If there is one thing I learned from my semester spent in the Grimm to Disney FYS, it’s that there is much more to fairy tales than there appears to be. To define a fairy tale, you must include key components like the use of magic, and a central action which drives the character to their “happily ever after” ending. Fairy tales commonly include little detail, a hero/heroine, talking animals who are often used as helpers to the main character, and contrasting forces such as good vs evil. The Brothers Grimm wrote many fairy tales, all which include subtle messages and have been interpreted and analyzed by people like Luthi and Bettelheim. Although we discussed many fairy tales over the semester, here is what I learned from a few of my favorites.
In the story “Hansel and Gretel,” the two young children both symbolize a kids fear of parent abandonment, and Gretel is recognized as one of the first female heroines in the Grimm Tales who thinks for herself. The two children’s ability to problem solve and return home due to a duck, is what signifies their maturity into adulthood. In “Cinderella”, the story reflects the idea of rising from “rags to riches” since Cinderella is originally poor but receives help from a magical bird in order to marry the wealthy prince. Her story teaches the concept that a passive girl, unlike sexually aggressive ones (her evil step sisters) will be rewarded in the end. “Snow White” is also viewed as a passive princess, who is naïve and does nothing for herself. Snow White falls victim to the patriarchal suppression of the magic mirror and the seven dwarves. Snow White’s step mother is filled with jealousy due to the young girl’s beauty, and therefore tries to kill her with weapons of feminism and a poison apple which can symbolize passion or temptation. The Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault also wrote the tale “Blue Beard” which showed the punishment for falling victim to temptation.
The fairy tale “Blue Beard” expressed the punishment for women who disobeyed their husbands and fell victim to temptation. All the wives in the story would open the forbidden room only to soon face the same fate as the dead women hanging on the walls. However, the Brothers Grimm wrote the tale “Little Red Cap” which showed the maturation of a young, naïve girl who strayed from her path. The message taught is not only to avoid talking to strangers, but is instead much deeper. Little Red, after being eaten by the wolf, becomes aware of the dangers in the world and learns from her mistakes. This signifies her maturing along her journey. The story of “Rapunzel” also tell the tale of the maturation of a young girl. Rapunzel must go through specific stages as she matures, the first being able to move on after being taken from her parents. Rapunzel is also forced to mature after Mother Gothel finds out about the Prince, cuts her long hair off, and abandons her in a desert with twins. Although there are many more tales written by the Brothers Grimm, these are a few stories which I became intrigued by due to their deeper, hidden meanings.
I enjoyed this FYS so much, it was truly an amazing experience!