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.