Friday, September 26, 2014

Blog Entry 5

1937 Movie Poster
            Produced in 1937, Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" became the first full-length animated fairy-tale film ever made in history.  Disney illuminated the original "Snow White" written by the Brothers Grimm from his own perspective.  With that said, there are similarities between the film and the original tale, but there are also differences. 
            Both in the Disney film and the Grimm tale, Snow White is ruthlessly sought after by her evil stepmother/wicked queen because the queen longs to eliminate Snow White as an obstacle in her being the fairest of them all.   The wicked queen arranges for a huntsman to lead Snow White into the forest, murder her, and bring back proof of her death.  Another similarity between the two portrayals of "Snow White" is that Snow White makes a contract with the seven dwarfs, in which she will cook, clean, and keep house for them in return for them letting her stay there.  The dwarfs also warn Snow White to beware of her evil stepmother while she is left alone in the house in both genres, but nonetheless, the wicked queen convinces Snow White to take a bite of the poisoned apple, causing her to fall into a sleeping death.  In the end, however, both the movie and the Grimm tale conclude with Snow White and the prince living happily ever after, while the wicked queen suffers a painful death.

            In the Disney film, Snow White is portrayed as a scullery maid and an orphan with no sign of her birth parents.  This is different from the Grimm version where Snow White experienced the sentimental death of her mother early on, and her father is very much alive throughout the duration of the tale.  The arrival of the prince in the beginning of the Disney movie is also very different from the fact that he only appears at the end in the Grimm tale, thus playing a minor role in the plot.  In the Grimm tale, the dwarfs also play a more humble role than in the Disney movie where they are seen as rich, hardworking miners, and very easily the stars of the film.  In the tale, the wicked queen makes three different attempts to kill Snow White through the stay lace, poisoned comb, and the apple, but in the movie she only needs one time in order to succeed in tempting Snow White with the red apple.  The queen dies by accident in the movie, whereas in the tale, she is forced to dance in red-hot iron shoes at Snow White's Wedding.  Lastly, the movie has Snow White awakening from her slumber by true love's kiss, but in the tale it was indeed a stumble over some shrubs that dislodged the poisoned piece of apple from her throat which returns her to life. 
            There were two main reasons why Disney chose  to divert from certain content of the original version of the Grimm tale.  First, Disney was keen on the idea of self-figuration in that he was able to make a lasting mark on the film industry through his productions.  He took all the credit for the creation of the film by having his name plastered everywhere, and had himself embodied in the figure of the prince.  The second more important reason was to offer people hope in bad times.  As this film was produced in the midst of the Great Depression, American morality was at an all-time low, and the people needed to feel that their patience could be rewarded.  Through Disney's portrayal of the dwarfs as happy before and after work, he instilled the ideal in the American people that if you work hard, you will be rewarded.  The original Grimm tale wouldn't have provided a good model for society during the time, but Disney's twist on the tale offered a great pick-me-up film to both children and adults.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Blog Entry 4

              "Cinderella" is perhaps best well-known for being a fairy tale that contains the motif of "rags to riches through magic and marriage" (Ruth Bottigheimer).  If not directly portrayed through reading the Grimm version, this idea is blatantly visible in the Disney film adaptation.  Specifically in the Grimm tale, Cinderella's low social status is seen very early on in the fact that her character actually goes on unnamed for quite some time.  It is only after her oppressive stepfamily make her work hard all day long that they call her by the name of Cinderella for the reason that she lived amongst the ashes and "always looked so dusty and dirty" (The Complete Fairy Tales 79).  This in and of itself explains her dwelling amid the lower, working-class, "rags" society that she will remain a part of throughout the tale until blessed with both magic and marriage that eventually elevate her to "riches".
              Magic is not only a major element of the "rags to riches" motif, but it is also a crucial theme present in all fairy tales.  Without magic, Cinderella would have been completely lost.  The two white pigeons, turtledoves, and all the birds under heaven are critical helping animals within the story that ultimately set Cinderella on her path towards an advance in social status.  If not for all the aforementioned birds, she would never have been able to pick out the good lentils from the ashes at two different times in the story.  Without the single bird that responds to her pleas by her mother's hazel tree, Cinderella would not have been supplied with the exquisite gowns and shoes to wear to the festival.  Both of these events, full of magic, were imperative in order to lead Cinderella to meeting the prince, finding her true love, and marrying into wealth.  Once again, the marital union between Cinderella and the prince is an occurrence that likewise secures her ascent from "rags to riches". 


            Indeed it is possible for someone to reach success or riches with magic and/or marriage.  Success can mean different things to different people, but it is ultimately some kind of a rise in status, achievement, or an added happiness.  This can come from divine intervention, perhaps an explanation for magical events, or even through marriage.  Today, marrying into wealth can cause an individual to achieve riches, and hopefully success by reason that the marriage is mutually desired.  But when it comes down to it, this goal is not entirely realistic.  In the world we live in today, large successes are hard to come by, and magic is nowhere to be found.  At least not the type of magic that is described in "Cinderella" for example.  There are, however, other forms of earthly magic such as love, whether it be between a man and a woman or family members.  As I mentioned before, Cinderella would have been lost without magic, and since it is nearly impossible to live your life a fairy tale, I believe this motif is not entirely practical in modern society despite our hopes for it to be.    

Friday, September 12, 2014

Blog Entry 3

           After reading the Grimm's edition of Hansel and Gretel and viewing the MGM version of the same tale, I can't say I was entirely shocked to discover that there were some obvious differences.  The reason for this is because I have been exposed to how Disney and other movie production companies stray from the plot of the original tale in an attempt to soften the story for its primarily young viewers. 

            In the 1987 MGM film, the mother/stepmother appears to be much nicer to Hansel and Gretel than in the original Grimm tale.  The movie directors seem to portray that the mother is more distraught with herself and her own inability to provide for her family.  In the tale, the reader sees an immediate image of the mother and father being unable to care for their children, so she ultimately devises a cruel plan to get rid of the children, never once stopping to consider what other options she has.  This brings us to another difference between the film and the tale: the actual "disposal" of Hansel and Gretel.  In the Grimm's version, the stepmother coerces her husband into accepting the plan of luring Hansel and Gretel deep into the forest where they will abandon their children forever.  Although the mother makes comments about not being able to care for Hansel and Gretel in the movie, she simply sends them out to pick berries out of anger upon finding that they allowed for the donkey to eat up the last of their food supply.  This is a major difference because the loss of Hansel and Gretel shows no premeditative action on behalf of the mother.
            Once the children are drawn in to the home of Granny Griselda, the plot of the film starts to realign with that of the original tale.  The old woman at first appears sweet and thus fills the stomachs of Hansel and Gretel and provides them a place to stay the night.  By morning, Hansel and Gretel find out that Griselda is no longer their friend, but instead a wicked witch with magical powers that she uses to at once cage Hansel and put Gretel to strenuous, domestic work.  Gretel prepares the food for Hansel to fatten himself up on so that Griselda may eat him.  This is true in both the fairy tale version and the MGM film.  When it comes to the wicked witch's death, Gretel still exhibits forward thinking and trickery, but they differ in the two versions.  In the film, Gretel uses the witch's magic against her to bring about her own demise and slay the witch by baking Griselda in her own oven.  In the fairy tale, Gretel utilizes cunning wit to outsmart the witch into getting into the oven herself when attempting to show Gretel how it is done. 

             Many of the changes that were made to the movie were quite major and show a noticeable diversion from the original Grimm tale.  I believe the movie directors did this ultimately to, as I mentioned before, soften the harsh elements of the tale told by the Brothers Grimm.  For example, a mother purposely scheming to abandon her children in the woods is hard for children to see.  Therefore, the movie directors made Hansel and Gretel's disappearance into the woods seem more commonplace after their mother sent them out of the house because she had a rightful reason to be angry with them for what they had done.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Blog Entry 2

     Based on everything that I have learned over the past couple weeks, I would define a fairy tale as a timeless, action-driven, magical adventure that follows the isolated journeys of a few characters.  That definition encapsulates the key points which separate fairy tales from other types of stories such as legends, both saint and local, and myths, but it doesn't nearly cover all the characteristic qualities of a fairy tale.  

     Magic and enchantment are the most important elements of the fairy tale, but it is important to note that the miracle(s) that occur within the tale are accepted as a matter of course.  Having that been said, it is not uncommon for animals to speak as though they were real-life human beings.  As readers of "Brier Rose", we don't even stop to question why the frog is conveying to the queen that she will finally be graced with a daughter.  We just accept it as a part of the story, and a plot point needed in order for the story to continue its course of action.  Another important component of the fairy tale is the lack of concern for the aging process and the ability to say that time doesn't matter.  We see this fact also come alive in "Brier Rose" through the idea that she can sleep for 100 years without age affecting her one single bit.  
     Crucial to the fairy tale is the isolation of characters.  This particular element especially surprises me because I find it very clever how the Brothers Grimm and other fairy tale writers utilize this subtle separation of characters so that the action is clear and defined. It is very effective because when it comes time for the real action of the tale to play out, which describes another characteristic as fairy tales are heavily compelled by action, there isn't anyone extraneous in the way; it is only the main character and his/her rival or ally, depending on the situation.  There are also distinct numbers that make their way into fairy tales (3, 7, 12, 100) for symbolic and other precise reasons.  One of the last elements that I would like to mention is that great fairy tale authors refrain from unnecessary detailed descriptions in an effort to, once again, give the plot its clarity and precision.  This fact also makes it easier to analyze fairy tales because you know that the Brothers Grimm put a great emphasis on putting the entire castle to sleep in "Brier Rose" because this is one of the few parts of the tale that is described in such lavish detail.  For all these reasons and many more, it shouldn't come as a shock then that both children and adults are charmed by the fairy tale because it provides "not only pleasure, it gives form and inspiration" (L├╝thi 57).