Sunday, November 22, 2015


Upon reading my pervious blog posts and reflecting about what I have learned in class, I have relished in a greater appreciation for the Brother's Gimm and their fairy tales.

Rereading these stories, as an older and more educated individual rather than a child, has allowed me to recognize the underlying features, motifs, and morals one can take from these tales. The concept of inner conflict and the symbolization of wolves and other evils as our own inner demons can give us a stronger sense of self and confidence. It is our fears that need to be vanquished in order for us to learn and grow as individuals.

Additionally, I have learned that the Zeitgeist is ever important in the appropriation of fairy tales. Whether it's Disney, Perrault, or the Grimms themselves, authors and directors edit, revise, and rewrite fairy tales for the present. These tales are always changing and will continue to do so, but their values and mysticism will continue on as relics.

Now looking back into my past blog posts, I can summarize a few key points for you.

1. I believe I have accomplished what it was that I was looking for out of this class. That being "to gain a better understanding of the Grimm's fairy tales, regarding their underlying themes and reflection of German culture."

2. Legends, myths, and fairy tales all share a common ground but they are by no means the same. But one thing to note is that magic lies at the heart of a fairy tales.

3. The characterization in the MGM film portrayal of "Hansel & Gretel" is not reflective of the original tale. However, both display the coming of age story, that focuses on children's need to learn and fend for them selves.

4. We always enjoy rooting for the underdog (a lot of the time because we see ourselves in them) and the story of Cinderella/Aschenputtel is the epitome of the "rags to riches" that we all crave.

5. The film version of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" is called that for a reason. Mostly because the dwarfs become a focal of the film and Snow White is reduced to a helpless, feeble girl.

6. The "beauty and the beast" motif is present in both the fairy tale of "The Frog King" and the myth of "Cupid and Psyche."

7. Disney's "The Big Bad Wolf," is a fun short film playing off both the Grimm's tale of "Little Red Cap" and the story of "The Three Little Pigs."

8. The tales of "Bluebeard," "The Robber Bridegroom," and "Fitcher's Bird" all hold the commonality almost unheard of in any fairy tale: getting married to a nightmare.

9. Disney's "Tangled" can be seen as an innovation of a common fairy tale and a lesson for todays society, that sheltering children is hindering their growth, happiness, and understanding of the world.

10. I've learned a lot this past semester, and hope to continually see the motifs and joys of the fairy tales (by the Brothers Grimm and others) in my life.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Tangled: Death of the Fairy Tale?

Many critics hate on Disney for the industry's appropriation of what are known has cherished, cultural and historical tales. For taking the original fairy tales and turning them into "castrated specters of their former selves." Or so says the author of Tangled and the Death of the Disney Fairy Tale (Elena Nola), who claims that fairy tales are of no use to us now, that "we have outlived their usefulness as parables."

But I disagree. To the fullest extent. Fairy tales have and always will be an insight into the human existence, a universe in miniature (as Lüthi says), and a cultivation of our fears, hopes, and morality that is transparent both through time and culture.

First things first, if the main complaint is that Disney altered the tales, then you might have some beef with the Brothers Grimm themselves. I can guarantee that between the Grimms' original Ölenberg Manuscript and their 7th and final edition of Kinder und Hausmärchen, there are some glaring differences between plots, characters, and motifs.

But I am not saying this to bash on the Brothers Grimm. I truly believe that they captured a relic of German culture/social reality and made it their own; deservingly labeling themselves in the name of fairy tales, now and forever.

My point however is one simple word... Zeitgeist!ärchen_(Grimm)_1840_I_A_001.jpg

Now lets talk about this in reference to "Rapunzel" and "Tangled." Nola claims that "Tangled" was the last straw for Disney. That the film crosses into the hopelessness for society's need for cherished parables and undying motifs, because the only thing left for us to fear is fear itself.

In the original tale of "Rapunzel" by the Brothers Grimm, the story portrays the the full length maturation of a girl. Rapunzel is born and locked in a tower when she turns 12 (a pivotal age in female maturation). She then meets a prince (who she initially is frightened of) and they fall in love. However, after she becomes pregnant, she is  banished to a desolate land. But the happy end holds true once her prince finds her again. Not only does the story follow the line of female maturation, but exemplifies the fact that it cannot be stopped. No tower too tall, no evil too strong; we must all grow up.

Another motif is the value of knowledge and exploration. It is not until Rapunzel gains the knowledge of the outside word that she is happy. When she can finally leave her isolation and begin her life.

"Tangled" may have deviated from the original "Rapunzel," but similar motifs hold true; motifs that exemplify societies need for a parable look to the past. The main theme in the film is indeed the fear of fear itself. But is that not worthy of attention?

In today's society there is a parental obsession to shelter children. To lock them in towers, and tell them they're special and need protection from the dangers of the outside world. Tangled shows us that this is wrong. We NEED the knowledge and exploration that comes with growing up. Kids need to get in trouble, go on a dangerous adventure, have their heart broken, and enjoy all the pain and anguish that comes along with it. Because that's what makes you into a strong and accomplished adult. We are robbing kids of their childhood by shunning them into the oblivion of security. But "Tangled" reminds us, through the use of a common story, a cherished relic, a timeless tale, that society needs a blast to the past in order to cherish the future.

The underlying themes and motifs of the Grimms' fairy tales are universal and though the Zeitgeist is constantly changing, humanities need for their values doesn't.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Bluebeard: The Fitcher's Bridegroom

The tales of "The Robber Bridegroom" and "Fitcher's Bird" by the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault's "Bluebeard" all fall along the same lines. Each story follows a female protagonist who marries or is soon to marry a man who they each discover to be evil and murderous.

In Perrault's "Bluebeard," the youngest daughter agrees to marry Bluebeard after he throws a grandiose party. After their marriage he leaves on a business trips (very typical), but grants her a ring of keys, one of which opens a room she is forbidden to enter. Despite his warning, her curiosity gets the better of her and she discovers the chopped up bodies of Bluebeard's past wives inside the room. Upon this shocking discovery, she drops the golden key that allowed her in and it is permanently stained by their blood. Bluebeard finds out and decides he must kill her, but she begs to have time to pray first. She stalls long enough for her brothers to arrive and kill Bluebeard.

The Grimms' "Fitcher's Bird" follows a very similar plot line. However, the girl is given an egg rather than a key. The tale also follows the death of the 2 sisters preceding the protagonist and even has her bring them back to life. In order to save herself and her sisters, she covers herself in honey and feathers so no one can recognize her. She is then able to trick her bridegroom into returning to their home (after making him unknowingly carry her sisters back to her parents) and burn him alive along with their wedding guests. The protagonist in this story is much more active and cunning than those the other two tales.

The story of "The Robber Bridegroom" doesn't fit the same plot structure as the first two tales. Instead, the protagonist ventures into the woods in search of her prince bridegroom, but is warned of his villainous ways by an old woman. She then hides in the cellar behind a barrel and must listen as the prince returns and kills her grandmother. He cuts off her finger and it lands right in the princesses lap. She is able to escape back home and tells her father of what happened. Instead of simply having her father's men go out and kill the prince immediately the princess decides to play him the fool. He comes to her, inquiring as to why she had not arrived, and she explains her "dream" to him (a retelling of the previous nights occurrences). She then pulls out the finger he had cut off her grandmother and shows him that she knows what he has done. It is only then that her father's guards have the                    prince and the other robbers executed.

My favorite of the 3 tales was "Fitcher's Bird," because I admired how cunning the protagonist was, especially because of the typical passive portrayal of females characters in fairytales. I did not like that Perrault added morals to the end of his story. I think it takes away from the imagination and intuition of the reader. Additionally, the first moral was extremely sexist and offensive. I enjoyed "The Robber Bridegroom," but found it unnecessarily gory. Though many fairy tales fall into the same category.

The biggest difference between these tales and other Grimms' tales is the portrayal of marriage. Instead of the typical happy end, it is the horrible beginning to the protagonists marriage to a nightmare. These 3 stories may have different plots lines, but they all share a common motif.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Disney's "The Big Bad Wolf"

Often when we compare the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm to the adaptation's of Walt Disney we focus on his recreation of the "Disney Princesses" (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella... etc.) But we often forget about those tales involving the common folk, such as that of Rotkäppchen, more widely known as "Little Red Riding Hood."

In 1934, Disney produced a short film called "The Big Bad Wolf" as part of the series Silly Symphony and a sequel to the already existing short film "The Three Little Pigs" (also included in the Silly Symphony series). However, this animated short focuses on the story of "Little Red Riding Hood" with a special appearance by the Three Little Pigs, insinuating that the same wolf was the terrorizer for both tales.

Although I enjoy the combination of the two stories, there are some other alterations, specifically concerning "Little Red Riding Hood."

Disney plays on the fact that "Little Red Riding Hood" is originally a fairytale, by having the wolf dress up as a magical forest-fairy (by the name of Goldilocks) in order to trick Red and 2 of the pigs. In the original tale, the wolf simply walks up to Red and talks to her, giving her a greater sense of naivety and influencing the motif of the tale (which I will address later). 
The "Big Bad Wolf" is also less gruesome than the Grimms' original "Little Red Riding Hood." Neither Red or her Grandmother are eaten by the wolf, and therefore the huntsman has no need to cut them out of the wolf's stomach. There actually is no huntsman character in the animated short, but the one pig takes over his role as the hero. Instead of killing the wolf, the pig fills his pants with hot coals and popcorn, leading the wolf to quickly flee the grandmother's house.

Lastly, the motif of the story is changed. 

In the original tale, the moral of the story is to teach children (especially young girls) not to trust strangers. They should not stray from the path and tell a stranger where they are going, or live. 
Charles Perrault adds this motif in the form of a separate moral at the end of his version of "Little Red Riding Hood."

However, Disney changes this moral, and adds it in the form of a song at the end of the story. Red, her grandmother, and the 3 pigs gather around the piano, singing and playing music. The song they sing is call "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" and posses the argument that he's a "sissy." This no longer enforces the same motif. Instead children are taught that only wimps are afraid, because there is nothing to be afraid of.
Although there were striking changes made to the Disney short that devolved it from the original "Little Red Riding Hood" by the Brothers Grimm, I enjoyed "The Big Bad Wolf." I liked the combination of the two stories and the humor of the animation. It also reminded me of watching Disney's "The Three Little Pigs" as a child. In the same sense, both Grimm and Disney give fairytales the capability of reviving nostalgia in us all. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Cupid and Psyche vs The Frog King

As we all know, stories (whether they be tales, myths, or legends) are contaminated, appropriated and changed to appeal to and entertain a certain audience.

The Greek myth of "Cupid and Psyche" obviously came before the Grimms' "Frog King." As a myth, the story of "Cupid and Psyche" is meant to entertain and reaffirm the power of the gods in a way that is perceived as a true event. "The Frog King," however, is written not as a truth, but to entertain and instill a motifs.                                          

Although "Cupid and Psyche" and "The Frog King" are extremely different, there are some similarities between them.

The first similarity is in the first paragraph of both tales. Both introductions revolve around the youngest daughter who is beyond beautiful and adored by all.  

"In olden times, when wishing still did some good, there lived a king whose daughters were all beautiful, but the youngest was so beautiful that the sun itself, who, indeed, has seen so much, marveled every time it shone upon her face." - The Brothers Grimm (ed 3)

"A certain king and queen had three daughters. The charms of the two elder were more than common, but the beauty of the youngest was so wonderful that the poverty of language is unable to express its due praise. The fame of her beauty was so great that strangers from neighboring countries came in crowds to enjoy the sight, and looked on her with amazement, paying her that homage which is due only to Venus herself." - Lucius Apuleius

The biggest similarity between the stories is that both tales hold true to the Beauty and the Beast motif. 

Not only are Psyche and the Grimms' princess companions to beasts (the unknown figure of Cupid and a frog), but both tales exemplify the beasts within the princesses themselves. This is shown in "Cupid and Psyche" when Psyche looks upon her husband for the first time, wielding a knife, prepared to kill him if he turns out to be the gruesome monster her sisters foreboded. Consequently, in "The Frog King," the princess shows her beastly side as she angrily throws the frog against the wall, in hopes of killing him.

That's about where the similarities end. 

"Cupid and Psyche," being a Greek myth simply has more: more elaborate detail, more characters (as many of the gods fill their own part), and a much more complex plot structure. The plot of the stories themselves are completely different (and I'm not going into the entirety of that detail). 

A specific difference (worth making note of) is the relationships between Psyche and Cupid vs that of the princess and the frog. 

Although Psyche is initially fearful, crying at the top of the mountain waiting for her future husband, her mindset is immediately reversed upon receiving the benefits of her new lifestyle. These feelings then transpose to her unseen husband, whom she truly loves.


The princess in "The Frog King" has a much different relationship with the frog. From the very beginning of the story she is repulsed by him, calling him "nasty," and this continues throughout the story. She abandons the frog after he retrieves her golden ball and later tries to kill him by throwing him against a wall. It is not until he transforms into a human that the princess begins her adoration for him.

As you can see these stories are quite different, but they hold a common base.

Bottom line: Whether it's "Cupid and Psyche," "The Frog King," or even Disney's movie "The Princess and the Frog," stories have been and always will be appropriated in one way or another.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Little Snow White (and the Seven Dwarfs)/Schneewittchen

To what extent does Disney have a monopoly on the fairy tale industry? Is it fair to say that many would assume that Disney's portrayals are the "original tales" rather than the Grimm's? It might not be fair, but it is quite likely that if I'd mention Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, or Sleeping Beauty, an image similar to this would pop into your head.

Disney is not the only one who contaminated fairy tales. But what makes his films different?

It is my opinion, that the Zeitgeist is the ultimate catalyst for fairy tale appropriation. More specifically, with the tale of Snow White.

We will be discussing 2 films pertaining to this subject matter (both of which are based on the Grimm's original "Little Snow White" (1812):
Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937) and East German DEFA's "Schneewittchen" (1961).
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The most noteworthy modification that Disney employed was changing the film's center of attention (stressing the animation over the story).  Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is first and foremost a love story. Snow White meets the prince in the very beginning of the film, unlike in the original tale when they meet after she "wakes up" from being poisoned (without a kiss I might add).

Furthermore, the seven dwarfs are no longer simply a function of the tale, they are integral characters. They have names, personalities, and are even addressed in the film's title!

This draws more attention to the dwarfs and their underlying theme. The dwarfs portray workers, more specifically happy workers. Disney's film was produced during the Great Depression and for this reason the film exemplifies motifs of love, magic, and the joys of working.

Disney used his film to entertain as well as educate. The whimsicality of the film (centering the story on young love, turning the queen into a magical witch, and characterizing the jolly/diligent dwarfs) distracts the audience from their current misfortunes while bringing the hope of a brighter future through the prospects of hard work and goodness.

The symbolic notion of the dwarfs in Disney's film is also presented in DEFA's "Schneewitchen," though for different reasoning. The implication of hard work is still prominent, but in reference to doing one's duty rather than self advancement. This directly correlates with the ideologies of socialist East Germany.

The concept of camaraderie is also demonstrated in "Schneewittchen." Snow White addresses the dwarfs as du rather than the formal Sie. Woman are seen more as equals than in the Grimm's tale and Disney's rendition. The mirror (der Spiegel), which is a masculine noun in German and possess a male voice in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," is instead given a female voice; insinuating that females do not need to seek the approval of men.

Disney's Snow White is also illustrated as frightened and helpless, particularly when running through the forests after being sent away by the huntsman. Schneewittchen, however, is excited to explore the forest and cheerfully parades through the trees, petting animals and singing.

That being said, all three Snow White's are extremely passive and acutely epitomize a typical Hausfrau. 

The Grimm's original tale is better represented by DEFA's "Schneewittchen" (as far as plot/content), but Disney (though sexist and incongruous with the original) holds an ever-present place in audiences hearts. Furthering their own monopoly on the Grimm's works.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Cinderella (Aschenputtel)

"Rags to Riches" stories are not unfamiliar to us. It is quite the commonality to root for the underdog! We do it all the time in sports, movies, television shows, and yes, even fairy tales. We find ourselves rooting for the underdog, because we identify with them, hoping for our own personal triumphs and the optimistic ascent to fame and fortune.

The so-called "American Dream" is a quintessential example of the "rags to riches" motif. This ideology is implemented throughout American history: during the California Gold Rush in the mid 1800's, the influx of immigration between 1880-1920, and the hope of joy to come in spite of the disparity of the Great Depression in the 1930's (at which time the phrase was coined by a James Truslow Adams, in his book The Epic of America.)

We crave justice through the rise of a hero/heroine. It is their rise, however, that can create controversy. How is it that they achieved their success? By their own intellect and determination, cheating others, someone else’s rescue, or maybe the grandeur of magic!

Cinderella is THE "rags to riches" fairy tale.

The original German notation, Aschenputtel, better exemplifies the literal rock bottom that Cinderella was living in, constantly covered in ashes and dirt. However the ashes and lentils in the story foreshadow the splendor that is to come. For out of the death of the ashes we see the growth of life and prosperity within the lentils; a diamond in the ruff, if you will.

It is in my opinion that magic is the dominant means by which Cinderella achieved her acclaimed rise. 

Some may argue that it is the prince who should be praised for saving Cinderella from her retched servant's life and replacing it with one of royalty and opulence. If you ask me, I'd say he's is pretty shallow. The prince would not have even noticed Cinderella if it were not for the magic indirectly granted to her by her dead mother. He only gave initial interest in Cinderella because he assumed she was a princess.
    ~ "When the prince saw the carriage come to a halt before the gate, he thought that a strange princess from afar had come traveling to the ball. So he himself went down the stairs, helped cinderella out of the carriage and led her into the ballroom"'s_Carriage.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20120428165437
Furthermore, the prince does not recognize Cinderella after the ball! He even takes her stepsister all the way to the castle gates before he realizes (only after the birds encourage him too look at the girl's bloody foot) that she is not his true bride. 

Needless to say, without magic there is no story. Cinderella wouldn't get help from the birds to finish her chores, leaving her unable to go to the ball with her horse drawn carriage, beautiful dress and golden shoes, making it impossible for her to meet the prince and get married. No magic, no fairy tale, no princess. 

It is possible to to go from rags to riches without magic or marriage. People who use their cunning and commit to working hard are capable of doing so. But in my opinion, this does not hold true for Cinderella.  

Grimm, William, and Jakob Grimm. "Cinderella." The Original Folk and Fairy Tales 
     of the Brothers Grimm. Ed. Jack Zipes. Prinston & Oxford: Prinston 
     University, 2014. 69-72. Print. 

"James Truslow Adams Papers, 1918-1949. ." James Truslow Adams Papers, 1918-1949. . Web. 17 Sept. 2015.