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Folk Tales and Fairy Tales

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message 1: by Jim (new)

Jim Erekson (ereksonj) | 9 comments Mod
I purposefully chose authentic Grimm Brothers fairy tales for the class, following up on our earlier discussions about authenticity and didacticism. Many children's versions of folk and fairy tales remove the very elements that would help us have discussions about human themes. For example, in English fairy tales, the original version of the Three Pigs has the wolf eat the first two pigs. This emphasizes the actual danger of the wolf, and the oft-used theme of predators and prey is a metaphor for much thinking about safety and danger, about strength versus smarts, etc. Use the tales you read this week as food for thought about teaching human themes.


message 2: by Maddie (new)

Maddie Shell | 13 comments First of all, I must say that I found the Brother's Grimm fairy tales much harder to read and nail a specific theme. I feel like that is a great example of how literature, specifically fairy tales written for children, have become more clear and more didactic in that they have one specific moral or purpose. These stories, however, had multiple human themes that I think could apply to each story.

When thinking about some specific examples of the 20 fairy tales I read, I first think about The Mouse, The Bird, and the Sausage. While reading this, I picked up on three themes. One of which was the theme of longing and being unsettled - almost like a "grass is greener on the other side." Each character was so set in their own ways and routines and wanted what the other ones had. Even when they switched, they were dissatisfied. There was always this feeling of longing. Also, I felt as thought it could be a "stick with what you are good at - find your niche." Although each character was set in their ways and didn't appreciate that they were good at their set "job," when they switched and tried something new, death befell them. The last theme I could settle upon was work and how working together makes work lighter. When the mouse, the bird, and the sausage worked together, they work was lighter and easier. They each had their own job. After the sausage was eaten, the mouse and the bird tried to make up the extra work, but they were unsuccessful. Then, the mouse died, and it was just the bird who was left doing all of the jobs and then became "obliged to be drowned." It was hard to pick one specific theme for that fairy tale.

Also, there was The Death of the Hen. This fairy tale, again to me, had multiple human themes in it. The first that I caught on to was gluttony. The hen choked on the big nut because she wanted it all to herself. By the time the cock was able to help her, it was too late. That would also work with being selfish. Another theme I think was evident in this tale was death. As the cock was trying to bury the hen and more characters joined, they all just kept dying along the way.

Lastly, reading The Three Spinsters, although I think you could attach other themes to it, I felt as though the most obvious theme was the act of being cunning, sly, and tricky. The daughter was able to trick her way to the top with the queen. Her laziness was covered up by her ability to be tricky, persuasive, and cunning.

Overall, I think that the Brother's Grimm, although may have more obvious themes in some stories, can be a bit more open-ended in the fact that they can have multiple themes that could fit - or at least that is how I interpreted it.

I never realized how adapted or rewritten fairy tales were changed and more specific on the theme that they taught. I think it is important for children to be introduced to more open-ended stories/fairy tales. Reading isn't a black and white process, so why would we want a black and white answer?


message 3: by Kiah (new)

Kiah Swanson | 18 comments As we have discussed open-ended books versus didactic books, the Grimm Brothers stories were an interesting way to dive into less didactic tales. I had a harder time reading these stories because of the structure and language, but I did appreciate the open feel of the stories I read. Each of the stories left room for many human themes to be discussed. There was not a right answer, but many different themes that were presented. For example, in the story The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage, I was able to identify the following themes: nobody is content with what they have, the grass is greener on the other side, longing, work is lighter with a team, stick with what you’re good at, punishment. From such a short story, it is impressive to be able to find so many different themes. With a story like this, it would be easy to have an open discussion about how readers find themes and why they believe the theme fits. This would lead to great opportunities to discuss thinking and justify answers.

Thinking about how modern fairy tales are rewritten to be much more didactic, the Grimm Brothers tales seem much more open to discuss a variety of themes. Most modern rewritten fairy tales have a clear moral or lesson attached, however looking at another of the stories I read in the Grimm Brothers' book, I was able to, again, find a few different themes. In The Three Spinsters, I found the themes laziness, dishonesty, making excuses, cunning and tricks, appearances, and society and class. With so many different theme woven into a single story, the discussion will be much stronger than a didactic version of the fairy tale.

Comparing more modern fairy tales with these stories, it is clear that although the Grimm Brothers stories are more challenging to read and connect with, they allow for much more open discussion. Depending on the aim of the story being chosen, this book would be a unique and thought provoking option.


message 4: by Maddie (new)

Maddie Shell | 13 comments Kiah wrote: "As we have discussed open-ended books versus didactic books, the Grimm Brothers stories were an interesting way to dive into less didactic tales. I had a harder time reading these stories because o..."

Kiah, I completely agree with you about the tales being less didactic in nature. I actually felt like I struggled with them because I am so used to "one correct answer" - SHAME ON ME! I know that is not how reading should be, but that's the type of reading instruction I feel that I received. This book was a good reminder that there is no right answer and its okay to struggle to find the themes. Although some were obvious, others really made me think.

I also would agree with you about them being hard to connect with. I wonder if that is because they are written in a way that has a different wordplay than what we are used to in modern fairy tales?


message 5: by Bri (last edited Jun 07, 2016 08:09AM) (new)

Bri Schupp | 14 comments After reading the Brother's Grimm stories, I concluded two things: first, today's children's literature shelters us and strays away from violence, consequence, and gruesome details. Second, the theme or moral is almost immediately recognizable in modern stories.

I agree that the Brother's Grimm stories are more difficult to read and more difficult to connect with the plot. I think that is because we are so used to reading stories that have neat, concise plots (rising action, climax, and resolution) in which the moral is obviously stated. I found that in many of these stories, I was left at the end thinking, "Really, that's it? It ends like that?" Obviously, I have been trained as a reader as to what to expect from my reading experience and many of these stories did not provide the norm.

I can clearly see now that I'm used to reading didactic stories. Brothers Grimm stories were much more open-ended. There were a few in which the human themes were apparent, but several that I had to really think about or reread. Clever Grethel was one that I recognized the themes of loyalty, selfishness, and dishonesty right away. However, it ends with the master and guest both getting tricked and no consequence for the cook or resolution for the reader. What was the moral?

I felt the same way about several of the shorter stories. The Straw, The coal, and The Bean and The Death of the Hen left me feeling confused about the human theme or lesson. Is it just that I am so used to the moral being obviously stated that I am baffled when it's not?

Some of the more well-known stories were easier for me. While Rapunzel, Hansel and Grethel, and Snow White had more recognizable themes (evil entices the innocent, perseverance, delayed gratification), I noticed that they were much more violent here. We often present these stories with additional friendly characters or less traumatizing details that originally written.
I definitely recognized that some of the details that lend to human themes discussions have been removed. I would be curious to read the original Brothers Grimm stories to my class and have them compare and contrast.


message 6: by Megan (last edited Jun 07, 2016 03:33PM) (new)

Megan Downey | 21 comments After reading the Elliot Singer article Fakelore, Multiculturalism, and the Ethics of Children's Literature, I now look at children's fairytale books in a whole new light. I now can see how "fakelore" and children's books are "written by children's book writers for children's book readers," and how much they differ from the original folktales from which they came. It is interesting how modern fairytales usually have a happy ending and therefore turning them into "white bread" as stated in the article. For example, here is the ending to The Rabbit's Bride by Grimm: "And the rabbit thought that he had killed his bride and he went away and was very sad." Do we sugar coat children's stories to protect them from the realities of life? Is this better than preparing them for real life?


message 7: by Allison (last edited Jun 09, 2016 09:14AM) (new)

Allison Pearse | 24 comments These Brothers Grimm stories cracked me up! Many of them have just a pinch of dark humor---or maybe I misinterpreted it as dark humor because I was so stunned by some of the shocking or abrupt endings. Sometimes it was the shocking nature of these stories that made their themes clear. For instance, in "Prudent Hans," the young man misconstrues his mother's advice of how to tote the gifts he received, and his mother realizes that he was receiving gifts from a girl who had a crush on him. His mother insinuates that he should have returned the flirtation and says, "You should have cast sheep's eyes at her." Prudent Hans (whose name is ironic) took this quite literally, and gathered the eyeballs of sheep and threw them at Grethel, ruining his romantic prospect. The story's human theme of foolishness ruining a good outcome is clear in a shocking yet funny way!

I found the collection of stories to be mainly open-ended in theme, but sometimes there were drizzles of old-fashioned didacticism. Often, a moral was present, but rarely did the story say, "And the moral of the story is..." as some modernized editions of fairy tales sometimes do. Many affective universals shone through in the sometimes violent stories, and a reader often was guided toward a sense of how to achieve "success" at these universals. For instance, "Rumplestiltskin" showed that it was better to be clever and wise than to be foolishly boastful.

At the same time, though, some of the stories seemed to let evil triumph, going againt the grain of teaching a traditional moral. Such was the case in "The Wonderful Musician," who kept stringing up animals that would come listen to his music. In the end, the musician was defended by a woodsman when the animals tried to retaliate.

On the more clear-cut lesson side, "Cat and Mouse in Partnership" gave a clear warning of partnering with someone who does not have your best interest in mind. The story even ended with the matter-of-fact, "And that is the way of the world."

I believe this collection helps readers to see that life does not always have the endings we expect or hope for, but sometimes it does. Perhaps this is the overall theme these colletive stories present. To water down or alter these stories would indeed make them less shocking and more rosy, but would give a false sense that every story in life will always have a happy ending. This misrepresentation of the human experience, moreso than a shocking ending to a story, can be harmful to a young reader. With that, I agree that constantly altering older tales to cut out the shock value might not be in our best interest.

Singer's somewhat spicy article on "fakelore" made me excited to go check some out from the library. I look forward to reading several versions of fairytales to see how they compare, and to see how some of the more violent elements are smoothed over in fakelore. I teach a unit on world mythology each year, and I'm now more aware than ever of the importance of using authentic versions of texts that do not water down the style, plot, characters, or themes. Interstingly, my classes sometimes watch clips from Disney's Hercules, as well as read the actual myth. Then we discuss why the movie makers made such drastic changes, and whether or not the students feel it was ok for that to happen.


message 8: by Lesley (new)

Lesley | 24 comments I’ve loved fairy tales for as long as I can remember. I know that Jed Alexander said that they’re not appropriate for children, and I see why he said it, but I still love them. I like the gross originals, and I have found many adaptations that I enjoy. Eliot Singer says I shouldn’t like the adaptations, and I see why he says that, but I still do.

I started this assignment by choosing 10 familiar (The Frog Prince, Rapunzel, Hansel and Grethel, The Fisherman and His Wife, Little Red Cap, The Bremen-Town Musicians, Tom Thumb, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Rumpelstiltskin) and 10 unfamiliar (Cat and Mouse in Partnership, The Twelve Brothers, The Three Little Men in the Wood, The Three Spinsters, Mother Hulda, The Elves, The Almond Tree, Old Sultan, The Six Swans, and King Thrushbeard tales from the table of contents. First I read the familiar tales and then I read the unfamiliar ones. It turns out that the first Elves story is familiar, but the other two are not.

The themes are not as clear in the original versions of the familiar stories as they are in many adaptations. As we've discussed, the themes and morals in many adaptations beat us over the head. The originals are much more open ended, and often more than one theme stands out. Many of the familiar stories dealt with universal issues of loyalty and betrayal. Many of them also demonstrated the benefits of being clever. Many (but not all) of the unfamiliar tales that I read focused on the value of choosing to help others over self. There was quite a bit of cleverness vs. foolishness as well. The stories that are popular in our society certainly reflect our cultural values, though not necessarily personal values. I thought it was interesting that the tales that focus on the good of others over individual gain aren’t the ones that are popular in our culture.

The wording of these stories was, at times, peculiar. In the Fakelore article, Singer said, “If our desire is to give children a sense of the otherness of stories from other cultures, there is nothing that better conveys otherness than wording that seems strange yet is comprehensible.” That absolutely makes sense. However, since we’re reading a translation, how much does the peculiar wording matter? I’m not questioning Lucy Crane’s translating skills, but the fact that we’re already removed from the original wording makes me wonder what we lose when James Marshall retells The Frog Prince in easier to understand language. Do we read these tales to get a sense of Germany in the early 1800s or do we read them because they're part of our culture?


message 9: by Lesley (last edited Jun 07, 2016 02:58PM) (new)

Lesley | 24 comments Megan wrote: "...here is the ending to The Rabbit's Bride by Grimm: "And the rabbit thought that he had killed his bride and he went away and was very sad." Do we sugar coat children's stories to protect then from the realities of life? Is this better than preparing them for real life?"

I had the same thought. The Twelve Brothers ends with, "But the wicked mother-in-law was very unhappy and died miserably." Is the idea that nasty, hateful people end up alone and miserable a bad thing for kids to hear? It might be less damaging than the happily ever after myth.


message 10: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Carpenter | 19 comments I have always been one to love a good fairy tale. As a child I couldn't wait for the happily ever after. My view on fair tales has changed after our previous readings and discussions. My versions of the fairy tale were the sugar coated and child friendly...so much more didactic in nature. The themes of them being very easy to recognize and tended to have a happy ending that really satisfied me as the reader.

After reading the Brothers Grimm versions of these stories, I was left hanging, or not really sure of the theme. They really made me think and reread to discover what the stories were truly about. I chose to read some familiar stories (The Frog Prince, Rapunzel, Hansel and Grethel, The Bremen Town Musicians, Tom Thumb, The Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin, and the Golden Goose) as well as some not so familiar (The Rabbit's Bride, Six Soldiers of Fortune, Clever Grethel, The Death of the Hen, Hans in Luck, The Goose Girl, The Raven, Cat and Mouse in Partnership, The Wolf and the Seven Kids, and Faithful John). I was intrigued by the changes in the familiar stories. For example, in the Frog Prince, I was surprised by how snotty the little princess was and that it was the king who forced her to do the frog's bidding. She never kissed the frog to make him a prince, instead she threw him at the wall in anger. Also, I thought it was interesting how at the end the focus was more on the faithful servant Henry that had been obliged to wear three iron rings around his heart because he was so distressed by the spell put on the prince. This version definitely left more open to discuss, like how was it that the spell was broken by this princess. And what happened to the princess after she realized that she had treated the frog poorly, but he was really a prince. I see so many more possibilities for discussion with this version than I ever did with the one I was familiar with.

Another story that got me thinking was the story The Death of the Hen. The selfish nature of the animals at the beginning of the story, all insisting on the cock doing a favor for them first, before they would help him, inevitably causing the death of his poor wife, the Hen. Then in the cocks misery all of a sudden the animals gather around and want to help, but as they try to assist him, so many more deaths occur. So is this punishment for their selfish acts, or is the cock now being selfish not caring for their lives? There is so much more to think about in this short two page story. Although a bit morbid, the human themes that can be taught are abundant. Is it important to value all life? Is one life more important than another? Did all of these lives end tragically because of the hen being gluttonous and breaking her agreement with the cock before they got to nut mountain?

I found these stories to be more and more interesting as I read them. I feel like nowadays we try to shelter kids too much and they aren't learning about the real world because of it. I think these stories, although more violent in nature, can be more thought provoking and they don't lean towards that sentimental with that perfect happy ending or unattainable prince charming.


message 11: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Carpenter | 19 comments Megan wrote: "After reading the Elliot Singer article Fakelore, Multiculturalism, and the Ethics of Children's Literature, I now look at children's fairytale books in a whole new light. I now can see how "fakelo..."

I too thought about that article as I reflected on my own childhood versions of these fairtales. Why is it that we have to make them kid friendly and happily ever after? Do we as a society think that children can't handle a unhappy ending? or that kids will be damaged because of it? Do we have to twist the tales to make just one moral or lesson that we think it should be telling? I definitely have reflected on that article when thinking of other books that I have included in my classroom over the years.


message 12: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Carpenter | 19 comments Lesley wrote: "I’ve loved fairy tales for as long as I can remember. I know that Jed Alexander said that they’re not appropriate for children, and I see why he said it, but I still love them. I like the gross ori..."

I thought it was interesting how you talked about the changing of wording in the translation. Is a few changes in the translation to make it easier to read going to impact the whole story? Or should kids be exposed to the strange wording as it is directly translated? How far do you take this idea of preserving the authentic tale?


message 13: by Jim (new)

Jim Erekson (ereksonj) | 9 comments Mod
Having talked to Eliot Singer many times about these things, you should know that he loves a well-told story no matter what. His main problem with folk tale adaptations is when they masquerade to be authentic representations of a current or historical culture (as Social Studies content), but the very details that were valued within that culture get changed or dropped by the adapter. It takes careful author research into the folklore and anthropology of a culture to write a faithful adaptation that can be used this way.

So it's most important to be faithful to originals when we are taking a cultural angle on the stories (social studies content), as is often the case when we teach Native American tales. This is one cultural area for which picturebooks and curriculum versions are notoriously the -worst- adaptations we can find. You'll do so much better to gather authentic collections of Native American folklore than you ever will with adaptations, even those adapted by insiders.

The next question for me about authenticity is the nature of the human themes in the original. When no pigs get eaten by the wolf, suddenly The Three Pigs isn't even about the same thing anymore. It's one thing to trick a dopey wolf (hello Disney!), but it's entirely another thing to try to use one's wits to escape the predator wolf who already ate two brothers. I couldn't even have the same discussion with kids if we watched the Disney version. Original trickster tales usually amp up the narrative with some kind of high-stakes, such as tricking Death or the devil at the moment of death, tricking a predator (such as a giant or wolf) to avoid being eaten, tricking a jailor or executioner, etc.

Strange wording is useful when we are trying to help kids think about the historical and linguistic provenance of tales. When we're not focused discussing these with the kids, we wouldn't worry about it. In Blackboard I'll post a copy of the translated tale I published a couple years ago in Marvels & Tales (you can scroll past the theory to the tale if you wish!), where I tried to preserve some of the strangeness of the German and Nayeri of the original.


message 14: by Annie (new)

Annie | 15 comments I really enjoy reading these tales because I find them really entertaining but also a tad dark and mysterious; which always catches my attention. Many of these stories I have heard as well, and I love rereading them. One of my favorites from The Household Stories by the Brothers Grimm was Rumplestiltskin. I grew up reading this story and I also had the movie! I never knew this as a child but there were many human themes throughout the story. One lesson that was taught was to not lie and tell someone you can do something that you can't. I.e. Spin straw into gold. Another lesson that was taught is not to make promises you cannot keep, such as trading your first born child for a room full of gold.

I do agree that some fairy tales and folk tales these days are much easier to read than the Brothers Grimm stories, but I think that the Brothers Grimm stories also shared lessons and have didactic themes. I also agree that fairy tales and folk tales do have a clearer way of sharing didactic themes and ideas for students. I do see myself using the Brother Grimm stories in my class, and having them dig for the hidden meanings and lessons.

Another story I really enjoyed reading was the story called Mr. Korbes. It was harder to read because of some of the language used and the vocabulary is older. It did teach a human theme such as respecting people's homes and not invading someone's home...? That is what I got from that story, which also made me laugh.

Also something I noticed about this story is that it actually has someone die in the story....
This day and age, teachers are limited to what they can read based on what is appropriate. With some of these stories, I know I would have some parent emails and children having a nightmare. I have some sensitive children in my class that scare WAY TOO easily and just having someone die in the story would send emails my way. I understand if that is why some of these stories are no longer shared with children, or that some themes have changed.

Another story just proved my last point, kind of...
It was the story of the Sausage, the Bird, and the Mouse. Not only was it difficult to read, and students would not understand what happened, they wouldn't be able to figure out that the characters died because of the bird's selfishness. That story would definitely not be enjoyed in my classroom. I think if they made changes to this story, they would change characters and also the characters outcomes. Which may not be a bad idea...


message 15: by Sierra (new)

Sierra Bitsie | 19 comments I had a great time reading through the Grimm's fairytales. What struck me the most about the authentic versions of these stories was the rhythm and rather "dry" vocabulary as opposed to the flowery and descriptive language that is more commonly found in modern "re-tellings". It made me think about Singer's commentary on the disregard for the style in which folktales are originally told. There is nothing wrong with making adaptations in a re-telling, but the complete shift in style can actually change the meaning of the story and the way in which it is interpreted by readers. It was difficult to get used to the way the original Grimm stories were written but it added another layer to the experience of reading the authentic versions.

I also found it difficult to identify a clear theme or moral in some of the stories. In particular, I found that "The Wonderful Musician" strayed far from the format that modern fairytales follow. In the original story, the musician travels through the forest playing music in the hopes of attracting a companion. A wolf, a fox, and a hare all wish to join him along the way but he tricks them into traps by telling them that he will teach them how to play. The wolf gets loose and lets the fox and hare out of their traps and they pursue the musician with the intent of revenge. At this point the musician has found a woodcutter and enchanted him with his music and when the woodcutter sees the animals coming to harm the musician he threatens them with his ax and they run away. I expected the musician to be harmed for his poor behavior but instead he was rewarded.

Also, in "The White Snake" the King's daughter is too proud of her status to take a husband who is not worthy. She develops a series of complicated and dangerous tasks for any man who wishes to marry her and if they cannot complete the tasks then they will die. With the help of the animals he helped, one of the men completes all of the tasks and then when he brings her a golden apple she happily marries him and they fall in love and live long happy lives. (Also, he kills his horse to feed it to baby ravens at one point - which just baffled me!)

These strange and more open-ended stories made me think a lot more about the potential purpose or theme behind them. I found that I have become a lot more critical of literature when I'm not being hit over the head with the moral. I think that these stories would have potential for great open-ended and critical discussions in class. And I'm sure that my students wouldn't mind a more violent version... haha


message 16: by Sierra (new)

Sierra Bitsie | 19 comments Jim wrote: "Having talked to Eliot Singer many times about these things, you should know that he loves a well-told story no matter what. His main problem with folk tale adaptations is when they masquerade to b..."

I never realized how little research goes into adaptations of folktales until I read Singer's article. As a person of significant Native American heritage, this was very upsetting to me. My father is Navajo, but I grew up in a white household with little authentic exposure to the culture on my dad's side of the family. My mom and dad did the best that they could to introduce cultural books into my childhood library, but reading the article made me realize just how many of those books are complete "fakelore". I can see how these inaccurate representations of stories that rest at the heart of a culture and its values are harmful to the self-esteem and identity of people who personally identify with those cultures. Frustrating!


message 17: by Sierra (new)

Sierra Bitsie | 19 comments Rachel wrote: "I have always been one to love a good fairy tale. As a child I couldn't wait for the happily ever after. My view on fair tales has changed after our previous readings and discussions. My versions o..."

Rachel,

Your comment about the snottiness of the princess in "The Princess and the Frog" reminded me of the female characters in some of the other stories as well. In "The White Snake" the king's daughter is also very entitled and rude but she is rewarded at the end, as is the princess in "The Princess and the Frog". This was confusing to me because similar behavior from female characters in different stories was punished very harshly. Most often these characters were stepmothers or evil witches. All of these female characters had a preoccupation with vanity, pride, or material wealth but some were rewarded with happiness and love while others suffered painful deaths.

I wonder if these books could be used to discuss gender roles or stereotypical representations of people based on their gender, looks, or socio-economic status.


message 18: by Maddie (new)

Maddie Shell | 13 comments Bri,

I couldn't agree with you more! Kids are definitely more sheltered in the fairy tales that they read and are exposed to. It can be a slippery slope with what they are ready to be exposed to, especially in the eyes of their parents. I think it's our job as educators to know what to expose them to and how to go about it. I think the Brother's Grimm fairy tales, of course, are better fairy tales and have more to say about human themes than the fairy tales we see today. I would love to see my students wrestle with some of these tales and see what they come up with!


message 19: by Kiah (new)

Kiah Swanson | 18 comments Bri wrote: "After reading the Brother's Grimm stories, I concluded two things: first, today's children's literature shelters us and strays away from violence, consequence, and gruesome details. Second, the the..."

Bri, I felt the exact same way reading these stories. I agree with you that we seem to be trained or accustomed to reading stories that are nicely wrapped up with a clear good guy and bad guy, a clear plot with a beautifully tied up conclusion, and a very neat little moral at the end. Reading the Brothers Grimm stories, I felt as though I were left hanging. I had to reread or pause and ponder what exactly the stories were about. It was not a structure that I was used to or comfortable with. I am still trying to decide if I like the stories or not. I enjoy the open-endedness of the stories, but I felt like they were not much of a story in some cases. It felt like the stories were not finished, or the stories were mixed up. I particularly disliked the fact that there were often no consequences for behavior that I personally found unacceptable. It makes me question what the efferent effect of these stories would be. Will the students take away the disregard for doing the right thing, or will they take away the open-ended options for discovering multiple themes?


message 20: by Erin (new)

Erin Ewing | 18 comments I agree with so many of your comments about feeling left cut short after reading the Grimm's stories. I'll admit that I don't really remember reading many of the authentic Grimm stories and I was surprised at how short they were and I had a hard time finding a clear theme in the ones that I read.

I decided to read right from the start and begin with the Rabbit's Bride. I think the rabbit represents the role of the dangers of the world that we know we need to be weary of (because our mothers told us to.) But sometimes, we must see these dangers for ourselves to better understand the ups and downs of life and become wiser. The mother allowed the girl to face the danger of the rabbit entrusting her to handle the situation and come home to her wiser for it.

And, oh wow, The Almond Tree! Yikes! Beheading and cannibalism?! Immediately after reading, I had to run and tell my husband the story. What does that say about me?
The competitive nature between children and step parents is a very realistic theme in this tale as well as extreme greed. The mother got what she deserved, so as least this tale ended like I thought it should.

I came to the conclusion after reading these tales that I am used to the typical story with rising story action, a climax/problem, and a solution wrapped up in a neat bow. I supposed we are all used to this type of story and that is precisely why we are all a little shaken by these Grimm brothers!!

For the same reason the Grimm tales disturbed me--the lack of traditional rich story telling where the bad guy gets it in the end and everyone ends up happy--I was equally disheartened by the 'fakelore' article about authors embellishing or just plain fabricating stories under the guise of "folklore"-- adding these elements that didn't exist in the originals just to sell copies.

I have definitely enjoyed reading folklore, namely Tomie dePaola stories, to my students and discussing the morals and themes of the stories and, feeling like we had learned a bit about the native culture. While these stories are popular for use in the classroom and still have value, we should take advice that Singer gives to teachers and parents: Seek out quality, authentic folklore to share with children "as is, or with cautions" and allow kids to see the difference and not allow "picture books to do our thinking for us."


message 21: by Erin (new)

Erin Ewing | 18 comments Sierra wrote: "I had a great time reading through the Grimm's fairytales. What struck me the most about the authentic versions of these stories was the rhythm and rather "dry" vocabulary as opposed to the flowery..."

I liked your comment about how the Grimm tales as dry and we are all used to flowery. Flowery sells. That is the bottom line. Singer agrees and doesn't begrudge the author to add some style to the authentic story or to allow the story to change when tradition and culture change. But, the end result should stay consistent with the culture's heritage and beliefs. I think the following quote from the article says it all, "I can just see an English teacher "correcting" a story by a tribal elder in order to add more description and get rid of repetition...that native storytellers just didn't tell their stories well enough..."


message 22: by Katie (last edited Jun 08, 2016 06:36AM) (new)

Katie Boisen | 17 comments A couple of things come into mind after reading many of 'The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm.' One is that I found it more difficult to pull out the human theme than I am used to. It seems that their is more room for interpretation with these tales. A reader can interpret the theme of the fairy/folk table more based on their background knowledge and schema. I, personally, had to dig into many to come up with a theme that I'm not even sure is correct. (Or does there have to be a correct theme?) Specifically, when I was reading 'The Cook Named Grethel.' I believe the theme was to not be dishonest, but again, who's to say?

That being said, I believe more modern literature hands the readers of many didactic pieces the human theme much easier. Often times, it's listed right in a sentence at the end of the tale! This can lead readers to be less critical and use less critical thinking skills. On the other hand, if a reader wants the tale and theme spoon-fed to them, that's what they get. I think it all depends on the reader's purpose.

Another thought that connects to both of the above is the amount of reading between the texts it seems readers have to do to decipher human themes from 'The Brothers Grimm' collections. For instance, when I was reading 'Six Soldiers of Fortune' I was trying to decide if the six soldiers were good guys or bad guys. I was trying to decide what the king and his daughter's role was in the tale because that is what I'm used to doing as a reader in the 20th and 21st century, placing characters into categories (protagonist, antagonist, main, etc.), but I'm not sure that was important to Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm when they wrote these tales over 200 years ago.


message 23: by Bri (new)

Bri Schupp | 14 comments Sierra wrote: "Jim wrote: "Having talked to Eliot Singer many times about these things, you should know that he loves a well-told story no matter what. His main problem with folk tale adaptations is when they mas..."

Sierra, when I taught fifth grade, we taught a substantial Native American history unit. As part of that unit, I collected many folktales and picture books for read-alouds. I now feel the same way... how many of them lack authenticity? I just never thought about it before reading the article. Several of the books have author's notes describing the origin, research, experience that went into writing the story that makes it appear authentic and culturally accurate. I'm not exactly sure how to research or validate true authenticity. I am however, going to look at folklore in a more educated, skeptical way.


message 24: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Carpenter | 19 comments Jim wrote: "Having talked to Eliot Singer many times about these things, you should know that he loves a well-told story no matter what. His main problem with folk tale adaptations is when they masquerade to b..."

Thanks for posting the link to that tale that was translated. It was interesting to read it, and the way that the words were presented really did make it feel more authentic. It was not as distracting as I thought it might be. Interesting story too.


message 25: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Carpenter | 19 comments Katie wrote: "A couple of things come into mind after reading many of 'The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm.' One is that I found it more difficult to pull out the human theme than I am used t..."

I also found myself trying to place the characters into specific categories when reading the Grimm fairy tales. So many of them left it unclear, which leads to so much more discussion and critical thinking. I did the same thing with the Soldiers of Fortune...I kept thinking the leader was a bad guy and then the princess would be a main focal point, but non of what I thought would happen did.


message 26: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea Rusch (chelsealanes) | 6 comments After looking at original Grimm Brothers folk and fairy tales, I can see how much we have altered these great stories to fit into our cultural norms. When we take out these human elements, the heart of the story changes.
It was fun to read these tales and compare them to our modified versions. One of the Grimm stories I read was Rapunzel, and it blew me away how much we have changed the original story. When we think of Rapunzel, we think about the beautiful princess with the long hair that ultimately saved her from being stuck in the tower (our typical fairy tale damsel in distress). The original story is much different. Rapunzel's mother craved to eat rapunzel out of a fairy garden that was forbidden. After her father had been caught stealing rapunzel out of the garden, he agreed to give the fairy his first born child, who the fairy named Rapunzel, and she was locked away in a tower. A young prince happened upon her and would climb up her hair to visit. When Rapunzel became pregnant, the fairy was angry that she had been betrayed and cut Rapunzel's hair.
This tale, the original, would take a lot more unpacking and discussing to be able to understand. After first read, I was left wondering what the human themes in the story even were. In the tale, we see a repetition of betrayal, which is something that would be interesting to discuss with students. From what I remember, the Disney version of Rapunzel does not have big betrayal stories at all.
Although I think literature with cultural similarities is valuable, I think we have done our children a disservice in romanticizing classic tales like those of the Brothers Grimm. I also think it would be a really fun study in the classroom to compare original stories and their Westernized counterparts.


message 27: by Lanae (new)

Lanae Zaragoza | 14 comments I enjoyed reading many of the tales in 'Household Stories by the Brothers Grimm.' I found them interesting and I was thoroughly engaged while reading. I found that for some stories it somewhat difficult to pull out human themes after reading these tales. If it hadn't been for my background knowledge on some of them, I may not have been able to find a human theme. Other stories I could pull out the human theme/s right away. I can see a variety of both didactic stories and authenticity throughout these stories. However, there is more authenticity to these stories and the reader is left open-ended in most.

While reading, The Wolf and the Seven Little Goats, I was able to determine a clear human theme of safety and danger. There was also a present theme of cleverness and innocence. The goats were doing as there mother said by not letting the wolf in with the hoarse voice and black paws. However, the wolf ends up outsmarting the children with his cleverness. This story presents a clear human theme. I would say it falls under the didactic umbrella. The theme is specific to teaching safety and danger.

Other stories required multiple readings to come up with a human theme I believed fit that story, if I could even find one. The story, The Rabbit's Bride, confused me tremendously. I could not find a theme and found the tale unusual. The tale, The Mouse, The Bird, and The Sausage also challenged me to dig deep to find a human theme. There are also more stories in this book that left the reader thinking. The tales I am most familiar with are the ones I consider didactic. However, do I feel that way because I have background knowledge of the story and didn't leave room to think open ended about the story? Whereas, the stories I was unfamiliar with throughout the book, I was left puzzled and having to think critically.

This book challenged me to dig deep into the literature and think critically about the themes presented. I feel it would do the same for my students. It would be a great way to get authentic text in front of them and engage in open ended discussions.


message 28: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Crouse | 13 comments After reading some of the stories in the Brother's Grimm book. I would have to agree with a majority of the class. The message in these books is a lot harder to find than in modern day tales. I had to go back several times to some of the stories I read to figure out what the human theme was. For example, I read 'Snow White' at first for enjoyment and then I went back and thought about what was being taught. I concluded one theme in the story was about trust and that we should not be to quick to trust someone. However, I completely agree with Katie when she mentioned we interpret the theme based on our own schema and background knowledge.

I think this would be a very interesting idea to bring to our students. Maybe introducing lessons being taught with didactic text and then bringing in stories where the message is not so clear and see what they have to say about it.

Another thing I was quick to notice in most of the stories I read was how the ending was so abrupt. I was expecting to have a happy ending or as I like to think a 'Disney' ending. Most of these stories were not like that. It was really interesting to go back and read some of these famous stories to figure out how they have been told differently.


message 29: by Allison (last edited Jun 08, 2016 02:08PM) (new)

Allison Pearse | 24 comments Sierra wrote: "Jim wrote: "Having talked to Eliot Singer many times about these things, you should know that he loves a well-told story no matter what. His main problem with folk tale adaptations is when they mas..."

Sierra,

Very well put about how frustrating fakelore can be when trying to connect with one's own culture. As a teacher, too, it is challenging to try to find authentic stories so as to not misrepresent a culture.

It is to my understanding that many Navajo stories are only supposed to be told at specific times of year for varying reasons. Do you know more about this? If this is true, it seems like it would not be commonplace for these stories to be published, but instead to only be told at the appropriate time of year through the oral storytelling tradition. I wonder if other groups of people have similar practices about keeping certain stories sacred for certain times of year.


message 30: by KBirdsall (new)

KBirdsall | 14 comments I found Grimm Tales to be rather interesting to read because I was continuously comparing them to the “retold” tales I read nowadays (or watch, if it is a Disney variation.) I find it fascinating to see how the stories have changed and morphed to fit societal structure of the day, but I still find at its core some of the same instrumental moral values. I find that Grimm stories are still highly didactic in that they have a moral and an intentional lesson, but they are harder to find because our society is not used to finding them in that same way. Societal expectations have changed so drastically from the time of Grimm to nowadays that when the tale is retold, it is told for a different audience and is therefore drastically changed.
I noticed that characters in Grimm Tales are very one sided and often set in their ways with little or no character changes – their flaws are often their demise, and their good attributes are what save them, but they never drastically change. These iconic characters include the clever son, the dutiful daughter, the wicked witch/step-mother, the greedy animal, and the magical helper. For example, “The Twelve Brothers” or “ The Six Swans” are basically variations of the same story: brothers get magically transformed into birds, dutiful daughter/sister must stay silent for a certain amount of time and make magical shirts; daughter stays dutiful and silent, even when threatened with death; brothers swoop down and save dutiful sister right in the nick of time. I feel that the themes in these stories are to always do exactly as promised as it is your duty and to be patient. Being a dutiful and patient girl is also seen in “3 men in the wood” and “The Goose Girl.” Doing as promised, even when downtrodden, will eventually result in you winning and others losing. In these, often when the dutiful girl is restored to power, those that caused her pain will suffer horrendous punishments like dancing in hot irons or “ put naked into a cask, studded inside with sharp nails, and dragged along in it by white horses from street to street until she be dead,” usually the perpetrator unknowingly suggesting their own demise. The perpetrator, often the evil step-mother, has never undergone any character changes, and is evil at the beginning and the end. The dutiful girl, although her situation changes, is always pure, sweet, kind and dutiful. She does not learn or change, she does what she is supposed to do. She also does not often make decisions – these girls are often found, even if they can’t speak, and are married off to Kings. This clearly defines social norms of the time, and gives the intended audience moral guidance.
So how have these stories changed over time? They are drastically different. First, we notice a softened punishment. The pigs don’t die in retellings of “the Three Little Pigs”, and in “The Frog Prince” the princess doesn’t throw the frog, but instead kisses it and falls in love and everything is perfect. Evil Step mothers do not get dragged through town naked in a cask on a horse, but instead are often forgiven by the sweet princesses.
However, I would argue that often characters in contemporary retellings are more complex and relatable to contemporary viewers. For example, in the Grimm Tale “Rapunzel,” the prince who has impregnated Rapunzel is cast out of the tower by Gothel and lands in some thorns, blinding him, and he must search, blind and hurt, for his love. There is still a bit of a happy ending since they do find each other and Rapunzel’s tears magically heal his blindness. So how has Disney changed the story? Well, Gothel is an evil witch, but her twisted sense of motherly love is perhaps more easily recognized than in the Grimm story when she says “ I thought I had hidden thee from all the world, and thou hast betrayed me!” The prince is not a prince but in fact a thief, and his charm doesn’t automatically work on Rapunzel, but eventually they realize their love through a complex plot. In the Grimm tale, Rapunzel is a naïve girl who decides to hatch an escape plan with the prince because “I certainly like him much better than old mother Gothel.” In Tangled, Rapunzel is still naïve, but she wants to find out more about the world, and she fights with her concept of what is right and wrong and how she might hurt her mother. Disney’s characters are complex, easier to relate to, and their problems and situations are easier to recognize in today’s society because they are written with today’s society in mind.
In retellings, we see often the dutiful daughter or damsel in distress turn into a positive character that has control over her own destiny. This is evident in stories like Tangled, or “The Goose Girl” by Sharon Hale. And personally, I would rather read aloud stories where there are characters that change and have multiple facets than iconic puppets. So which stories are more “authentic”? Well, if authenticity is about cultural respect and recognizing cultural and time sensitive themes, then the Grimm tales are obviously more authentic. But if authentic is stories that children connect to and recognize themselves in the stories, and better reflect societal issues of the day, then retold stories are better to teach to children. As times change and contemporary books are written for children that delve more into the complex nature of human decisions, as often retold fairy tales in post modern books do, then I think these stories should be taught to children more-so than Grimm tales. Grimm tales represent a beautiful history and still have value in historical context, but I think they are things that young adults should study and appreciate. Their purpose was to tell the expectations of the day, and punishment, gender roles, and concepts of duty have drastically changed.
Now I feel differently when using a cultural folktale that misinforms children –that is obviously abhorrent as misinformation about culture can damage a child’s early understanding of other cultures. I agree with Eliot Singer that if authors are using culture as a sales pitch without actively researching and presenting the folktale authentically as it is intended, then they are doing a great disservice to that culture. This is one of the reasons I stay away from teaching art culture lessons that have a particularly religious connection- having children make Kachina dolls or totem poles is mocking the sacred nature of these items. Oftentimes, cultural folktales have to do with faith, and creating misinformation or playing with the nature of these folktales is mocking cultural belief systems and is highly disrespectful. If we are to teach children how to respect other cultures, we must teach them authentically about the culture, not water it down so that it can fit more peacefully into our societal molds.


message 31: by Danielle (new)

Danielle Rossé | 11 comments After reading the Grimm Fairytales this week I also noticed that the themes of these tales were often harder to pick out, and that they required the reader to sometimes dig a little deeper into the story to really find those themes. This is unlike many of the children's books found today where those didactic themes are often very obvious.The Grimm Fairytales leave much more room for discussion among readers and many have multiple layers and themes to the stories themselves.

While reading the Six Soldiers of Fortune I noticed right away that the theme was not going to jump out at me right away like other children's books. For a while I felt like the story was taking quite a while to get to the point. Which shows me that I am far too comfortable with reading books that so readily point out the theme to me. Eventually the themes that I picked up on in this tale were that we are always stronger in groups than we are alone and that we can often accomplish more in groups than alone. Another theme that stood out to me was that our differences are something to be celebrated as all of the characters in this tale had very different talents or quirks that at first seemed to potentially be a disadvantage but as it turned out became very useful to the entire group.

Another tale whose themes stood out to me was The Wolf and Seven Little Goats. One theme I picked up on was a bit more obvious and directly stated to the reader. This was when the wolf had gone to the baker to help him with his disguise. Initially the baker refuses knowing that it is only going to help the wolf bring harm to someone else. However when the wolf threatens to eat him he gives in. The narrator then says "That just shows what men are." To me this brought out the theme that it is human nature for people to look out for themselves when faced with a challenge or danger rather than standing up for others. At the end of this story when the wolf has drowned because of the rocks the mother put into his stomach I noticed the theme of "what goes around comes around." The wolf had viciously eaten 6 innocent goats and eventually karma came back to punish him for those actions.

I think these fairy tales provide great ways for teaching human themes in a way that students have to dig a little deeper and do a bit more critical thinking than with more modern texts.


message 32: by Monica (new)

Monica Ver Meer | 13 comments I remember hearing about the Grimm Brother's fairy tales but I don't think I have ever read them! I was caught off guard after reading the first story 'The Rabbit's Bride'.... I found myself thinking, "what just happened" and "where was the happily ever after?" These were definitely not the traditional tales I was used to! I found myself thinking a lot about Singer's article on "fakelore" and how the fairy tales I have grown up with are definitely a sweeter version of the originals! Although I enjoyed comparing the tales that I knew to stories that were familiar in the Grimm tales I found several of them to be cut short and left me with a lot of questions. I stuggled to find themes in many of the stories because of this. For example, after reading 'The Rabbits Bride' I couldn't figure out why the girl went with the rabbit in the first place? Why on the third try would she leave with the rabbit? The best theme I could come up with is, don't trust a stranger!
While reading 'Clever Grethel' I thought the theme would be about consequences for gluttony and selfishness, but in the end Grethel faces no consequences for her actions.
I chose the 'Frog Prince' because it was familiar story. Although the princess was even more unkind then in stories I am familiar with, the theme was more clear. This story is about keeping promises that have been made and the popular frog to prince fairy tale theme is uphelp, although the poor frog must be thrown at a wall to become a prince... and he marries the princess that hurls him at the wall in the end!
Modern day tales have clearly been adapted into the happily ever after theme and adapted to be more "kid friendly." Although I found the Grimm tales to be more shocking, it is unfortunate that we must shield children from the original works just to fill in more answers and make tales less open-ended for our society that demands answers and well rounded stories.


message 33: by Kiah (new)

Kiah Swanson | 18 comments Erin wrote: "I agree with so many of your comments about feeling left cut short after reading the Grimm's stories. I'll admit that I don't really remember reading many of the authentic Grimm stories and I was s..."

Erin, I like your interpretation of the rabbit in The Rabbit's Bride. I has not thought of this symbol when I read the story. I wonder if this is a meaning that our generation attaches to the story because we have faced so many didactic tales that tell us to listen to our mothers?
I also agree with your discussion about how to carefully select folk tales. Before reading the article, I also felt that I was providing insight into cultural history. I did not realize how far many of the stories stray from the authentic versions. I will have to be more cautious in choosing my stories.


message 34: by Jenna (new)

Jenna | 16 comments After reading the Grimm Brothers fairytales, I thought that they were very open ended. Not at all like the 'fairytales' of today that seem to be more didactic. The fairytales of today that are well known, teach an obvious lesson. The students can identify exactly what they are 'supposed to learn' yet it spares them any harsh details. In the Grimm Brothers, it was hard to pinpoint the exact theme that was being presented in each fairy tale. I chose to read some well known fairytales and others that I have never read before. After reading both, I was surprised by the blunt, dark nature of the grimm brothers fairytails. Apparently, I have never really read them before. They are full violence, gruesome details and honesty. They were realistic (realistic for fairy tales that is) in the fact that they didn't try to have a happy ending just to make the reader feel better. I love that they do not sugar coat the story, which is what kids are used to these days. The themes that are presented are more real.

I would love to be able to read these stories to my students but feel hesitant at the same time because they are considered 'inappropriate'. I feel like these stories would offer a wonderful open-ended discussion with many themes being dissected. Having my students exposed to these stories and comparing/ contrasting the fairy tales that they know would be a great discussion. Is first grade too young to discuss these stories? Or is it the prime age to forget the didactic fairy tales and let the kids decide the morals on their own? I definitely think finding stories that are somewhat reserved would be great to introduce to the classroom to let students explore themes and morals that are being presented.


message 35: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca S | 13 comments The beauty of human themes is that they cross boundaries created by culture and time. When you hear a particular story you connect to some idea within the story. Fairy tales are an interesting way to discuss human themes, partly because many of us are familiar with the basic outline of multiple fairytales (even without Disney most of us in the western world have heard of Cinderella and Rapunzel to name a few). With that basic foundation, you can use everyone’s understanding to discuss different human themes and included within that is how humans interact with each other.

Now from an anthropological point of view, how we tell children stories reflects far more on the cultural values and reinforcing societal norms than anything else. In other words, how stories are told can reveal what a culture values and what is needed to maintain the social order. While Grimm’s tales contain human themes such as greed, anger, selfishness, kindness, beauty, overcoming difficult obstacles, etc., they also contain some interesting insights into what 18th Century found valuable to their society (as well as entertaining).
With that in mind, I found it interesting that multiple Grimm tales focused on intelligence rather than goodness being rewarded. Stories like Clever Grethel does not praise honesty but rather demonstrates the benefits of intelligence and quick thinking while also mocking the upper class. Cat and Mouse in Partnership also emphasizes of the quick thinking and devious cat who gets what he wants and ultimately destroys his friend.

So how do our retellings of these stories reflect our current culture? What do they tell us about what our culture values and what we need for our social order to survive? For example looking at the difference between Disney’s Cinderalla and Disney’s Tangled may provide similar insight into the dramatic changes over the last century in how we tell fairy tales. It is also interesting to note what human themes remain regardless of when or how the story is told.


message 36: by Katie (new)

Katie Boisen | 17 comments Bri wrote: "After reading the Brother's Grimm stories, I concluded two things: first, today's children's literature shelters us and strays away from violence, consequence, and gruesome details. Second, the the..."

I agree that reading some of The Grimm Brother stories and the traditional folk tales would lead to great compare/contrast. I also think reading multiple tales that are told by different points of view and perspectives would lead to a great lesson in point of view and perspective in an authentic way.


message 37: by Katie (new)

Katie Boisen | 17 comments Monica wrote: "I remember hearing about the Grimm Brother's fairy tales but I don't think I have ever read them! I was caught off guard after reading the first story 'The Rabbit's Bride'.... I found myself thinki..."

Monica, I had the same thoughts and feelings about 'The Rabbit's Bride' and 'Grethel!' They were difficult for me to understand and pull out the theme. I had to reread multiple times. I agree that the theme is much more subjective than our traditional folk tales. Plus, many times the themes of 'The Grimm Brothers' tales weren't in favor of the 'good guy' but rather the antagonist got away with something unfair. It was a twist that I'm not used to in modern day literature.


message 38: by Bri (new)

Bri Schupp | 14 comments Jenna wrote: "After reading the Grimm Brothers fairytales, I thought that they were very open ended. Not at all like the 'fairytales' of today that seem to be more didactic. The fairytales of today that are well..."

Jenna, I had the same thought that I'm not sure some of these stories would be appropriate for early elementary kids. I think the language itself would be an obstacle. However, then I thought about some of the other things kids are exposed to in movies and on tv, and thought maybe Brother's Grimm isn't too bad. I think taking a story they know well and having them point out differences would be fun for them. I wonder if they would have loyalty to the story they know.


message 39: by Allison (new)

Allison Pearse | 24 comments Chelsea wrote: "After looking at original Grimm Brothers folk and fairy tales, I can see how much we have altered these great stories to fit into our cultural norms. When we take out these human elements, the hear..."

Chelsea,
I agree that altering these stories ultimately alters the human themes presented in them. Sometimes, though, I think that an altered story could hold a similar message, but maybe it just wouldn't be as direct. For instance, in "Cat and Mouse in Partnership," if the mouse did not get eaten at the end, but instead was chased off, perhaps the story could still show a similar theme of being wary of the partnerships you choose. By having the mouse eaten, it amps up the danger associated with working alongside of a predatory partner. Overall, though, I agree that these human themes should not be watered down because it gives our children a slightly unrealistic view of the world. (Of course the mouse would get eaten by the cat! That's how the food chain works!)

I mentioned in my original post that the Grimm fairy tales depict stories with variation between happy and unfortunate endings. This gives a reader the overall human theme that some events in life will turn out "happily ever after," but not all. I would like to argue that of all the human themes presented, this is the most valuable, and to show children that all stories end with "happily ever after" is to set them up for a lot of disappointment and a lack of coping strategies.


message 40: by Allison (new)

Allison Pearse | 24 comments Rebecca wrote: "With that in mind, I found it interesting that multiple Grimm tales focused on intelligence rather than goodness being rewarded...."

Rebecca,

Would you say that modern stories have more of a focus on goodness being rewarded over intelligence? I wonder if today's tales focus more on the human theme of goodness and perhaps less on wit because of the advent of the computer age. We have oodles of intelligence at our fingertips! Also, in earlier years when education was not mandatory, the stories of that time reflected a nod toward the honor of education and intelligence, whereas today, it's expected that people go to school. Perhaps the swing toward goodness in our current children's books is a sign of the times that almost anyone can acquire information and maybe even intelligence, but what's more important is how we treat others along the way.

I definitely agree that stories hold insights into cultures, and to change them alters the cultural traits held within.


message 41: by Jenna (new)

Jenna | 16 comments Rebecca wrote: "The beauty of human themes is that they cross boundaries created by culture and time. When you hear a particular story you connect to some idea within the story. Fairy tales are an interesting way ..."

Rebecca,
I really enjoyed your insight on the human themes of the Grimm Brothers. I realized that I was looking at them with the eyes of today’s societal norms and cultural beliefs. Taking a step back and looking at them through the lens of the 18th century story tellers gives me much more insight to their societal norms. I had to reread some of the stories and it gave me a whole new perspective!


message 42: by Jenna (new)

Jenna | 16 comments Bri wrote: "Jenna wrote: "After reading the Grimm Brothers fairytales, I thought that they were very open ended. Not at all like the 'fairytales' of today that seem to be more didactic. The fairytales of today..."

Bri,
I also think the language and the structure of the stories would be difficult for early elementary. I love the idea of the kids being loyal to the stories they already know. I think they would be. It seems that these days we are so accustomed to having a certain structure in stories complete with a happy ending that the kids might feel unsettled or even cheated by the Grimm Brothers stories. It's true that kids are exposed to much worse in video games and movies so hearing these stories might just lead to a great discussion. I am curious to find out!


message 43: by Danielle (new)

Danielle Rossé | 11 comments Rebecca I liked your point about how many of the Brother's Grimm stories seemed to value intelligence over honesty or goodness. I think this could be a very interesting theme to look at with students and also how it might be mirrored in our society today. I would be interested to see what a retelling of these two stories might look like in our culture today because there are many other attributes that I think our society often values over honesty and goodness, including that conniving intelligence that the cat seems to have in the Cat and Mouse tale. I agree that many of the same human themes that are valued in these tales are probably still highly valued in societies today and it would be interesting to see how the same theme night be crafted in a modern fairy tale.


message 44: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Crouse | 13 comments Rebecca said: “So how do our retellings of these stories reflect our current culture? What do they tell us about what our culture values and what we need for our social order to survive? For example looking at the difference between Disney’s Cinderalla and Disney’s Tangled may provide similar insight into the dramatic changes over the last century in how we tell fairy tales. It is also interesting to note what human themes remain regardless of when or how the story is told.”

I think this is a very interesting idea. If we are using these stories to help teach human themes, it may also be vital that students have some background knowledge into the culture where the stories are coming from. I think this idea can be applicable to most stories. For example, Aesop’s fables. We should teach students cultural differences so they can understand the message more deeply.

Thank you for bringing this idea to light, Rebecca.


message 45: by Lesley (new)

Lesley | 24 comments Jim wrote: "Having talked to Eliot Singer many times about these things, you should know that he loves a well-told story no matter what. His main problem with folk tale adaptations is when they masquerade to b..."

Thanks for clarifying. I know that there's a lot of Native American fakelore out there, and I've never known how to find the real deal among all of the imposters. Rather than teach lies, I've avoided Native American folklore, which isn't a good solution. I checked out a Native American folktale book recommended by Singer so that I can learn more.


message 46: by Lesley (new)

Lesley | 24 comments Chelsea wrote: "After looking at original Grimm Brothers folk and fairy tales, I can see how much we have altered these great stories to fit into our cultural norms. When we take out these human elements, the hear..."

I agree that comparing original stories to westernized versions would be very interesting. I'm very interested in leading students to discuss why the stories have been changed.


message 47: by Megan (new)

Megan Downey | 21 comments As I read more of Grimm's tales, I find it harder and harder to identify the theme. Part way through the Raven, I thought I thought the moral of the story revolved around the part where the queen wishes her baby be turned into a raven so she may fly away so the queen can get rest. As a parent, we can all relate to this feeling when our children won't sleep. The baby is turned into a raven and flies away, and this I thought was the main lesson of the story: be careful what you wish for.

Here is an excerpt from The Raven: "There was once a Queen and she had a little daughter, who was as yet a babe in arms; and once the child was so restless that the mother could get no peace, do what she would; so she lost patience, and seeing a flight of ravens passing over the castle, she opened the window and said to her child, 'Oh, that thou wert a raven and couldst fly away, that I might be at peace.' No sooner had she uttered the words, than the child was indeed changed into a raven, and fluttered from her arms out of the window."

But, as I continued to read, the story took a different turn and the rest of the story surrounded the cast-out princess who needed to be rescued and the moral dilemma that her rescuer ensues. Never once does the story refer back to the queen who wished for her daughter to fly away so she could get some peace. This, in my opinion, is a pretty important theme. Perhaps this is an example of open-ended literature because the reader is allowed to analyze this part without being spoon-fed the moral, all the while analyzing the other morals of the story as well.


message 48: by Megan (new)

Megan Downey | 21 comments Erin wrote: "I agree with so many of your comments about feeling left cut short after reading the Grimm's stories. I'll admit that I don't really remember reading many of the authentic Grimm stories and I was s..."

I also did not read the authentic Grimm stories as a child, and all I was exposed to were the "sugar-coated" versions of fairy tales. I am torn between which ones we should expose to children. I don't believe children should be completely sheltered from the realities of life, but I also don't want them to have nightmares.


message 49: by Megan (new)

Megan Downey | 21 comments As I read the Grimm stories that I am a bit familiar with, I found the themes more easy to identify. I assume that is because I have been exposed to the modern versions of these tales. For example, the theme of The Wolf and The Seven Little Goats is fairly common in many folktales...the big bad wolf tries to eat the helpless little goats. The wolf tricks the little goats into letting him into the house, therefore teaching us about being too trusting and gullible. Although, in this tale, the wolf ultimately succeeds, which is new compared to modern tales, but then the mother goat cuts her baby goats from the wolf's stomach! And she was able to do so because he had swallowed them whole in his haste. Is this an addition theme perhaps related to Gluttony? Is there a theme warning about the desire to consume more than that which one requires? Hmmm...I definitely agree that these tales take much more critical thinking skills because the themes are not so clearly defined. Again, are these the tales we should be sharing with children? If not, how can we expose them to these more open-ended tales instead of just didactic modern fairy tales?


message 50: by Megan (new)

Megan Downey | 21 comments Rebecca wrote: "The beauty of human themes is that they cross boundaries created by culture and time. When you hear a particular story you connect to some idea within the story. Fairy tales are an interesting way ..."

Interesting point about how our retellings of these stories reflect our current culture. Your post made me reflect on how even modern fairy tales have changed over the past few decades. We now see many more strong female characters who don't just play the meek princess, but instead play the strong lead character who saves the day.


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