Saturday, July 26, 2008

Navigation, Scope of Site. Sanitizing Fairy Tales. Culture Filter Attacks on Story-Telling

Culture Filters and our Earliest Tales

Life Watered Down
Cultural and Religious Dogma Invade the Nursery

We are looking at how the factual content changes in cultural tales, fairy tales, myths, from the oldest we can find, to the newer ones.


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How do the requirements for teaching roles and risk to children, as shown in the stories we tell them, change with the society du jour. See the process from early translations and works, to the vastly different and pap-filled Disney, and those truncated, horrid series of little children's books that put anyone to sleep.

Here is our process:

1. Find the oldest "original". Refresh your recollection.
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A good start for a straightforward, relatively comprehensive online site for the fairy tales, as at ://www.surlalunefairytales.com/.

2. Then check yours against our old Grimm's -- "Grimm's Fairy Tales," translated by Mrs. Edgar Lucas, illustrations (breathtaking, but some are gone) by Arthur Rackham, Doubleday & Page NY 1909. This, we understand, is out of copyright, so we reproduce some of the illustrations.

3. See the differences. Ask:
  • why is so much violence is edited out, only to return to us and our kids in other ways - slasher flicks, video games blam blam,
  • "entertainment" films of animal attacking animal, gore abounding.
  • Do we need a constant of violence somehow, so that no matter what we keep out and give to Disney, comes back at us in other ways? Say not so. But do enjoy the stories.
4. Research serious studies of fairy tales. Other sites are more complex.
  • Symbolism, especially in the Grimm Tales, and other fairy and religious tales, particularly the themes of coming to maturity, see ://www.onlinehumanities.com/myths.html; and the proper roles for people to take in a culture.
  • Themes of cultural myths and how they seem to affect the unconscious (do a search, see if you agree) and help guide us as adults. See the onlinehumanities site. See also ://www.folkstory.com/articles/onceupon.html. If the tales as written are significant psychologically in helping a child develop whatever, then what do we do by watering them down? Are we depriving or children of this step in learning to manage adversity.
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We leave those to the experts, another day. For now, we think our children can handle reality along with the fantasy. And at the same time. It's adults who can't. Even blogs have the wits to pick this up. Where are the parents? See //digg.com/arts_culture/The_Evolution_of_Fairy_Tales_into_Sanitized_Disney_Stories/.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Tale: "Red Riding Hood" - Cake, Wine, Vivisection - Stone-dragging and Remorse

Red Riding Hood and the Wolf in the Woods, Fairy Tales of hte Brothers Grimm, illustration by Arthur Rackham, Lucas Translation

Red Riding Hood
Girl Wonder

Read the story again, even if you think you know it. Find an online or other version of Red Riding Hood, to refresh your recollection. If you find a version at "SurLaLune," it will be shorter than the one we use, in our book

We have an old "The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm" - known more familiarly as Grimm's Fairy Tales, Lucas Translation, 1909.

See what is here:

Red Riding Hood: Here she is, in the wood, but her basket of goodies consists of cake and a nice bottle of wine for Grandma, to do her good. The wolf in the first illustration is wolf-size - that is, not exaggeratedly big at all.

First, the wolf finds out where Grandma lives, and eats her, putting on Grandma's gown. Red Riding Hood later arrives, questions Grandma's big eyes etc., and the wolf leaps out and eats her also. The SurLaLune version ends there, with a moral attached.


Our version goes on from there: the Wolf then fell asleep.

Enter the Huntsman, who heard the snoring. There is a strangely Christian interchange: Huntsman to Wolf, asleep: "Do I find you here, you old sinner?"

Instead of shooting the wolf, the Huntsman thinks that maybe the old lady is still alive inside, so he takes his knife and begins to cut open the wolf, who remains asleep.

Out pops the little girl! Out pops Grandma!

Red Riding Hood then shows her resourcefulness. She gathers big stones and they all fill up the wolf with them.

The wolf awakes!

The wolf tries to spring away but is weighted down with the stones, so they drag him back and he falls down dead. "They were all quite happy now." Page 119. The Huntsman skins the wolf, and keeps the skin.

Grandma eats the cake, drinks the wine "and she soon felt quite strong."

Red Riding Hood also has learned a lesson: "I will never again wander off into the forest as long as I live, if my mother forbids it."

What if mother does not forbid it?

Tale: "Rapunzel" - [Psst. She Had Twins] - Lucas Translation 1909

Rapunzel, Witch Climbing Up, Grimm's Fairy Tales, illustration by Arthur Rackham, Lucas Translation

Rapunzel
Girl With Natural Drive

1. Sanitizing violence, negatives; whitewashing. This happens over time for cultural reasons. 

First, see this site to get the scope of the issue, article from the Boston Globe, at "Fear of Fairy Tales," by Johanna Weiss at ://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2008/09/21/fear_of_fairy_tales/.

2. Then see our experience as we find sanitizing going on, using our "original" and seeing what is there, compared to the pablum on the shelves:

Our Rapunzel

In 1909, life was life and that was that, we suppose. And in 1909, our "The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm" tells us that Rapunzel had twins. That does not appear in later versions.

Yes. Page 83. The Prince had seen the Witch climb up Rapunzel's braids to access the tower, so he also climbed up her braids. He came every evening. The Prince and Rapunzel made promises to each other.

The Witch found out that the Prince was arriving by night, after she had been there by day, and the Witch banished Rapunzel and then lured the Prince up once more (having herself cut off Rapunzel's braids and dangled them down).

When the Prince saw that Rapunzel was not there, he threw himself out the window and scratched out his eyes on the thorns below, wandering thereafter in the wood for some years, mourning his "beloved wife." He ultimately made his way to the wilderness.

Meanwhile, Rapunzel had been living in the wilderness in poverty "with the twins who had been born to her, a boy and a girl." Page 83. The Prince heard her voice, recognized it, and there is a splendid scene of her falling, weeping, on his neck, and her tears falling on his eyes "and they immediately grew quite clear, and he could see as well as ever." The go to his kingdom, he is received with joy and they live long and happily together.

Title page, The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, Arthur Rackham illustrator, Lucas Translation

Here is our version, from 1909. We can't find an online full version of this one, with the wonderful illustrations by Arthur Rackham (no, ours is not signed). But we did find this one ://www.surlalunefairytales.com/rapunzel/index.html.

No mention of the babes at all in that translations.


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But see now the translation by Margaret Hunt in her volume, "Grimm's Household Tales." Even here, the site says that versions differ, go to://www.cs.cmu.edu/~spok/grimmtmp/009.txt.

But we see the twins here - a boy and a girl - just as in ours. The site mentions a subsequent, even more accurate version by a William Barker, but we tried to get to it and are barred.

The site does mention violence and anti-Semitism, but we have no idea what may or may not be accurate in this online version.

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Water it down, everyone, water it down, lest reality peep through to your children. Just say no, Rapunzel.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tale: "Fitcher's Bird," a Grimm Tale Presented and Clever Girls Prevail

Fitcher's Bird, The Brothers Grimm

The mystery of translations.

Our full version is reproduced below, hand-typed in for your quick reference from a photocopy pamphlet-folder version received years ago, without attribution of source. We do that for another reason:  to encourage you to read it aloud to yourself, or your own spooked children.

Goal here: We want to know which of the several versions available is more authentic, as being closest to the original German in "Fitcher's Bird." This is one of the lesser known stories from the Brothers Grimm. This tale is not in our big "Grimm's Fairy Tales" translation 1909, Lucas., that we use as a reference for several other tales here.

Other sites show "Fitcher's Bird" online, with some variations. All of them, gore, revenge, strong characters, imagination, courage; but they show victimizing young beautiful girls only.

We have a different version, far more inclusive - anyone can be victimized - and detailed, and in a six-sided folding pamphlet (like a tryptych). All sides are used, the cover plus 5 pages for story, and it looks photocopied from somewhere, but is not on copy paper. Instead, it is well done on a lightweight,soft construction-type texture paper.

See part of it here, "Fitcher's Bird," from several decades ago, distributed at a discussion group about cultural learnings. We can't find where it came from. It has no identification, no copyright, no author, no year.

But it is gripping and graphic, far better than the online versions we now see. It also is neutral as to the victims - anyone can come under the wizard's power, not just hapless girls. So the violence is broader in reach, but then the ending is gentler. Our version, however, omits a little verse that gets repeated in the onlines. Read and see. Which is closest to the original German? We have no idea.

Enjoy anyway. Where is it from? We are still looking. For all we know, it is someone's own retelling, not related to Grimm. We share it anyway - as an example of fine telling. As to the differences between it and the onlines, we continue to try to find out which is authentic; why the changes; and what do we learn about the place of violence in cultural and child development.

See story below. And, some discussion points at the end.
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QUOTE FROM HERE ON
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FITCHER'S BIRD

FAVORITE TALES FROM GRIMM

Now this is a story for those who are not squeamish, for it is about a wicked wizard who liked to cut people up.

This wicked wizard's name was Fitcher, and he used to go about disguised as a poor man, with a basket into which he put his victims and carried them away. His power was such that all he had to do was touch someone, and that person could not move away from him and had to do what he wanted.

One day Fitcher, disguised as a poor beggar, went to the house of a man who he knew had three lovely daughters and as many sons. He had his basket with him. "Alms, alms for the poor," he cried weakly, approaching the man's door. Out came the oldest daughter with a piece of bread. When Fitcher reached for it, he touched the maiden's hand, and she was then in his power and had to get into the basket and be carried off.

He took her to his house, which was very rich and beautiful, and which stood in the middle of a dark and dismal forest. All around were strange beasts and birds that Fitcher had enchanted.

At first, Fitcher treated the maiden kindly and gave her everything she wanted. But that did not last long. Within a few days he said, "My dear, I must go on a journey, but you will be quite safe. Here are the keys to the house, which you are free to explore all you like; I think you will find much that pleases you. But you may not go into the room that the smallest key opens." He handed her the keys and pointed out the smallest one. Then he gave her an egg, saying, "Take this egg with you wherever you go, and be very careful with it, for if it is lost, great misfortune will follow."

The maiden was curious, but she promised to obey Fitcher in everything he said. As soon as he ws gone she began exploring, and she found many wondrous things - rooms with rich furnishings, silver and gold in great chests, strange birds with sweeping feathers, bottles and jars of magic potions -- but these were in a locked cabinet for which there was no key. Several times she passed by the door of the forbidden room, but at last she could no longer stifle her curiosity, so she unlocked the door.

As soon as she was inside, she gasped and wished that she had not gone in, for in the center of the room stood a large cauldron filled with blood and the remains of cut-up people. The maiden was so frightened at the sight that she dropped the ege into her cauldron. Quickly she pulled it out and, glad to see that it was still whole, she wiped the blood off -- but the blood appeared again immediately, and no matter how she washed it, she could not get the egg to stay clean.

When Fitcher came back, he greeted the maiden and said, "Now where are my keys and where is the egg?"

"Here they are," she said, handing him the keys first and then, trembling, the egg.

When he saw the stains on the egg, he knew she had disobeyed him. He seiqed her, killed her, and added her body to those in the cauldron.

Then he set off for the same house again.

"Alms, alms for the poor!" he cried in a piteous voice, and soon the second daughter came out with a piece of bread. He touched her as he had touched her sister, and she had to get into the basket and let him carry her to his house in the wood. All happened as before, and soon Fitcher went off again with his basket, this time to fetch the third and youngest sister.

The youngest sister was also the cleverest, and she was already suspicious of Fitcher. Again, all happened as before" Fitcher carried the youngest sister away in his basket, treated her kindly at first, and then, in a few days, told her he must go on a journey. He gave her the keys and the egg, and instructed her as he had instructed his sisters.

But this maiden first put the egg away in a box lined with goose-down. Then with great care she explored the house, and came at last to the room she was not to enter. Like her sisters, she went in, but she kept her wits about her -- though she cried out and then wept when she was what was i8n the cauldron. But soon she dried her eyes and with determination she set about gathering the parts of her sisters together. Soon she had laid all the pieces out correctly -- and lo! when she had done so, her sisters' arms and legs began to grow together with their bodies and soon they could move and speak and were in all ways whole. The three maidens then likewise helped the other poor victims in the cauldron, who thanked them joyfully many times over and then hastened away to their homes.

But the sisters whispered together, making plans. When all was decided, the youngest hid the other two in a little room Fitcher rarely entered. Then she waited for him to come home.

When Fitcher arrived, he greeted the youngest sister and demanded, "Where are my keys and my egg?" She brought him both, and the egg was white and unstained.

"My dear," he said after he had examined it, "you have passed the test all others have failed; you shall be my bride."

The maiden was not pleasedwith that, but she pretended that she was and agreed. And that meant that Fitcher could no longer have power over her, and that he had to do everything she wished.

"Before I can marry you," she said, "you must share your gold with my poor mother and father; I shall put some in a basket for you and you must carry it to them on your back. While you are gone, I will get ready."

Fitcher was not pleased with that, but he knew he had to agree.

The maiden, saying she would fill the basket, went to where she had hidden her sisters and said, "rejoice, for we now can fulfill our plan. Climb into this basket, and he will carry you home, --but remember, as soon as you arrive, send our father and brothers and all our cousins to help."

The older girls climbed into the basket, and their youngest sister then covered them carefully with gold. Then she caled Fitcher, and, showing him the basket, said, "You must now carry this to my father's house -- but do not stop along the way, not even to rest. I shall be watching you through my little window and if you stop I will know."

The wizard lifted the basket onto his back, and carried it away, but it was heavy, and sweat poured off his face with the effort of carrying it. After a while he felt he could go no further, so he sat down. But before he had eased the basket from his shoulders, the oldest sister cried, "What, Fitcher, did I not tell you not to rest? I can see you through my little window; go on your way!"

Fitcher thought it was his bride-to-be who spoke, and, as he had to do whatever she wished, he stood up again and walked on.

Again he grew tired and, thinking now he must surely be so far away she could no longer see him, he sat down again. Just as he was about to untie the basket, the second sister cried, "Fitcher, you lazy creature, I see you from my little window! Get up and go on!"

So up Fitcher got, and every time he wanted to rest, one or the other sister ordered him on. So in a while, exhausted, he stumbled into the parents' house, and dropped the basket on the floor. Then, gasping, he sank down to rest -- and while his back was turned, the two girls crept out of the basket and spoke to their father and brothers and sent for their cousins.

Meanwhile, the youngest sister saw to it that Fitcher's house was made clean for the wedding, and she sent invitations to all the friends whose names were listed in a book of his she found. Then she took a skull that he, being a wizard, used as an ornament, and decked it with flowers and jewels so that from a distance, it would look like a living person.

When the day came for the wedding guests to arrive, the bride-to-be poured honey all over herself, and then she cut open a feather bed and rolled in the feathers until she looked like a feathered creature herself -- like one of Fitcher's strange birds. Then she hopped down the path leading from the house, bobbing her head and holding her arms like wings. Soon she met a party of wedding guests, who, since they were the wizard's friends, were used to seeing strange creatures around him. "Look at the great bird," they said to each other. "It must be one of Fitcher's creatures." One guest went up to the feathered-covered maiden and said,"Good day, Fitcher's bird. Where have you come from?"

"I have come from Fitcher's house," said the maiden.

"Ah," said the guest, "then you must know what the bride is doing?"

"Yes, indeed," said the maiden. "She has cleaned the house from top to bottom, and made all ready for the wedding. Now she iw watching from her window for the bridegroom to return.

The guests went on, andin time the maiden met Fitcher himself.

Now Fitcher had so many strange creatures around him that he did not remember them all, but he knew he might easily have a bird such as this one, and os he said, "Food day, Fitcher's bird -- for you must have come from my house, did you not?"

"Yes," said the maiden, taking great care to disguise her voice.

"Ah," said the wizard, "then can you tell me what my bride is doing?"

"I can," said the maiden. "She has made all ready for the wedding and she is now watching from the window for your return."

So Fitcher walked on toward his house, and the maiden walked on toward her father's house. Fitcher reached his destination first -- but on her way the maiden met her father and brothers and cousins.

When Fitcher drew closer to his house, he looked up to the little window and saw from a distance the decorated skull. Thinking it was his bride, he waved and smiled and called out to her. Then he hurried the rest of the way and in time reached the house and went inside.

While he was preparing himself for his wedding, changing his travel-stained clothes, the maiden's father and brothers and cousins arrived. They sent the wedding guests away, and locked the doors of the house and burned it down with Fitcher in it, and so he troubled no one ever again. The three sisters lived on with their parents and, in time, all married happily and lived in joy with their husbands.

END QUOTE

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1. Translations.

1. Cultural constants. What is taught by violence in stories. Why do we water down our fairy tales (Disney-ize) and then create equally horrendous video games in fantastic settings. We could as easily keep the gory parts in the fairy tales, and perhaps reduce the need for videos? This one has elements of "Bluebeard." There appears to be a constant here - that we need X degrees of gore and hard reality in our upbringing and recreation regardless; and if the book police and Disney dilute reading material and the stories, then we will get it another way, thank you. Our grandparents and great-grandparents had the real Grimm. We don't. So we make it up for ourselves elsewhere.

Where to look: There is a Brothers Grimm museum in Kassel, Germany - next time over, will someone ask about the translations. See Germany Road Ways, look for post dated January 8, 2007. See also ://myweb.dal.ca/barkerb/fairies/grimm/046.html

2. The Sway of Translations. Authenticity. Translations matter as to what meaning and impact are conveyed. We need to get back to the original language, and the best, closest translation to it. Retellings may be fun (as in our pamphlet), but may not be accurate. We would like to know where our pamphlet came from.

Splendid retellings or translations should be shared either way, with the warning as to authenticity. Here is one we have. Compare this to any of the onlines, e.g. ://www.pitt.edu/~dash/grimm046.html; ://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/grimm/bl-grimm-fitcher.htm; http://myweb.dal.ca/barkerb/fairies/grimm/046.html; http://www.19.5degs.com/ebook/fitcher-s-bird/526#list.

Do that and watch yourself keel over asleep like McCain faked it on Conan. The onlines are like someone telling you about the story. The pamphlet tells it, inch by inch, Eeeeee!

3. Abuses in Translation: Changes to teach a cultural message. Is that happening here? If the pamphlet is correct, as the best and most authentic original translation (who knows), then the onlines show how stories get twisted to convey an ideology. Here, the onlines describe the victims only as women and girls, as though men and boys are not susceptible, and as a way to scare girls and keep them in line, to show their special vulnerability?.

The introduction and the story itself in our pamphlet version does not so limit the tale by gender of victim - the acts can be and are against anyone. Against "people." This draws everyone in. Boys, girls, men, women, beasts, birds, all can and do come within the wicked wizard's power, by his single touch. Anyone or anything can be taken in by his disguise. Equal opportunity gore. Watch for the even-handedness of the pamphlet's unfolding tale, compared to the preachiness of the onlines.

Also watch for the scope of undoing the evil deeds, the power of agreements - what has to occur in order for a balance of power to shift, and the stress on planning and carrying out plans. The onlines shortcut the plot. Open a window for an online, then compare the pamphlet tale to it as you go. See how much is left out. Which is right? No idea. Who can look up the old original German?

4. Sheer enjoyment. Appreciate the authenticity issues, then check it out only on merit for entertainment, holding attention. Read it aloud - look at the opportunity for description, dialogue, different voices. Not just chronologies of events.

Then note, that the Grimm stories were circulated also in Victorian times, when women were to be shielded and their nervous systems not taxed, see Bogomilia, Protest Within Convention, Victorian Mary H. Seymour.

5.  Other translations:  at ://www.pitt.edu/~dash/grimm046.html; an 1812 version at ://pinkmonkey.com/dl/library1/story038.pdf/

6.  Story trace.  Update 3/2010.  The story is in the line of "Bluebeard" themes, and a new Bluebeard film is pending, see http://www.salon.com/entertainment/movies/andrew_ohehir/2010/03/26/bluebeard; and Fairy Tale Endings, Death by Husband, at ://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/28/movies/28bluebeard.html

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tale: The Elves and the Shoemaker - Generosity Rewarded

 The Elves and the Shoemaker

This site offers translations to other languages. The tale is as in our book://www.grimmstories.com/en/grimm_fairy-tales/the_elves

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The poor shoemaker finally leaves his bench with work undone, oh, so tired.

He goes to bed and - what is this? He wakes to find the shoes all made.

This happens several times. So he and his wife hide one night, to see who is doing it. Out came two little naked men who get to work and do not stop until all is done. We must thank them, say the couple, and the Wife makes them little shirts and clothing, and they lay them out.

The little men come, see the clothes, and instead of getting to work, put them on and dance out the door.

The shoemaker, however, fared well at whatever he did as long as he lived.

Tale: The White Bride and the Black One - Racism amok, or not.

The White Bride and the Black One

Here is a story that may show that all that refers to black and white is not necessarily racism. See the role of the colors here. Do we superimpose too much if we jump to conclusions.

A mother, her daughter, and her stepdaughter met God in the form of a poor man. The mother and her daughter refused to help. But the stepdaughter did help. So God was angry with the mother and the daughter and turned them "black as night and ugly as sin."

Then God said he would grant three wishes to the stepdaughter. She asked for these:
  • to be as beautiful and as fair as the sun
  • to have a purse that is never empty
  • to go to Heaven upon her death
All the wishes were granted, and the Lord went away. The stepdaughter went home, but was so lovely, white and fair that the ugly, black mother and daughter plotted against her. But her brother, who loved her, said he would paint her portrait so he could always see it; and she said, let noone else see it. So he painted the portrait and went back to his work at the castle, for he was a coachman to the king.

The king happened to see the portrait, and it reminded him of his deceased wife, and he wanted to marry her. He sent the brother to fetch her, but when he arrived at home, the mother and daughter were jealous. The stepdaughter was glad of the offer, but the mother acted quickly and half-blinded the brother, and made the stepdaughter half-deaf. On the way to the castle, all of them together, the mother (now called a witch) tricked the stepdaughter into thinking her brother was asking her to change clothes with the black daughter, then, when they got over a bridge, pushed the stepdaughter out and she turned into a white duck.

The king was upset at the ugliness of his bride, but became accustomed, and they married and were happy.

Finally the white duck repeatedly came to the castle, and after several visits, the king heard of it.

He found out the duck's tale from the brother and wanted to see for himself. When he went to the gutter where the duck emerged, he lopped off her head and she turned into the lovely white bride he had been expecting.

So he punished the mother and the daughter, dreadful doings not for the fainthearted, and rewarded the brother, and married the white bride and they also were happy.
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The end.

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Read ot at ://www.grimmstories.com/en/grimm_fairy-tales/the_white_bride_and_the_black_one/ or at ://everything2.com/title/The%2520White%2520Bride%2520and%2520the%2520Black%2520One/

Why?

  • If we don't look our culture in the eye, how do we root out our assumptions. And how do we vet our own assumptions about uses of black and white.

Vet assumptions. All ways. Here, it is not the blackness or the ugliness that leads to the ultimate horrible end. It is the evil behavior that did not change. Did it make a difference that the couple ultimately were happy? The blackness and ugliness did not matter then. But the earlier behavior, when it came out did. This particular story is not in our Grimm - I wish it had been included. The concepts are more than just "black and white." The grimmstories site has what looks to be a complete listing of stories.

Black, white. Old uses. New sensitivities. How to see these kinds of stories. As an absolute horror for repeating the old idea of black as sin - or is the story really focusing on the behavior, if we only will let it. Will our lens, sensitized as our lens is, allow us to see also beyond it while including it.


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And in Poland, for easy examples, see Poland Road Ways, Czestochowa Black Madonna.


.Black, in and of itself, is not a pejorative in religious terms. It is an object of veneration in the cases of the Black Madonnas. Do your own search for all of them.

Obviously, white is ordained and to be rewarded, but is it "blackness" that is to be punished, or is it "ugliness" or is it, in the end, behavior and neither the blackness or ugliness.

  • Additional Vetting: Look how the ugly black daughter becomes beloved by the king anyway. He does marry her, and they do fine. Her blackness, imposed as a punishment for her first failure to help the poor man, did nto get in the way of the king later loving her. It was her continuing selfish, deceitful, even murderous behavior that did her in.
More to talk about. Not as simple as merely calling it an example of "racism" suggests. The "black" is just as "night" in contrast to the "white" of light - no comparison, no pejorative. Or is there?

We do note that the "ugly" is not part of the "black" at all, but additional to it.

Tales: Eve's Various Children. Each To His Place.

More Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm
This not well known

Eve's Various Children

Read in full at http://www.grimmstories.com/en/grimm_fairy-tales/eve_various_children.

The Plot:

Adam and Eve, at their house, are expecting the Lord to arrive. Eve lines up the pretty children; but hides the homely ones.

The Lord enters, admires the children, and grants high status to the pretty ones - they are to be a burgher, a count, a knight, a nobleman, a learned man.

Eve, seeing this generosity, brings out the homely children.

The Lord looks at them and says that He will bless them as well - but this one is named a peasant, that one is named a tradesman, this a weaver, that a smith, potter, a wagoner, sailor, errand-boy and scullion - for life.

Why? Why? asks Eve, seeing the differential treatment.

Because, says the Lord, it is "right and necessary" that the world be supplied, and if all were princes, who would do the work?

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What is the lesson. Are all workers to be homely? In the eyes of whom?  Social stratification by divine ordination. Oh, my.

Tale: The Jew Among the Thorns - Anti-Semitism in Fairy Tales



The Jew Among the Thorns

A rich man refused to pay his faithful, hard-working servant after the end of a year, saying he could save money and the faithful servant would surely remain.

So, the second year, the servant did stay, and continued to work hard. Still no pay.

And the third year. No pay. The servant complained, and the master reached in his pocket and brought out three farthings - a pittance - but tellint the servant that it was a fortune, and that the servant would not get more elsewhere.

The servant considered; then figured. And he figured he surely had enough to go enjoy himself, with this bounty of a full three years' wages.

So he stopped his work and merrily went his way. A dwarf saw him, and asked for half of what the servant had in his pocket since the servant could easily earn it again, while he, the dwarf could not. The honest servant had a big heart, and did so. Thank you! cried the little man, and now I shall grant you three wishes.

Wonderful. The servant asked for gun unerring in its aim, a fiddle that would cause all who heard to dance, and that if he ever asked a favor, the one asked would give it to him.

The servant went on his way, and came upon a Jew who sought to possess a particular bird in the treetop, for its song. The servant heard him, said he would shoot the bird down; and did; and the Jew crawled into the thicket to retrieve it.

Then the servant, feeling humorous, began to fiddle and the Jew in the briars had to dance, and his legs went all over, and the thorns pricked. Stop, please! cried the Jew. I do not want to dance. And the servant said, you have fleeced so many in your life now you shall be fleeced.

Take this purse of gold, said the Jew, but stop fiddling. And the servant took the gold, and went his way.

As soon as the servant had gone, the Jew began to abuse him and shout and went into the town to complain. The judge had the servant led back to the town, and after bearing both sides, believed neither.


Servant sentenced to hang. Old print.

But the servant indeed had the gold on him, so he was sentenced to hang.

Grant my last wish, said the servant. Let me play my fiddle. No! cried the Jew. Why not, said the judge, and the servant began to scrape away at the fiddle. Soon everyone was dancing.

Exhausted, the judge cried, I give you back your life if you will just stop fiddling. So the servant stopped, and so did all the dancing.

The servant went over to the Jew, and said, confess where you got the money. Yes, I took it, I stole it, said the Jew, but you have earned it.

And the judge had the Jew hanged as a thief.

...........................................................

Roots of prejudice. Double standards. Moral? Cultures use ridicule and harsh punishments to keep people in line. As here, ://www.familymanagement.com/literacy/grimms/grimms175.html, or ://www.grimmstories.com/en/grimm_fairy-tales/the_jew_among_thorns. Here, nothing happened to the rich man at all for his cheating.

This is a complex and violent version of the ethnic, and blond, unfunny jokes, geared to enhance the status of one at the horrid expense of others.

What redeeming value is here.

Tale: Rumpelstiltskin - Ok

Online version: ://www.cs.cmu.edu/~spok/grimmtmp/044.txt. Watered down, little preserving of the original fun, and just a dull accounting of the ending.

Our Grimm:

A father wants to appear important, so he brags to the King that his daughter can spin straw into gold. Get her, says the King, and I will test her. The girl is locked in a room with the straw, not knowing what to do, when a Mannikin appears - if I help you, what will you give? My necklace, says the girl. She does, and he spins, and the King is pleased, and next day puts her in a bigger room. Same events - what do I get for helping? My ring! She does, and he spins. King pleased, next day, bigger room. Do it again, says King, and I will marry you. Same events: what do I get for helping? I have nothing! So give me your first child as Queen. Ok.

Child born, Queen weeps when the little man comes to take it. Little man feels sorry for her, gives her three days to figure out his name, and if she does, she keeps the child.

Queen racks brain - thinks of Caspar, Melchior, Balthazar on day one. Nope. Thinks of Cowribs, Spindleshanks, or Spiderlegs. Nope. But on day 3, a messenger comes with news - spied a little house where "an indescribably ridiculous little man was leaping, hopping on one leg, and singing (a song with his name in it - Rumpelstiltskin).

Is your name Tom? Nope. Dick? Nope. Rumpelstiltskin?

" 'The devil told you that! The devil told you that!' shrieked the little man; and in his rage stamped his right foot into the ground so deep that he sank up to his waist.

"Then in his passion, he seized his left leg with both bands and tore himself asunder in the middle."
...........................................
Look at the fun in reading this aloud to a child. Or yourself. And the little fairy tale lessons - self-importance and what it brings, gloating, even cheating works - not guessing at all.

Online: Not bad, but just tearing yourself in two is not as fabulous as tearing yourself asunder in the middle. And the names used in the last guessing are dull., but not awful.

Tale: The Bremen Town Musicians - Euthanasia Avoided, Resource Lists.

  The Bremen Town Musicians

Again, we are reading the Grimm Fairy Tales from 1909, Lucas translation.  For the Bremen Town Musicians, see these characters:

The Ass. The old Ass was getting old, couldn't work any more the way it used to, so the master began thinking of how to cut down on its feed. The Ass sensed mischief against his self-interest, so he ran away - thinking to become a town-musician.

The Hound. On the way he met a hound, Growler, panting. "Ah," said the hound - I get weaker daily, I can no longer keep up with the pack, so my master wanted to kill me. So I left - now how will I earn my bread. Join me, I am going to Bremen to be a town-musician and I shall play the lute and you the kettledrum."

The Cat.   The cat, Whiskers, was "sitting in the road, with a face as long as a wet creek." He also ws getting old, feeling of no use, and his mistress was seeking to drown him. So the cat ran off, as had the ass and the hound before - now what. Join up and be the serenader.

The Rooster.  Barn-door fowl, Red-comb, crowing like mad. It did all it could but its mistress wants it for soup. Neck to be wrung. Crowing while he can. Join up, say the others. Add quality to the music.

Robbers. Then they all spy a robbers' den! They want some food and drink, so they climb up on each other's backs to see in - and the plan is, start their music and frighten the robbers off. They do, and they did.

Robbers return. Uh-oh. False alarm, think the robbers, from a distance. One tiptoes back in, and startles the cat who flies at his face. Hound jumps up and bites his leg, Ass kicks him as he runs across the manure heap, and the Cock crows on.

The robber runs back - There is a witch, a man with a knife, and a black monster and a judge, he cries, so I hurried away!

And the robbers did not go back, and the four Bremen musicians who found their usefulness in each other joining forces, stayed put and never wished to leave.

..................................................

1. Types of tales, sources. Animals and others in exile - a familiar theme - see www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0130.html/. This site names the Aarne-Thompson motif and tale types in folktales, and this tale is included. See Professor D.L. Ashliman, at the University of Pittsburgh, retired, at site http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/ashliman.html. Now doing folklore research, southern Utah. Excellent! Overall, this site turns out to be a handbook - links to
  • ://www.pitt.edu/~dash/folklinks.html, all sorts of fairy tale sites.
  • ://www.pitt.edu/~dash/folktexts.html
  • http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/mythlinks.html, for the germanic/old norse - gods, monuments, vikings.
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2. Our education system strangles our own heritage, diminishes children in underestimating their insight capabilities.  Can they cope with complexity? Yes.  Let them.
For an example of the ridiculous stuff we feed our children instead, look at this children's version, for tots, at ://www.brementownmusicians.com/story/chapter/1/page/1.

If this is to be a child's first exposure to literature, please skip it. No wonder kids don't want to read. They are better off with original new stories geared to teach what somebody wants to teach, rather than take fine old tales, with meaning and addressing cultural issues, and turn them into soap.
In the watered-down version, there is no mention of the main issue here - what to do when one gets too old to be useful in the ways that one was useful before. There is no reference to how fear can be used to get what one wants, even if there is no reality behind the fear.  Use the tactic anyway. There is no reference to the strength in working together - so much could have been included.  The theme of getting old and feeling useless. Worth exploring.

4. But there are other excellent other translations - Here is a Margaret Hunt translation at ://www.fln.vcu.edu/grimm/bremereng.html. Very close to our Grimm. See another one like it, and the famous statue in Bremen, Germany, at ://www2.bremen.de/info/skp/stadtmusikanten/townmusicians.htm

5. Best overall - back to top. This site gives a list of various translations, and an overview - same tale, and the site also says that this tale remained essentially unchanged - see ://www.pitt.edu/~dash/grimm027.html

Friday, July 18, 2008

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