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.
“Cenerentola (1899) Georges Méliès.” Www.youtube.com, www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1hzP9yzb_U. 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.