Philosophy and Fairy Tales

I found this excellent Prezi on philosophy and Fairy tales.  Kudos go out to Belinda Tamrakar.

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Final Exam Post Natalie Chudecki

At the start of this course, I believed fairy tales were only stories we read as children. I had no idea about the impact they cause and how important they are in society. Fairy tales matter because they spread and change cultures, shape our thinking, and help people separate themselves from the real world. They teach children about the culture and beliefs of the society (Ashliman 4). They also allow us to understand and navigate through the negative aspects of the world, like bad people. Fairy Tales are important to our everyday lives as they promote creativity. They allow people to dream and escape from the real world. They show us that every day people can even become something grand (Bettelheim 272). They permit us to explore what could have been, what might happen or even will happen, and illustrate dreams possibilities we might never think are possible (Tatar 56). This teaches children valuable life lessons and develops an understanding of what is happening around them. It allows children to have freedom, which is something they do not have in everyday life. It also allows adults to have that freedom and an escape from their regular day-to-day activities. It opens up new worlds and therefore new possibilities. Finally, they are important because they stick with us. No matter how old we get, fairy tales are a part of our memories and the modern world. These stories are old, but with the new technology created, they are changed and adapted to still matter in society and still teach many valuable lessons. They show us that not everyone is good or bad, and sometimes bad people can be hidden under a mask.

 One theorist who helped me understand fairy tales better is Bruno Bettelheim. He explained why fairy tales are so important and meaningful to children and why children seem to be immersed in them. I learned that children turn to fairy tales to help them cope with inner problems. They allow children to understand themselves and then cope with their hardships (Bettelheim 269). I never knew that these stories are so powerful, but I understand now how children use the imagination these stories possess, and they see themselves as the characters in fairy tales. They help children understand their inner pressures. In addition, Instead of belittling these pressures, they help children find an awareness about these problems and how to overcome them (Bettelheim 271). Another aspect of fairy tales that Bettelhiem explains is how they speak the truth. Many parents try to hide the truth about the world from their children to protect them. But children know that the world is not always a happy place. This helped me better understand fairy tales because it showed me that children are very bright. They do know what is going on around them and fairytales can essentially be a way to help them cope with it all. Because of this theorist, I learned that fairy tales help children find themselves, and daydream. These daydreams help them cope with their problems, giving a child some aspect of control. These tales are truly a way for children to develop cognitively and feel safe in the big world.

One thing I learned that surprised me was how violent a tale can be to parallel the real world and what all the different symbols mean. One example is The Little Red Riding Hood. There are many versions of this tale, and some have a gruesome undertone. I remember in class we discussed how there are some theorists who believe that the red riding hood represents virginity and fertility because this tale originally focused on predators. This I found somewhat disturbing, and I would have never come to that conclusion when reading this tale myself. I also never heard of the version where the girl was told to take off her clothes. This version was a surprise of its own. The original tale was told to the aristocracy as a satirical story to joke around about the male predators of society (Shavit 325). It ends with a moral that states that girls should not trust every man they meet. The Grimm’s version also has that same moral, that we must be careful of strangers, but in the end, the girl is saved. What surprised me the most about these stories is how scary they are for children, and after learning that children actually do understand that not everyone is good, this concept is even more surprising. In all, I never knew that Little Red Riding Hood is a story with undertones about a sexual predator, and this made me look at all fairy tales in a completely different way. These tales do portray the real world, and the dangers of them, which is something I never really thought about before.

I loved reading the different stories, especially the ones I knew only through Disney. I knew stories change and adapt over time, but whenever the idea of a princess came up, I always pictured Disney’s versions. I never heard about some of these original versions of these fairytales and a lot of them were very interesting. For example, in the Snow White version, we read in class there was no ‘true love kiss’, instead she woke up because the apple unclogged from her throat. I never knew that this was another version of the story. Disney’s version of this tale had a lot of changes, not just about love. In the version we read in class, the Queen did not come to her house only once, like in the Disney version. Also, another concept I found interesting was that the Queen wanted to eat Snow White’s organs as a way to take over her beauty and have it for herself. In the story, I know she only wanted her heart because she wanted the girl dead. Another original version that I found interesting was the tale of Rapunzel. Again it was missing the aspect of love that I grew up reading and watching in the Disney version of these tales. A lot of these original versions did not have the theme of love like it was depicted in Disney. Instead, love was based on wealth.

Personally, I do not think there was anything missing in this course. We went into a lot of depth into why fairy tales are important, where they came from, and how they originated. We also read a lot of these stories and deeply assessed them. One thing that came to mind was maybe having a project in which groups go in-depth and compare a Disney/Modern version of a tale to the original. We could watch a Modern adaptation of these tales (like Spirited Away), and then compare that to the old stories. We definitely did this after reading Snow White And other stories, but I feel like we could do it more. This topic was super interesting to see the different parallels and themes and how they evolved. The contrast of the new versions of the tales adapted to the modern audience is something fascinating. Overall I loved getting to know everyone in the class through all the group works, and I feel like I have a better sense of the fairy tale genre because of this class. 

Works Cited

Zohar Shavit. The Concept of Childhood and Children’s Folktales

Bruno Bettelheim.  The Struggle for Meaning

Maria Tatar. Why Fairy Tales Matter

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Snow White

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Final Exam Blog Post- Nolan Knipfing

Getting to be in Folktales and Fairytales for freshman year seminar this fall, helped teach me why fairytales are so important and why they matter to our society. They play a huge role in exploring common themes and portraying messages to all readers and listeners alike. They do this while teaching important moral lessons to young children while retaining their attention through the use of personifications alliteration and even using colorful images that help short attention children stay invested in the story. They also help power imagination and creativity in children, who dreamed of escaping poverty for a better life. We also learned about how these stories evolved overtime and changed from their original forms into what is more familiar with our culture. This is largely due to Walt Disney’s work with fairytales, for better or for worse, as the theorist Jack Zipes article “Breaking the Disney Spell” describes how Disney adapted these classic fairy tales for a new generation to remember them by, which is how most of us got to know these fairy tales. This actually became one of the most interesting parts of the class, seeing how these stories were different from the Disney versions we were used to watching growing up.

Many theorists like Jack Zipes, helped us learn and understand why fairytales are so important throughout the semester.  For example, the theorist Bruno Bettelheim observed how fairy tales explored the imagination of childhood and how it helped children find meaning in their own lives. In his article, “The Struggle for Meaning,” Bettelheim stated, “In order to master the psychological problems of growing up – Overcoming disappointment, sibling rivalries, becoming able to relinquish childhood dependencies and gaining a feeling of selfhood – a child needs to understand what is going on within his conscious self so that he can also cope with that which goes on in his unconscious.” This means that for children who struggle with the implications of childhood and growing up, finding self-meaning can be a challenge. Bettelheim claims that one-way children can find meaning is through reading relatable fairy tales, where young children escape poverty, or finally outsmarting mean and evil stepparents. These stories can help them deal with the reality of their situations and can help guide them by making the right decisions in tough situations. Bettelheim’s analysis here helped us understand how important fairytales are to childhood development and how they were designed to be relatable and help guide children through rough experiences. 

(Bettelheim, 271)

As I previously mentioned, what surprised me the most in this course was finding out how different each fairytale is from the more modern iterations that we are used to in our current media. Jack Zipes perfectly highlighted this in his article, “Breaking the Disney Spell.” In it he states, “The power of Disney’s fairy-tale films does not reside in uniqueness or novelty of the productions, but in Disney’s great talent for holding antiquated views of society still through animation and his use of latest technological developments in cinema to his advantage.” What Zipes means here is that Disney would change many elements of the fairy tales he would adapt into films by using new modern technology, and by adding common themes of modern culture to the plots of the stories. This is how Disney made the versions of fairy tales we are all used to know, and getting to read about how different these fairytales were before Disney changed them for our generation, was the most surprising part of the class. Examples of this can be seen in the fairytale, “Cinderella” where the stepsisters cut off their heels and toes in order to fit in the glass slipper. This is a dark part of the story that was filtered out for our current society, and learning about these different versions in class was very fun.

(Zipes, 351)

The most interesting part of fairy tales in my opinion was learning about how animals got portrayed in some of the stories we read. These animals had many different meanings and symbolized many different themes. In some stories, the main protagonist and antagonist are portrayed as anthropomorphic animals that symbolize many different character traits. For example, the cat in “Puss in Boots” and the wolf in “Little Red Riding Hood” symbolize the character traits of being slick and clever to try and trick those around you. Animals are used to portray these traits to be relatable to the reader which can help young readers feel more engaged. This helps readers know what type of animals each trait can be associated with in a story. The Book written by D.L. Ashliman called, “Folk and Fairy Tales, A Handbook” also makes this claim as he gives examples of animal traits linked to certain animals. In his first chapter he states, “Different animals have observed or purported qualities that lead to symbolic interpretation; thus, lions represent courage, owls’ wisdom, foxes’ cunning, and eagles’ nobility.” 

(Ashliman, 6)

To conclude, I really enjoyed the class and learned a lot about fairytales that I didn’t know about before. I feel maybe we could have read a few more tales in class, and maybe watched the Disney versions also to compare and contrast them, but all together I feel the class was very informative and fun.


Work Cited:

Bettelheim, Bruno. The Struggle for Meaning.

Zipes, Jack. Breaking the Disney Spell.

Ashliman D.L. Folk and Fairy Tales, A Handbook.

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Gianna Oliveri – Final Exam Blog Post

If one were to ask me before I took this course if fairy tales matter and play a big role in our lives, I would say probably not. After taking this class and learning how fairy tales impact us, as adults and children, it’s clear that fairy tales do affect us, and my answer would change to yes, fairy tales do matter. Fairy tales are a part of almost everybody’s lives, when in school at a young age you got fairy tales read to you, or for another example, when you’re trying to go to sleep your parents read you a fairy tale. Whether they’re reciting the classic versions, or even more modern, developed versions, they impact the way we think. Fairy tales promote imagination and curiosity. They pique the interest of young children, as it gets them involved in a storyline, and gets them thinking about what is going to happen next. It promotes creativity and conversation because no two people interpret a fairy tale the same. No matter what age you are, they figure into our lives, they’re all around us. They are all over the movie industry, books, and even TV commercials, you can’t escape a fairy tale because of how integrated they are into our everyday lives.  

The theorist who helped me understand the impact that fairy tales have on us the most was Bruno Bettelheim. His text, “The Struggle for Meaning,” helped really put into perspective how much a fairy tale impacts a young child’s life. He was the theorist who explained how children see themselves in fairy tales, and how it helps them understand their emotions and feelings. He stated “The child needs even more to be given the chance to understand himself in this complex world which he must learn to cope… the child must be helped to make some coherent sense out of the turmoil of his feelings” (Bettelheim, The Struggle for Meaning, pg 270). It’s so fascinating how children are much smarter and more aware than we think they are. Bettelheim helped me understand how children emotionally connect to a storyline, not only to entertain them but to help them understand their own feelings and issues. He also stated how children should be exposed to more than just the pleasant side of things. This is because this sort of one-sidedness depletes the mind as real life is not all pleasant. Some fairy tales are able to expose a child, in a light-hearted way, to the troubles of the world and help them understand that real life isn’t just sunshine and rainbows, but there is a tougher side to the world. Overall he helped me understand the impact that fairy tales have on children at a young age, and what importance they hold in development and our society. 

The aspect that surprised me the most was how different the original versions were — by Perrault, the Grimm brothers, and other authors — compared to the Disney versions that I grew up with and learned to love. If I’m being honest, I didn’t know that there were original versions in the first place, because of how well Disney marketed his brand and sort of monopolized the fairy tale industry. I always assumed that his were the originals and he made up the storylines. Now after reading the originals, and already being familiar with Disney’s versions, I can see many differences were made to make it his “own,” but it’s abundantly clear that the inspiration was from the original tale. All of Disney’s tales were very uplifting and childhood-friendly, while the originals sometimes had a hint towards a darker deeper side of things. An example of this could be with Rapunzel, in the original version it was hinted that Rapunzel got pregnant, and Mother Gothel found out about the affair because her clothes were too tight. While in the Disney version, there was no controversy with affairs or sexual relations, as everything was always deemed children-friendly. But in all seeing all the differences between the original and Disney’s versions, was surprising. 

The thing that interested me the most throughout our course was reading the original versions of the fairy tales and discovering fairy tales I’d never heard of before. Being able to read the original versions was very surprising, and I enjoyed comparing it to the Disney versions as I mentioned above. Discovering new fairy tales I’ve never even heard of was exciting because it was like I was a kid again getting to read the classic fairy tales I grew up with. Some of the tales I’ve never heard of included Rumpelstiltskin, Bluebeard, The Juniper Tree, and Donkeyskin. I enjoyed reading these tales because some of them included surprising elements. My favorite of the new tales that I learned this year was The Juniper Tree. This story was overall wild, whether it be the child abuse, cannibalism, or the revenge that was included within this tale, it was thrilling and I did not know what was going to occur next. Just like with a child reading their first fairy tale, it piqued my imagination and got me thinking about what was going to happen next. 

Overall I think that what we covered within our class was very thorough. I enjoyed getting to read the original versions of the tale and discovering what those were like as well as the history and effects it has on us that our theorists explained. But something that could be worthwhile doing with the next class would be to bring in more of Disney’s versions within the class. I think comparing the tales that most of us grew up with and learned to love at a young age, with the original versions of the tale, that are unfamiliar to most, could be very interesting and engaging. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent in our fairy tales class, and I think those who choose to take it in the following semesters will be glad they chose this topic as well. 

Works Cited 

Bettelheim, Bruno. The Struggle for Meaning.

Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Rapunzel.

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Ryan Steinberg Final Exam Blog Post

Throughout the semester from the readings and discussions we have done I have learned a lot about fairy tales. In the grand scheme of things fairy tales actually matter a lot. Fairy tales are stories that are passed down and told to people of all forms and ages. They teach their readers important values and lessons given through the morals that are presented in the stories. Fairy tales help their readers, especially young children, by helping them learn about the world around them through the lessons shown to them in these tales. Fairy tales also matter by helping both stimulate and enrich the minds of the children that read them. These stories do this by engaging and entertaining the children while also teaching them important morals and lessons to educate them as well. Common morals/lessons found in these tales include being kind such as in Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast and to not trust strangers found in Little Red Riding Hood and in Hansel and Gretel.


Bruno Bettelheim, a theorist that we had studied in class also supports this idea of fairy tales being important for children in his reading The Struggle for Meaning. In this reading Bettelheim talks about the impact that fairy tales have on young children stating that fairy tales help in the development of a child’s mind. Bettelheim states that fairy tales do this by “carrying important messages to the conscious, the preconscious, and the unconscious mind (Bettelheim 271). Doing this allows the child to think about what they are reading and learn and grow from it. Bettelheim ends his reading by saying that fairy tales teach their readers that struggles and difficulties in life are inevitable but that if we face these problems in the end we will “emerge victorious” (Bettelheim 273). Bettelheim helped better my understanding of fairy tales by showing exactly why fairy tales are important and arguably needed in helping children both grow and develop.


While reading and exploring certain fairy tales this semester I was very surprised to see the gruesome nature of some of the tales we had read in class. Two particular examples of this were in the stories of Rapunzel, Snow White, and The Juniper Tree. At the end of Rapunzel the enchantress basically throws Rapunzel out into the wild after feeling betrayed by her interacting with someone from the outside world leaving her, a young teenage girl all alone to fend for herself to survive. Later, the prince jumped out of the tower that Rapunzel was held captive in after seeing the Stepmother/Enchantress in Rapunzel’s place. After jumping out of the tower the prince has his eyes scratched out pretty much being blinded. In Snow White the queen gets punished at the end of the story by being forced to dance in red hot iron shoes until dropping dead. In The Juniper Tree the young boy in the story is decapitating and then cooked up and fed to his father by his stepmother, who later in the story ends up getting crushed to death by a millstone.being dropped on her. I never realized that fairy tales could end up being so dark before taking this course. When I was younger I had also read and viewed versions of these tales that were much lighter and much less gruesome. I found the gruesome nature of these tales to be both very surprising and interesting.


Two things that interested me the most this semester were the recurring themes found in the tales that we had explored in class and that these tales were told differently depending on the audience that they were told to. The tales that we had explored in class had many recurring themes within them such as the idea of there being an evil stepmother present in the tales. A lot of these tales included a stepmother of the protagonist of the story. The stepmother would treat the main character of the tale terribly throughout the story usually because they weren’t this character’s actual child. The stepmother in these stories would also typically treat the other children in the household of the protagonist much better compared to them. This theme has constantly been recurring throughout the stories that we have read in class being found in tales such as Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, and The Juniper Tree. Another common theme found in the tales that we had explored was the theme of beauty. In these tales it was shown how important being beautiful was to society at the time. The characters that we depicted as beautiful in these stories were also the good characters of the stories. Some of the tales that had this theme were Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, and Cinderella again. I had also found it interesting how these tales were told differently depending on who they were told toward. A great example of this is Little Red Riding Hood. The Charles Perrault version of this story was told to a group of French aristocrats where Little Red Riding Hood ended up being killed by the wolf at the end of the story. Other versions targeted towards children have Little Red escaping and even defeating the wolf. Both forms of this story get the same point across but do it in completely different ways because of who they are actually telling the story to.


I don’t think much or even anything was really missed in this course. I would have liked to explore more fairy tales but I’m not sure if that was possible given the amount of extra time that would have taken to do. I really enjoyed some of the activities that we had done in class such as writing our own fairy tales and watching the film Spirited Away at the end of the semester. I would have definitely liked to do more of that but again, I’m not sure that would have been possible given the amount of time we had in class. I especially enjoyed us writing our own tales in class as I felt it was a lot easier to write a tale the second time we had done so compared to the first time. Overall I really enjoyed taking this course and there isn’t anything that I think we missed out on here. This course broadened my knowledge of fairy tales and allowed me to dive deeper into some of my favorite tales that I had read as a child. It showed both the importance and impact that fairy tales have had on society as a whole and I am very glad that I have gotten to learn about it.


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Final Exam – Annastasia Jones

Throughout my own personal experience and this course, it is apparent that fairy tales are important, not only at a young age when we first hear them, but throughout our lives. When we are kids fairy tales teach us important lessons, as in respect, selflessness, confidence, and more. They are efficient at this by keeping the story fast paced yet entrancing with elements of magic. As we get older, we may begin to forget the fairy tales that were read to us, or that we saw in the movies or tv shows we watched. However it’s also important to remember these stories as we get older. Reflecting on these stories as we age can not only reteach us the lessons we were taught, however it allows us to embrace our inner child. As we get older, it is common to lose our childlike wonder, we become so complacent we stop asking questions and stop creating unique solutions. Fairy tales bring out our creative mind, and allow us to consider how the magical realm we are learning about mirrors our own.

One theorist that has helped me understand fairy tales better is Jack Zipes, particularly his analysis of the newer versions of fairy tales that he goes over in Breaking the Disney Spell. Growing up, the Disney versions of these classic fairy tales is what was presented, and after reading the original fairy tales, it is apparent that each one of these tales were adapted by Walt Disney to not only be better suited for children, but to also become the more favorable version that people look back on later in life. In his article, Zipe states that, “Disney felt drawn to fairy tales because they reflected his own struggles in life. After all, Disney came from a relatively poor family, suffered from the exploitative and stern treatment of an unaffectionate father… Disney sought to replace all versions with his animated version.” While the idea of rags to riches is present in the original tales, Zipes points out that the tails are very Americanized. America, especially at the time, was seen as a place for a better start, somewhere where you can start at the bottom, and work your way to a better life. This is reflected in Disney himself, starting off poor and dominating the animation field. Zipes also discusses the Americanization of the films through promoting democracy, with a commoner debunking the monarchy, and by modernizing the films with use of technology and in general making them placed in the 20th century. Zipes did a great job explaining how Disney took these classic films and turned them into a more relatable, updated, and somewhat propaganda filled, for the Americans.

Throughout the course, I was surprised at how different the original versions of fairy tales are compared to what I grew up with. From little changes like the evil queen wearing iron hot shoes in Snow White to stories like The Frog King that are almost completely different from the version I grew up with. Looking at the original tales it was surprising to see how obviously these tales were meant for adult audiences. Some tales were simply gory, like Bluebeard, but others had many sexual undertones. In The Frog King, the frog demanded to be the human princesses companion under threat of telling on her to her father, compared to the Disney version most people grew up with where the princess was not only also turned into a frog, but the two fell in love through the course of their adventure. It’s also important to note how shocking it is to learn that many versions of Little Red Riding Hood are meant to depict the wolf as a sexual predator, one version going into an almost strip tease before having the young girl climb into bed with the wolf. It is especially concerning considering the girl has no apparent age, but is commonly perceived to be a prepubescent girl. While both the original tales and the more popular one today are cautionary tales of strangers, I much prefer the version about “stranger danger” than an adult man praying on a child. 

Throughout the course, what interested me the most was the tales that I had never heard before, most likely because they were the most disturbing. Bluebeard, The Juniper Tree, and Donkeyskin were all interesting to read for the first time, even if they were all slightly unsettling. While I found all the stories interesting, I enjoyed reading ones I had never heard of before. The more gruesome aspects of the stories were also interesting, like having a room dedicated to killing your wives, killing one child, blaming it on the other, and eating the dead boy, or even the aspect of running away from an incestuous father. They are stories that I feel would be adapted into great horror movies that I would watch and cause me not to sleep later that night, one of my favorite pastimes. 

While I enjoyed the stories we read, I believe that it would be interesting if we read more stories that were more drastically changed, like The Little Mermaid. I enjoyed comparing the stories we read to the ones I grew up with the most and some of the stories we read did not feel very different, excluding some minor anecdotes. I also think that it would be beneficial to go more in depth in discussing the differences between the tales we knew and the ones we read together, possibly looking at modern versions alongside the original tales, whether it be another written version or even viewing more movies or shows that have the modern twists to the fairy tales. I thought watching Spirited Away was a fun activity that gave us a look new fairy tales based on old tradition and myths, and although I don’t think we would have had time for more movies that long, I think it would have been interesting to see more modern stories like that one alongside the classic stories we read.

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Fairy Tales Final Blog Project – Angelina Veverka

Throughout the fall semester in our SJNY100H class, I have learned a multitude of valuable information and lessons regarding our studies of fairy tales, and these findings can be carried with me through the many stages of life that I will encounter. Through the fairy tales that we read in the textbook and outside sources from reputable theorists, I learned why fairy tales matter and some new information that can serve as everlasting knowledge. Fairytales provide an escape from reality for children and their parents, and they can supply entertainment for all generations. They matter to our imagination as young children, and foster our creativity to imagine something and run with it. Maria Tatar, in Why Fairy Tales Matter, adds that fairy tales allow us to freely “‘subjunctivize,’ to explore the ‘might be, could have been, perhaps will be’” as well as “open up a theater of possibilities and create an unparalleled sense of immediacy” (Tatar 56). Allowing young children the curiosity to explore their newfound world and question the future promotes better cognitive development and understanding of themselves and their atmosphere. The exposure of these fairytales to children in our everyday lives through books at home or movies in the classroom teaches them more valuable life lessons than instructional school work at times.

A particular theorist, Bruno Bettelheim, helped me understand the importance of fairy tales to children in his piece The Struggle For Meaning. In his first opening lines, he talks about how one must believe that they will make a “significant contribution to life” at some point even if they don’t see it in the moment (Bettelheim, 269). The heroes and heroines in fairy tales show children that everyone has a purpose, and everyone can make it in life and grow up to be something amazing. Even if they’re just a young child right now, they can let their imagination wander and dream that one day they will be big and strong or the most beautiful princess. Bettelheim puts an emphasis on how children must feel their self-worth from the inside out, and from a young age, or they will never be satisfied with themselves and their life. He adds that he is dissatisfied with the literature that children are being exposed to, as nothing is more important “than the impact of parents and others who take care of the child” and “when children are young, it is literature that carries such information best” (Bettelheim 269). His interpretation of the impact of proper care of a child from their parents and the proper exposure to literature helped me better understand the psychological aspects that fairy tales play on development, and a child’s understanding of themselves and the world.

I learned many things that surprised me about fairy tales, particularly how violent and explicit they could be. For example, I have never heard of “The Juniper Tree” so when we read it together as a class, we were all taken aback by how the mother simply cut off her son’s head, blamed it on her daughter, and then cooked her son in a stew to be served and eaten for dinner. Personally, I would not enjoy reading that fairy tale to my young children so it is interesting to see why it was written and what the reactions were from the families back then. I was also surprised when we looked at the many alternate readings of “Little Red Riding Hood,” and how depending on the audience the tale was changed. For young children, the tale was intended to show the importance of obeying your parents, not wandering off on your own, and not talking to strangers. For adults, the tale had taken a sexual turn as the wolf became a predator, typically a male predator, trying to lure in a young girl possibly based on what she was wearing. It was equally surprising and interesting to see these fairy tales change from seemingly innocent and fun to dark and violent.

I found the entirety of the course as a whole to be very interesting. Some things that stood out to me included learning about the psychology of fairy tales, and just revisiting them as a whole after I had forgotten most of them from my childhood. I am thinking about a psychology major, so anything that involves psychology always has me invested in it. I like learning about psychology, especially children’s development, so reading about the psychology behind fairy tales was very intriguing to me. I didn’t get to experience as many fairy tales in my childhood as I would have liked to, so getting the opportunity to travel back to elementary school and read a story with my class was very fun to me. I found this course to be a lighthearted break in my week, and I enjoyed refreshing my memory on fairy tales that I can now share with younger cousins and friends. 

I don’t think anything was necessarily missed in our course this semester. I think we spent a fair amount of time on the theorists, authors, and actual fairy tales themselves. I think it was important to learn the background before reading the actual fairy tales and it was interesting to see where fairy tales originated from. I did feel like the course was very literature based, and I would have liked to watch more videos and movies relating to fairy tales like Spirited Away. I also enjoyed working with the other Honors Program students, and I think it would have been fun to work with them more and learn some of the things that they were learning. I enjoyed the group projects that we did, and I think more group projects would have been equally fun and more engaging with the material. I find that I learn and retain more about the topic when I’m working in a group, and it also would have helped us get to know each other. Overall, I enjoyed this course and feel that I learned a lot of useful information regarding fairy tales and their history. 

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Final Exam Blog Project – Peyton Strack

Throughout my experience in fairytales and folktales, I have learned more than I thought I would. What I thought would be a course reliving some childhood memories turned out to be a journey through the looking glass. I learned the history of these classic tales, read some new stories, and discovered the real meaning behind these stories. I will discuss why fairytales matter to me, my favorite theorist we talked about in class, one thing I found surprising, one thing I found interesting, and what I believe should be included in the next teaching of the course. 

Fairytales are way more important than I had ever given them credit for. I always thought that fairytales were just stories and that was it. However, they hold much more significance than that. I never realized just how much fairytales had taught me. Most children’s literature is surface level. They are very clear in the moral and they go about teaching it in a very simplistic way. They are meant to be straightforward and entertaining (Bettelheim, 269). Fairytales don’t do this though. Fairytales provide plots that are more complex. They describe situations in which the child can subconsciously relate to. While children’s literature of today can keep a child distracted, fairytales work to engage the imagination of the child (Bettelheim, 270). This, to me, is why fairytales matter. It is important that children are exposed to media that they can relate to. I often say that people give children a lot less credit than they are due. Children are smarter than we will ever know, even if we can’t see it so, we should be introducing them to literature that will enrich their lives rather than just trying to keep them entertained. These fairytales take the struggles that children deal with and, rather than belittle them, they give these problems the full respect you would give an adult and their problems. This helps the child to feel justified in their thinking and build more confidence in themselves (Bettelheim, 270). I think that fairytales are so important today because they truly help children make sense out of the world and that is more important than we know. I truly believe in the intrinsic value of fairytales on the young mind is so important that parents should overlook the dark themes to give their child an opportunity to learn about the world through the eyes of these characters. Rather than telling your child that the world is a perfect utopia, which could end up being damaging, expose your child to the difficulties and let them see that it’s possible to get through these hardships if you work hard and do good (Bettelheim, 272). Fairytales effect children in all kinds of ways and by sitting down and reflecting on those effects, you will truly see why fairytales matter. 

We have read through the articles of many well-informed theorists but, the one that stuck out to me the most was Jack Zipes in his article “Breaking the Disney Spell.” As an avid Disney fan, I will admit that I was a bit perturbed by the original fairytale versions of the stories I thought that I knew and loved. I saw these films as original Disney creations without any regard to the powerful history behind each story. These tales, morphing from oral tales told by travelers and gifted storytellers to literary tales read in the privacy of your own room (Zipes, 334), had so much nuance that I was never privy to due to the devotion I had to Disney’s adaptations. I learned so much about the deep history of the fairytale tradition through Zipes that I had never even considered only a few months ago. Disney took these classic tales and Americanized them, highlighting themes such as democracy, technology, and modernity throughout each story (Zipes, 344). Disney placed himself in these tales as an underdog fighting his way to the fame and fortune he deserved (Zipes, 345). Disney wanted control of the story. To obtain this control, he robbed the tale of its meaning, replacing it instead with “jokes and songs and fright effects” (Zipes, 351). This need for control diminished the story as a whole. Disney’s characters were one-dimensional, the story took second place to the technique, and control and organization were themes emphasized through every brush stroke (Zipes, 352). Zipes has taught me through this article to view stories through a more critical lens. Although Disney’s stories might be easier to digest, the original fairytales are full of nuance and content that make them a more enjoyable and impactful story. Through this, I am better able to understand fairytales as I have learned how fairytales are manipulated. Although it may not be easy to do so, it’s better to seek out a meaningful story than be manipulated into indulging in the one-dimensional representations that Disney tried to display as his own.  

There are many surprising things that I have learned in this class but, the thing that has surprised me the most is how different the “love” is in these fairytales than I expected. I was always told that these princess stories ended in a true love’s kiss. The prince and princess always develop a relationship and fall in love naturally. However, this is not the case in fairytales. The prince and princess only fall in love based on looks. There is no romantic development at all. It is all love at first sight because they’re beautiful. The king even assumes that Cinderella is kind since she is so beautiful. Romance is practically nonexistent in fairytales. I have always heard of the ideal fairytale romance but, that isn’t the same sentiment as traditional fairytale “love.” The lack of a true love’s kiss in these stories was unexpected and took away from the romance as a whole. The love in these stories perpetuates the idea of beauty more than it does the idea of falling in love for the right reasons. Despite all the princesses being described as kind, it was their looks that drew in the princes. I believe that that idea can be pretty harmful. I think it could make people think that you can’t have a fantasy love story without having the fair skin, red lips, and dark hair that the “traditionally pretty” princess you see in the stories have. I think the lack of romance in these stories makes the relationships seem unstable and have the reader question the legitimacy and long-lasting nature of the love between the characters.  

I thought the entire course itself was interesting, however, the most interesting thing to me was the story of Beauty and the Beast. The live action Disney Beauty and the Beast is my second favorite movie of all time so, it was fascinating to see how different the original fairytale was. No talking houseware, no inventor father, and no Gaston. It was very interesting to see how similar the original story was to Cinderella. I was hoping for a story more like the one I fell in love with, but I enjoyed the original as well. I was a little sad by how much Beauty antagonizes the beast originally but, the love at the end made me happy and I thought the story was incredibly adorable. I think it’s intriguing how the majority of Disney stories are mostly similar to their fairytale counterparts but, Beauty and the Beast took an incredible turn. The character of Beauty in the original fairytale went through significantly more growth than Belle in the Disney version. Belle was always a kind and bookish girl, and she stayed that way. She looked out for her father and cared for the beast after she saved him. She was consistently the same quiet and caring woman the entirety of the film. Beauty, on the other hand, had significant character development that made her more relatable. Of course, Beauty was just as kind as Belle was, but she still made selfish decisions and she had to learn from their consequences. Beauty made a promise to the beast that she would be back to see the beast after a week. However, Beauty appreciated the kind attention from her sisters that she disregarded her promise to the beast in order to stay with them. This almost led to the death of the beast. However, after seeing the pain that she caused, Beauty regretted her actions and sought to make it right with the beast. I think it’s fascinating how different the characters are. The story of Beauty and the Beast is meaningful to me, and the original opened my eyes to a different rendition that provides a wonderful comparison to my favorite story. 

I believe that something missing in the course was an opportunity to share our favorite tales with the class. I would have appreciated an opportunity to get together with the class and have everyone discuss and read their favorite stories. I know this has the potential to take a lot of time however, so I think there could be a better solution as well. On the first day of class, we were asked about our favorite fairytales and, I wish more was done with that. I think it would be fun to incorporate everyone’s favorite tales into the class rather than just move tale to tale through the book. I know that we could incorporate our favorite fairytales into our research project but, I wish it could’ve been more relevant to class. I know my favorite is an obscure one so, I would have loved to share that with the class and all my knowledge about it. I also would have loved to learn about the favorite stories of all my fellow classmates as well. I just wished that our preferences could have been incorporated into the class more. The class would be more engaging if everyone had a say in what was being discussed and we all worked together on the curriculum. 

This class was very interesting, and I enjoyed the theme more than I expected. I have developed a new respect for fairytales, and it was incredibly enlightening to learn about the history. I plan on taking what I have learned in this class into my future as a teacher and a parent. Fairytales are an incredibly powerful tool in developing the mind and I feel more educated and well-informed. 

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Fairy Tales Final Exam & Reflection – Timmy Sweeney

Fairy tales figure out how to embed themselves into our lives without us realizing it in so many ways. Like our reading regarding memes, fairy tales have managed to convey important messages throughout the ages (Zipes, 2012, pg. 17), carrying an intention to teach a lesson, provide education, explain the unexplainable, and discuss the undiscussable (Ashliman, 2004, pg. 2-5). They have survived the tests of time as a fundamental part of human cultures, whether it be told in communal settings by old peasant women or by the tribal chief, whether it be read to a child in an orphanage by a nun or viewed in the theater by children, they have meaning. They have an intention: a lesson to learn. Fairy tales come with the human experience; they are inseparable from it. A significant amount of the basic common sense that we utilize in our lives can be learned from fairy tales, such as for children to avoid strangers, and listen to their parents, as featured in Little Red Riding Hood (Tatar, 2002, ch. 1). Basic values, too, come from these tales, such as the emphasis on justice and the blessings that come with such virtues that can be found in Donkeyskin (Tatar, 2002, ch. 17). We still have a substantial amount to learn from fairy tales in our modern culture, but we can learn about old and currently existing cultures around the world by analyzing their fairy tales, by analyzing the stories they hold/held dear, and the values that they uphold/upheld. 

The theorist that I feel most helped me in my understanding of fairy tales was D. L. Ashliman. I found the way that Ashliman explained the origins, purposes, and different types of fairy tales to be particularly useful in the study of the topic broadly. Ashliman put forward an effective system that I could always go back to if I needed to during the course, which I utilized for my research project. His breaking fairy tales down into myths, legends, and folktales put into perspective their respective meanings, such as how myths tend to be stories that “establish a context for humans within the cosmos” or how legends are basically “human-centered” versions of myths (Ashliman, 2004, pg. 32-34). Ashliman’s insights into the purpose of fairy tales and why they resonate in all human societies were fundamental in being able to make my argument for my paper – countries create fairy tales to promote values and beliefs in their societies. Additionally, I feel that the chronology he provided in understanding the evolution of fairy tales throughout time was helpful, as it placed them within a historical context rather than a vacuum. When this is accomplished, it becomes easier to assimilate new information with the knowledge that I have, enhancing my ability to understand what it means. For example, talking about the French compilation of stories “Tales of the Fairies” produced by Madame d’Aulnoy gave me a better idea about where these stories came from and how they got introduced into the English-speaking world, which had an impact on my life and my upbringing. 

Honestly, I was surprised to learn about Disney’s substantial revisions in his retelling of the fairy tales, including those promulgated by the Brothers Grimm. My understanding of a large amount of fairy tales was via the Disney Spell, the way that Walt Disney portrayed the characters and storylines. However, in this course, I became aware of the fact that Disney essentially altered many of the storylines he retold, such as the shifts he made in Puss in Boots and Snow White. For example, in Puss and Boots, the context was radically shifted; it was Americanized. Themes such as modernity, technology, and democracy were stressed to explain not only the rise of Walt Disney to fame and fortune, his breakthrough into the king’s court (the animation industry), but the American Dream as a whole – one can pull themselves up by their bootstraps (Zipes, 1999, pg. 344-345). In Snow White, too, much of the storyline and characters are fundamentally altered, with the seven dwarves being portrayed as hardworking Americans rather than as mindless and anonymous characters. Additionally, an emphasis was placed on the role of men vs women, with a man being required to save Snow White from death – “true love’s kiss” (Zipes, 1999, pg. 346-349). This was an attempt to promote certain values held in American society at the time. In a nutshell, I found this part of the course to be the most fascinating because it changed what I thought I had understood about fairy tales. 

During the course, I was most interested in content regarding the historical development of fairy tales in their specific contexts. For example, I found the discussion of the evolution of the fairy tale from an oral and communal phenomena, to a literary and aristocratic one, and finally to that of film in Jack Zipes’ work to be particularly interesting. With my goal of being a double major in history and political science, I find social strata and class structure to be interesting subjects of study, particularly in their relationship with the superstructure of society, and its cultural, religious, etc institutions. As the fairytale became “engendered” by the Grimms in literary tradition, it fundamentally altered much of the purposes that they served, instead now serving to uphold the aristocracy at the head of society – the fairy tale “became privatized” (Zipes, 1999, pg. 335 & 337). Almost paradoxically, the development of the fairy tale into the literary tradition was almost reactionary, as it had stolen the shared and collective nature of the fairy tale from the peasantry, handing it over to the landed gentry and aligned intelligentsia who sought to re-establish many already existing fairy tales in their vision, a vision bent on promoting the status quo. Seeing the evolution of fairy tales through the lens of a historian made the topic really interesting to me and helped me get a better grasp of it. Relating the development of fairy tales to the development of society as a whole, connecting them to class/group interests in history, and bonding them with the cultural experience of different peoples made the topic more relatable to my area of interest that I did not previously give much time to. The humanities, indeed, are fundamental in understanding the human experience – history. Fairy tales can help historians understand different elements and belief systems of cultures that are no longer here. This is a skill, or at least the genesis of one, that I have attained from this class. Connecting fairy tales to historical development all through the course was definitely an exciting and fun thing to learn about. 

That being said, I feel that it would have been useful and/or interesting for me through the lens of a historical to dig deeper into the sociohistorical connections that fairy tales bear with them, such as their influence on concepts like nationalism, the genesis of nations, etc. What is the relationship between fairy tales and nationalists talking about glorified pasts? How does the Russian telling of the Second World War impact their understanding of history? What is the relationship between fairy tales and irredentism? This would have been a fascinating section in the course, and I definitely think that I could have gained from that. This is purely from the perspective of my sought major and my personal interests, but I still think that anyone genuinely interested in fairy tales could have gained from this. Fairy tales explain a significant amount about people, more than we realize. They tell us how people think, and why they think the way they do. They offer a vehicle for the celebration of good values in society, such as the insistence on telling the truth. There are invaluable gains to be made in sharing cherished tales with our own children! Everybody has much to gain from studying fairy tales, but from the perspective of a historian I would have been excited to learn more about them in other historical contexts and how they impact the world to this day, even. 

Works Cited: 

Zipes, J. 2012. The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of a Genre

Ashliman, D L. 2004. Folk and Fairy Tales: A Handbook. ABC-CLIO.

Tatar, M. (2002). The annotated classic fairy tales.

Zipes, Jack. Breaking the Disney Spell.

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Fairy Tales Final Exam- Angelina Fuller

The content presented in this Folk and Fairy Tales class taught me useful tactics when identifying specific moral themes in the assigned tales, as well as teaching me things that I never knew were true about them. It is important to recognize and reflect upon what I have learned, more specifically about the particular theorists, how fairy tales fit into our everyday lives, as well as what activities I think could be helpful for future classes. 

Based on my own experiences, the assigned readings, and reflections for this semester, I have come to the conclusion that reading fairy tales does matter. They can teach young children valuable lessons in an engaging and fun way. Since children have shorter attention spans, these stories can help engage them while simultaneously teaching moral lessons and values to them. Stories with royalty, riches, danger, and magic are more interesting to younger children, and with the help of a parent or caretaker, they can chime in and reiterate what is happening in the story while also connecting it to something in real life. For example, the story “The Frog Prince” teaches young children to always keep their promises. The story shows the reader that the slimy frog was granted permission by the maiden’s father to sleep in her bed since she did not keep her word. In the beginning of the story she said the amphibian can be by her side in exchange for her golden ball which fell into a lake. Thus, teaching children that if they do not keep their promises something unexpected may become true. Additionally, fairy tales can even help teenagers and adults as they help our imaginations and creativity come to life. With the stress of everyday life, sometimes it is nice to take a break and read something with adventure and magic, even if it will never come true in the real world.  

Moreover, there were many different theorists we studied this semester; however, there was one in particular that helped me to understand fairy tales better. Jack Zipes’ article “Breaking the Disney Spell” stated some of the distinctive qualities and main purposes of fairy tales. He talks about the nine crucial functions literary fairy tales had in middle class society therefore, helping me understand why fairy tales were so important during that time period. One that stood out the most to me was number six, which states fairy tales also “served to encourage notions of  rags to riches, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, dreaming, miracles, ect.” (Zipes, 338). Meaning that fairy tales served as encouragement and suggested persevering for something you really want. Another point Zipes made that also stood out to me was point number 3, which states that fairy tales were often read to “soothe a child’s anxieties, for the fairy tales were optimistic” (Zipes, 338). If a child was worried about something or had nightmares, these tales relaxed and distracted them. Moreover, the article by D.L. Ashmilan also helped me understand why we write fairy tales and some common themes represented. Ashmilan states a “common function of folktales is to preserve and promote cultural and personal values” (Ashmilan, 4). Additionally, Ashmilan also included in chapter one of his handbook the symbols and themes of fairy tales. For example, different animals have specific characteristics linked to them, thus teaching the children about these personality traits and how certain individuals in their life might demonstrate similar qualities, and whether or not they should continue a relationship with them or not. Like, “lions represent courage, wolves viciousness, owls wisdom, ant and bees diligence, foxes cunning, bears laziness, and eagles nobility” (Ashmilan, 6). 

After reflecting on the content I learned in this course, something that surprised me was how different and sometimes gorey original fairy tales are compared to the Disney versions I grew up watching. I was expecting there to be some differences between the stories written by various authors like Charles Perrault and the Grimm Brothers; however, for some of the stories, there were a few considerable differences. In the fairy tale “Rapunzel” written by the Grimm Brothers a major difference between this story and the Disney one was that Rapunzel, since she had been locked up for her entire life, was so innocent and gullible that she ended up having relations with a man she just met and became pregnant. This differed from the Disney version since Rapunzel and the man named Flynn Rider, just ended up getting married, and there was no child on the way. Furthermore, in the tale “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen, when the little mermaid made a deal with the witch to trade her tail for legs, she was warned that “every step taken will make you feel as if you were treading on a sharp knife, enough to make your feet bleed” (Andersen, 319). While in the Disney version it is not so painful for the mermaid; she just has to trade in her voice. Also, in the Disney version the screenwriters gave the little mermaid a name; Ariel. Thus, making the audience feel more connected to her character and the story comes to life.  

Furthermore, I thought the class content was interesting as a whole. However, something that stood out to me was when we compared the original tale of  “Cinderella” with the first film version released in 1896. I especially liked comparing the 1896 film version with the animated version that the Disney franchise reimagined. The Disney version really made the details and magic from Perrault’s story come to life. The animation makes the magic look seamless and as if  it is truly real. Especially, when the fairy godmother transforms Cinderella’s old clothes into her beautiful shimmering ball gown. The 1896 version showed the same story however, since the film production and cameras used were not high quality, it took away from the story. In my opinion, I felt as if I could not focus on the storyline because the frames were not cut seamlessly and this version was in black and white. The 1896 film was quite different from Disney’s “Cinderella”, the version I know best. So, it was surprising that this was one of the first filmed fairy tales and that so many people loved watching.

Moreover, the majority of this folk and fairy tales class consisted of reading and analyzing major themes of these tales. While I think it is important to recognize these themes and moral lessons presented, the class would become more engaging and fun if students in the future were to write more fairy tales. We did this activity once in the beginning of the year with partners and another time with the other Honors Program students in the pandemics class. If the assignment was turned into a small project I believe students would not find the assignment to be a burden, but as a way to let our creativity flow and imagine a magical world where anything can be real. Thus, giving the students a chance to really think about how to formulate our stories, how to incorporate number, color, and animal symbolism, as well as other themes and important components of fairy tales, instead of being rushed to complete it in less than a class period. Additionally, I liked when we had to base our stories off of a fantastical picture with no context, as it really made me think of an interesting storyline to go along with it. 

Ultimately, I found this class quite interesting as I have always liked reading fairy tales when I was younger. And, this course helped me realize the true and underlying meanings behind these popular tales, as children typically only see the story’s surface level. Reading them as I am older gave me a different perspective I never knew was true.


Works Cited: 

“Cenerentola (1899) Georges Méliès.”, Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.

Grimm, Jacob, et al. Rapunzel. Troll Associates, 1979.

—. The Frog Prince. Starry Forest Books, 2017.

Hans Christian Andersen. Little Mermaid. 1837. Pushkin Childrens Books, 2020.

Perrault, Charles. Cinderella . Simon & Schuster, 1697.

Zipes, Jack. Breaking the Disney Spell.

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