Fairy Tales 2010

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.