Sunday, April 28, 2013

Presentation by Dr. Ochieng

The presentation by Dr. Ochieng’ was one of the best and most enjoyable that I have ever seen! I really enjoyed how he got the audience involved with the singing and dancing, beating the drum, and teaching us some Swahili words. Additionally, his story-telling was very engaging, and made me want to listen to more stories! It was also interesting to examine the similarities and differences between African folk tales, and other folk/fairy tales that we have read in class. A lot of the similarities were found in the reasons why folk tales are told in Africa. Like other places in the world, folk tales are told in African culture for a variety of reasons. These include explaining natural phenomena, teaching cultural morals and values, and providing entertainment. The folk tales from Africa are different, however, in some of the content. For example, lions would not appear in a folk tale from China or Russia. Also, folk tales from Africa differ in the way they are told to the audience. Many of the tales involve singing and dancing in order to transition from one point of the story to another, or to transition between stories. During the song and dance, the entire audience is expected and invited to participate rather than just observing. Overall, like those found in many cultures, African folk tales are enjoyed by people of all ages and social statuses. I never envisioned myself traveling to Africa, until Dr. Ochieng's presentation and tales made African culture sound so warm and inviting!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Jewish Folktales

Folktales are different from fairy tales in a few ways. The main difference, however, is that folktales strongly pertain to a certain culture and contain traditions, values, and pivotal figures from that culture. Jewish folktales, for example, always have a Rabbi in the story. This is because Jewish communities are traditionally centered around a Rabbi, whom they go to for nearly everything. Therefore, another crucial part of a Jewish folktale is that the Rabbi must have a community of students around him. Rabbis interpret the Torah, and encourage students to interpret the Torah by seeking out the answers to questions they may have for themselves, rather than having the Rabbi provide an answer. Jewish folktales also demonstrate some of the history of the Jewish people via tales of oppression, persecution, and slavery. They may also demonstrate values and traditions held in the 613 laws of Judaism, or may demonstrate the history of either forced or willing transience that Jewish people have had to endure.
            More importantly, however, these folktales provide Jewish people with hope. In many of the stories, the main character goes through extreme hardship but then is rewarded due to his unwavering faith in his Rabbi and in God. Again, these tales of individuals overcoming hardship are reflections of the hardships that the Jewish population has had to survive throughout history, but has overcome due to a strong faith in God. Finally, Jewish folktales provide Jewish people with hope through tales of persevering discrimination and persecution. Many of the tales depict a Jewish man that overcomes a seemingly impossibly tough situation by using his wit and instinct.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Blog Entry 8: Cinderella

Cinderella is one of the most beloved and well-known fairy tales of all time.  The combination of magic, morals, and marriage creates a tale in which the reader sympathizes with the main character as she struggles with a cruel stepmother and stepsisters and then rejoices when she finds true love.  She uses her beauty, charm, and good character to transform her life from wearing dirty cleaning rags, to a life rich in beauty and love. This rags-to-riches motif is common in many fairy tales, novels, movies, and songs.  Perhaps it is so popular because it gives impoverished or struggling people hope that things will one day get better. For women especially, they may hope that their prince charming will one day come along and drastically improve their lives and will live happily ever after. However, the application of this motif to real-life circumstances may not always be realistic.

  The film Pretty Woman is a modern spin on the classic Cinderella story, with a few differences. While there is no cruel stepmother or stepsisters, Vivian is a prostitute who falls in love with a wealthy man- epitomizing the rags-to-riches motif. Vivian uses her charm, beauty, wit, and warm heart to make Edward (and viewers) fall in love with her. This type of tale could most certainly come true in real life. However, I believe that this type of love story is very rare and not every struggling woman should wait for or expect a handsome and wealthy man to fall in love with her. I think the best way to achieve a rags-to-riches tale in real life is through a lot of hard work, and a strong moral character. If a person is doing the best they can to improve their life circumstances and is striving to be a better person with each new day, good karma and good relationships will come his or her way in one form or another. Finally, I believe that every woman’s prince charming is different, and often unlike those depicted in movies. He may not be very wealthy or come riding in on a white steed, but the type and depth of love that is depicted in movies is definitely attainable if the right person comes in to your life.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Week 6: Snow White

"Sonne" by the German band Rammstein certainly provides a brand new and unconventional perspective on the traditional “Snow White” fairy tales. The music video opens with men working in a mine. In the traditional Snow White by the Brothers Grimm, it is dwarves who work in the mine- not men. This is already a significant difference in the tale as men pose more of a sexual threat or presence to the story. Although men are used instead of dwarves in the music video, Snow White is still depicted as being much larger than they are, which is similar to the book. But in the video, she appears to be a giant in comparison to the men. Another very large difference between the music video and the traditional tale is Snow White’s rated-R behavior. In the Brothers Grimm version, Snow White is a very demure and na├»ve female character who is easily tricked and volunteers to do household chores- the epitome of a female stereotype or representation of stereotypical feminine gender roles. However, in the music video by Rammstein, Snow White is very naughty. She is depicted with overt sexuality as she wears a cleavage-bearing dress, sexy high stockings, and spanks the dwarves. Also, in Rammstein’s version, the men appear to sexually worship her as they excitedly wait in line to be spanked and present offerings of gold to her, which is much different than the platonic admiration the dwarves in the traditional tale show for Snow White. In addition to her sexuality, Rammstein’s Snow White has a nasty drug habit. She snorts and shoots the gold that the men bring her, and eventually overdoses on it and it puts her into a long slumber. In the traditional Snow White, this is done by eating a poisoned apple.

In both versions, however, there are some similarities. In both versions, the men and dwarves are depicted as working in the mines. Additionally, the color scheme of Snow White is the same in both versions- Snow White is white as snow, black as ebony, and red as blood. Furthermore, in both versions, Snow White goes into a deep sleep and is then placed into a glass coffin high atop a mountain by the men and dwarves. However, in the traditional tale Snow White is awoken by a prince, and in Rammstein’s version she is awoken by an apple falling onto and shattering her glass coffin- an ironic twist on the traditional tale, where the apple is the object that puts her to sleep. A final and huge difference in the two tales is that in Rammstein’s version, there is no evil queen who is trying to kill Snow White due to her jealous rage.

Personally, I like the traditional version of Snow White by the Brothers Grimm better than Rammstein’s version. Maybe this is because it is the version I heard as I was growing up, and I have already developed a fondness and appreciation for it. I also like the fact that the Brothers Grimm version is more innocent and suited for children (even with the presence of the evil queen) in comparison to Rammstein’s version which is overtly and intentionally infused with adult content. Although I like the Brothers Grimm version better, I still greatly appreciate the creativity and new perspective shown in the music video “Sonne” by Rammstein.  

The Classic Fairy Tales edited by Maria Tatar: New York & London, 1999
Rammstein. (2001). Sonne [Web]. Retrieved from
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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Week 5: A Jungian Interpretation of Fairy Tales

A Jungian psychoanalysis of fairy tales concentrates largely on archetypes, and the collective unconscious. This concept revolves around the idea that people of all eras and cultures have had similar emotional experiences, which are then translated into images known as archetypes. Some archetypes that are heavily represented in fairy tales include (but are not limited to) the motherly figure, the fatherly figure, the hero, the villain, etc. In some analyses, these archetypes represent facets of our inner-selves which can then be translated into the three parts of our psyche that govern our behavior according to Freud- the id, the ego, and the superego.
 When Dr. Mazeroff presented on fairy tales this week, he presented on all of these basic topics and more. He also presented on archetypes which I have never thought of or realized previously, but are heavily represented in fairy tales and modern culture in movies, music, and TV shows. One of these archetypes is the wise old man. This archetype can be seen in characters such as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit, and Dumbledore in Harry Potter. The absence or presence of this character in a story strongly influences the development of the protagonist, just as it would in a developing child. Another archetype that Dr. Mazeroff discussed which I had not previously thought of is the shadow. This figure is often represented as a wild, evil, and unpredictable character- which is a representation of the id within an individual. Examples of this character include Gollum/Smeagol in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter.
  As always, I strive to apply what we are learning in class to real life situations. Therefore I started to wonder which archetype I most closely identify with. I found an online quiz at where you answer a series of questions and then from your answers, a pie chart is developed with which archetypes describe you the best. After taking the quiz, my number one result was the archetype of the caregiver, and the number two result was the archetype of the intellectual. I thought this online quiz produced very accurate results for me, and was surprised that such a short and easy online quiz could produce accurate results. 

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