Thursday, May 9, 2013

Blog Post #11: Reflection

Over the course of this class, I have learned a great deal about fairy tales and folk tales.  We've read a great variety of stories, ranging from the classic Grimm tales to newer ones to tales from all over the world such as India and Africa.  It was a good selection of stories because it covered all areas.  I have learned about different fairy tale motifs and archetypes, as well as the common story lines.  I have learned how Jung, Freud, and feminists would analyze each fairy tale.  Learning about stories from different countries really helped to bring everything together.  We saw that there were common themes in all fairy tales around the world, which was interesting to learn.  Fairy tales have been adapted in many ways over the years, such as for cartoons, music videos, movies, and television.  Looking at these extra elements really made me come to understand the prominence of these tales in our lives.  The analytical books, such as Bettelheim's and von Franz's, were also very helpful because they provided an insight into the world of fairy tales.  The material wasn't very challenging for me, and this is probably due to the fact that I enjoyed reading the stories.  Reading different fairy tales were better than a dense textbook.  The only challenging part was trying to analyze each fairy tale and understand the deeper meaning behind the tale.  I think I spent enough time reading the material in order to understand it.  The only part I wish I had done differently was to have taken notes as I was reading.  Overall, this was a great class and I learned a lot from it that I will probably remember for years to come.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Blog Post #10: African Folktales

     Dr. Ochieng's lecture on African folktales was very interesting and provided a deeper insight into the tradition of storytelling.  Many folktales are told orally in Africa, and usually during the nighttime when work is done and when you can concentrate only on the story itself without all the other distractions.  Both African folktales and the tales we have read in class tell us something about the history of where it came from.  For example, many of the African folktales involved animals as characters.  This would make sense because Africa was full of many different animals that would have been in Africans' lives.  Both African tales and the ones we have read in class sometimes share a character who is witty and clever.  Like in the Bluebeard tales, the women outsmart their murderous husbands and are able to get away from them.  In one of he African tales Dr. Ochieng told us, a monkey outsmarted a shark who was going to eat him by saying he didn't have his heart with him and had to go back for it.  This also demonstrates a difference between African folktales and the tales we have discussed in class.  Many African tales teach you why something came about or explains something else.  In that same monkey and shark story, the ending explains why monkeys don't swim, which is that they're afraid the sharks will eat them.  Many of the stories Dr. Ochieng told us ended with him saying, "And that is why..." so-and-so came about or "And that is how..." jealousy or some other trait developed.  The stories we have been reading in class are mostly just simple entertaining stories.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Blog Post #9: Jewish Folk Tales

    Jewish folk tales revolve around themes and people from the Judaism religion.  Unlike many other folk tales, most Jewish folk tales include a Rabbi as one of the main characters.  Rabbis are interpreters of the Torah, which is the religious book that Jewish people follow.  Their interpretations are what the Jewish community must follow.  Both "The Rabbi and the Inquisitor" and "It Could Always Be Worse" have Rabbis as main characters.  Also, Jewish folk tales frequently include the Jewish communities that follow Rabbis.  In "The Rabbi Who Turned Into a Werewolf", the Rabbi travels with a large group of his students.  It says, "And so the rabbi went away with fifty of his yeshivah students, and no one in the community knew about it."  This group of Jewish people is very common in most Jewish folk tales.  Another common theme is traveling.  All throughout history, Jews have traveled great distances due mostly to persecution, in which they were forced to travel, or the seeking of knowledge.  Because this was a big part of their life, it also made it into their narratives and tales.  For example, in "The Magic Mirror of Rabbi Adam" Rabbi Adam must travel to a different city to help a fellow Jew.  It says, "When he saw this, Rabbi Adam resolved to do something to help this Jew, and he mounted his horse and pronounced a spell, so that the hooves of the horse flew along the ground without touching it, and before an hour had passed Rabbi Adam had arrived in the city of the Jew who was in danger."  Again, the element of travel is present in the tale.  These qualities do not belong to Jewish folk tales alone, but they are frequently seen in them.  They are what make Jewish folk tales unique.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Blog Post #8: Cinderella


     The story of Cinderella is a rags to riches story featuring a girl who goes from being forced to live on the ground wearing rags to being married to a prince.  This motif is very common in stories and movies.      I think it is the type of story that everyone wants, and that is why it is so appealing and frequently used. Very few people are happy with their current way of life.  Everyone wants more.  More money, more friends, more possessions.  So, seeing a story where the main character is able to achieve this, it gives people hope that they will be able to advance also.  A Cinderella type story is inspiring and comforting to them.  The "rags to riches" story has been turned into many movies, such as Pretty Woman, which is a Cinderella-like story.  It is about a woman who is a prostitute living in a small apartment.  She meets a wealthy man and they fall in love.  During the process, he buys her fancy dinners, clothes, and she lives in his penthouse.  It is a drastic change from her simple life before.  She is now rich and can afford all these things.  This parallels with Cinderella, who received new clothes and falls in love with a Prince.  Neither Cinderella or the woman in Pretty Woman did anything different to deserve this.  They were just themselves and were still able to move up in the world.

      This brings about another point- what does it take to achieve riches?  How does one go from being poor and living in a bad condition to being rich and able to afford anything they want?  In Cinderella, magic was the key factor in this.  She received gifts from a fairy god-mother or an enchanted tree.  This allowed her to catch the Prince's attention and eventually get married to him, which brought her more riches.  In real life, this is not a very realistic way to go from rags to riches.  That is why it is reserved to fairy tales.  In Pretty Woman, she achieved riches just through her charm and personality.  She was able to get a rich man to fall in love with her.  After that, all her problems were taken care of.  This is a more realistic way to go from rags to riches than the Cinderella fairy tale.  Other ways people achieve riches is through marriage (marrying a rich man/woman), career (having a job that earns you a lot), or luck (inheritance or winning the lottery).   These are all very realistic ways to become rich, but they don't frequently happen.  This is why people love a good rags to riches story.  They want to be the person that is able to achieve riches.  They see Cinderella achieve this through magic, which is not a very realistic way.  They think that if she can succeed with something like magic, they they will be able to do it in a more realistic way.  The Cinderella story and movies like Pretty Women gives people hope and comforts them that maybe, someday, their life will be like Cinderella's.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Blog Post #7: Bluebeard as a Villain

     Out of the four Bluebeard tales we read, I liked "Mr. Fox" the most.  I liked this one the most because the woman, Lady Mary, exposed Mr. Fox as a murderer with her own cleverness and saved countless other women from having the same fate.  In "Bluebeard" and "Fitcher's Bird" the woman relied on her relatives to defeat Bluebeard.  In "The Robber Bridegroom" and "Mr. Fox", the woman was presented as stronger and wittier and defeated the villain of the own accord.  I liked both stories, but I preferred "Mr. Fox" over "The Robber Bridegroom."  This is because as the woman is telling her "dream", Mr. Fox continues to negate everything she says and tries to discourage her from telling the rest of the story that exposes him.  However, despite Mr. Fox's attempts to dissuade her, she finds the strength to not be influenced by him and continue her story.  I liked how she was able to overcome her fears and defeat Mr. Fox.  This aspect is not found in any of the other stories.
     My least favorite tales are "Bluebeard" and "Fitcher's Bird", but out of those two I would have to say my absolute least favorite is "Fitcher's Bird".  In both of these tales, the woman are saved by relatives.  They are not strong enough to defeat the villain themselves.  In "Bluebeard" the woman postpones Bluebeard from killing her, but in "Fitcher's Bird", the women can't even keep themselves alive.  Even though they are brought back to life later in the story, they still allow themselves to be killed by the villain.  I do not like the weakness of the women in "Fitcher's Bird."  Their characters are not admirable.

    These tales are different from all the other ones because it is like a horror story.  It has serial killers, dead bodies, and gore.  Such images were "blood reflected the bodies of several dead women hung up on the walls" (Tartar 145) and "chopped her head off on the block, and hacked her into pieces so that her blood flowed all over the floor" (Tartar 149).  The fact that there are detailed violent murders in each tale makes it different.  While there is a happy ending, readers are left with a graphic image of death that is rarely found in other fairytales.  Also, while most other fairytales focus on the power of love and marriage, the Bluebeard tales focus on the dangers of marriage.  In each story, the woman is engaged to a man who she discovers is a murderer.  It depicts the threatening aspects of marriage.  Lastly, he family comes to the aid of the women in each tale rather than try to kill or trick her, as is frequently seen in other fairytales.  In "Bluebeard", the woman's sister and two brothers came to help her.  It says, "The gate was opened, and two horsemen, swords in hand, dashed in and made straight for Bluebeard.  He realized that they were the brothers of his wife..." (Tartar 147).

Tartar, Maria, ed.  The Classic Fairy Tales.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999.  Print.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Blog Post #6: Sonne and Snow White


     The music video of "Sonne" by Rammstein made use of the fairy tale Snow White.  I had no idea what the lyrics were in English, but it is obvious that the band twisted the fairy tale into something that would relate to their lyrics.  There are similarities but many more differences between the actual story of Snow White and the music video representation.  While the fairy tale is about Snow White defeating the evil Queen/Stepmother with the help of the dwarfs the music video is about Snow White doing drugs and abusing the dwarfs.  One similarity is the portrayal of the dwarfs.  The men in the music video were supposed to be the seven dwarfs in Snow White.  They were both miners and obviously dwarfs, as they were much smaller than Snow White.  Many symbols in the fairy tale also made it into the movie, such as the apple and glass coffin.  However, the apples were used differently.  In the fairy tale, the apple is what puts Snow White into a deep sleep.  In the music video, the apple is what somehow brings Snow White back to life after she dies from a drug overdose(?) and is put in the coffin.  Another similarity is that Snow White lives with the dwarfs.  In the fairy tale, she cleans their house in order to earn her keep while in the music video, she abuses them and it looks like the dwarfs are the ones that take care of her needs.  In both the video and the story, Snow White changes the dwarfs lives, but in different ways.  In the story, she lives with them and brings the trouble of the Queen to their doorstep.  In the video, she abuses them, which will probably have an effect on them for the rest of their lives.  The subject of slavery also appears in the music video and the fairy tale The Young Slave.  The girl becomes a slave in the story while the dwarfs seem to also become slave-like for Snow White.
     I enjoyed the fairy tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs much more than that music video.  I had no idea what was going on in the Rammstein video and how it could even relate to what was being sung.  It was also very disturbing and weird.  The dwarfs and Snow White were twisted versions of their respective fairy tale characters.  The fairy tale is so much better.  It is in a format which I enjoy and understand.  It has enjoyable characters and a good message.  I very much prefer the written story of Snow White than the music video.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Blog #5: Jung and Fairy Tales

While reading fairy tales, a relationship can clearly be seen between them and Carl Jung's theories and views.  Jung believed that a person's psyche is made up of the ego, which controls normal activities, the personal unconscious, which is made up of the unconscious and preconscious unique to each individual, and the collective unconscious.  The collective unconscious is a universal unconscious.  Jung believed that everyone had experiences and representations that were shared amongst themselves. One part of this unconscious are archetypes, universal symbols that everyone recognizes.  Dr. Mazeroff gave a few of these archetypes in this lecture.  These were the Wise Old Man, Primeval Forest, Evil Stepmother, Eternal Child, and Trickster.  He explained how these archetypes were frequently seen in fairy tales.  For example, the Evil Stepmother in Cinderella and the Forest that Hansel and Gretel travel through.  These archetypes can be seen in many fairy tales because they are something everyone understands and recognizes as a result of the collective unconscious.