Sunday, February 24, 2013

"Little Red Riding Hood" (LRRH)

Image courtesy of

            The wolf ate Santa!  Silly, stupid wolf.  I guess it's a good thing I don't celebrate Christmas.  This entertaining, social cartoon shows the real reason the wolf hatched up the plan to beat LRRH to Granny’s house.  Consider this story:
Granny makes her granddaughter a red riding hood, which suits her so well that everyone calls her that.  Every day, her mother sends her on some errand; and every day the wolf sees her and wants to eat her.  One day, Santa is cutting through the woods on the way to the woodshop.  The wolf sees the red walking by and, thinking it’s LRRH, eats Santa whole.  Then LRRH walks by, and the wolf realizes his error.  A week later, he meets LRRH on her way to Granny’s house…
And the rest is well-known “history.”

Cartoon URL:

 Since I always like to add some related art of my own, here's a piece I did specifically for this blog post:

"LRRH and the Wolf" by:  Alyssa Zell

Sunday, February 17, 2013

"The Child as a Hero"

"Hansel and Gretel" by:  Alyssa Zell
In real life, children are often seen as week, easily victimized, and in need of constant protection.  In the world of fairy tales, however, children are often viewed as a threat to/means of another character's survival.  Despite the world seeming to be against them, these children rise up and become heroes in their own right.
Just look at “Hansel and Gretel,” and “Little Thumbling.”  In both stories, Famine is running rampant throughout the country; so one parent decides that the children must be abandoned in the forest.  At least one child overhears the conversation and decides to fill his pockets with little white pebbles, which he drops along the way and uses to successfully guide himself and his sibling(s) back to the house.  When the second attempt to return home fails, the children do not give up hope.  Here, the stories begin to differ.  Either way, without any assistance from an adult, the children manage to defeat their enemies, and return home with treasure that keeps the family well fed for the rest of their lives…as far as we know.
Then you have “The Juniper Tree.”  This story is about monetary greed instead of food.  Now, which child is truly the hero of the story can be debated.  While the son is the main focus of the story, it is the daughter who thinks to bury his bones.  This shows that she knows she is currently too young to truly defy her mother, but there is hope for her yet.  The way the story is written, the “Little Sister” can’t be more than five years old.  It takes a lot of bravery and heroism to stand up to a woman like that.
Aside from the actual examples of children being heroes, there is also symbolism and psychological perspectives to idea itself.  Bettelheim, who uses Freud’s school of thought, feels that “Hansel and Gretel” is all about oral fixation and regression.  Instead of fending for themselves in the forest, which would indicate maturity, all the children can think about is returning home, which is indicative of regression.  In a way, the whole story is a rebellion against the mother (step-mother), who has cast them out of the house, therefore denying them nurture.  “The child must learn that if he does not free himself of these [destructive desires], his parents or society will force him to do so against his will, as earlier his mother had stopped nursing the child when she felt the time had come to do so.”  But “the child” at that age is infatuated with the mother.  Keeping in mind the focus on the male child, I present the following quote from Bettelheim:
“Having overcome his oedipal difficulties, mastered his oral anxieties, sublimated those of his cravings which cannot be satisfied realistically, and learned that wishful thinking has to be replaced by intelligent action, the child is ready to live happily again with his parents.”
Thus, the children have matured and are ready to rejoin their father in order to live “happily ever after.”
            Bettelheim’s point of view takes away Hansel and Gretel’s triumph over the witch and turns it into hate towards the mother figure.  Just because Freud, and possibly Bettelheim, had mommy issues doesn’t mean that fairy tales have to revolve around such ideas.  For me, the most important part of “the child as a hero” is the fact that children can be heroes, they can succeed!  That is the point that renews a little bit of my faith in humanity…                        Now, if only we could get the world to listen to children a little more often.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Defining Fairy Tales

"Golden Fairy" by:  Alyssa Zell

To define the term fairy tale is akin to defining the meaning of life.  There is no single definition that encompasses all a fairy tale entails; the meaning is different for every person.  A child may see a fairy tail as a favorite bed-time story, full of morals, talking animals, and balls at a palace.  To an adolescent fairy tales could be an escape from reality, a wish for a different life.  Some adults see fairy tales as things to analyze, full of hidden meanings and symbolism; others think they are just stories to tell children.
The word fairy comes from the old French word faerie, which would translate to fairyland in modern English.  If one were to stick with old French etymology, he/she would find tale has its roots in the word tele, which means talk.  In other words, literally, fairy tale is really faerie tele, or tele du fairie, would mean talk of the land of the fae (mystical/magical beings).  Thus, fairy tales must simply take place in another realm where magic is possible; it doesn’t need to have fairies, elves, etc.  For example, “Little Red Riding Hood” is a fairly plausible story until you take into account two things:
1.)  The wolf can talk.
2.)  The wolf swallows Little Red and Granny whole.
Even children know animals can’t talkl.  In addition, wolves tear at the things they eat; no wolf can swallow a little girl, let alone an old woman, whole.  In “Jack and the Beanstalk” the beanstalk grows overnight and people live above the clouds.  Each story has some aspect to it that is rather unrealistic.
            Like any decent story, fairy tales consist of three main parts:
1.)  The beginning:
a.     Here, the hero is introduced.  Said hero is usually innocent and has some kind of lesson to learn.
b.     The hero is given a task to complete, which usually involves a journey through a cave, or forest, or to some distant place.
c.      The hero sets off on the journey.
2.)  The middle:
a.     This is where the villain is usually introduced, though he/she can also be introduced in the beginning.
b.     Something slows or (temporarily) stops the hero’s ability to complete the journey/task set at the beginning.
c.      Someone/something “helps” the hero get passed the “blockage.”  In some cases, the “helper” actually leads the hero astray.
3.)  The end:
a.     The hero gets passed all “blockages” and defeats the villain.
b.     “And they all live happily ever after” … sort of.

"Goblin" by:  Alyssa Zell