son, which says something about how marriage is viewed. She could not be tricked into marriage, despite that the nobleman seemed normal, but marriage is only reserved for two non murders...good people.

Even though "The Castle of Murder" may seem by it's title to contain awful things, it really does not. It does not even explain the maiden's sisters' deaths, it merely puts this info in parentheses. There are no horrific death scenes with elaborate descriptions. For me, even with it's violence, it is more of a fairytale.

Why doors make for more interesting fare than women.

Although the opera version of "Bluebeard" only very loosely follows the narrative of the more traditional tales, it presents, at least in my opinion, a more interesting social dilemma. The more traditional tales generally fall into the horror genre and present chilling warnings against women being overly inquisitive, in particular when it comes to their husbands' secrets. However, the opera focuses on the psychological aspects of human intimate relationships, rather than presenting a horror story of a murderous husband.

In the opera, Bluebeard presents his wife with seven doors, representative of the elements of his psyche or soul. These seven doors mirror the seven dead wives of the traditional tales, but serve a much different purpose. Although the scenes presented by the doors vary from macabre torture chambers to gentle gardens, Bluebeard freely presents them all to his new wife - up to a point. When they reach the sixth and seventh doors, Bluebeard is reluctant to reveal their contents, urging his wife to be content with what she has already seen. Nonetheless, much like the wife in the tales who insists on opening the forbidden door, the wife in the opera insists on seeing the last two rooms. Their contents - the husband's deepest sorrows and his blissful memories of former loves - are the undoing of the couples' marriage, and the new wife joins the women of the seventh room, yet one more memory of love gone by.

The obvious, although somewhat pessimistic, moral is that there are certain things that are best kept hidden. Rather than hiding the corpses of past wives, the operatic Bluebeard is hiding the much more mundane memories and sorrows that all humans hide - however, because his wife insists on unearthing these hidden parts of his soul, their marriage is compromised. In this case her curiosity does not lead to her death or near-death, but nonetheless it does destroy a relationship that otherwise would have been happy and fruitful.

Even Men with Blue Beards Have Feelings...

Almost all of the classic Bluebeard stories that we have read, with the notable exceptions of stories by Anatole France and William Thackeray, have focused on the actions of Bluebeard and their result: Bluebeard has 7 wives, the first six are killed and the seventh discovers him and leads to his death. However, two versions have similarities despite their vast difference in time period and media; "Bluebeard's Egg", by Margaret Atwood, is a modern written rendition of the fairy tale, and "Bluebeard's Castle" the opera written by Bela Bartok in 1911. These two interpretations of the life of Bluebeard focus on an almost entirely internal conflict; they seek to see within the soul of Bluebeard to make his inner sanctum the forbidden door.

In "Bluebeard's Egg", the story is told through the perspective of Ed Bear's (the Bluebeard character) wife. She seeks to understand her husband more fully, and although she believes that he is very simple, in the end her metaphor of an egg alludes to the fact that there may be much more under the surface of Ed Bear. At the end of the story, she is left lying in bed contemplating the egg, which can be seen as a symbol of Ed's mind and soul. The egg is "pulsing", "glowing softly", and "alive", and Sally's final thoughts are about what could possibly be further inside this egg.

In the opera "Bluebeard's Castle", Bluebeard's newest wife meets her downfall by exploring too far inside the metaphorical egg. This opera is set in a series of rooms in the castle, each representing another part of Bluebeard's soul. Although after 5 rooms (of the total 7), Bluebeard feels as though he is completely understood, Judith longs for more. Sally, from "Bluebeard's Egg", is at this point in her understanding of Ed: she is contemplating what lies further inside the egg, but hasn't yet ventured that far. Judith makes the mistake of going into Bluebeard's unwanted memories and destroying their relationship.

I find these two stories most interesting because they delve into the psychological aspect of the story simply by taking it from another point of view and another tactic of understanding. These tales provide the most opportunity for in depth analysis because they are, themselves, analysis of previous Bluebeard fairy tales.

A Short Something or Perhaps Nothing that Has a Little to Do With Bluebeard...

It is at least slightly interesting that most of the stories of Bluebeard in some way make the victim the one at fault, when clearly the man is the bad guy for being a serial killer... and even the later rewritings of the tale attempt to make Bluebeard into a good guy and demonize the wife. Victim blaming is bad.

That being said, I would like now to focus on a minor detail that I didn't really find fascinating but am able to fixate on because I feel like it: the urgent trip that the master of the house invariably must take... It is at least slightly noteworthy that the wife is only ever trusted with any of the keys when the husband has chosen to leave and that the husband never so much as shows her the rooms of the house of his own accord.

The fact that he chooses to allow her the key to the room with the corpses also suggests that he is testing her to some purpose, which is made explicitly clear in Fitcher's Bird when the evidence not existing inspires the man to remain faithful to the woman...

An actually interesting thought is that the sorcerer in Fitcher's Bird suddenly lost all power over the girl and had to do as she requested when he decided to actually marry her... Marriage is enslavement for a man and will bring about his demise in the event that he is not careful enough to find a trustworthy bride, which she was not... Clearly, marriage is evil.

The Fitcher's Bird: morals and vitrues

After reading the Fitcher's Bird, I feel the story is laced with several morals and virtues. First off, the sorcerer gave the first two daughters any and everything that they wanted. He only asked for them to exercise obedience in not opening one door of his house and protecting his egg. He even gave them the keys to everything. This was a test of morality, temptation, and trust. These were shown through the fact that he gave them everything they asked for and the keys, so he was trying to see if they possessed greed in their hearts to the point that they had to have everything. The trial of temptation was incorporated to show whether or not they possessed restraint. The trial of trust was incorporated through the fact that he gave them the keys and an egg symbolizing his trust and his heart that they needed to protect. When they willingly accepted everything but did not obey his only wish, they had to pay the piper. I feel this is a lesson to not take on a responsibility that you aren't strong enough to see through. The fact that the sorcerer, his family, and his friends were burned alive is incorporated to show that two wrongs don't make a right. He took lives so he had to pay with his own.

"Sweet love, are you feeling any doubts?"

"The Castle of Murder," while superficially similar to the other Bluebeard stories, is fundamentally different. Like many other Bluebeard tales, it begins with a man who seems to be good. He is a "well-dressed nobleman" who "appeared to be very rich" with "a splendid carriage and servants," and in the fairy tale realm we would assume his innards equate his outer goodness. However, the girl who "gladly agreed to ride off with him" "did feel a certain uneasiness," although this nobleman does not even have a blue beard, immediately different from those of the other Bluebeard stories.
This story appears to be a possible continuation of another Bluebeard tale. It mentions a shoemaker who had three daughters and the protagonist of this story is the third daughter who enters the bloody chamber, noting "one must indeed know that this was the way her two sisters had lost their lives before her." Like the others of this tale type, the girl's curiosity endangers her when, despite her being completely satisfied, she wants more. However, this Bluebeard gives the girl the keys to the entire castle, yet, unlike the others, never tells her that there is any door she cannot open. She therefore never betrays her love because he never restricted her. Her punishment does not arise from disobeying orders and overstepping boundaries, but the simple act of curiosity itself in her asking the old woman what she is doing in front of the cellar door. The old woman vividly tells her that she is scraping intestines and tomorrow she'll be scraping the girl's. Curiously (uh oh), this gruesomeness contrasts with the nonviolent conclusion of the mild and logical imprisonment of Bluebeard. Furthermore, this woman represents another break from typical fairy tale's outer and inner parallelism. Although old, mysterious, and practicing violence, this character aids the protagonist in her escape.


The aspect that stands out the most in Charles Perrault's version (and many other versions) of Bluebeard is the violence. Bluebeard is not a typical fairytale in this respect. In the beginning of the story Bluebeard is introduced as an outsider because his beard is blue. He is feared by the townspeople because of that and the fact that no one really knows what became of his first seven wives.
When a woman does agree to marry him it is not a Beauty and the Beast like ending where he sheds the qualities that made him different. In fact, the woman finds out some even more sinister about him when she enters the forbidden room. That is where violence is introduced to the story. The woman finds the bloody corpses of Bluebeard's seven wives.
Then, when Bluebeard returns, he finds out she has been inside the room and tells her that she will now join the rest of his wives in that room. Even her crying and pleading have no effect on his heart that is described to be harder than stone.
The aspect that Bluebeard does share with other fairy tales is its happy ending. The woman's brothers arrive just in time to save her and kill Bluebeard. The woman inherits all of Bluebeard's wealth and she then marries a worthy man.
To me the most interesting part of the tale is the end where two morals of the story are given. The first moral implies that is it always women who give into curiosity and that it always leads to bad situations. The second one, however, goes in a very different direction and says that it is women who are always in charge in a relationship and that men must "toe the line."

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Someday My Prince Will Come

The short film "Someday My Prince Will Come" has many elements of a fairy tale, however, it contains even more differences from traditional fairy tales. It is the story of a young "princess" who is searching for love and the obstacles she faces along the way. The story is narrated in verse which lends it a further fairy tale-like quality. In the beginning of the story the main character Laura-Anne is wearing a "little green hood" which could be some sort of reference to Little Red Riding Hood. This is about as far as the similarities go.
"Someday My Prince Will Come" follows the story of an 11 year old rather than a girl who is the normal age to be married. Also, in the film the girl is left without a prince at the end whereas most fairy tales end happily. She is however, still hopeful though she has had a few boyfriends over the course of about a year and none have turned out well.
The movie is also set in the present day which is unlike most fairy tales. All of the children seem to come from low income families. This is unlike a usually fairy tale because generally the prince in the story would be wealthy and would rescue the princess/girl from her humble existence. The children also use profanity freely and the princess herself is not pious and admirable like the princesses in fairy tales. In the movie Laura-Anne swears at and calls the boys who hurt her bad names. Maybe this is the big difference between her ending and the ending of most fairy tales. Since Laura-Anne has not behaved properly like the princesses in the fairy tales, she does not get the happy endings those princesses do.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Beauty and the Beast: parental roles

In Beauty and the Beast, the parental role is very significant. The father of the beauty wanders in to unknown grounds of the beast's castle. He picks one of the beast's flowers for the beauty as a gift and is subsequently attacked by the beast. The beast says that the father must return to be claimed by the beast after he is let loose or a wife must return. Beauty chooses to return in her fathers spot because she feels guilty about the deal that her father had to make. Even though the father doesn't want this to happen, Beauty still returns to the Beast . The cause and effect relation of the father leads beauty to the beast so the father acts as a bridge or the limiting factor in this story. No father picking the flower would possibly mean no beauty meeting the beast.

In the Frog and the Princess, the Princess looses her ball in a well. A frog comes along and she requests that the frog helps her. She agrees to the promise of taking the frogs home with her if the frog returns the ball. She gets the ball and returns home. The princess tries to go back on her promise but the frog followed her home. Her dad finds out about the promise that she made to the frog and makes sure that she honors her promise.

In both stories, the father serves somewhat as symbols of morality. They experience different situations that are unusual and uncomfortable but remain steadfast to the notion that a promise is a promise.

Parents and Beauty and the Beast Stories

I seem to share the same thoughts as most other people in our group - Fathers always seem to be the ones to blame for the encounters between the daughter and the Beast. The mother is either not present in the story or plays no significant role in what happens to the daughter. This makes sense because back when these stories were being told daughter's were like property that the father was in charge of marrying off.

The only reason I can think of for a parent to need to be present in these stories is so they can stand as a symbol for the childhood the daughter would be leaving behind once she was married. It also gives us someone we expect to fear for her life or her innocence when she goes to be with the beast - it increases the sense of danger surrounding a humans involvement with an uncontrollable creature.

Parents' Gentle Guidance

In each of the tales in the "Beauty and the Beast" genre, parents play a fairly large role in the progression of events. However, unlike other groupings of tales, the parents' behavior is not always the cause of problems. In the Twelve Brothers stories, it was always the parents who were wishing their sons to be turned to birds or plotting to kill them. They were almost always responsible for the negative outcomes. However, with the Beauty and the Beast stories, this doesn't always seem to be the case.

In Madame de Beaumont's story, the father is responsible for Beauty being sent away only in the sense that he unfortunately wandered into an enchanted castle when he was on the brink of death. The father loves Beauty dearly though, and would never do anything to endanger her. Beauty is only allowed to go to the castle because her father recognizes that she is so devoted to him and so concerned about his well being that she could never be convinced otherwise. In this version, the father seems to be neutral in his role. We encounter what we would now define as a positive parent role in The Frog King. The king has no fault in bringing the beast/king into his daughter's life. Even though he probably doesn't desire for his daughter to marry a frog, he encourages her to keep her promises and to remain true to her word. In my opinion, this is the best example of a parent acting how they should. The traditional irresponsible parent in the style of the Twelve Brothers can be found in The Tiger's Bride. This tale does not even make an effort to gracefully explain the father's mistakes. The first sentence of the story reads: "My father lost me to The Beast at cards." It is obvious that the father does not hold the same reverence for his daughter as Beauty's father does.

The role of parents is interesting in these stories. There isn't an identifiable theme, as parents can be positive, neutral, or negative. This truly proves how dynamic fairy tales can be.

Why fairy tales need parents.

Although it is true that the main focus of many fairy tales, and in particular in the Beauty and the Beast tales, the focus of the tale is on the young lovers, the figure of "the parent" also plays an important role. The parent(s) always plays some role in the tale, and in many it is the parent's "fault" that the Beauty is imprisoned, etc. by the Beast. However, the parent is integral to one of the main fairy tale themes, that of progression from childhood with the parent to adulthood with one's spouse. In these tales, the parent is not only an integral link to the childhood and therefore necessary to establish the progression, but furthermore in many cases the parent is the direct cause of the meeting between beauty and the beast.

The Beauty and the Beast tales are a unique twist on the generic "Prince Charming" story, but ultimately the tale ends with the prince and the princess living happily ever after. Because it is a tale of marriage, it is important that there be a distinction between the "childhood" and the eventual marital life. By including a parent prominently in the story, there is a very concrete sense of progression, of the parent handing the daughter off to her new husband. The father is the more common parent in the stories, and it is usually his "fault" that Beauty and Beast meet. It is directly because of the father's actions that Beauty and the Beast meet, and therefore he is indirectly responsible for their marriage, a proper "handing off" of the bride to the groom.

Beauty and the Parents

In all of the stories following the Beauty and the Beast pattern the parents of Beauty play an extremely important role. Many of these stories, especially Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont's salon style version, serve as allegories for a young girl's learning to deal with arranged marriages. In these stories, it is always the Father figure's fault because in 17th and 18th century French society the male head of the family always had control over each and every daughter. In these arranged marriages, when the Father meets a suitable match in social position, wealth, or family he makes arrangements without input of the particular daughter. In de Beaumont's story, as well as the Cocteau film, this is represented by the Father's meeting with the Beast. The Beast specifically asks for daughters, and when the Father agrees he is agreeing to a symbolic arranged marriage. Naturally, he is sad to see his young Beauty go, but he must send her nonetheless.

The figure (or lack thereof) of the Mother in these stories seems far more interesting than that of the Father. Only one of the stories has a mother figure: the Pig King; however, that particular incarnation of Beauty and the Beast has far more of a focus on the development of the Beast character than of the child characters. It seems as though the lack of a mother figure in stories like Disney, de Beaumont, and Cocteau only serves to show the utter unimportance of the child's mother in determining arranged marriages. Although the mother would have had a large impact on delivering virtues espoused in the tale, she does not have any power in the marriages that these tales symbolize.

The Father's Fault

I cannot think of a single version of Beauty and the Beast in which the reason for Belle's initial encounter with the beast is not the father's fault. However, it is the means by which the father is guilty that marks the major differences in the story. In Angela Carter's "The Tiger's Bride," the responsibility of the father is clearly stated in the story's opening line: "My father lost me to The Beast at cards" (50). This dad's carelessness and the narrator's statement that "You must not think my father valued me at less than a king's ransom; but, at no more than a king's ransom" display the absence of the great familial love of the more traditional versions (53). In this story, the girl has the option of returning to her father, but she choses to remain with the beast.
In "The Singing Rose," the father tells his daughters to "go out into the wide world, and the one of you who brings back a singing rose shall inherit my throne, and she shall be queen over the entire land." The daughter that does receive the rose must return to the beast's castle in 7 years. Again, it is ultimately the father's fault for her stay with the beast. Although he hands her over "with a bleeding heart," he does still hand her over. However, unlike the narrator of Carter's story, "Day after day she sorrowfully thought about her father and her sisters" and takes every possible opportunity to return home.
In Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," Belle makes the conscious choice to take her father's place and live with the beast forever. Their familial love is so strong that she is completely willing to make this sacrifice. It is still the father's fault, although it is the daughter's decision. The main reason for her initial sorrow with the beast is the fact that he does not allow her to say good-bye to her beloved father. In the climax of the beast's love for Belle, he allows her to return home to her father, this being the greatest gift he could offer.
The father is always the catalyst for Belle's meeting with the beast. However, his role after this encounter depends entirely on the reason behind his catalyst and, consequently, on the familial bond between father and daughter.

Parents… Who Needs 'Em!

In earlier times, the parents played a much larger role in the selection of spouses than they do in the current age. This was related to a number of factors but is primarily an artifact of the level of technology and content of morality at the time which affected the culture and the norms by which spouses were selected. Just as in the Frog King and in Hans My Hedgehog the father practically orders the daughter as to whom she should marry, the role of selecting a mate was out of the girls' hands. Instead of being given a choice, they were used as a form of bartering chip (for wealth or prestige or safety) because that was seen as their primary purpose and their role as daughter.

From a historical perspective, the concept of familial duty, long since forgotten in Western culture, was of utmost importance. Back then, the fourth commandment actually meant something to the culture as a whole.

From a psychoanalytic perspective, the parental figure(s) is necessary to the tale type because in order to successfully mate, the child must emancipate him/herself from the parents. This allows them to break the parental chains that bind them in order to enter into the bond of marriage.

From a religious perspective, God teaches that children must love honor and obey in their marriages, skills which are taught to them through the appropriate upbringing by their parents and a pious relation to the creator. Otherwise, the daughter is a slut… or something like that.

From a symbolic perspective, the daughter must be passed from one familial world into the next, a sort of handing off of the girl from the father to the husband. This is also why the father must walk down the aisle with his daughter in order to "give her away" at her wedding.

From a contextual perspective, the use of a family background as presented in the deportment and social standing of the parent(s) gives context to the action of the plot and, in at least one sense, justifies the actions of the character(s).

From the nihilist perspective, nothing matters, so why do we even care…

Parents Are Necessay in a Child's Development

I had never really thought about it, but the presence and or absence of parents does seem to serve an important role for the overall tale. Specifically I'd like to talk about Disney's film adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. At the start we see the Prince and hear that he is a spoiled young prince, but we never actually see his parents. In reality we assume the Prince to have parents because, well everyone does, and also the castle is beautiful so surely the young Prince's parents must be responsible for this. At the same time though, the visual absence of said parents seems to suggest that without parents to teach children vital lessons on life, children become cruel and uncaring.

Then we see Belle who lives in a "little town full of little people." We actually see her dad and it makes sense that she is so virtuous (she had someone to teach her). It is rather interesting, however, that the other people in the "little down" call Belle strange. While all the other girls are falling over backwards to please Gaston, she could care less. This also adds to why she ends up with a prince in the end, she was not overtaken by outward appearances. Though she was afraid of Beast at first, her main disdain with him came from his temper, not the fact that he was a beast.

So it seems that the visual presence of Dad once again helps us to understand Belle. Because of Dad, Belle is a passionate and kind-hearted person. When Belle found out that Dad was imprisoned in the Beast's castle she could have thought of plots and schemes for them both to escape, but instead she eagerly tires to get down out. The Beast finds out about the intruder and without even thinking about the consequences, Belle says that she will take Dad's place. It seems to me that she does this because she feels Dad deserves it; he has taught her so much and has helped her to be the young lady that she is.