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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