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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