When reading the story written by the Brothers Grimm entitled, “Little Snow-White” one can easily see the similarities to the Disney version of the story which entitled “Snow White”. Arguably, it seems that Disney bases a lot of its material off of the works of the Brothers Grimm. Since the Brothers Grimm tend to feature innocent characters with a lesson to learn in life, it is easy to see why Disney would choose to go this route. However, the Brothers Grimm often use a dark evil character that Disney tends to lighten up a bit. This is mainly because in the Brothers Grimm versions of stories they often include a murderous evil character. Disney, in order to make it more kid friendly, makes the character just seem extreme evil with a dark aura often surrounding them. An example of this would be the queen from “Little Snow-White”. In the story written by the Brothers Grimm, the queen is afraid of the beauty that Little Snow-White may come to possess, and forces to do ‘Cinderella’ type labor. The queen would ask the mirror for the next few years who the fairest lady in the land was, the mirror always answering that it was indeed the queen. However, as Little Snow-White grew up and her looks became more mature and define, the queen asked the mirror once again who the fairest lady in the land was, only this time the mirror answered that it was no longer the queen, but it was Little Snow-White. At hearing this, the queen went mad from envy and began to plot ways to regain her title as the fairest lady in all of the kingdom. She came to the conclusion that the only way was to have Little Snow-White murdered. Not twice but three times the queen attempts to take Little Snow-White’s life. In the beginning the queen ordered a hunstman to take her into the woods and remove her heart so that the queen could eat it. The hunstman however let her go and brought a pigs heart for the queen to eat. The queen would later find this out and plot new ways to get rid of Snow-White. This included things like trying to choke her with a girdle, poisoning her scalp with a comb, and trying to kill her by exploiting her curiosity and giving her delicious looking apples that were actually poisoned. Understandably, these few details weren’t included in the Disney version of the story. Snow White only was given one gift which was the apple. This gift was also from a witch. A few other differences include the way that the queen meets her death. In the story written by the Brothers Grimm, the queen attends the wedding of Snow White and the prince, but is stopped and forced to dance with iron shoes on hot coals, until she literally dances herself to death. In the movie she is chased up a hill by the seven dwarves and tries to kill them with a boulder, when karma takes effect and lightning strikes, causing her to fall from the mountain and also be crushed by the boulder.
In the story, “Snow, Glass, Apples” Neil Gaiman parallels the archaic story, “Snow White” by reusing a familiar story structure, and retelling the story in his own manner. The interesting part of this though, is that while maintaining the story in its basic sense, he completely changes the story’s meaning by altering the characters and their motivations. Snow White is presented as an incestuous creature or vampire that preyed on her own father. She is described as an adult at the age of twelve, as well as pale skinned, her eyes coal black, and her lips as red as blood. This description is almost exactly the same as the description given in the previous version of the story, but interestingly enough when described in the given circumstances (being resurrected in the woods) the description seems much scarier. The prince is presented once again as a love-struck prince, in awe of the beauty of the dead body of Snow White. As told in the story by Neil Gaiman though, it reveals him to be a lust-driven necrophiliac that takes what he desires (one of those things happening to be the queen earlier in the story). Even more curiously, the queen is described as a young woman in love with the king, but stricken with terror by her stepdaughter. The queen will later fight against Snow White in order to save her kingdom. Unlike the story before, in which Snow White is saved by the dwarves several times after being spared by the huntsman, Snow White is actually murdered, and seems to be dead, until she comes back to life in a supernatural manner, revealing to the audience that she is indeed inhuman. This effectively paints a different picture for the reader about the character of Snow White. Instead of representing innocence, naivety, curiosity, sugar, spice and everything nice, she represents a sinister creature that terrorizes not only the kingdom and its lands, but the queen’s dreams as well. Not unlike the story written by the Brothers Grimm, the queen still resolves to kill Snow White. The difference however is that in this particular instance, she must fight in order to save herself from the beastly creature that is Snow White. There is a complete change in motivation due to the role reversal. In one of her attempts, the queen soaks apples in her blood in order to draw in the attention of Snow White’s bloodlust, but also poisons them, in hopes of ending Snow White’s reign of terror. The queen rests easier when the heart at her bedside eventually stops beating. However, the heart begins to beat once more when the prince begins to have his way with the dead body. The queen had been defeated and was savagely raped and killed by the prince’s men. Snow White would rule the kingdom with her new prince. The outcome of the story remains the same. The queen dies, and Snow White is the victor. The plot even remains somewhat the same, in that the queen makes attempts to kill Snow White, who is housed by dwarves. This type of change in conclusion can lead readers to wonder what other stories have different perspectives to be told.
In the stories, “The Story of the Two Brothers,” and “the Rabbit and the Tar Wolf”, we can one can see examples of well deserved justice that is demonstrated through the use of folk tales. As life lessons are often a common theme in folklore, both of these stories would have served as a type of warning to people so they might not make the same errors in judgment.
The stories offer two different brands of justice though. In “the Story of the Two Brothers”, the message is that you should not wrong a member of your family because the reason for your anger towards them could possibly be untrue, and your actions could prove to be unjustified. As one can see from the story, the brother that left the other brother to die on an island that was impossible to swim away from, ended up dying on that same island. His brother had been helped and given knowledge by the Great Beaver, and assisted in his return when he helped construct a sacred beaver lodge and taught the people about the beaver spirits. To sum this up, it was a message to put family first, because listening to others instead of your family could lead to fatal errors in judgment, for which you would face ample justice.
In “the Rabbit and the Tar Wolf”, the message differs ever so slightly. While the theme still revolves around a similar concept, it is meant to be implemented in order to discourage laziness or selfishness. In the story the Hare, not wanting to get her feet dirty, refuses to help the other animals dig the well. As she does not help with the digging of the well, she is not permitted to use the well, therefore not permitted to have water unless she gather it from another source. When the other animals suspect the hare of water theft, they place the tar wolf near the well in order to catch her in the act. Adhered to the tar wolf, the numerous other animals debated over the proper way to dispose of the hare. In the end, they ended up letting the hare loose into the thicket and watched her bound away. This wasn’t example of justice carried out through physical means. The animals ended up not being able to carry out justice due to the fact that they actually let the rabbit free in her place of habitat. The true social justice was that every animal now hated her, and that her life wouldn’t be the same in the same place, and she would probably have to leave and find a new home.
These two forms of justice, while different still have their similarities. Both of the stories have the same basic moral. If you wrong your brethren, you will face retribution, even if it isn’t right away. In “the Two Brothers” this is evident due to the many years it took for Akaiyan to finally escape the island. In “the Rabbit and the Tar Wolf” this is evident in the social retribution that took place, and the fact that the rabbit would once again suffer from thirst, and possibly have to find a new home away from the animals that hated her.
Recently in our English 1050 class our instructor brought up this concept when she showed us several music videos. Many music videos take the song and portray it in a video to fit the mood and/or words of the song so you can really get an idea what the writer was thinking or feeling when they wrote the song. It can range from irony, humor, anger, etc. Suddenly I started to wonder about how I could think about this same idea when it came to literary works (fairy tales to be more specific) and their modern interpretations. I came to the conclusion that a motion picture can change how you feel about a story because you are seeing it come to life as opposed to having to imagine it. But the problem with this is that you’re getting someone’s interpretation that is not necessarily the original interpretation made by the original writer. This is possible with the making of music videos as well as fairy tale remakes if they aren’t made closely by the original artists. Take the new film ‘Red Riding Hood‘ based off of the famous fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood. After seeing the movie Red Riding Hood, it became quite clear to me that with the aid of a motion picture (and ample script alteration), that this story became something other than what it originally was. In its origin it was a story to warn children of creepy people and how they shouldn’t trust every person that they see on the street. This is a great intention right? I guess the director’s in Hollywood didn’t think so because somewhere along the way they said, “This story needs something…hmm…I know! Lets make it so Red Riding Hood is being pursued by someone she doesn’t particularly care for until danger arrives, but have her be madly attracted to this bad boy outcast type figure that no one wants her to be with…” Awesome idea right? I get it, sell the sex to the guys, and sell the lovey-dovey love triangle nonsense to the girls, because lets face it they eat it up, but isn’t this Twilight all over again? Edward and the wolf gulf guy and Bella? For the sake of not spoiling the movie I won’t reveal the ending but if you go out and see it please note the irony of the ending when it comes to comparing this movie with Twilight. Apart from this, the movie goes on to a type of Salem Witch trial type scene where people are being interrogated to find out if they are the wolf. Red Riding Hood is actually accused of being a witch and locked up. Moral of this version of the story…oh wait there isn’t one. Hollywood again takes a story and makes it into something they think will sell thus destroying its original intent. While this is my opinion , I am not discouraging this movie, simply pointing out what a motion picture interpretation of story can actually do to the original story.
First off, I’d like to point out the similarity of the original story of Sleeping Beauty to that of the storyline of Shrek. The King, who is sad about his daughter’s situation, locks her in a tower with one window. Fiona anyone? Ok, with the similarities to more modern works aside, I have to say this story is quite disturbing. After being locked in a tower, a king decides to check the tower for an inhabitant and finds a sleeping beauty. He tries to wake her and she doesn’t stir, no matter how much he cries to her. Given these circumstances, one would usually assume that the girl was dead, then leave and get help. Instead he proceeds to, “gather the fruits of love” with a woman who could have very well been dead, then return to his kingdom, “where for a long time, he forgot all that had happened.” If this isn’t creepy enough, she ends up pregnant with two children, one of which wakes her up by sucking the flax chip out of her finger. About this time the creepy King, quite arguably coming back for more hot necrophiliac action discovers the children and the awoken princess. What is odd about this is that after he is overjoyed to see his children, he tells Talia how they came to be, and she is completely ok with it. “…and thus they developed a friendship and strong bond between them, and he remained for several days.” So she was raped, deflowered, and impregnated by this man but chooses to be his buddy. Did I mention the fact that he is a married king? This is actually where the story got even more messed up. The Queen discovers her husbands children and orders them cooked for her husband to eat, and tries to turn Talia alive. The theme of nasty jealousy-stricken women trying to murder people seems to be a reoccurring theme in a lot of the fairy tales that we have covered so far. This by no means is a defense for the King’s acts though. At the end the Queen ends up in the same fire intended for Talia, and the King discovers that his children are actually quite fine, and he has in fact, not digested his own flesh and blood. At the end of the story Talia actually has the realization that she was ‘lucky’ for being asleep where she was at the time. The exact quote was “…she realized. even when asleep a person can be struck by luck.” She was raped in her sleep by a married man who impregnated her with two children, then she later saw his wife burned in a fire intended for herself. This is the true image of luck, yes? This was quite a twisted, yet somehow strangely happy ending. The Charles Perrault version, “Sleeping Beauty”, was more resembling of the story used by Disney, although there was little mention of dwarves, and instead of an evil witch with bad apples, we had an evil mother of the prince who just happened to be an ogre. I suppose this would make the connection I made to Shrek earlier a bit ironic. Once again though, the king/prince, lived a strange happy ending with the Sleeping Beauty. This tale was a bit more enjoyable I thought, but was still a bit strange when the prince’s mother wanted to eat her grandchildren.
In the tale of the envious sisters, I thought it was interesting how the queen gets locked away no matter what the version. The actual interesting part was the reason that she was locked away, which was that she was accused of giving birth to creatures other than human. The actual creatures however, differed from version to version, be it that they were cats, or dogs. The rest of the story reminded me somewhat of the tale of Rapunzel, and I am curious to see if there are any actual connections between the two stories. In the story of Rapunzel, she was kidnapped from the king and queen at an early age by a witch. She wanted Rapunzel mostly for her magical hair, which had the power to keep the witch young. In the story of the envious sisters, a jealous mother-in-law tosses the children into a river and has the mother accused of birthing beasts. On the way down the river the children are found and raised by the fisherman and his wife. I found another similarity in the fact that the children had valuable hair that produced pearls. The family would become financially dependent on these pearls from the children’s hair just as the witch was dependent on Rapunzel’s magical, age-defying hair. After a certain point though, the story loses its striking similarities. After the brothers receive countless requests from the king for a dinner gathering, the sister continues to insist her brother’s retrieve certain items for her. This is course was brought on by a cruel mother that tempted her with dangerous to obtain, yet intriguingly desirable items. This resembled the story of Snow White to a point for me chiefly due to the reference to the witch tempting the princess with the poisoned apple. This is also a theme that is commonly used in other stories that have been presented on the big screen (for example the Disney hit Enchanted). As usual I found that the versions differed not only in descriptions but also in length. There seems to always be a shortened version of each of these tails that almost resembles a ‘reader’s digest’ version if you will. Overall the story ended up resembling Rapunzel yet again when the children finally discovered their royal lineage and how they had been lost for years because they were carelessly thrown into the river to die by their evil stepmother. As in the story of Rapunzel, things went back to normal after their return home.
Looking at the evolution of Little Red Riding Hood was quite interesting for me. The most interesting part was how the story became seemingly less graphic as time went on. One could say that it eventually became an actual ‘kid-friendly’ tale, instead of a graphic folktale in which, depending on the version Little Red Cap gets eaten or narrowly escapes after faking needing to make a bowel-movement. Regardless of the version however, the message remains the same. It was the warning of ‘stranger danger’ in folktale form. In most versions the wolf meets Little Red Riding Hood along her path and asks her where she is headed. She responds that she is visiting her sick grandmother and intends to bring her wine, cake, food, etc. The wolf asks “Does she live far from here?” in the Perrault version, and Little Red Cap actually responds by saying “Oh yes! You’ve got to go by the mill, which you can see right over there…, giving the wolf directions to where she will be in a matter of minutes. Little Red Riding Hood arrives and then he asks her to climb into bed with him. Here we see the classic, “What better to eat you with my dear!” and thus we see the end of Little Red Cap’s life. To a child, this tale represents the value of avoiding strangers and staying course to what your parents tell you to do, which is a recurring theme in a lot of folk tales. One could conclude that the wolf is simply a symbolism of evil, and Little Red Riding Hood a symbol of innocence that was taken by that evil. In relation to everyday affairs, one could easily relate the wolf to sexual predators preying on young girls. At common places where the see a young girl alone they are known to attempt to lure young girls away from their course to either abduct them or learn what they are up to and follow them. The lesson that is meant to be taken away from reading this tale is that there is danger lurking around every corner and one must remain vigilant to protect oneself. In a contemporary sense one could relate the tale of Little Red Riding Hood to the movie, ‘Taken’. In it a young girl was innocent and took a trip to Europe with a friend to follow a band across their tour. A man who seemed innocent in intentions asked them where they were staying and that turned out to be a fatal mistake for one friend and still a dire mistake for the girl herself. In this story the dad was there to rescue her from a cruel fate but the moral is still the same. To listen to what your parents wish you to do for your own safety because of the numerous predators that lurk around every corner of every place in the world. This is the morale of the age-old folk tale, Little Red Riding Hood or earlier known as Little Red Cap.
Some of my favorite childhood memories include being read the tales that have been passed down from generation to generation. A few of my favorites that come to mind include Jack and the Bean Stalk, Peter Pan, and Hansel and Gretel. When hearing these tales at a younger age I didn’t realize the significance that these tales would eventually come to have in my life. Then, they were simply imaginative and colorful stories that would fill my mind with fantastic images as the story was told by my mom at bedtime. They would become reality as I began to fall asleep with a mind inspired by tales of magic and fantasy. I would argue that these stories were very important when it came to me developing a sense of imagination, just as hearing your mother sing at an early age would inspire a love for music. Another point I would argue was that these tales taught me valuable lessons and facts at an early age in a way that wouldn’t be frightening to someone at an early age. For instance, Jack in the Beanstalk had a couple of lessons within the story. When Jack’s mother threw the beans aside and Jack came upon the stalk, he learned that his father was wealthy and had been killed by a giant for his wealth. Jack retrieved the treasure and chopped down the beanstalk as he was being pursued by the giant. This taught kids an early lesson about mortality as well as a lesson in obedience towards parents, as Jack made a promise to remain a good soon to his mother towards the end of the story. The theme of mortality is actually a common theme in many fairy tales, including Hansel and Gretel when a witch ends up ironically cooked in an oven that she had intended for Hansel and Gretel. Another lesson learned from this story by young children is the importance of staying away from strangers, as Hansel and Gretel narrowly escaped the witches evil plot. Yet another lesson would be the good triumphing over evil in this story. The witch lost her wealth and life while the children took the wealth back to their father. Peter Pan contained a lesson that no kid really wanted to accept. Some adults still don’t fancy the idea either, but it was the lesson that childhood will eventually have to end and children will have to grow up. Peter Pan himself took the lesson the hardest. So in a concluded sense, these tales were the life lessons that we were too young to have bluntly taught to us. The reason being was that we probably couldn’t grasp the lesson fully at such a young age. These same stories would inspire our minds to imagine the impossible, and the dream of things that weren’t of reality. One could say that these stories continue to inspire many people who became writers later in life. Fairy tales are stories that really have no age-group. While they were originally geared towards children, we have all come to love the stories and we cherish them into adulthood. As adults, the stories are more valuable as a piece of one’s culture, heritage, as well as one’s fond memories of their early years. In a sense, fairy tales created a world where everyone can be the same age, and where everyone can be care-free and have fun.
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