Fairy Tales 2010

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).