Monday, May 13, 2013

Final Blog

This class has definitely been a whirlwind of reading to say the least. And some of the fairy tales we read were more than lengthy! And there are so many different interpretations of all the different tales, sometimes it's difficult to keep track of them all! But all in all, it's been enjoyable to learn about all the different variations of the classic tales that I grew up with. I know that when I was little, I felt like the variations I was told and I learned about were the only ones in the world: only Disney tales mattered. But as I grew older I knew there had to be more than the just the Disney variations and I went searching. Through my searches I found many variations from all different countries. But of course the most famous tales that I found more than any others were the Brothers Grimm tales. As a German major, I've learned about the Grimm brothers and their tales more than the average person, and that definitely gave me a bit of an advantage for this class. I knew their writing style and knew what to expect from them. However the other tales were sometimes shocking and intrigued me from their various literature styles.
I first thought that this class was going to strictly analyze the different stories, but this class has gone so much deeper than just the surface. We've picked every aspect of each tale apart and now I know of all of the themes and archetypes of all the tales we studied.
I'm very appreciative of all the things Dr. Esa has taught us throughout the course of the semester and I'm very glad I chose this as my S.I.S. My ability to analyze has definitely improved over the course of the semester and this is a skill that I'll carry with me always.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Dr. Ochieng's lecture

Out of the two guest speakers that came into our class, both were entertaining and intriguing to learn/hear about. But there was something special about Dr. Ochieng's lecture in particular. I really liked the fact that he was so engaged in getting the audience to take part in the fun. We sang songs and danced. It was really fun and it showed his personality. He's a fun guy and wants everyone else to feel the same. What I admired most about his lecture was the fact that he knew his stories so well. He didn't have to read off a power point or out of a book to tell his amazing tales. It's because his entire culture is based off of story telling. I admire that so much and I envy his culture that story telling is such a huge part of everyday life. I could never be able to tell stories the way Dr. Ochieng does.
I found the stories to be a lot different from European fairy/folktales we're accustomed to. I find that whereas stories in our culture seem to be (to me) merely for entertainment purposes, don't hold the weight that African culture does with story telling. It brings the entire community together at the night time to end the day and also to escape their problems, much how we go to the movie theaters to indulge in entertainment and escape from our sometimes mundane lives. I see more of a message in African literature than in the tales we grew up with. The stories celebrate quick wit and thinking where in the stories I remember hearing growing up, the main character relied too much on the help of other people and sometimes magic to get through their problems rather than using their own logic.
With Dr. Alles, I feel like he spent too much time talking about his personal experiences with the cultures of the Adivasi people and not enough about the stories their culture is founded on. As interesting it was to see that he spent a fair amount of time in such a different culture, I would have liked to hear more stories rather than seeing pictures and videos of his trip. Not to dismiss his lecture in the least. It was intriguing and the stories we were presented were very interesting and much different than anything I've ever heard before. I really do prefer Dr. Ochieng's lecture. I would love to be able to hear more tales from him. More speakers need to be like him and engage the audience and be well prepared and show that they know what they're presenting about, much like him.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Rags to Riches

In all the tales we've read of "Cinderella" a girl is faced with misfortunes at the hand of her evil stepmother and stepsisters. She works in a low position and is extremely unhappy with the way things are going for her. That is until she goes to a ball (or in other cases, a feast) and ends up marrying a prince and living happily ever after while her stepmother and stepsisters usually don't receive such a gracious ending. But is this a realistic theme? Even in the movie Pretty Woman, Vivian, a prostitute, leaves her previous life when she meets Edward, a rich business man, and they fall in love. Is this idea so far-fetched and impossible? A person is completely capable of finding happiness and wealth in someone through the aspect of marriage. It's not impossible to marry someone of a better standing than you, especially in our society today. Charm can definitely make you a more successful person. If you're more charming than the average person, people will take that into account and you'll find yourself in more positive situations and you have the opportunity to better your life just through the idea of optimism. But magic on the other hand, does not exist in our world. So we cannot rely on that to bring us to a wealthier/richer standard. That is the only part of Cinderella that I am not fond of. I understand that this is a fairy tale and magic is a huge aspect of it. But since we live in such a world where we can't rely on magic, I find this story hard to relate to. We have only ourselves and our hard perseverance to get us to a higher standard of life. I have no fairy godmother to rely on to give me lavish gifts so I can "woo" my prince charming in the hopes that he'll whisk me away from my dull life into a world completely unlike my own. I only have myself. I can only depend on myself to make my dreams and inner desires come true. And that's the reality that I feel we should be teaching children. Through hard work and perseverance  all your dreams can come true.

Monday, April 1, 2013


In all the variations of Bluebeard we read for class, I noticed the heroin was not particularly smart. She let her curiosity get the better of her even when her menacing husband told her not to do something. Go against the creepy guy with the blue beard? I don't think so. However, there was one tale where the girl was actually rather witty; The Robber Bridegroom by The Brothers Grimm. In the very beginning of the tale, the girl is being married away by her father, to a man she does not trust. This is the first thing I like about this tale. In all the other tales, the girl does not question the Bluebeard figure's trust. This tale, she finds no reason to trust him. And all in good reason! The girl follows the trail her betrothed left for her with ashes deep into the forest. Along the way, she drops peas and lentils so she can find her way back. These items she drops signify life as later in the story they grow into huge plants that guide her way home when the ashes have all but blown away. The ashes symbolize death and the fact that nothing good will come of her going to his home. She reached the house and it appeared abandoned. Nonetheless she went inside and found that no one was there but a voice called out to her and told her to leave the house because it was the house of murderers. She wandered around the house until she found an old woman. The woman was horrified that this poor and innocent girl had happened upon such a terrible place. The woman herself had been plotting her own escape for the house and planned to help get the girl out as well. The girl is told to hide behind a barrel until the murderers fall asleep, then they will make their escape.

Then all the murderers come into the house with a poor girl and in their drunken stupor, they gave her so much wine that her heart burst. They then tore off her clothes and chopped her body into pieces to make her into a fine feast for them. One of the men saw a ring on the girl's finger and tried to pry it off but to no avail. He took an ax and chopped her finger off and it went flying right into the girl's lap behind the barrel. The man went to go looking for it but the old woman stopped him and said that there was no use because the finger wasn't going to go anywhere. The woman put a few drops of sleeping potion into the men's wine and in no time they were asleep and the two women made their escape. As the ashes had blown away with the winds, the peas and lentils that were dropped sprouted and marked the way for the women. Upon the girl's return, she told her father everything that happened.
On the day of the wedding the girl's husband appeared with all of his "friends" and they sat down for dinner. Everyone was prompted to tell a story and the girl decided to reveal her husbands misdeeds in a witty tale. She unraveled the tale saying it was a dream and in the end she revealed that the story was in fact true, by pulling the finger of the dead girl with the ring upon it out for everyone to see. The man tried to escape but the wedding guests stopped him and he and his group of murdering friends were executed for their crimes.
This story makes sense! Along with the help of a character who helps the girl escape the house of murderers, she actually uses her common sense to get herself out of this predicament; which is something you don't see in the other tales. She never lets her curiosity get the best of her and she foresees something going wrong with her shady fiance and decides not to trust him. I feel like this is the only story that doesn't make the heroin out to be a disobeying bimbo and actually makes her a well-rounded and witty character.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Rammstein's music video "Sonne" begins with the 'dwarfs' working in a dark mine. They work and one day Snow White comes into their house. From watching the music video, one can gather that the dwarfs slave away in the mine to bring gold back to Snow White, which she uses as a drug (which she later overdoses on). If they fail to bring back gold for her, Snow White will punish them (i.e. in the form of spanking). However, if they bring back gold they are rewarded in a form of pleasure; this is not sexual, but one can see the dwarfs taking pleasure from the things Snow White allows them to do for her like brushing her hair or hugging her. As they hug her, one can see the need the dwarfs have for her. Even though she causes them pain; they need her. Like the sun, it nurtures and gives life but also has the ability to cause pain and kill.
From the stories we read in class we know that Snow White (or the character that resembles her) is kind and far from cruel. She was never demanding of the dwarfs. They wanted to please her on their own whim and were not punished for displeasing her. The music video by Rammstein gives Snow White a more sexual appeal. One could see in the stories that the dwarfs believed Snow White to be the most beautiful of all but never viewed her in a sexual way because she was waiting for her prince. But you can clearly see that the dwarfs in the music video want to please Snow White for sexual gratification (or to please a fetish). At the end of the music video, the dwarfs place the "dead" Snow White in a glass coffin and place it on top of the hill. All of the dwarfs are upset/sad due to the death of their "sun". A single apple falls from the tree over top of the coffin and cracks the glass. Snow White catches the apple and wakes up from her slumber. The dwarfs are then seen working in the mine once more.
I always find Rammstein videos to be a work of imagination and rather amusing. This one fits that as well. Although I did find it enjoyable and interesting to watch I actually found it disturbing. I know Rammstein well and understand that they are not your typical metal group; they're strange and break many boundaries. I'm very used to the traditional tales of Snow White (much like the Disney version) and the stories that we read in class that are from different cultures didn't bother me too much. But this music video made me rather uncomfortable. I did not like the way Snow White was portrayed. She looked extremely provocative and although she nurtured the dwarfs as their "sun" she also punishes them  if they displease her. I'm used to Snow White being nothing but caring and sweet, so seeing this extremely opposite side to her character was jarring to me.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Jungian View of Fairy Tales

From the Jungian perspective, Fairy Tales all have a set pattern or archetype that make it a fairy tale. Major archetypes include: persona, ego, shadow, self and anima/animus. The most common are: the wise old man (Dumbledore, Gandalf- this character usually meets a horrible fate and is not there to help the hero finish his quest), primeval forest, evil stepmother, eternal child (like Peter Pan), trickster (Norse God, Loki), the shadow, anima/animus ( found in the unconscious of a male with feminine personality traits, found in the unconscious of a female with masculine personality traits) and self. In every single fairy tale you read, you can find at least one, if not more, of these archetypes. According to Jung these archetypes are apropos. These Jungian viewpoints are a mapping system (structure/skeleton) as to what a tale contains, every tale. Also outlined is the journey of the hero. The hero must go through a certain number of stages to complete his journey. First the hero is seen to be withdrawn and detached. Because of his/her behavior they must undergo a transformation. Through this transformation they will learn the error of their ways and will re-transform and return to teach his/her findings of their wrongdoings. They will then be separated from their path. From their they will have their initiation and finally, their rebirth (they will finally be free from their curse/whatever mistakes they had to learn from and be "born again" as a person with all the knowledge they were lacking prior to their journey. Therefore making them a better and more developed person). 
The entire relationship between Fairy Tales and Jungian Psychology is based on the fact that they are linked together. The entire scheme of Jungian Psychology can be used to accurately describe the elements found in Fairy Tales.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Red Riding Hood Cartoon

This image is from one of my favorite comic strips in the newspaper: Mother Goose And Grimm. When we were told to look for a cartoon, my mind immediately went to Mother Goose and Grimm. It's a twist of Fairy Tales in the name itself. Mother Goose and The Grimm Brothers. These comics however, are not all based on Fairy Tales but I knew that someone in their archive they would have had to do Little Red Riding Hood at some point. And in fact, they had several. But I found this image to be the most profound.
The image depicts red riding hood at a bar with a martini glass in front of her. The bartender is telling her that her drink has already been paid for and we see the wolf sitting on the opposite end of the bar with a blank expression on his face.
In our society we know that if someone is to buy you a drink at a bar/club, they have an interest in you and would like to pursue something whether it be dancing, talking, drinking together, or even "hooking up". Through analysis of the story of Little Red Riding Hood, we know that the wolf is a symbol of seduction. He wanted to eat the little girl up and he did, to satisfy a hunger. In the story he uses his cunning and wit to earn the trust of the girl so he can lure her in and eat her. In this comic, he attempts to lure her in by winning her over by buying her a drink.
I really think this comic was actually well thought out due to the fact that this could be a modernized version of the classic tale. Essentially both are conveying ways of earning the trust of a pretty girl. One way was tricking her into thinking the wolf was someone she could trust (grandmother) and this comic is essentially bribery. A tactic which women of this day and age are all too familiar with and fall for much too easily. Because they crave the attention of the person who is buying them a drink. Just like Little Red craves the attention she desires from her Father.

Cartoonist: Mike Peters

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Child as a Hero

Usually when one thinks of the hero of a story, they think of the heroic prince rescuing the princess from impending doom. One usually doesn't think a child: pure, innocent and untouched by reality could take on the form of a hero. However stories such as Hansel and Gretel and Little Thumbling prove that a child could be just as much of a hero as an ethereal prince from a fairy tale.
In Hansel and Gretel the two children are deserted in the woods by their parents due to lack of food. Hansel's wit leads them back to their home but only works once and again they are stranded in the middle of a forest. As the meander around the unknown woods they come upon a house that is made of bread. The children begin to nibble on the house and they come to find that a witch lives there and uses her house made of food to lure children in. She plans to eat the children and locks Hansel in a barn and forces Gretel to cook food to fatten him up. The witch has poor eyesight and Hansel uses this to his advantage to trick her. Instead of sticking his own finger out of the barn when they witch comes to see if he is getting fatter, he sticks out a bone. The witch is confused as to why Hansel isn't gaining any weight. She tells Gretel that she is preparing to eat him anyway. As she tells Gretel to turn the stove on and climb in to see if the bread will fit. Gretel uses the wit she has as well to fool the witch into leaning down enough so she can be pushed into the oven. Gretel runs to let Hansel out and tells him of the witch's demise. They take many jewels that the witch had back to their home where they find that their mother has died and they live happily ever after with their father.
Little Thumbling has much of the same premise as Hansel and Gretel. As the youngest and smallest of seven children, Little Thumbling's family was struggling to survive. The parents took the children and left them in the woods. Little Thumbling consoled his weeping brothers and told them that he could lead them back to the house because he dropped pebbles along the pathway. This only worked once because the very next day, they were abandoned in the woods once again. They wandered about until they came upon a house. The house held an evil ogre that prepared to eat the children. However, Little Thumbling took notice of the ogre's daughters and the golden crowns they had placed upon their heads. He switched his brothers hats for the golden crowns so when the ogre came to slay the boys he mistook his daughters for them. This allowed the children to slip away. The ogre, in a fit of rage, came after the boys but fell asleep from being so tired. Little Thumbling took the seven-league boots off of the ogres feet and traveled quickly back to the house and told a lie to the ogres wife so that she would hand over all of the jewels and treasures the ogre had acquired over the years. She did so and Little Thumbling returned to his father's house.
Instead of the heroic feats you associate with princes that rescue princesses from the villains lair we are told the story of child who uses the only weapon they possess: their wit. They are not equipped with swords or bows and arrows, all they have is their brains. "The child views existential dangers not objectively, but fantastically exaggerated in line with his immature dread...'Hansel and Gretel' encourages the child to explore on his own even the figments of his anxious imagination, because such fairy tales give him confidence that he can master not only the real dangers which his parents told him about, but even those vastly exaggerated ones which he fears exist" (Bettelheim 166). Both of these stories involve children who can no longer rely on their parents for help and must depend on each other (whether it be your sibling or even the support of "age mates") to survive. The children can no longer survive with their mothers (Hansel and Gretel show their need for their motherly survival through eating the house).

Sunday, February 10, 2013

What is a Folk/Fairy Tale?

SIS 2015 is all about discussing different Fairy Tales or even different versions of a one tale. As we move through the semester we should gain a better understanding of various themes, motifs, symbols, etc in each tale we study. But what is a fairy tale in itself? What makes a fairytale different from a regular story?
As discussed in class a fairytale, by definition, is a narrative based on magic and fantasy which are understood to be fictional. But can’t you have a regular story or work of fiction that is not classified as a fairytale? Again, as discussed in our class the difference between folktales and literature is that literature is written down, unchangeable and has an author whereas folktales are spoken, subject to change from culture to culture and anyone can take credit for their version of a tale. If you were to tell a child their favorite tale, you might hear them say: “that’s not how so-and-so tells it!” That’s because folk/fairy tales have been so subject to change because if they were written down, it would differ from book to book. Anyone can tell a tale differently from someone else, making it their own. People can find that when you tell a tale, it is not just different from person to person, but culture to culture as well. The way people tell the story of Little Red Riding Hood in Germany differs than how you may hear it told in China. This is because the motifs in the tales are universal. No fairy tale belongs to a specific nationality. If it did, it wouldn’t qualify as a fairy tale.
In our culture, and many others, a fairy tale is a tale centered around a hero who must go on a life altering journey of some sort. They face off against evil forces and in the end, come out victorious and the tale ends with all being well. We tell these tales to mainly children (however no one is ever too old for a fairy tale) to spark their imagination. They could even begin to relate themselves to the hero and in the end are taught valuable life lessons through the tale. Good always triumphs over evil. And if you’re good, you shall be rewarded. We need to get these points across to children in a way that will make their minds works and spark imagination. These are what fairy tales are. They’re imaginative tales of magic and wonder that can teach someone a valuable lesson. Even though we don’t live in a world of magic and far-fetched creatures. We can reference the deeds the hero does to our own lives and put them to good use.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Why I chose SIS 2015

Choosing classes can be an absolute nightmare when it comes time to create your schedule for the next semester of college. Especially when you are required to take a certain type of class much like the Sophomore Interdisciplinary Study course. You are given a list of set options and it can be difficult to sign up for the one that interests you the most when you have so many other sophomores signing up as well. The class you like can fill up very quickly and you might not be able to get the one you want. However, sometimes "lady luck" can be on your side and you have the opportunity to take part in the class you really wanted to take. For this semester, "lady luck" was certainly on my side. Being a German major I have learned a lot about fairy tales because The Grimm Brothers are a very important aspect of German history. It only makes sense to want to learn the most about this aspect as possible since there is not a specific course offered here about German fairy tales. Even though this course is not specifically dedicated to strictly German-based stories, there is a huge emphasis since The Grimm Brothers are known for, and really famous for their play on fairy tales. I look forward to diving into this class because I feel like it would really help my major and the fact that it sounds very interesting because each culture interprets each tale in a different way. I would like to know more about why they changed the story the way they did and what makes it effective. I look forward to taking this class with Dr. Esa, not just because he's been my German professor for four semesters, but because he knows how to teach, and teach well. Hopefully this course will meet all of my expectations and impress me like I know it should.