Fairy Tale Essay Assignment: Answer


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Fairy Tale Essay Assignment: Answer one of the following questions in bold, considering the two passages before it. Provide three specific examples of fairy/folk tales from any culture and how they relate to the question you’ve chosen.

1. Maria Tatar, in Off With Their Heads!, writes: "Fairy tales are not written in granite. My own experience has shown that we continue to rewrite the tales as we reread them, even though the words on the page remain the same. But it is important to remember that what we produce in our retellings and rereadings discloses more about an adult agenda for children than about what children want to hear. Thus fairy tales may not offer much insight into the minds of children, but they often document our shifting attitudes toward the child and chart our notions about childrearing in a remarkable way. It is these discursive practices, as they are embedded in children's literature, that invite reflection as we read to a child or when we put a book into a child's hands."

1. An anonymous posting on the Surlalune fairy tale site read: “For me, the most important part of the story [The Six Swans] was that the sister was required to remain silent in order to break her brothers' enchantment, and that she had the courage to take on the task of breaking it despite the fact that it was very painful (crushing nettles and weaving them into coats), ad to persist even when it almost led to her own death. Living in household with violent parents, this was a story that really spoke to me -- particular growing up in the Sixties when child abuse and domestic violence were still issues shrouded in thick silence. Also, I had younger half-brothers who I longed to be able to save (and, alas, could not) from the ‘enchantment’ of our situation. This is a highly personal interpretation, of course, and just one way that the tell can be read. Thanks for pointing out about the importance of her silence. There is something very profound about that, which I didn't pick up before. It strikes me as the passive internal face of courage, in comparsion to the active external one which we much more often read about.”

1. Do fairy tales reflect child or adult values?

2 or 3. "The dwarfs, Snow White's rescuers, are the helpers who seem to come into our lives magically, just at the moment we need them. In the ‘real world,’ these helpers may be therapists, friends, relatives, mates, ministers, or just a stranger on a bus. In the story of Snow White, the dwarfs are humble, nonthreatening, empathic, understanding, nurturing men with qualities that present a true contrast to those of the wicked queen. The dwarfs are miners. They dig deep into the earth, seeking precious gems and metals. They help Snow White mine for what is precious in herself. The dwarfs bring Snow White down to earth. They watch over Snow White and try to guard her from her envious mother. They warn her, they support her, and give her a role, a purpose in life." In The Snow White Syndrome, Betsy Cohen focuses our attention on family in the tale.

2 or 3. Maria Tatar, in "From Nags to Witches," comments on the stepmother as follows: "In the vast majority of German tales in which stepmothers figure as prominent villains, it is the stepdaughter who takes on the role of innocent martyr and patient sufferer. If the stepmother of these tales is not literally a witch, she possesses qualities that place her firmly in the class of ogres and fiends. Like her Icelandic counterpart, she too is an alien intruder who disturbs the harmony among blood relatives. She may not always have the power to perform an actual metamorphosis, but she can turn even the most aristocratic and beguiling girl into the humblest of scullery maids.”

2. Most fairy tales seem to be mirrors for life, teaching us valuable lessons about relationships. What are some fairy tales that do this and how are their life lessons relevant today?


3. How do fairy tales confront the nature of good and evil? What does this unending struggle teach us?

4 The Hero's Journey duplicates the stages of the Rite of Passage. First the initiate faces separation from his own, familiar world. Once separated, he undergoes initiation and transformation, where the old ways of thinking and acting are altered or destroyed, opening the way to a new level of awareness, skill and freedom. After successfully meeting the challenges of the initiation, the initiate takes the journey's final step, the return to his world. When he does, he will find that he is more confident, perceptive, and capable, and he will discover that his community now treats him as an adult, with all of the respect, rights and privileges which that status implies. http://www.yourheroicjourney.com/Journey.shtml

(See http://ias.berkeley.edu/orias/hero/ for hints.)

4. The true goal of the heroine’s journey is to become the archetypal, all-powerful mother. Young women are rarely destined to lead armies and swing swords, Joan D’Arc being a rare example. The girls demonstrate this need for motherhood by questing, rarely for kingdoms, but for husbands or missing family members. These goals show the desire to build a family circle of one’s own. (Frankel)
4. Is there a difference between “boy stories” and “girl stories” in fairy tales? Is the goal different or just the means of achieving it? What do these stories teach boys and girls of today? Are fairy tale characters still good gender role models?

Shrek, Shrek 2, Ever After, Into the Woods, A Cinderella Story, Pretty Woman

Most Disney movies


Grimm’s collected fairy tales, Hans Christian Andersen’s collected fairy tales

Fractured or modernized fairy tales, Any folk and fairy collection for any age from any country.


Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts This site contains folk and fairy tales from all around the world, sorted by type into hundreds of categories. http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/folktexts.html
The Open Directory Project  So many stories, organized by every imaginable culture.  The ultimate resource. http://dmoz.org/Arts/Literature/Myths_and_Folktales/Myths/
SurLaLune fairy tale pages A portal to the realm of fairy tale and folklore studies featuring 35 annotated fairy tales, including their histories, similar tales across cultures, and over 1,200 illustrations. Discover hundreds of fairy tales from around the world here. http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/
www.GrimmFairyTales.com Flash presentations of delightful tales.

Hans Christian Andersen: All his fairy tales, plus resources. http://hca.gilead.org.il/


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