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 Rotk├Ąppchen, 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.