Saturday, February 23, 2013

Little Red Riding Hood in Modern Times

                                                     Cartoon by: Mark Parisi

        This political/social cartoon depicts Little Red Riding Hood instant messaging with the wolf. This cartoon is different than others we have examined in class, because it is black and white and does not depict the famous red hood. However, it does depict the famous image of the wolf in the grandmother’s clothing. After reading the many possible interpretations, the theme or moral of the story, in my opinion, is that little girls (and little boys) should not talk to strangers, because the results could potentially be deadly.
       As always, I try to apply what we are discussing and learning in class to real life. This cartoon interested me more than all of the others, because it depicted how the story could possibly be written if it had been written in modern times. It also illustrates a real problem that children and parents in this modern era should be wary of: online predators. According to Enough is Enough, an online site dedicated to making the internet a safer place, one in seven children will receive some type of sexual solicitation over the internet. Most of these predators will gain information about their victims such as likes and dislikes, school, home, and daily schedules via social networking sites. In order to reduce the risks of this happening, children are encouraged not to post personal information anywhere on the internet, or interact with strangers online such as talking to strangers in chatrooms or adding them to their Facebook friends list. Overall, this cartoon accurately illustrates how the morals and messages learned from fairy tales are timeless and can be applied to children of all time periods. 

Online Predator Statistics:

Friday, February 15, 2013

Children as Heroes

In fairy tales, it is a common theme to have a child, or children, as a hero. One classic tale that demonstrates this concept that almost everybody has heard of is Hansel and Gretel. To summarize the tale, the two children are starving and abandoned in the woods by their parents, and arrive at a gingerbread house in which a witch resides. She seems to be nurturing at first as she takes them in, feeds them, and offers them a cozy place to stay. However, this falsehood is brought to light as she holds them captive, and fattens up Hansel in a plan to eat him. On the day she is ready to cook Hansel, she attempts to trick Gretel into crawling into the oven- but Gretel’s wit sees past the witch’s trickery and shoves the witch into the oven instead. Then Hansel is saved, and the two children find their way home. In The Juniper Tree, a boy is murdered by his hateful stepmother and then unknowingly eaten by his father. However, he is reincarnated into the most beautiful songbird which sings his songs in order to gain beautiful things from local craftsmen. He returns to his home and gives gifts to his beloved father and younger sister, but kills his stepmother by dropping a millstone on her head. Then he transforms back into a boy, and the father, brother, and sister live happily ever after.
These are just two examples in which children are the heroes in fairy tales. According to Bettelheim, it is very important to read these types of tales to children because it is ultimately the story of regression leading to maturity. In Hansel and Gretel, Bettelheim argues that as they leave their parents’ home, this symbolizes the stage in which a child begins to become more independent and move away from his mother. But when they leave the home, the only thing on their mind is food, which represents their regression to the oral stage of psychoanalytical development. As they descend upon the witch’s house, they feel perfectly content as their oral urges are being met, and they feel as though their mother is nurturing them and meeting their demands once again. However, as they discover that the witch has deceived them and really is not a nurturing figure, this represents a child’s realization that his mother is the witchly figure who will no longer provide him with his oral fixation. Therefore, as in Hansel and Gretel, the child begins to mature and become independent away from the mother. Rather than solely focusing on food (the id), Hansel and Gretel begin to use their ego and superego as they plan ways to escape and defeat the witch. And then once they successfully escape the witch’s house and earn diamonds and jewels as a reward, they have matured and are ready to happily return to the home of their parents without feeling the prior oral fixation and resentment when it is not met.
While fairy tales are lovely and enjoyable to read, I couldn’t help but wonder about how “the child as a hero” correlates to real life. I immediately began to think of children who are victims of real-life parental abandonment, or children who are victims of domestic violence, or victims of parents that abuse substances. Frequently, these children are forced to mature at a much faster rate in comparison to other children. These children often have to be the hero in their own lives, because they learn to rely solely on themselves to provide basic needs such as food, shelter, and safety.  It is sad and shocking enough to read about parents abandoning or murdering their children in a fairy tale, but it is even more sad and shocking to know that it happens in real life. 

Bettelheim, Bruno: The Uses of Enchantment. New York: Vintage Books, 2010
The Classic Fairy Tales edited by Maria Tatar: New York & London, 1999

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Blog Entry 2: Define Fairy Tales

          Before this class, I would not have known where to start if someone had asked me to define “fairy tales.” I probably would have said something along the lines of “make-believe stories that are read and told to small children.” However, in reality, fairy tales are much more complex and meaningful than what the general population gives them credit for. While fairy tales are indeed made-up and understood to be works of fiction, they contain very real benefits and applications to real life. People of all ages and cultures are captivated by fairy tales for an array of reasons. According to Bruno Bettelheim, fairy tales help children (and/or adults) to form a sense of understanding of the world around them, and therefore understand themselves and are able to relate to others better. Also, fairy tales provide a way in which children are able to relate to their personal inner conflicts, anxieties, stresses, and struggles to the characters in the stories. Once the hero overcomes a struggle in the story, the child feels as if he/she is able to overcome it as well. In other words, children identify with fairy tales and use them as a model and tool to cope with their own lives.

Variations of the same fairy tale can exist throughout vastly different societies of the world. This is because, according to Marie-Louise von Franz and Jungian psychology, fairy tales are believed to be based in archetypes. In layman’s terms, this simply means that similar tales are told throughout the world because all humans have the same basic experiences such as falling in love, identifying with a motherly figure, being faced with a villain or difficult situation, and the list continues. These experiences and emotions are inherently translated into images in our subconscious, which is an archetype. Fairy tales are also much like dreams in that we all have a subconscious connection to the fairy tale when we hear it. And like a dream, the meaning and interpretation which we derive from a fairy tale is an individual one, tailored to our own memories and life experiences.

In addition to the subconscious aspect of the term “fairy tale,” there is also  a more concrete aspect to the definition when comparing it to other forms of literature. Maria Tatar points out that unlike many other types of literature, fairy tales do not have a single author or person of ownership. Rather, they have been retold by so many different authors over time and refined into the tales we know and love today, and are owned by the public to be told and retold as they please.  

On a side-note, I discovered these books this week! They belonged to my grandfather when he was a small boy, and are copyrighted from 1928. There are eight volumes of fairy tales and other stories. As the semester progresses and we start to read more stories, I hope I can find similar ones (or the same ones) in these books, and compare them to the stories we are reading in class. Also, I think it’s neat to see what my grandpa was reading (and what was read to him) when he was growing up during the Great Depression.

Works Cited
Bettelheim, Bruno: The Uses of Enchantment. New York: Vintage Books, 2010
The Classic Fairy Tales edited by Maria Tatar: New York & London, 1999
Von Franz, Marie-Louise: The Interpretation of Fairy Tales. Boston & London: Shambhala, 1996