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.