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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