Fairy Tales 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sondheim's Into the Woods

This musical is, on the one hand, a modern interpretation of the fairy tale in a different genre than its original creation. On the other hand, Into the Woods can also be called a modern day oral tradition. Oral tales with as much fervor and imagery as fairy tales probably demanded theatricality from the storyteller. I think that this play addresses a lot of interesting aspects concerning fairy tale structure. Firstly, just the setting of the interactions of characters—its always someone running into someone else in the woods. There are tons of chance encounters and run-ins, but even when the characters are at home, they all share a split stage. I think that this constant saturation of characters and disjointed scene structure comments on the inability to effectively mash these stories into one cultural context. According to the plot of Act II, Sondheim believes there are dire consequences to lumping all of these wonderfully rich, vastly different cultural stories into a boiled-down, condensed version for an end.

Willingham's Fables

In the graphic novel Fables, Willingham relies mostly on characters for its merit as an adaptation of fairy tale literature. There is a magical element to the story, as the wizards have the ability to make small apartments hold castle-sized rooms. But Willingham makes great use of the audience's previous exposure to popular fairy tales to further the plot by alluding to them. The story is full of winks and nods to characters we have studied inside class and outside in society. Detective Bigby Wolf; Snow White, director of operations; Jack from jack in the beanstalk; Mrs. Beauty and Mr. Beast (who have marital problems); Prince Charming as a don juan; even creepy old Bluebeard who killed his wives before "the amnesty." The scene of the invasion of fairy land is particularly interesting: dwarves and magical creatures, little red riding hood and the three pigs, it reminds me of the characters in Shrek (3 blind mice, gingerbread man, etc) getting together and singing and dancing in the swamp. All of these references weave together for a funny mash-up of characters we would never picture interacting together otherwise.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Into the Woods & Fables

I found Into the Woods interesting because it seemed to stay in line with the fairy tale tradition more so than Willingham's Fables. Both seem to have a sort of modern day twist with Fables in particular placing fairy tale characters in the modern world. Into the Woods was relatively true to the originals, but there was always a hint of "We know this is silly and wouldn't really happen in real life" to them. The actors were great at making jokes about their characters without making it seem as if they were in fact mocking them.

I think it is quite clear that both Into the Woods and Fables are more recent pieces because neither takes fairy tales as they were originally intended to be interpreted. Fables places fairy tale characters into a more dramatic world. Fairy tales typically aren't dramatic, at least not to the level of a comic book so seeing the characters in such a dramatic way is intriguing. Into the Woods is truer to the originals than Fables. It is lighthearted and is more aligned with the way that we think of fairy tales today. It's silly and fun while also teaching a lesson.

Collision Course

This might be a little bit of a non-sequitur comment, however, what interests me is how the two pieces play with both what is known about fairy tales and also edits how it ends. Both are based on a very basic assumption that anyone reading the comic or viewing the play knows fairy tales, to some extent or another. Sondheim does provide an very, very basic overview that more or less lays out the plot of the play, not the plots of the fairy tales. There is this basic assumption that people know who the characters are, just by their names alone, and this is particularly the casein Willingham's Fables. This produces an interesting dynamic, for both "into the woods" and Fables, we know the character's back stories, we have a sense of what the arc of their stories should look like, and then both pieces undermine those original story lines. The major difference is that each fairy tale, as they are contained in the Grimm's work, is separate, unique, maybe with overlapping motifs, but there is never a temporal or spatial placement of the characters or events. Both these pieces assume that all the fairy tales happened in the same place at roughly the same time. Fables is a bit different, since there seems to be the implication that the fairy tales as we (or the creators) know them happened "once upon a time", but in both pieces there is this wild collision of multitudes of fairy tale characters that allows the creators to subvert, or just generally play with the original story lines in a serious manner, because the result is somewhat humorous, but at the same time you are watching lives of "real" people collide, not the lives of one-dimensional fairy tales. The advantage of the fairy tale is the fact that there is almost no need for the set up the characters, but there is plenty of room to explore the ins and outs of the characters. This is because we know the plot, we know the general arc of all the characters lives from our own readings of fairy tales, but there is simply not enough psychological development in fairy tales that authors who want to flesh out the characters have to contend with. The fun becomes how one interprets the characters, and what they actually make the characters into, and how that affects their interaction with the other characters.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Fairy Tale About Common Sense

This story is about an nice old gentleman that understands common sense over all else. He goes in front of a panel of nondescript heads-of-state to lay out an argument for town reform. His proposal includes a six bedroom home for every family, extravagant schools, and new hospitals built in densely populated areas. He asks the heads-of-state for one hundred thousand billion dollars to complete his proposal. They laugh him almost out of the room. He cleverly replies that one hundred thousand billion is the exact amount spent on the war. Why can't that amount be spent during peace time? They tell him that he is crazy--"war is something entirely different".
This story can definitely be considered a fairy tale. The protagonist is a nondescript old man that is full of virtue. We are instantly on his side because he believes in virtuous, common sense thought--not that poisonous manipulative thought. The old man goes on a journey of sorts to get to where he can impart his knowledge. Obviously, the rulers are inept an cannot listen to sound logic. Logic does not flourish in the aristocracy. The rulers are characterized as demonic and self-serving.

Also, this tale ends with a little "real life" paragraph. The author directly addresses the audience to tie his story to a relevant point in history. Its like a Perrault-ian fable at the end of the tale.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Shadow

by Hans Christian Andersen.

First, "The Shadow" is set in a non-descript location, some sort of village with a lively main street and friendly townspeople. The village is in a very hot country that suffers from a heat blazing from the sun. It is the kind of heat that "turns the people a deep mahogany brown," and the man suffering from the heat is a "young and clever scholar from the colder north." The story interestingly personifies the man's shadow, which stretches and grows and regains strength.

The supernatural element is not very magical in this story, it's more just... strange. One day the man wakes up and says: "Look at this, I haven't got any shadow!" And years after a new shadow had grown in its place, the old shadow comes back wearing flesh and clothes, gold watches and rings. They sit down for a meal and story-telling time. The shadow had left him to be with Poetry herself. She lived in a brilliantly lit home. For some reason the shadow is very arrogant, insisting he not be addressed as "old friend" and reminding the man that he knows all. Years later, the shadow returns and asks the man to become HIS shadow! He is careful to take the place of the "master" and calls the man by his first name while he must be addressed by last.

Lastly, the story includes a princess. She is lovely, but considering that her malady was "seeing too clearly," the shadow fools her without problem. The shadow woos the princess with the unknowing help of the man, and they are prepared to elope. The man refuses to say he is his shadow's shadow, so they throw him in prison, kill him, and live happily ever after! But the lack of a happy ending for the poor scholarly man was a grave departure from normal fairy tales.

This tale dramatizes Anderson's mixed feelings toward the patronage of the upper class, according to Zipes. But the strangeness and simplicity of the story, as well as the unfair ending, are rather different than other tales.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Chinese Fairy Tale

I read A Chinese Fairy-Tale by Laurence Housman. He was an Englishman
who wrote this story in 1904 (about half way through his life). The
story is about a little servant boy name Tiki-pu whose master was an
artist/ art teacher. He was treated very cruelly by his master but had
an intense desire to become an artist himself. Each night he was
locked in the art studio to cleanup and then sleep on the floor.
Finally he got the idea to try his hand at painting by stealing bits
of candles and scraps of rice paper, etc. and working at night. At one
end of the art studio there was a very famous painting by the most
highly revered artist, Wio-wani. The legend was that he had painted
the place he wanted to rest after he died and then just walked into
his painting one day and went through the back door of a castle. One
night while Tiki-pu was painting, Wio-wani came out and invited
Tiki-pu into the painting with him so he could teach him to paint.
Tiki-pu joined him in the painting each night for a while, before his
master caught him and painted a brick wall over the door in the
picture so he could not come back out. Tiki-pu stayed in there for 5
years, until one day him and Wio-wani took down the brick wall.
Wio-wani came out of the picture with him and beat the master with a
brick from the painting, killing him, then returning to the painting.
Tiki-pu was a great artist after that and no longer had to suffer
under his cruel master.

I think this story has some of the usual fairytale elements, such as the mistreated child being the hero of the story and the cruel master being brutally killed in the end. The concept is very interesting and honestly something that I have thought about before. The magical ability to enter and operate within paintings. While this story does claim to be a fairy tale and possesses some of the usual characteristics, I think it is actually more of a legendary type of story or myth. Just as we have been discussing in class about Eckbert the Blond and how Bertha talking about a fairytale directs our attention to the relationship between the overall story itself and a fairytale, this story discusses the legend of Wio-Wani entering the painting he had created within the story, which brought my attention to the legend genre when considering the overall story. I think there is almost a power of suggestion by mentioning things like that within the story.

As a side note, as someone who has spent time extensively studying Chinese culture, history, language, etc. I felt like this was not a very accurate story (especially considering the names); which brought up an interesting point of how fairy tales are written to encourage us to at least mentally escape to far away places, which was perhaps Housman's intention in writing about China (without what appears to be any personal experience with the country).

Of Feminine Subtlety

This story is a fairy tale because it starts out with a king on his death bed with three sons. Each son is going to be awarded some kind of posession. The youngest son is to gain three different magical items; a ring, a necklace, and a piece of cloth. Magical items being left to a son in the first place is a common element among fairy tales. Another common element that comes into play shortly after is the female figure. In many fairy tales, there is a female figure that is evil and deceitful, many times a witch. In this story, she is a concubine who is trying to beguile the son out of his posessions using her feminine sultry and charm. It works and each time she tricks him again gaining the objects in her control. Eventually, the woman is punished for her behavior, as in other fairy tales. She suffers an agonizing death which in many fairy tales is also the suitable punishment for witches. Lastly, everything works out and there is a peaceful ending. This is the traditional "happily ever after" element that is represented from fairy tales. There are many reasons from this story that can classify it as a fairy tale. On the other hand though, there are many examples in this story that stray from the traditional fairy tale elements.

The Tiger's Bride

So, technically, I did not find this story on my own, we were assigned it for class, but I think it is my absolute favorite story we have read all year (the Juniper Tree comes in a close second), and I was very interested to find it in both the Tatar and the Zipes books. The first time I read it, in the Tatar book, as a variation of the "beauty and the beast" tale type, I read it very much as a fairy tale. Partially because i had read several stories before it that are considered "fairy tales" so I mentally compared it to the other beauty and the beast stories, and my main conclusion was what made it unique was the fact that the beast, the animal, wins in the end over the humanity, and rather than transforming the tiger into a human, Beauty is transformed in to a tiger. Reading it as a literary fairy tale, I obviously still saw the underlying Beauty and the Beast story, but there were so many layers on top of it that made it magical and fantastical, but altered the feeling of a fairy tale. First and foremost, the story is narrated in the first person, by Beauty, and the story is very specifically located: Beauty comes from the Russia, the Beast lives in Italy, we know details that are far more specific than any other fairy tale. I think the psychological insight into Beauty's thought process is far more intimate, and literary, than anything in Grimm's tales. Also, the ending, as mentioned, is a decided twist on the fairy tale marriage/happily ever after. What fascinates me is how the mechanical becomes part of the fairy tale, eeriely, in the house where nothing is human. There seems to me, in the mechinization of most of the house, to be a hint of what I would be more inclined to call science fiction. On the one hand, I think the only thing that makes this story a fairy tale is that it is based in a fairy tale, or at least that it draws the general arc of the plot from a fairy tale. On the other, I think not calling it a fairy tale is creating too narrow of a definition of fairy tales. This sort of brings me to a strange conundrum, but I think it shows how, even in a story that is not written like a fairy tale, if there is even a hint of a fairy tale somewhere in the story (either in the plot or the style, like "The Happy Prince") will still, to some extent, "sound" like a fairy tale in the end.

The Story of the Fairy Tale (pg. 564)

I was drawn to this story mostly because of the title, but I think it also answers the question of "what makes a fairy tale?" while being a fairy tale itself. In the story, Truth disappears from the world and five wise men go in search for it. The wise men argue and try to figure out what Truth is with each wise man believing that it is something different from Science, to Love, to Gold, to Truth, to Wine. The wise men end up physically fighting each other and they all suffer their own individual bruises. A little girl comes to the men and tells them that she has found Truth. Upon seeing Truth, however, the wise men all call out that "It's a Fairy Tale" and walk away from it leaving only a few people with Fairy Tale.

In this brief story, Fairy Tale is given a description that allows it to encompass so many different aspects. It's neither male nor female, adult or child. It's as soft as a mother while also being as strong as the hand of a king. It has a smile that is bright yet quivers with sadness that is indescribable. A fairy tale is all of the above. It's a story that takes no sides and is whatever you want or need it to be.

The wise men of science, theology, love, gold, and wine all dismiss Fairy Tale and fight among themselves until the world is "shaken to its center." The wise men dismiss Fairy Tale because it is not serious. It isn't meant to solve the world's problems, and yet, somehow it seems to help. It gives people an outlet through which they can believe in the unbelievable. This story is a fairy tale because it doesn't claim to be the truth or anything serious, which is the entire point of a fairy tale.

Friday, April 9, 2010

comment on pharra's post

does anyone else find it impossible to comment on other people's posts? for some reason, the box doesn't let me type in it.

I liked how you mentioned the difference in tone between a typical "grimm's fairy tale" and the literary tales of this week. the tone is much more factual, detailed, and even historical, such as by alluding to the legend of Tristan & Isolde. It reminded me of the "historical background" on the nice guy that Bluebeard really was, who was taken advantage of by 7 different women and finally stabbed to death by the last wife's lover's henchmen. I did not know that this background on Bluebeard was not true, so I read the whole thing feeling terribly sorry for the poor guy, and angry at how history portrayed him! I totally believed it, just because the story began with a scientific, historical-sounding, objective tone.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Finding the Fairy Tale in The Philosopher's Stone

The main difference between this week's stories and the usual Grimm fairy tale is literary complexity. The Philosopher's Stone has complex dialogue, character development, humor and satire. It offers a social critique throughout the story, such as the contemporary issue of German subjects being sold to maintain an evil king's lifestyle. The tale even includes historical allusions that give the tale a superior, factual air about it. Yet despite these differences, magic and storytelling still take center stage. We still get our usual dose of animal-->human transformation, king-->peasant lessons learned, some weird gender mix-ups, and nature's role in helping things along. One notable difference between traditional fairy tales and this story was the inclusion of science and alchemy. Normally tales are timeless and therefore totally nondescript in time period, but this story shows some signs of modernity, with people either believing in the magicians or the scientists. Real magic combats real science. Of course, the ending to this story resembles a traditional fairy tale: happiness and the rite of passage into society that is marriage. They learn to be content with living simply.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Most of the tales we've read thus far have had a seemingly set tone of lightheartedness that conveys the idea that "this is a fairy tale." The tales for this week don't really seem to have that tone. They feel real which makes it harder to classify them as a fairy tale. I can't quite describe why a Grimm's story feels like a fairy tale and these stories don't though. All of the elements are the same such as the magic and mysticism, but they just feel...different. Perhaps it is the point of view through which the tales are told.

What I found interesting about The Philosopher's Stone was that the story is told not from the point of view of some omniscient narrator, but from the Egyptian, at least for a vast majority of the story. The story also takes on the whole satirical tone to where the reader almost wants to take it seriously and then realizes that it's a joke. On the other hand, the story is written in a way that makes it seem real and more plausible for the reader.
It is interesting to observe the transformation within fairy tale from the traditional ever adapting story telling to the unique, literary tale, written by an author and given a permanent identity. Even more interesting is that one of the first literary fairy tales we observe is Wieland's The Philosopher's Stone, a complete satirical take on the fairy tale genre. King Mark, an anti-heroic character who exhibits nothing but sin and vice, is the protagonist of this tale. The narrative arc of this tale is completely out of wack, and on purpose. There is no narrative purpose of the tale. Wieland's only purpose is to completely flip the fair tale genre on its head similar to that of Tex Avery's cartoons, but in a more old fashioned sense. The story changes directions more times than necessary, as fairies appear, disappear, reappear, and metamorphoses occur without explanation. Another approach Wieland takes to mock the fairy tale is his creation of the frame story lay out of The Philosopher's stone, by introducing the seemingly never ending dream sequences/stories. Wieland's satire culminates in these stories because he no longer mock the fairy tale genre, but in fact mocks the literary genre as a whole, because a character within this ridiculous story telling a story seems to be more important than the overarching story itself.

Why is this tale considered a fairy tale?

In the first paragraph of introduction, we are told that the tale contains "strange beings that are frequently found in the wilderness of this region....super-natural creatures." Right off the bat we are introduced to the fact there are fantastical creatures in this tale. This right here is an element that is found in fairy tales. Once the actual story starts, we are again presented with an element of fairy tales. "At one time there was a naked saint who lived in a remote cave near a small river." This starts the tale at an ambiguous place in time as well as with an ambiguous character and ambiguous setting. This piece further adds to the thought that this tale can be considered a fairy tale. Fairy tales are known for fantastical creatures, ambiguous time and setting, as well as magical elements of transformation. This third element presents itself first when the two lovers souls are transformed by the moonlight. Then, the singing transforms the naked saint back into a human. It even said that the singing broke the "magic spell." The overall trajectory of this tale also stays true to that of fairy tales. It starts off in the time and setting, moves through to the creature and his issues, and then is transformed by lovers that break the magical spell.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Golden Goose

In seventh grade, I acted in production of “The Golden Goose” at my middle school. I was the King. I didn’t have a name. Nor a character, really. The king was only supposed to be really cranky with anything his daughter said. He also hated Simpleton with a passion. This translated to me furrowing my brow for the 20 or so minutes I was up on stage. That is, until the last scene, in which I give over my daughter to Simpleton. He proved virtuous, so he gets a wife. Standard stuff.

Reading the Golden goose tale makes me see the Simpleton character in a completely different light. I know that we car studying this story in conjunction with other men stories. Simpleton, though, is truly a fool. Not that he has any more sense than any other man in a fairy tale, but he is especially stupid by comparison to his cleverer brothers. But wait! His stupidity actually gets his somewhere. His cleverer brothers refuse to share their food with a dwarf. Simpleton doesn’t really know how to say no or consider that he is being taken advantage of, so of course his shortsightedness is rewarded. This is really the only proactive thing he does in the story. So, in one sense, maturity can be achieved through one virtuous or selfless act. Simpleton is already thinking about marriage, so its not physical maturity that he requires. Manhood is simply a state of mind that is somewhat given by a wiser more virtuous man.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Iron Hans

It is interesting to see how battle and war has finally made its way into the fairy tale genre, and I don't think it is a coincidence that it is present in the story about "wild" men. Violence and war stems from the uncontrollable nature of man and perhaps the Grimm's brothers have illuminated this aspect of peasant culture in these Iron Hans and Wild Man stories. Hair is also an interesting motif to study in the fairy tale genre, and in Iron Hans we have a slight inconsistency within the motif. Hair usually represents health and stature rather than beauty, but the "golden hair" of the boy dazzled and bewildered everyone in the story, including the young princess who actively pursued her attraction to this glowing golden hair. It is interesting to see how the gendered nature of hair here has been reversed as golden blond hair is usually sexualized and characteristic of the female gender. Yet this youth, this naughty boy who couldnt control where his ball landed, who couldnt properly guard a well, rose to military and popular fame all as a result of his roots back to his wild nature and his bond to Iron Hans. Perhaps the inner beast in man can be a good thing when tamed.

Do Boys Ever Really Grow Up?

The stories we have read this week are supposed to reflect the progression of boy growing into men. Apparently there is no smooth transition that does not include a variety of mistakes. In some of the stories, Clever Hans for example, he never grows up or learns anything. For the most part they don't tend to repeat the exact same mistakes, but pretty close. In Iron Hans, the boy learns not to put his finger back in the pool, but he still ends up putting something in it each time. So he learned from his mistake, but not enough to prevent him from messing up the same task again. I was surprised in the story of Bearskin that the main character did not need to make a series of mistakes to learn his lesson or acquire his wealth, but then again, he had already been an orphan and had gone to war, so he was not exactly a child just being introduced to the world. The same goes for the 3 soldiers who had to outsmart the dragon/devil to keep their freedom. I think the stories we have read where the characters truly were children, they would have made more mistakes (like in Iron Hans).

I think Iron Hans was the most interesting story of the most complete progression through the boy's life, but I still felt like there was interesting information missing. If the boy's hair was so beautiful and he was the rightful heir to a kingdom, why did he pretend to have scabs on his head and not want anything to do with the money the princess had given him. By participating in the war and contest, he clearly shows a willingness to be a part of the kingdom and win the princess over, but she doesn't know that he is giving the money away, etc.

I don't know that these stories give young boys much direction about how to become a man because it seems like most of what they have is somewhat magically provided for them. I also feel like the missing story of the wild man complicates this by having no explanation whatsoever of why he had been enchanted and why he was suddenly a king. Boys can't just suddenly be kings with no explanation. I think the Grimm's the wild man story had the most practical lesson to it, don't become a drunk vandal that is vulnerable to temptations and eventually ends up ridiculed in a cage... of course until the end of the story when he is suddenly a king after his giving "redemptive acts" toward the boy. I don't know what to make of all these stories and the progression of the boys growing up. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't.
After reading Clever Hans and Wild Man as well as discussing them in class, it is evident that there are many similarities as well as differences. Clever Hans, does not develop throughout the story. He is the same at the beginning as he is at the end. It seems that since there is no age or time progression throughout the story. In Wild Man, there is development of the boy because of his urgency and want to leave his parents and be on his own. One thing that I thought of upon reading both of these stories, which may be a stretch, is Peter Pan. While Peter Pan never wants to grow up, time passes and he stays the same. He consciously does not want to grow up ever. In these stories, the concept of time and age is unsure. Also, the conscious decision to not develop or move forward is not evident. It seems to be under the surface. The man in Clever Hans acts like a boy, not a mature figure that his age should resemble. This also relates back to the fact that subconsciously, he is not maturing or developing.

The Wild Man

Grimms the Wild Man starts with a boy getting independent from your parents. Disobeying the kings (who is also his father) orders is his first step to get away from his parents - a decision that is just followed by another much further reaching decision that makes him finally independent from his parents. Instead of taking his fathers punishment, which would probably not have been as bad (he would have be beaten), he chooses to leave the protection of his fathers kingdom and goes with a complete stranger. It seems as if he consciously tries to get away from his paternal safety and start his own life in a world he doesn’t know and understand yet. Still, taking the risk of leaving ones parents definitely is the advice for young men this story conveyes.
The second advice is how to get a wife. He takes a job and starts working. But instead of working on his own, the wild man does all the work and all he has to do is to take care of his appearance – which finally also guarantees him the princesss attention. Paired with his refusal to take her money and giving it to the wild man instead, we can see three basic manners how men should be: they should take care of their appearance, they should be willing to be only rewarded for the work they do which is basically honesty, and generosity, as he gives the money to somebody else even though he could have needed it himself. All these points finally influenced the princess to marry him.
Even though these features helped him convincing the princess, he couldn’t convince the king and the queen. He had to war to be accepted and appreciated by them, which is probably the final advice for young men who want to gain success in life. It reminds me of the rags to riches story: the only possibility for a regular man to be accepted by the higher society probably was great services in war. Thus military service was another important factor in a mens education.

Clever Hans

"How does a particular story reflect boy's progression into manhood?"

"Clever Hans" is interesting to me because while I was reading it, I assumed that Hans had to be a young boy due to his blatant stupidity and lack of common sense. Upon reading the final line of the tale, "That was how Hans lost his bride," I was surprised to discover that Hans, at least by the end of the tale, was an adult. I think this story says a lot about how men are perceived. Hans' lack of growth from the beginning of the tale (it's unclear as to how old he is at the beginning) to the end implies that man's ability to discern logically is somewhat stunted. Hans listens to his mother's suggestions and always utilizes them "next time," but never grows wise enough to discern when her suggestions are appropriate. Hans grows from a stupid boy to a stupid man who ultimately loses his bride because of his inability to use common sense.

In addition to lacking common sense, Hans continues to faithfully listen to his mother as if he were still a child. Whatever his mother tells him to do, Hans obediently does it. His growth into manhood is so stunted that there really doesn't seem to be a difference between his childhood and adulthood. It's difficult to discern any change and really makes the reader wonder if there is any progression into manhood at all for Clever Hans, which makes him an interesting choice when studying the progression from boyhood to manhood.

De wilde mann

Robby Bly based his book Iron John on the stories of rugged, wild men that we read in class. These same innocent fairy tales ignited the "Men's Movement" of the 90s to rescue masculinity and give men purpose in a society that was empowering women but leaving typical male gender roles very confused. Bly uses Iron Hans as an example of what real men should be like! LOL. But the story does successfully showcase a variety of characteristics of REAL MEN.

1. The Huntsman
The hunter, like in many fairy tales (i.e. LRRH), is a pretty burly and competent guy. The hunter looking for the Wild Man is fearless and intelligent (He lets his dog get dragged into the pool before he does). He valued teamwork, had manly friends, and wasn't afraid of hard work (three guys use buckets to empty out the pool). And the hunter nobly protects the safety of the peasants by putting the wild man into captivity.

2. The Wild Man
The wild man is persuasive and uses his leverage well (golden ball <--> cage key). He knows how to get things done. But he is still kind to the boy, teaches him the value of hard work (in the castle with the cook/gardener) and the value of the dollar ("There you shall know poverty").

3. The boy
The boy is willing to learn, help, fight in a battle, humble (doesn't want to take credit for saving England, prefers his cloppity horse), attracts a pretty woman, and work hard in the kitchen and garden. He is generous with his money with the gardener's children, and Iron Hans knows that he has a good heart.

So, what does this all mean for the roles that men should play in society?

Of Kings and Curses

I am curious about the fact that in both The Wild man and Iron Hans, the story ends with the character in the wilderness, the wild man, being transformed into a King. We talked in class briefly about the difference between the King, the boy's father, someone effectively in control of civilization, and Iron Hans, a humanoid who has rejected, and, if you assume the forest belongs to the normal (awkward word) King, invaded civilization. And yet, it is Iron Hans who gives the boy the tools to become a great man, not his father, although by birth his father has made him part of the nobility. What I wonder about is why the King who, at some indeterminate point before the story takes place, upset someone or something with supernatural powers that turned him into Iron Hans, is ultimately the great teacher and benefactor of the boy. On the other hand, his father the other King (I'm sorry for the excess of rather vague male pronouns and generic names, I blame the Grimms and the fairy tale tradition) is almost the source of his trials, since he demanding that the forest be his, and brought Iron Hans into the castle and put him on display in the first place. So he, the King who attempt to bring civilization to the forest and make it "safe" for people to enter ends up, at least in the life of his son, causing more trouble; while the wild man, who at some point defied the natural (or supernatural) order of things so much that he was effectively turned into a beast for his transgression, ends up being the one who is able to educate and vastly aid the son in ways his father is simply unable to do. I guess on one level one can argue that boys, in order to be raised into "good men" need to face a stint in "the wild" and need to learn from the wilderness in order to become strong, yet I think it also suggests the fallibility of parents (a shocking revelation for a fairy tale), and highlights their inability to teach or protect their children when the time comes for them to grow up. There is a great power, however, wielded by the man who has rejected civilization (by his own wish or by force) in teaching a child raised in the security of civilization. I also think it is interesting that it takes a curse to transform a king from, I assume, any other king into the type of king who can create the ideal situation to create the ideal prince...and have armies appear at his command...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cruel Intentions

Is it significant whether or not we see Snow White's stepmother before she becomes the stepmother, or has anything at all to do with Snow White?  

Take the version we watched in class on Wednesday: we were shown a woman who wanted to be beautiful, and sought the (mis)guidance of a witch who wanted Snow White's head.  The woman's initial desires had nothing to do with Snow.

Then think about the Disney take on the story, in which right away we are confronted with a villainous version of that same character, and the woman jealous of Snow White's beauty is already the stepmother.  We never see her character or intentions out of connections from Snow.

Does this seemingly minor change do anything to the story?  I think so.

The Disney version, in which the stepmother is after Snow White from the start, gives credence to the idea that there is a parent out to get the child.  Like we read from Bettleheim a while ago, it is possible that children want to believe that.  Versions in which the villain is already the stepmother allows for that thought trail, because her intentions are against Snow White.

In other versions of the story, the future stepmother's cruelty is less of a focus, because it all falls in the master plan to become beautiful.  Since the witch is the master of the plan against Snow, the stepmom-to-be loses some of her agency as a true villain.  Her intentions are solely to be beautiful - Snow is simply an unfortunate stepping stone to achieving that goal.

What do you think?

Snow White and Her Wicked Stepmother

Last semester, I took a WGS First Year Seminar in which we spent one week discussing the grossly misogynistic aspect of several problematic fairy tales that Disney popularized:

the Little Mermaid (lose your voice and be pretty!)
Cinderella (cut off your toes; you won't need them when you have a man!)
Sleeping Beauty (worst princess)

but we spent the most time of all discussing Gilbert and Gubar's Madwoman in the Attic, and specifically their take on Snow White.

When watching the 1937 Snow White, I couldnt help but view it through mostly a feminist lens. Gilbert and Gubar describe the competition between the women: "the one fair, young, pale, the other just as fair, but older, fiercer; the one a daughter, the other a mother; the one sweet, ignorant, passive, the other both artful and active; the one sort of an angel, the other an undeniable witch." The main problem that this raises--why do women have to be either an angel or a demon? Women in fairy tales are either categorized as angelic or bitchy, and I don't think any REAL woman can be given exactly one category in which to live her life. Through the films, we see the stratification between angel and witch very clearly through makeup, figure, and sexualization.

One interesting character evolution we can see in film is of the wicked stepmother. In the 1916 version, she is given a name as Queen Brangomar and is more realistic. She conspires with a witch for more beauty, who kills Brangomar's sister and makes her queen. This somewhat lessens the severity of her evil by splitting the character of the Wicked Stempother into three different women. In Disney's, the Stepmother is much more interesting than Snow White. Dark makeup and a slinky figure show that she must be evil. She relies on some demonic magic and her dangerous beauty to get what she wants. Enchanted uses a real actress to embody this stereotypical evil woman.

Disney downplays Snow White's lack of agency in the tale by giving her working songs, and a previous "relationship" with the prince. But in the tale, Snow White is purchased as a beautiful thing by the prince. She is simply passed from a literal to a figurative glass coffin- a life of domesticity and happiness living with a Prince.
I found todays class discussion very interesting, how cinema, while although the new primary medium to tell fairy tales, will always rely upon textual material. Walt Disney establishes early on the cultural connection to his Snow White and the Brother's Grimm version by crediting the adaptation to the Grimm's version, and the iconic "Book" opening image. But while he credits this early literary form of the tale, Disney himself re-writes the tale, and through cinematic popularity, makes his own the "grand version." Disney accomplishes this by both keeping to the storyline, and by also making his specific and unique, Which is evident through the personification of the Dwarfs. In the Grimm's tale, the seven dwarfs are described as merely just that: 7. They have no individual characteristics or personalities. Yet Disney gives all 7 of them, a character trait unique to their own. Such a decision not only allows for theatrical entertainment and diversity, but in turn distinguishes the Disney form from the more vague and simplistic folk tale from the Grimm collection. Bashful, doc, dopey, grumpy, happy, sleepy, Sneezy: these names have become perpetually bound and synonymous to the identity of the Snow White tale, thanks to the creativity and ingenuity of Walt Disney to create something new, yet also traditionally familiar.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Absence of Parents

In reading the Grimms version of Snow White and watching the Disney version, I noticed that Snow Whites parents play a very insignificant role in both versions. The Grimms version mentions Snow White's parents in the first paragraph and then the mother is killed and the father disappears, not to be mentioned again. With the Grimms version, the mother is only used to give birth to Snow White and give the reader a background as to how Snow White got her name. The king is used even less than the queen with his role being the character who introduces Snow White and the readers to the evil queen/step-mother.

Disney chose to skip Snow White's parents altogether. When we meet Snow White, she is already in her late teens/early twenties and the Evil Queen's jealousy and hatred for her is almost at its tipping point. We never know where Snow White comes from, nor is it ever really established that the Evil Queen is Snow White's step-mother (as far as I can remember, I could be wrong about this but since it doesn't immediately stand out in my mind, I'm going to assume that it's never established). The Evil Queen simply becomes a crazy woman who is jealous of Snow White for a vain reason. Disney is notorious for using orphaned or single-parent characters (Bambi, Pinocchio, Jungle Book, Cinderella, and more recently Princess & the Frog, Lilo & Stitch, Aladdin, and the Little Mermaid). I read, but I can't remember where, that he did this in order to gain the sympathy of the audience for his animated characters. Yes, Aladdin is a street rat who steals but he also doesn't have any family!

It's interesting to see what a small role parents play in this fairy tale, particularly since Snow White doesn't seem to be as bright as other characters in fairy tales that we've read such as Hansel & Gretel and the Juniper Tree. These characters, who had present parents, were able to outsmart their step-mothers and prevail while Snow White falls for every trick the queen throws at her. If it weren't for the dwarves intervening, the queen would have killed Snow White much easier. It's strange, but it would appear that present parents equate to smarter protagonists.

The Queen's Identity

In the silent film, the Queen is given a name which makes her more human like and relatable rather than evil. But, this is the only element that suggests this. She is flat and there is not much evidence into the vision of her as a character in general. As the audience, we do not know much about the Queen and what she represents in they story. There become three women against Snow White later in the story, the queen being two of them. Her character was split into two roles, one of the queen and one of the witch.

The Queen in Walt Disney's version has no name, but the scenes that present her as a character show the strength and qualities of her. The entire movie opens up with a scene of following the queen into her mirror and seeing her from the mirror's point of view. She is displayed in the shot with dark hair and eyes, red lips, and a womanly silhouette. These elements show the sexuality of her character and the power that is behind her. This version of the film gives more depth and dimension to the Queen than the silent film did. It makes the viewer question who their loyalties are toward in the way that we are introduced to her as a being and a person rather than a flat figure in a film.

Snow White as An Object

I know we have addressed this at length in class, but I can't help writing about how, in all the incarnations of the story, Snow White ends up as an object. This is most notable when she is in her glass coffin, and when her mother wishes for a child "white as snow, red as blood and black as the window frame" (which, in a side note, if taken literally would make her look completely unnatural). We see this especially in the earlier version of the Grimm's Snow White, and it is a concept central to Sexton's poem and the china-doll blue eyes of Snow White. I think it is safe to assume that Sexton is writing a commentary on the "fairy tale" version of Snow White, and after reading that poem I cannot really think of Snow White as anything other than a doll, a piece of art created in the medium of the human, rather than a beautiful human. Because of this fact I loved how the silent film began with the characters all represented as dolls, because I think it really holds well to the theme of Snow White as an object, not a person or even a character. I think this also highlights a tension in the stories, one that is obvious in the silent film and the Grimm's edited version: there is something uncomfortable about admitting that humans can be treated as objects, so in the film everyone but the stepmother recognizes Snow White as a wonderful person, and in the Grimm's story, the Prince really has romantic feelings for Snow White (or fell in love with her prior to her slumber, in other versions), he was not just obsessed with a dead girl in a glass coffin. Granted, I think history is a fine place to look for numerous examples of where humans have treated other humans as objects, so it is something the human psyche is capable of, it just does not seem to be something we really wish to discuss. In Sexton's version, and in the Gilbert and Guhbar writings, this issue of course is tackled head on as the patriarchal objectification of women, but in the silent film, all the characters are objects, so is not there the possibility anyone can be turned into an object, rather than a person?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Bluebeard Post comment

For some reason I cannot comment on Pharra's post "Bluebeard", so here is my comment.
I also felt like these tales were similar to Beauty and the Beast. One major difference though was that there was no prince charming under the facade of the Beast, but instead a much more horrible beast under the facade of a normal man (minus the unnatural blue in his beard). The beast in these stories really was a beast.

I have to disagree with the last comment though about the leading lady in Bluebeard being stronger than Belle in any sense. Belle did make the decision to live with the Beast without being forced into it because she wanted to be virtuous and keep promises made in order to honor her father. This last wife of Bluebeard's sometimes did not have a choice about the marriage and when she did, she only acquiesced based on his wealth. Also, she took the time to be obedient and get to know him and fall in love with the Beast, instead of immediately doing something to disobey and build mistrust with her husband and then encourage his death. I believe Belle was the stronger female in these stories.

Also in contrast, the B&B stories focus on the love between them growing while in the Bluebeard stories the focus is on mistrust and murder. I know that I have focused on the differences, but I believe there are many more similarities between the stories than differences. I am curious about how closely their tale types are related.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Missing Something...?

I feel as though all of the criticisms of the Bluebeard stories we have read and the other blog postings that I have seen have focused on the discussion of the wife's curiosity and the consequences of that. This has been amusing to me because it seems that the fact that he is a serial killer, a black widower. Why is it so bad that the wife opens a door, and not so much that he kills at least seven women. Is it just a result of the significance of men being elevated higher in society, or something else?

One thing that occurred to me was that it has often been revealed through interviews with other psycho paths (modern day Bluebeards)the thrill of the chase, the excitement of predator and prey, the building of fear in their victims to raise the interest they have in murdering people. If Bluebeard really did not want her to go into the room, he didn't need to give her the separate key that went to that room (unlike in the beauty and the beast story where the father gave his daughters a key that went to all the rooms in the castle and told them not to go into one, Bluebeard has to give her a separate key for the room. He is bloodthirsty and clearly enjoys killing his victims, so I believe that he had the intention to kill her eventually whether she opened the door then or not, but by giving her the key, he knew he was making the option irresistible and that she would open the door and be horrified (which heightens the thrill of her murder for him).

He is crazy in a very bad way and he is a serial murderer; she just opens a door and through gaining this knowledge saves her life. Why is she the bad guy in this story?! I just feel that the past critics and our class is missing something...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


While reading this version of Bluebeard, I couldn't help but notice a lot of similarities to Beauty and the Beast. We have the odd man-freak who frightens the entire town, the woman that is with him even though she doesn't really want to be with him, and the secret, which does vary in the Beauty & the Beast stories. Both Bluebeard and Beauty & the Beast tend to focus on the heroics of the woman involved. B&B shows a reformation of the Beast by Beauty while Bluebeard shows a woman who kills her gruesome husband.

Another thing I noticed about the Bluebeard tales is that they tend to be more gruesome than many of the other stories that we've read. This series often focuses on the horrible deaths of the former lovers of Bluebeard and how he killed them. In my opinion, this series is the least "family-friendly" series since it is so violent and particularly descriptive. I think it is definitely on a different level than the rest of the fairy tales because of its mature content. Out of all of the different collections/themes that we've studied so far, this series is the one that was newest to me, but I know that it's most likely because of the maturity level of it that I was never introduced to it as a child.

The Grimm's Bluebeard

This version of the story includes alot of subtext. The Grimm brothers probably wrestled with the subject matter of this tale. It is included in the "Omitted Tales" section of our book.
The character of Bluebeard seems to be nothing less than psychotic. I relate him to a fairy-tale equivalent of the Jigsaw killer from the Saw films. Basically, Bluebeard has a need to kill. Above that need, though, is the need for rationalization. He knows that temptation is quite hard to resist. He sets up a trap for his wives just to remove the finality of the burden from himself. He thinks that their actions dictate their death. Outside of the fairy tale world where women without morals should be killed, Bluebeard would perhaps project his "beard" issues in some other way. The fact that his appearance--an unnatural occurrence that is seemingly out of his control--dictates his action makes the wife's rescue in the end feasible. I feel that Bluebeard is the world's originator of entrapment.

George Méliès’s Barbe Bleu

The story that struck me most was George Méliès’s Barbe Bleu silent movie version from 1901 - especially the details that were added to give the plot an orientation about classic values and morals. In some way it’s more like a Disney or softened version of the original. Not only is it not the wife’s fault any more that she’s opening the door but she’s influenced by a devilish creature. On the other hand we have a good fairy that tries to help the wife out of the situation and supports her. By the invention of those two characters, the question of what is good and what is bad is suddenly raised. In the original, we just have a plot and the issue weather the actions are right or wrong is not addressed at all. In the movie version on the other hand, we can see that not listening to your husband is a bad thing and that in order to be a good wife you should follow your husband’s commands.

On the other way the invention of the devil also takes away the wife’s responsibility of her own destiny. It’s not her fault anymore and she does not really have a choice about what she’s doing as the devil is influencing her. Taking this a little bit further, one could get the impression that this movie suggests that women do not really have a choice, but that their curiosity is part of their nature imposed by the devil and that they therefore cannot be trusted. It is obvious that the devil part has a much bigger influence on the woman than the good fairy. Thus, the moral message of this scene for the husband can be interpreted as don’t give too much responsibility to your wife as this is going to destroy your relationship. It somehow reflects the classical Victorian ideal of the husband being the leader of the household and the wife being his servant that does not have any authority at all.

Bluebeard and Gender Consequence

Curiosity is a theme that has reappeared in several fairytales that we have read this semester.

But I find the gender constructs surrounding curious characters troublesome. This is because in general, women are punished for their curiosity and men are praised for it. Curious women suffer consequences for their interest in the unknown and curious men are rewarded for their journey into the forbidden.

Perrault’s Bluebeard repeats this theme of female punishment for curiosity. It seems to me that fairytales have a way with internalizing what is appropriate behavior for women and men. And if the story of Bluebeard is to teach women anything, it is that they must learn to control their curiosity.

Aside from providing women with a model of behavior, the story of Bluebeard diminishes women by portraying them as beings without willpower, and dependants on the men in their lives for saving (in this case, her brothers). This subjugation of women is the norm in Perrault’s stories and this influenced his 17th century audiences and these structures, reinforced by fairytales such as Bluebeard, continue to influence gender understandings today.

Fairy Tale vs. Horror

From monday's discussion, the focus seemed to be on the fact that Bluebeard has this horror aspect and is not in sync with many of the elements that we see in other fairy tales. Unlike most fairy tales, Perrault's version starts with a marriage and ends with a happy family. This is uncharacteristic of most fairy tales and is important to note when discussing the differences that the Bluebeard story holds. There is criticism on marriage stability and the fact that women are disobedient. Also, the man is allowed to hide his past, or at least until the woman is disobedient and "nosy." These elements are too harsh and pointed at specific criticisms to be present in the traditional form of fairy tale. These aspects play into the fact that there is much horror in the story that is meant to stop analysis and stun the reader.

Comparing these aspects to the film by Melies adds an interesting dimension to the story. Melies incorporates magic and mysticism into a story that before hand was a seemingly dark counterpart to other fairy tales. He adds in nightmares, fairies, and creatures that allow for the story to take a whole new perspective. From these additions, he also creates a transition to a new ending. The story does not end in horror but the wives live happily after which creates a sense of the fairy tale feeling.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Fairy Tale Elements in "Someday My Prince Will Come"

Overall I really enjoyed this film. By the film's conclusion, the viewer is left with a mix of melancholy and hope for the future of this poor, small coastal town named Siddick, which once thrived on the coal industry.

In a film titled "Someday My Prince Will Come," I noticed many elements and motifs present in the film that we have discussed in class from fairy tales.

1) the effect that parents (abusive, missing, or benevolent) have on their children: Stephen's father has been in prison for almost two years, and we pity a sad, lonely boy stuck in a dirty house with just his dog, hungry for supper. Jamie, who smokes and gets into fistfights, learned violence and independence from his abusive father.
2) incest: not from a father to a daughter like in All Fur, but Laura-Anne wonders how to replace the love she feels for her cousin, Stephen, with a more acceptable love. Regarding this taboo love, she simply says, "One doesn't."
3) human transformation --> animals: Laura-Anne's dad tells her there are plenty more fish in the sea, and she says that that would be fine if she wanted to go out with a fish; reminiscent of the Frog Prince.

The film is carefully weaved with clever winks to the audience showing Laura-Anne's love of fairy tales: Little Green Riding Hood, Prince Ben, and men as her "protectors." This movie is beautiful in a breathtakingly bare setting, and Laura-Anne's presentation of love at ten years old is unforgettably honest.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Teaching Little Girls About Princes Too Soon?

I watched the rest of the film we started in class, "Some Day My Prince Will Come", and really had mixed feelings. On the one hand, it seems like having fairy tales in the world that those children are growing up can bring hope and be a distraction from the dingy conditions that they are in; but on the other hand, fairy tales can point out the shortcomings of the surroundings more than disguise them.

First of all, I personally believe those children are way too young to be doing everything that they are doing (9 year olds don't need to be making out and swearing), but looking at their present situation it is understandable that they do grow up a little faster. I think this video was a good modern day glimpse into the world that initially produced fairy tales, where kids are treated like little adults and have to overcome challenges and are even in a sense "married off". The parents barely seem involved in the kids lives (which as a disclaimer could completely be due to the way the people filming wanted it to appear, framing the children as the main actors in a grown up world). The one boy, Jamie, said that he learned to fight from his father hitting him so much, and was already smoking. Her cousin Steven had to be the man of the house while his dad was in jail, etc.

I thought the scene where her mother was trying to teach her some sex ed was interesting. Clearly those kids are in an environment where that is very relevant to them at a young age, so it was good that the mother was at least broaching the topic, but that scene was very revealing about the mother. First of all, she did not seem very informed on the matter herself and appeared uneducated. She could not read without the aide of her daughter, could not pronounce words she should be familiar with, and laughed off a lot of the subject. In later scenes we understand that her mother is helping her buy birthday presents for her boyfriends and just in general is fine with sending her out in the world of boys to fend for herself. *Note: World's youngest parents recently hit the news a couple of years ago (age 9 hailing from Britain)...just saying.

Having established that this is not friendly childhood environment, I was wondering which versions of fairy tales these children would read. I get the impression that it could easily be the (more) original and raw versions than the cleaned up Grimms and other modern versions infused with moral lessons and colorful pictures. In that case they would be able to relate to the fact that not all stories end happily for everyone. It may not get their hopes up for someone or something that is never going to happen. But I am a little conflicted because I think that Laura-Anne could have really used the good example of a prince charming in her world to teach her not to settle for boys who were verbally or physically abusive, instead of thinking that was the norm or as good as it got, she should be waiting for and looking for someone that merits a princely tittle with virtuous features. So, I'm not sure where I stand on this movie (other than the fact that I hope to bring up my own children very differently when the time comes), but these are some of the thoughts that I had on it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Most Fatherly figures in the Grimm stories are angry or reluctant--like Hans My Hedgehog, The Seven Ravens, 12 Brothers. They are ashamed or unsatisfied with their offspring and either drive their children away or engage in magical powers that place curses on their children. It is interesting to notice the role of the Father in the Grimm's version of Beauty and the Beast and how inconsistent he is with other patriarchal figures in these tales. The father is not the domineering man of the house type character that we normally see but instead is a frightened and feeble and helpless person. He is not only at the mercy of the Beast but also to his own daughter.
He relies upon her more than once in this story and we not only see the common Grimm motif of the virtuous selfless girl rewarded in the end, but a theme of a father's dependence upon his daughter's familial devotion. I believe that the father's helplessness is a useful detail in this story because it acts not only as a plot device and explanation for the daughter's "imprisonment" at the castle, but it also serves as a striking contrast in the portrayals of masculinity between the father and the beast.

Belle's Family.

Although the story is clearly focused on the love between Beauty and the Beast, the inclusion of the parents makes Beauty more likable and the tale more didactic. In the Disney film, Belle's father is a kooky inventor who can never seem to catch a break but truly loves his daughter. She would do anything for him, and it is this devotion, as well as her courage to help him no matter what it cost her, that makes her so much more interesting and well-rounded than the other Disney princesses. The inclusion of a family makes Beauty most admirable, for all she asks of her father is "Bring back yourself, papa, and that is what I want the most" (Jacobs, from the Ashliman site).

In Tatar, the inclusion of family mostly served to highlight how good Belle is in comparison to her mean sisters, who had to rub onions on their eyes in order to cry when she left. I found it kind of strange how willing the father was, in the written tale, to allow her daughter to be punished instead of him. Even though she did ask for the rose, nobody asked the merchant to pluck roses from the garden of beastly royalty. Although the inclusion of family makes Belle a laudable heroine, it is also a bit anti-climactic that she is visited once a week by her family, and that the beast's castle isn't scary at all. "So they spoke together about the garden and about the house and about her father's business and about all manner of things, so that Bella lost altogether her fear of the beast. Shortly afterwards her father came to see her and found her quite happy, and he felt much less dread." The neat, bow-tie ending does not make for a very interesting tale.

When I Grow Up

Although Beauty is an adult character, her whimsy and dedication to her parents introduces a them of major dependence in these tales. I'd like to look to both the films we screened to determine exactly why Beauty emulates and glorifies her father. In the Cocteau film, Beauty's undying love for her father prevents her from a marrying a scoundrel, yes, but it also creates a sense of humility in her that is very unordinary. Beauty asks her father only for a rose as he leaves--because she is good, moral, virtuous. She knows not to ask outside her bounds. She knows to settle her dreams for a life more realistic. In this sense, Beauty is constantly seeking the acceptance of her father. She is never satisfied with the favoritism he shows; she must always take care of him. Furthermore, we find out that he is not a shining beacon to emulate. He is a trader, and he loses his fortune. Beauty is seeking the approval of a man that relies on illusion to keep his power in the family. No wonder she loves the down-to-earth beast.
In the Disney verison, Belle is the spitting image of her father's personality. She is loyal, smart, and ambitious. In this sense, she has already become everything she can be in his image. Belle does give the Beast the benefit of the doubt, and she falls in love--with her captor, with someone who cannot read. Transitively, father is super happy and all is well. What a weird world of wish fulfillment and emulation. Morally speaking, Cocteau gives parents the most hope for their children. Disney just paints flowers and gloss on the relationship.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I think that overall, the parents in these tales do not take much precedence. Yes there are small and short descriptions of the characters that are the parents, but there are also deeper questions to be addressed. I feel like every blog that I have read on my section and others have capitalized the meanings of parents within the Beauty and the Beast stories. The parents, moreso father than any other parental figure, shows interest in other dreams and symbolism for the daughter, Beauty. I think that she identifies and shows her daughterly figure to her father more than anythign in the entire story. This element shows more of a focus on her decision in the final end of the story than any other. It is ultimiately up to her and she also takes into account what she wants to do with her father. I think overall she should decide for herself because so many different elements and opportunities are presentsed to her and she needs to really assess each situaiton for her own benefit.

Beauty and the Beast

The focus of the stories that we have read and viewed this week may be on the Beauty or the Beast but the forces behind what these main characters do and why they do them consistently lead back to their parents. In one of the screened versions of the tale, the Beauty’s father is dependent upon her, which is a tradition that reflects French culture during the Enlightenment setting that this story takes place. Back then, someone in the family held the responsibility of caring for their blood elders if they could not afford to hire help. This strong familial tie between the generations demands that the Beauty pledge her allegiance to her father and thus shapes the tale because Belle’s actions or inactions are the result of her making sure that her father is her first priority. This is why Belle would rather “go to the Beast than die of grief from knowing that she sent her father back to him.”

In other tales that we have studied so far, parents have repeatedly shown strong influences over shaping their children’s futures. Sometimes they are a light for their children to guide them in the right direction and other times, especially in the case of step-mothers, parents are a source of strife and provide a sense of resolution for the main characters to react against. Then there is the non-existent parent, which is common in fairy-tales and which provides a sense of emptiness within the main character that allows the reader to sympathize with them. Parents, whether positive, negative, existent, or non-existent profoundly influence the life experiences of their children and in the case of Belle, her father’s impact is great. I think that the beautiful, loving, caring relationship between Belle and her father exemplifies and encourages that child like simple faith in life and love that Cocteau cherished so much.

Respecting elders, primal sexuality &c.

I think the reason parents always figure into the Beauty and the Beast stories is because they are ultimately about courtship and marriage and during the time these were originally written it was not acceptable to marry in the middle and upper classes to marry without the consent of parents. In most of the beauty and the beast stories, it is the father's action that sets in motion the relationship between Beauty and the Beast, even though it is usually a transgression initiated by Beauty's request (once again, no one should listen to a woman...I say this jokingly, but it does seem to be a major theme of fairy tales), it is the man and the beast that determines the terms of the situation, and nearly every action Beauty takes is dictated by her devotion to her father or in following the orders of the beast. Only in the Disney version does Beauty make decisions on her own (going to search for her father, going into the forbidden wing and then trying to run away), but that is a modern retelling of the story. I think that the story would unintelligible without the inclusion of parents, because the family was a central part of the social structure, and it was probably very rare for someone to marry without the consent of their parents, so even while Beauty ends up with a "Beast" it is still something set up and condoned by the family. Tatar discusses that this is possibly a representation of what used to happen in arranged marriages, that women would end up with abusive husbands without having any say in the relationship.

I think the presence of parents also removes some of the threat of eroticism within the story of the blushing maiden in the presence of a beast that is not actually physically described, and therefore could be anything from a ruthless man to an actual animal. The asexualized nature of the parents, as scions of societal organization who have sex for procreation an not the fulfillment of primal desires. If there was not the parental element in the story, if Beauty just stumbled upon the castle, what hope would there be for propriety on any person's part? One might actually be able to assume that without the social organization provided by the parents, the beast would immediately eat--or, worse, have sex with--the virginal Beauty, who represents a precious commodity in a culture based on the family. The parents create the social structure that dictates the proper behavior of Beauty and the Beast (or at least try to in the Pig Prince stories).


The parents in the Beauty & The Beast tales play pretty significant roles. I found it very interesting that the parents in the stories play such big roles and are often the influencing factor in the decisions their children make. Grimm's Beauty stays with the beast in order to save her father, the King forces his daughter to keep the frog in The Frog King, and the Queen finds her son numerous wives in The Pig King. Parents in these tales are similar to real life parents in that they are actively involved in their children's lives and occasionally meddle. Without the meddling parents, however, we really wouldn't have much of a story. The Pig King wouldn't take the initiative to go and find a bride on his own so he complains to his mother until she finally goes in search of a woman who will willingly marry a pig. She coddles her son and doesn't push him to grow up, which stunts the Pig King's emotional growth. Just as the Pig King's mother coddles her son, the King in the Frog King pushes his daughter to do things which she doesn't want to do but are good for her. She makes a promise and attempts to go back on it, but her father refuses to allow her to go back on her word. Had her father not forced her to take in the frog, then the story would have ended with the little frog left on the door step.

I like that parents are so prevalent and are often positive figures in these tales because in many of the more recent versions of fairy tales that we see, the parents are either non-existent or evil in some way. It's refreshing to have parents that legitimately care for their children for a change.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

“All the better to eat with you”

One of my favorite versions I found online was “All the better to eat with you”. (Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czBCtTLeGUQ&feature=related). This animated version starts with the wolf’s mother telling him to get some food. Walking through the wood he meets Little Red Riding Hood, but it’s her starting to talk to him by telling him to get out of the way. She talks in a French accent and has short hair. Trying to involve her into a conversation, he start talking to her but even though it was her who initiated the conversation, she replies by telling him that she does not talk to animals - and simply walks away. In the next scene we see her walking through the forest and hearing a desperate voice: it’s the wolf ripping off the leaves of a flower piece by piece and playing she loves me, she doesn’t love me. Seeing her, he asks her if she wants to help him collecting flowers for his grandmother. She replies with a contemptuous “flowers?” and starts walking away again but this time he trips her up, catches her in midair and threatens her with a wide open mouth. But her reaction is not fear but a long kiss. She tells him that she always had a special relationship to wolves and that she will see him tomorrow. In the next scene, the grandmother of Little Red Riding Hood calls her but the wolf eats the grandmother during Little Red Riding Hood is still on the phone. Even though she knows that the wolf is at her grandmother’s house, Little Red Riding Hood still goes there and finds the wolf lying in bed with her grandmother’s cloths on. In this version it is the wolf who starts asking little Red Riding Hood asking questions and her answering in a very dominant manner. The third thing he tells her is: “What a tiny little mouth you have”. She replies with the movie’s title: “All the better to eat you with” and gets out her silverware. The version ends with the whole movie having been a theater scene with an audience consisting of only women dressed in red hoods like Little Red Riding Hood, clapping and cheering loudly for the performance.

This version obviously is about feminism and emancipation. Little Red Riding Hood is the strong character in it. This starts with her appearance. She has short hair like a man and her French accent reflects the strong, independent woman from France. But also her behavior clearly depicts feminism: she clearly dominates the male wolf, rejects him several times and is not concerned with things like romanticism. When she says that “she always had a special relationship with wolfs” she clearly talks about sex. In French “voir le loup” (translated: “see the wolf”) means having sex, often even for the first time. (It probably derives from a wolf having a tail, which in French can mean both: literally a tail but also a penis). Thus, talking about a special relationship to wolfs, it is Little Red Riding Hood who takes the stereotypical role of the male by not being romantic but just being concerned with sex. The wolf on the other hand is clearly feminized: he cares about things like romanticism and is not able to dominate her but is instead dominated by her. This can also be seen in the last scene. Even though Little Red Riding Hood does know that the wolf is dangerous and killed her grandmother, she still goes to face him. In this scene we do have a shift from the traditional Little Red Riding Hood where the girl asks the wolf and the wolf replies. It is him asking her questions. During the conversation, the audience even gets the impression that the wolf is scared of her and not Little Red Riding Hood of him. The scene reaches its peak when she tells him that she will eat him. The following clapping and cheering of the female audience only further underlined the feminist approach in this version of Little Red Riding Hood.

The Untold Story

So, this is an amateur short film made by some younger filmmakers. In their version, LRRH is the epitome of a kick-ass female. When she meets the wolf, a conversation turns sour. The wolf makes LRRH drop her muffins. This is the signifier. LRRH, in this version, loves her muffins more than anything in the world. LRRH violently attacks the wolf and his narrative function is forgotten for the rest of the video. In an interesting story turn, LRRH also beats her Grandma for dropping the muffins after a communication snafu.
What i think is interesting about this version is that young filmmakers felt a need to give LRRH power. They obviously picked up on some kind of helplessness of women theme in the story, and they attempt to correct it. Even through amateur filmmaking, these girls are making a story that is empowering. LRRH can fend for herself--almost like a superhero. Her and her muffins against the world.
You should definitely watch this all the way through. The Grandmother character does not even recognize her own granddaughter, so in a way she deserves to get beaten with her own crutch. Notable in this film is the same kind of punishment/pleasure logic that is apparent in the narrative structure of most fairy tales. Every gets their due, and LRRH is free to bring muffins to whomever she likes...and don't even think about crossing her

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Little Bizarre Red

I too, chose to write about the version of Little Red Riding Hood that has a “Strange Twist.” (Katie J.) In this version, the Wolf and Little Red Riding Hoods’ grandmother join in an alliance against Little Red. Is the grandmother crazy? Did she overdose on her medication? Did she take too many painkillers? The fact that she is on her death bed one second and then shaking her booty the next suggest to me that this is so. This depressingly bizarre version of Little Red Riding Hood uses the grandmother to stereotype women as impulsive, forward, and un-loyal. Little Red Riding Hood is unable to stand against her grandmother and the world, portraying women as weak and dependent upon others.

I am disheartened by the theme of women against women found in this telling of the story. Here we have three related women and only two of them are supportive of one another. Little Red and her mother are enemies fighting against the supposed matriarch of their lineage. In stories we often see women competing against each other, but this case is especially saddening because the women are all blood related.

Sexy Little Red Riding Hood


I first clicked on this video as a joke. Thinking, what could possibly be in a "sexy schoolgirl" version of Little Red Riding Hood but yet still be a cartoon. After watching the video and comparing it to the actual stories of Little Red Riding Hood, it is evident that there are some comparisons as well as some drastic differences.

First of all, there is no Grandmother character. Little Red Riding Hood is not on her way to her grandmother's house, she is simply in the woods and comes across the wolf. She is not frightened of the wolf either, he is simply another character alongside of her. One really interesting component of this version is that the wolf is singing the song. It is from his point of view. He makes Little Red Riding Hood out to be the sexualized character instead of himself. When "what big eyes you have, what big lips, etc" is being sung in the chorus, the video is zoomed in on her face. This symbolizes Little Red Riding hood as the sexual figure and is referring to her features rather than the wolf's. This is a stark contrast to the Perrault and Grimm versions of the story.

I also thought it was interesting that this video is so sexual. There are some youtube videos that are strictly geared toward young children and it is very evident. This video, however, is not and tells a very different story than the ones targeted at youngsters. I think it is very important to note these differences and compare the different versions and depictions of the "classic" tale.


(Just click on the entire video to go straight to view it at YouTube. Quality is much better there.)

This is the theatrical trailer to the 2005 film, Hoodwinked. It's impossible to understand all the intricacies of Red's story (and the other stories mixed in with it) without viewing the entire film, but the trailer is enough for you to see that this isn't a "nice and clean" portrayal of these fable and fairy tale characters. What I find most interesting about this is that these subversive versions of the characters may not hark all the way back to the naughty nature of the pre-canonical story, but they are still a good deal away from has become the cookie-cutter American tradition. And what's more, is that the intended audience is for children! I can't help but wonder what this says, or if it says anything, about where our culture is leading us. Are we slowly going back to the times when kids are simply useless, miniature adults?
I too decided to write about the Monty Python version. While this version may not be as artistic or symbolic as the one we watched in class today, we can still derive signifcance from such an absurd take on the classic fairy tale. Because Little Red Riding Hood has been embedded upon the minds of every child, we are more than familiar with the story. Innocent girl naive of her grandmother who was been eaten, and the whole "my, what big ____ you have!..." sequence...Because of our knowledge of this universally known tale, comedic representations are made possible. Is the spoof or paradoy genre born from popularity of an idea? This video would not work if we did not know first hand the original tale. Seeing Little Red Riding Hood represented in fact by a tall hairy masculine man who splinters giant pieces of lumber and kicks down trees in the forest registers as an incronguency in our heads which in turn sparks our comedic response. The big hairy wolf transformed into a small wiener dog with a little fur costume on is absolutley hilarious, and the famous sequence of the tale completely replaced with a take on NASA and nuclear testing does the same for us. It is interesting to see what tales/books/films are most often parodied because it seems that the original works made fun of are in fact highly valued and respected by most people.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Little Red Riding Hood and the Holy Grail

For my video this week, I watched a Little Red Riding Hood sketch from a German comedy special by none other than Monty Python. As you can see, they seem to have taken a few notable liberties. I love the ferocious wolf cast as a cute pup in a furry shirt. It is absolutely remarkable how ingrained the story has become on our culture. Across the globe, (this clip was dubbed into English) we laugh at the plot alterations and the new, bolder interpretation of a not-so-little Red Riding Hood due to the fact that everyone knows exactly how the story is supposed to go.

Like most modern day renditions, Monty Python removes all erotic aspects from the story; however, they also remove most other aspects. For example, they substitute virtually the entire conflict, and the "What big eyes you have!" scene, for Buzz Aldrin in NASA HQ. I was not bothered in the least by this new plot. The story itself obviously, much like The Juniper Tree, is irritably illogical. Eric Berne complains of the same plot holes in Tatar: "Why didn't her mother do it herself, or go along with LRRH? If grandmother was so helpless, why did mother leave her all by herself in a hut far away?" and so forth. The original story has so many plot gaps that this version isn't too much of a modern stretch.

My favorite part of the original story: "Are you making cables out there? Are you making cables?"

Disney's Little Red Riding Hood

I decided to see if Disney happened to do his own version of Little Red Riding Hood and was not surprised when I found that he did in fact do his own version of the tale early in his career in 1922. This is one of seven Laugh-o-Grams with four of the originals still surviving. Walt Disney did this before he was "Walt Disney" and known worldwide for Snow White, Cinderella, and even the creation of the mouse himself, Mickey. I found his take on the story particularly interesting because it is so out of the norm for what we are used to seeing Disney produce.

Typically, Disney does adapt stories to fit his own needs and makes them more family-friendly. The first thing I noticed in this video was the complete replacement of an animal predator with that of an actual human. The wolf that preys on Red is now a full-fledged human next-door-neighbor type who noticeably doesn't have to do anything to get rid of Grandmother and does who knows what with Red inside of Grandmother's house. The predator element is still there but oddly, Disney chose to make it even more creepy and realistic.

The realistic aspect of Disney's take on it is even further enhanced through the modern (for the time) look of the characters and scenery. Disney's Red doesn't travel by foot. No, she's a modern girl who travels by car... pushed by her dog. The hunter who only appears in a few versions of the written tale rescues Red not with a gun but with wit and the help of his airplane. Also, in true Disney fashion, the tale has a happy ending and ends with Red and the hunter smooching on the airplane which is a new addition that follows the standard of guy getting girl in the end that we are used to seeing.

I also thought it was interesting that Disney spent a good portion of his story focusing on Red's mother who really isn't significant in versions of the story that we read in class. Disney also chose to add Red's father (I think that's who he was...) to the story. We see him hanging in what appears to be a portrait so either he's dead but able to talk or just an interactive picture that watches over Red's house. Either way, I think it's a bit funny that Disney chose to add him but portray him in such a creepy way.

Disney's version of Little Red Riding Hood is similar to James Thurber's version in that puts a modern twist on an old tale. It makes the tale a little more belieavable while still being eery yet fun. Although, I must admit that I find it easier to believe the idea of a pedophile existing and going to such extensive measures to capture his prey more believable in today's world than in the 1920s.

Little Red Riding Hood

This is a wonderfully modern, commercial, animated rendering of the story. This is clearly an animation of the Grimm's sanitized version (as referenced by Little Red Ridding Hood's house being on South Grimm Street--and then if you look carefully, at 0:38 she turns right on Perrault street!), but here I think it works perfectly well, because just as the Grimm's story removes the magical and fantastical elements from the original story (along with all the sexual innuendo) this version even further removes even the fairy tale elements, and turns the story into something that looks like a cross between google maps, Lego's, and the emergency instruction manual you find in the back seat pocket on airplanes. I am a fan of animation in general, and strictly two dimensional animation like this, but what I love most about this is that it completely reduces the entire story to symbols and modern day advertising: the random parts of the VW van, the house cross-sections, the hunter's rifle, the grandmother's nutritional facts. Everything is listed with its prices, everything is shown as objects for consumption. This, in my mind, is effectively LRRH as an infomercial (but without the C-grade stars and hokey announcers), this story is not taking place "Once upon a time" it is taking place now, in some uniform quotidian suburban (video game?) setting with prefabricated homes and GPS. I am very taken by this video one because I think the animation is great, but also because I love how it turns this "moral/educational" Fairy Tale into exactly three minutes of advertising, without actually losing the story at all.

PS. you can see the whole video and the street names and words better if you watch it in HD (720px) on YouTube, the embedded version does not really do it justice!