Throughout the semester from the readings and discussions we have done I have learned a lot about fairy tales. In the grand scheme of things fairy tales actually matter a lot. Fairy tales are stories that are passed down and told to people of all forms and ages. They teach their readers important values and lessons given through the morals that are presented in the stories. Fairy tales help their readers, especially young children, by helping them learn about the world around them through the lessons shown to them in these tales. Fairy tales also matter by helping both stimulate and enrich the minds of the children that read them. These stories do this by engaging and entertaining the children while also teaching them important morals and lessons to educate them as well. Common morals/lessons found in these tales include being kind such as in Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast and to not trust strangers found in Little Red Riding Hood and in Hansel and Gretel.
Bruno Bettelheim, a theorist that we had studied in class also supports this idea of fairy tales being important for children in his reading The Struggle for Meaning. In this reading Bettelheim talks about the impact that fairy tales have on young children stating that fairy tales help in the development of a child’s mind. Bettelheim states that fairy tales do this by “carrying important messages to the conscious, the preconscious, and the unconscious mind (Bettelheim 271). Doing this allows the child to think about what they are reading and learn and grow from it. Bettelheim ends his reading by saying that fairy tales teach their readers that struggles and difficulties in life are inevitable but that if we face these problems in the end we will “emerge victorious” (Bettelheim 273). Bettelheim helped better my understanding of fairy tales by showing exactly why fairy tales are important and arguably needed in helping children both grow and develop.
While reading and exploring certain fairy tales this semester I was very surprised to see the gruesome nature of some of the tales we had read in class. Two particular examples of this were in the stories of Rapunzel, Snow White, and The Juniper Tree. At the end of Rapunzel the enchantress basically throws Rapunzel out into the wild after feeling betrayed by her interacting with someone from the outside world leaving her, a young teenage girl all alone to fend for herself to survive. Later, the prince jumped out of the tower that Rapunzel was held captive in after seeing the Stepmother/Enchantress in Rapunzel’s place. After jumping out of the tower the prince has his eyes scratched out pretty much being blinded. In Snow White the queen gets punished at the end of the story by being forced to dance in red hot iron shoes until dropping dead. In The Juniper Tree the young boy in the story is decapitating and then cooked up and fed to his father by his stepmother, who later in the story ends up getting crushed to death by a millstone.being dropped on her. I never realized that fairy tales could end up being so dark before taking this course. When I was younger I had also read and viewed versions of these tales that were much lighter and much less gruesome. I found the gruesome nature of these tales to be both very surprising and interesting.
Two things that interested me the most this semester were the recurring themes found in the tales that we had explored in class and that these tales were told differently depending on the audience that they were told to. The tales that we had explored in class had many recurring themes within them such as the idea of there being an evil stepmother present in the tales. A lot of these tales included a stepmother of the protagonist of the story. The stepmother would treat the main character of the tale terribly throughout the story usually because they weren’t this character’s actual child. The stepmother in these stories would also typically treat the other children in the household of the protagonist much better compared to them. This theme has constantly been recurring throughout the stories that we have read in class being found in tales such as Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, and The Juniper Tree. Another common theme found in the tales that we had explored was the theme of beauty. In these tales it was shown how important being beautiful was to society at the time. The characters that we depicted as beautiful in these stories were also the good characters of the stories. Some of the tales that had this theme were Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, and Cinderella again. I had also found it interesting how these tales were told differently depending on who they were told toward. A great example of this is Little Red Riding Hood. The Charles Perrault version of this story was told to a group of French aristocrats where Little Red Riding Hood ended up being killed by the wolf at the end of the story. Other versions targeted towards children have Little Red escaping and even defeating the wolf. Both forms of this story get the same point across but do it in completely different ways because of who they are actually telling the story to.
I don’t think much or even anything was really missed in this course. I would have liked to explore more fairy tales but I’m not sure if that was possible given the amount of extra time that would have taken to do. I really enjoyed some of the activities that we had done in class such as writing our own fairy tales and watching the film Spirited Away at the end of the semester. I would have definitely liked to do more of that but again, I’m not sure that would have been possible given the amount of time we had in class. I especially enjoyed us writing our own tales in class as I felt it was a lot easier to write a tale the second time we had done so compared to the first time. Overall I really enjoyed taking this course and there isn’t anything that I think we missed out on here. This course broadened my knowledge of fairy tales and allowed me to dive deeper into some of my favorite tales that I had read as a child. It showed both the importance and impact that fairy tales have had on society as a whole and I am very glad that I have gotten to learn about it.