Throughout this course, we studied the importance and the themes of fairytales extensively. From Ashliman to Tartar and everything in between, we analyze and interpreted both stories and essays, and to say that these fairytales are important is an understatement.
First and foremost, these stories made us think beyond what we knew. For example, all of us had heard of Hansel and Gretel, but in the classroom, ideas were shared that many of us hadn’t delved into before. Hearing these stories as children, though beneficial in many ways, such as morality and education, we didn’t really look beyond the surface value of the words on the paper or the narration of the story. This class permitted us to see these fairytales not just from the view of our child selves but as the author intended them to be, with all their nuances.
Second, this class opened our eyes to the extent in which fairytales developed and spread over time. It was very interesting to read about the societal implications about peasantry that Darton wrote about, and the almost political side of fairytales. I, for one, never really considered the classist nature of print fairytales and the comparisons between oral and printed stories.
Finally, the stories gave us all commonality. The majority of the stories that we looked at this semester were stories we had heard at a young age. The subject gave us all an opportunity to unite, in a way, and share experiences and ideas that we could all understand due to our prior knowledge of the material. This class was effective in educating us on the ideas and implications of fairytales while also making it fun.
While I was pleased with the pace that the class went, I would have loved to have gone over The Little Mermaid while we were still in session. Other than this, the class was memorable and educational, and I am happy that I took it.
Fairy tales are important because they serve as tiny windows into many aspects of life that are hard to see. Stories such as The Beauty and the Beast and Donkey Skin bring heavy topics like arranged marriage and poverty/wealth into the spotlight – themes which are normally difficult to approach in society without experiencing them firsthand. While the fairy tales themselves are rarely referenced in day to day activities, the principles contained within them can be. This is why many fairy tales, both centuries ago and now, are told to children so that they become familiar with difficult or troubling issues that could potentially become obstacles for them one day. What surprised me the most was learning about just how much Walt Disney edited and changed the original versions of many fairy tales. The action scenes his animated movies contained, as well as the similar patterns of romance found in most of them – it makes sense as to why he changed the stories the way he did, but I hadn’t ever given it much thought until reading Jack Zipes’ “Breaking the Disney Spell”. I thought studying the way original fairy tales have been altered, developed and re-imagined since their creation was the most interesting aspect of this class. As someone who wants to create his own stories someday, seeing how others have done just that by drawing upon previously established works has been inspiring. I feel that if one thing could be built upon to make this class better, it would be to introduce more fairy tales in different forms of media other than the readings for the textbook. I believe that looking at familiar fairy tales presented as movies or in other ways would have offered a fresh perspective and a nice change of pace from the reading assignments.
Throughout history, fairy tales have served as a form of entertainment, not only for children, but for adults as well. Most people think of fairy tales as a children’s story, not containing any controversial or compelling aspects. However, fairy tales are much more than a form of entertainment for children and adults. As a result of taking this course, it became clear that fairy tales serve a much more intricate purpose in the readers lives. Fairy tales are a great source of entertainment, whether it be through story telling, literary fairy tales or films. However the content in these tales is what really is so captivating to the audience. Fairy tales contain aspects of magic and fantasy that are not present in the real world. Through these stories, children are able to fantasize about the possibilities of the world and work through their own conflicts. Fairy tales allow children and adults to escape from their realities and enter a made up world. Fairy tales also help children work through their own problems, whether it be socially or internally. These tales teach consequences and moral lessons, even if it is not obvious to the reader. These are the reasons why fairy tales matter, for all people. They are not just silly little stories, but are a transformation through history,the traditions and aspects that societies have possessed over time.
Through this course, I learned that fairy tales were not always intended for children to read. Some of these tales contain complex and inappropriate themes that were not even written for children, although if young children were to read them, these concepts would probably go over their head anyway. What interested me the most about this course was how much these tales have changed throughout history. The ones we read were so different from the Disney versions, which were the ones I was most familiar with. It is amazing but also so shocking the way Disney has created its company, that our only knowledge of the popular tales is of the Disney ones, not the ones that have rewritten through Grimm’s, Perrault or created by Hans Christian Andersen. Something we should have done in this class would be to discuss what each tale could teach somebody, whether it be morally or just cautionary, in order to tie back into how fairy tales are beneficial for children. I also think it would have been interesting to if not watch a whole movie, watch clips of movies to compare the texts we read to the films that have been created.
Over the course of this semester, I have learned a lot about fairytales that I most definitely did not know beforehand. It is easy to see why fairytales matter in the world that we live in today, as well as centuries ago. Fairytales started out as oral tales that were told as a way to mention the societal problems that were seen many years ago, like the family relations or the importance of wealth. As time went on, we could see the importance that fairytales had on children as well. Fairytales were used as a way to relieve the stress of a children and to teach them moral lessons that went along with the tale. I think that the most important part of how these stories effect us is the concept that these tales are a way to fulfill our desires and address our fears directly. The way that these stories capture our attention is simply amazing and they live on for many years with new differing versions. Another amazing thing that I noticed throughout this course is the way that Disney had changed so many of these classic tales. I would have ever thought some of these stories would have been that different from the original. I think that seeing the differences of the Disney version compared to the original stories was the most interesting to me and maybe seeing one of the movies to directly compare it to the story could have been beneficial. However, the course still provided me with a lot more knowledge on the world of fairytales and I enjoyed learning and reading the material that was given.
Fairy tales are just as important today as they were hundreds of years ago. From generation to generation, these tales have transformed the minds of children and taught them incredible life lessons. Ranging from “stranger-danger” to proper behavior, these tales provide ways to educate the youth in fun, interactive ways. They also help ignite imaginations and creativity. For example, almost every little girl dreams of becoming a princess, and tales like these help create this fantasy land where anything is possible. Contrary to popular belief though, fairytales are just as important to adults as they are to children. They portray societal expectations and reinforce gender roles. In most tales, women were depicted as weak, passive individuals who needed men to interfere in their lives in order for their problems to go away. This was evident in Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Rapunzel, and numerous others, and ultimately made women think they needed men to take control of their lives. Additionally, women were taught to be obedient, whether it be to their mothers by staying on the path or to their husbands like in Bluebeard, and to always follow directions. However, aside from women, even men were reinforced with their roles in society. They’re portrayed as protectors with wealth and power, and teach men that should have this sense of dominance in society. While these might not be the same values we expect of men and women today, these tales enforced these expectations of past societies and changed the way we think. Modern writers have changed the endings of tales to adapt to our current values, and I find it extremely fascinating to see how they keep evolving even to this day. Fairy tales appeal to both children and adults because we can understand them in complex ways as we get older, but can also still use them as a source of entertainment. Disney has definitely played a major role in how I think of fairytales nowadays, but through this course it was interesting to see how they changed into these forms and why they did. I’ve come to realize how much Disney actually took out of the original stories and how they weren’t always as child friendly as you’d think they’d be. I was most interested by the more violent sides of these tales because it was totally unexpected to hear when you expect them all to end “happily ever after”. These differences portray how versatile these tales really are and their abilities to attract diverse audiences. I don’t think much was missed throughout the course, but I think it would be helpful to continue using visuals (art) and films to highlight the major distinctions between versions.
Fairytales matter because they help to teach valuable lessons and instill morality in those who read them. While the target audience is generally thought of to be children, fairytales can be enjoyed by people of all ages, and the lessons will remain the same. That’s not to say they’re not good for children, however, as they certainly are. They teach children about life and the difference between right and wrong in a way that they can find interesting. What I learned through this course was the rich history of fairytales and how there’s much more to all the different stories than just what the Disney versions show us. I found the histories of all the different tales, many of which I’d never even heard of, very interesting. I don’t feel as if anything was missed or left out of the course, and overall I found it to be a good experience.
Whether people realize it or not, fairy tales are immensely intertwined into everyday life. These creative and imaginative tales have been told for centuries and can reach us through word of mouth, through books, and in the modern world through advertisements and television shows. From what I’ve learned throughout the semester, it is clear to me that fairy tales do matter; fairy tales should matter to us not only for their entertainment value, but because of their historical, cultural, and creative value. In terms of their historical value, fairy tales are almost as old as human language. Similar to how humans have adapted to their everchanging environment throughout history, fairy tales also experience change as they pass from generation to generation. The changes in these stories that take place through their retellings often represent the changes that take place in the society they are told in. This reasoning also supports the claim that fairy tales have cultural value to us mainly because these stories act as a sort of projector of a peoples, culture. This is evident through the different variation of tales like Rumpelstiltskin. While the German telling of this tale ends in the violent dismemberment of the “magic man”, most other versions end with the creature peacefully leaving the main character to live happily ever after. Although fairy tales are valued historically and culturally, their highest value is found in its effects on the way we think. Fairy tales often feature magical elements that are odd, but intriguing to us. The descriptions we hear and read when entering the world of fairytales are creatively formed to be unfamiliar to us, ultimately making us use the creative part of our brain to picture what takes place in a story. In addition, the unusual conflicts presented in each story help us to deal with unusual problems in real life. Through the progression of a plot and the eventual resolution of a problem in a story, people are taught to use their creative thinking to resolve problems in their lives. To add to this, the themes presented in each story serve as advice for readers to keep in mind as they go through life. Many fairy tales share themes on marriage, wealth, and beauty that tie into real life. Throughout the semester, I found this aspect of fairy tales to be most intriguing. Personally, I feel that being able to adapt to changes in life is a very important skill to have along with being innovative or creative. If a person can find a way to make due with whatever situation they are in, they can make it in todays world. This aspect of fairy tales is one that should continuously be reviewed in future classes and is what makes fairy tales matter to me.
I have always been a fan of fairy tales because they are a way to be transported into another world: a world of “magic.” I typically think of the Disney versions, but this course showed me that there’s so much more to fairytales than I originally thought, whether it be the different versions created or the different themes that a lot of them share. Fairy tales matter because they are a way for children (and people of all ages) to learn morals and use their imaginations. The evil characters in the stories are usually punished and the good characters are rewarded, showing kids that being a good person and treating others with kindness is worthwhile. They also give people an escape from reality, as they allow you to forget about the problems of your real life and focus on the plot. I thought it was very interesting to read the original versions of these fairytales because they were so different than what I pictured in my head. For example, it was fascinating to read about Beauty and the jealousy of her siblings in Beauty and the Beast, or the tragic parts of the Little Mermaid, or the ending of Snow White where the prince did not wake her up with a kiss, because I had never read those versions before. The original stories included certain aspects of violence and other adult topics that Walt Disney removed in order to make his movies more family-friendly. I also loved hearing everyone in the class discuss the themes of the stories and the different opinions about each of them because it allowed me to hear perspectives that I may have never considered otherwise. Overall, this class allowed me to realize that fairytales go so much deeper than just having the purpose of entertaining children.
Fairy tales matter because they allow us to play out situations that we would never get to otherwise, explore places that don’t exist in the physical world, and learn about who we are from a world that isn’t quite our own. Every time we play pretend as little kids or daydream as adults we incorporate elements of magic and adventure from fairy tales. Fairy tales give us a way to escape our own world for a few minutes in order to step back and place our problems in a new context perhaps giving us new ways to approach them. Maria Tartar talks about the ability of Fairy Tales to allow us exploration in “Why Fairy Tales Matter”. She states that they enable us to subjunctivize, which she defines as the ability to explore what “might be, could have been, [and] perhaps will be” (Tartar 56). That ability is what I think makes them important both generally and personally. This class surprised me in two ways. The first was that fairytales could be read with an analytical view and lead to sophisticated discussions about the stories, the times and places they come from, and our world today. I always associated fairy tales in their pure form with children; that they were not much more than cute entertainment and I have now learned they can be so much more. The second way I was surprised was from the stories themselves I knew the originals could be violent but didn’t anticipate the extent of adult themes in stories like Blackbeard, Donkey Skin, or even the more sexual nature of the oral version(s) of Little Red Riding Hood. This comes in turn with the surprise that these stories weren’t exclusively written for children and some of them weren’t for children at all. I wish we would have had a chance to explore a few stories or versions from outside Europe such as collections from South America, Asia, Russia, China, Africa, or the Middle East. In the first reading from Ashliman, he discusses collections of stories from around the world like 1001 Arabian Nights or the Panchatantra. I think it would have been interesting not only to see fairytales/folk tales that were unfamiliar to us, much like we saw in Spirited Away but also to have had a chance to find what elements these stories shared across cultures and time.
Fairy tales matter, much more than most people think, to both children and adults. For children fairy tales provide another route of learning lessons and morals focusing on how to behave, treat other people and what life can throw at them. These tales teach them to deal with the bad times and recognize the good ones. In addition, they encourage children’s imagination to continue to grow, which many begin to lack as they get older. Fairy tales don’t lie and shelter children as parents often do and thus these tales prepare children for the “real world” that they’ll have to be apart of one day. For adults fairy tales represent a way to connect with their children. These tales also encourage adults to rediscover their imagination and remind them that anything is possible. This hopefully encourages these adults to change the unhappy aspects of their own lives, as many seem to lose a sense of what happiness is and the idea that anything can happen in adulthood. Throughout the semester I was consistently surprised to see how many fairy tales paralleled each other. For example, many included the same themes such as wealth and beauty. Some also seemed to appear in others as Bluebeard could be seen as incorporating elements of Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast. Also the creative license that Disney took with the fairy tales was quite surprising to me. Although he keeps the main themes he added certain elements to the ideas of love and magic, perhaps for the purpose of entertainment, that don’t appear in the original versions. I think watching some of the Disney movies and reading fairy tales back to back would have been worthwhile. In doing this I would have found it easier to see the changes made by Disney and present day culture as a whole as opposed to simply discussing them or reading them through the eyes of authors like Zipes.