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Week 2 - Fairy Tales

Anne Dalke's picture
Welcome to Week Two of "Questions, Intuitions, Revisions." Paul and I have selected a range of short readings for Thursday's class. Which of these tales interests you the most, and why?
Anonymous's picture

looking for a fairy tale

Hello, not sure this is the right place to ask but I'm going to give it a go anyway! I've been racking my brain searching for a fairy tale I'm sure I read when I was younger. It concerns a beautiful young girl, who in the autumn, is murdered by her two jealous, older, sisters. A black rosebush(?) grows over her grave.

It's driving me insane as I'm sure I didn't make it up!



ashaffer's picture

Going back and reflecting

It's fun to look back at our investigation of fairy tales from this point (the end) in the course. Some of the factors that we discussed, like the idea of "ICK" have lasted throughout the course. Other interesting concepts, like the popularity of a female evil character, and the question of whether these stories were meant to have a moral aspect to teach children or not still linger in my mind. A new thought that has emerged since originally considering fairy tales is the more modern/recent approach to tell the classic story from the viewpoint of the "bad guy." I think this trend further illustrates an important aspect of fairy tales in particular, and stories in general- perspective is key. The tendency of "good" stories to have characters that the reader can identify with (an aspect that we discussed in class), is compounded when you realize that we might equally identify with the hero or the villian depending on how the tale is told.
Anne Dalke's picture

Over in Taylor B

Over in Taylor B last week, we went exploring along many of the same lanes, into many of the same domains...A number of us were drawn to/fascinated by the horror of Sexton's 'transformations,' unsettled by them, intrigued about the degree to which that 'ickiness' was inherent in the Grimm versions, inherent in the psyche of us all...We talked about Briar Rose as a story about not wanting to grow up, about the need for long periods of quiet growth, about the mistaken idea of parents that they can halt this process. And we talked about Cinderella as a story about sibling rivalry, the tale of the youngest child who feels neglected. We also tried to imagine alternative stories, from the points of view of the "evil" characters; many of us are first children, and we wondered how the stepsisters would tell that tale. We realized that having an attentive mother (as they did) wasn't necessarily a good thing--Cinderella got further, having to deal with life's stresses without a mother's care!

The interesting foil to these stories was that of Buddha, which several of us also felt strongly drawn to. This lead us to talk about the cultural universality--and cultural limits--of fairy tales, and about the sense shared, in the stories of Briar Rose and Buddha, that none of us can be protected (or protect others) from the inevitability of encounters with life's suffering...

We also wondered aloud about the limits of psychological interpretations of these stories; couldn't we read them through other critical lenses and interests, such as those of class and economics? Of social rather than (or along with) psychic determinants? In frames larger than those dictated by the needs and wants of "immediate families"? Some of us thought that we might find better food beyond such boundaries...
Paul Grobstein's picture

Fairy Tales Reviewed

Some interesting conversation in the Taylor C group. A few thoughts that I want to think more about, and maybe others as well.

There seems to be a lot of "ick" (violence, sex, anxiety) in fairy tales, probably more in earlier and non-western versions (and in Sexton's updating) than in the "Disney" period of western culture. Is the sanitizing of fairy tales a trend or a blip? A good thing of a bad one? What sorts of fairy tales would one be inclined to read to one's one children? Could it be that "ick" is a normal part of life and that mid century westerners got particularly uncomfortable with "ick", wanted to shield children (and themselves) from it, perhaps because of the second world war? And that a renewed attention to "ick" (as per contemporary movies/video games) is actually healthy/desirable?

Why are there so many "evil" female figures in fairy tales relative to males? Does this reflect a period of male dominated writing, and an effort to downgrade women? Might it, alternatively, reflect a greater fear of "evilness" in women than in man because children (people?) have a greater dependence on them than on man, and hence have greater fears about them?

Is the point of fairy tales to teach lessons/morals, or do they serve some other function? Are they relevant only to children or to everyone?

Curious about what other people took from our conversation. And about what was going on over in Taylor B.


nmuntz's picture

Anne Sexton

I have to say my favorite "fairy tale" was Anne Sexton's poem, Briar Rose.  Not only did she add a level of humor to the tale, by saying things like, "Even the frogs were Zombies," and, "Briar Rose was an insomniac,"  but she also added a much creepier underlying theme, that the King (Briar Rose's father) was molesting her.  After reading this I looked Anne Sexton up on the internet, and I wasn't surprised to see that she committed suicide.  Though clearly a greatly disturbed woman in many ways, her version of this fairy tale adds the idea that there aren't always happy endings.
ahhhhh's picture

Fairy-tail love

Fairy-tail love pisses me off. It is based entirely on physical apearance. the prince in cinderella falls in love with her because she is beautiful and wearing a nice dress. then they dance for 3 days and get married. The men in briar rose scewer themselves on thorns for a girl they've never met, but have heard is atractive. It's entirely superficial. Why is there never an ugly heroine? Can ugly people not fall in love and have happy endings? And what is so great about small feet? Apparently they were popular in aisa and europe back in the day. If fairytails are really meant to teach a lesson and if they are really for children, then i think they are dangerous.

christa wusinich's picture

recipe for a fairytale?

Upon reading the fairytales, I considered what made them fairytales...what was the fairytale model? There is frequently a trial of some kind; the human spirit is tested for what it can endure.  Cinderella endures sensless abuse at the hands of her tormenters, her stepsisters and their ring leader, Cinderella's stepmother.  Evil Stepmother emptily promises Cinderella that if she succeeds in recovering, first one dish and then two more dishes of lentils, from a pile of ash, that Cinderella may attend the King's festival.  Cinderella's efforts are buttressed by "tame pigeons" and "turtle doves." In the story of Cinderella, the number three is deliberately employed: "thrice a day," Cinderella weeps at the hazel-bush she plants atop her mother's grave, three times, Cinderella dances with the prince, three dishes of lentils is she challenged to retrieve, and takes the prince three tries of the golden slipper to find his true maiden. 

Tranformation is another element of a fairytale.  Yeh-Shen aided by the spirit of her fish friend, undergoes a change from rags to a blue silk gown and golden sandals. Then, the title of this African tale does explaining enough, "A Boarhog for a Husband." 

Along with trials, transformations, and the significance of numbers, there is the element of a riddle/chant/spell/prayer (call it what you will).  Remember,  "Scoops, scops, scambalay" and "the good into the pot, the bad into the crop."? This may simply be the lyricism evocative of an oral tradition. 


Hyperpuffball's picture


Anne Sexton's Briar Rose was much blunter and visceral than I expected. I'd never read anything written by her before and found the works we read to be on a higher level of disturbing than the Brother's Grimm version. In particular, Briar Rose's repeated plea of 'Daddy, Daddy' immediately brought the first few lines of Sylvia Plath's poem Daddy to mind:

You do not do, you do not do

Any more, black shoe

In which I have lived like a foot

For thirty years...

I found it quite shocking just how much the two poems were similar in their perspectives on the father's role as well as the father's replacement- 'the knight in shining armor' for Briar Rose and the narrator's husband in Daddy. A further parallel can be made between Briar Rose's inevitable maturation into an adult and the narrator's realization that her father is not enough in Plath's poem.

I never expected to have such an association pop up at me while reading a revised fairy tale.

redmink's picture

What they have in common: NATURE

It was interesting to read fairy tales passed on by different cultures and ethnic groups. I was convinced that most fairy tales talk about marriage.  The power of fairy tales is strong because regardless of their origins, they all contain universal issues of humans.  Also, fairy tales delicately deliver women’s emotion upon obstacles and relationship with nature such as fish, and pigeons.  My favorite tale is Yeh-Shen mainly because her relationship with a lovely golden orange fish is so genuine

redmink's picture



 In my childhood, I was obsessed with fairy tales, especially Disney’s.  My favorite one is Belle from Beauty and the Beast.  She’s upgraded from any other princesses in a sense that she’s got intelligence.  Above all, while other princesses sit and wait for a handsome prince, Belle reads books, and stands the Beast’s unrefined, aggressive life.  Belle’s success, a happy marriage with a handsome prince, was not easily earned.  She really worked hard for the unexpected, and seems to have feminism in her mind. 


Yea, it is still hard to interpret what these mean:


That’s another kind of prison. 

It’s not the prince at all,

But my father

Drunkenly bent over my bed,

Circling the abyss like a shark,

My father thick upon me

Like some sleeping jellyfish.


Was the prince her dad?

Anyway, this stanza is so gloomy.

Audra's picture

Fairytales transcend cultural boundaries

What I liked most about this assignment was seeing the cross-cultural similarities between these stories. For example, in the European and Chinese fairytales, the heroines were always beautiful, quiet, and willing/ eager to marry the handsome monarch without getting to know him first. Interesting how these qualities were valued in both cultures despite their geographical distance. The African American tale of the boarhog, however, shows the clever/ tricky boy in a more flattering light than the beautiful daughter. Also, that same daughter was given a choice in her future husband, unlike the maidens in the other stories. Spirituality/ religious faith were valued in the Grimm's fairytales, "Yeh-Shen", and "Buddha". Most of the stories included magical and/ or anthropomorphized animals. Throughout the fairytales, music also has magical properties: Cinderella sings to the tree to get her dress; the boarhog sings to change forms.

Another interesting pattern I noticed between the stories had to do with the relationships each heroine/ hero had with each of her/ his parents. In the German Cinderella, the stepmother was much closer to her own daughter than Cinderella’s father was to her. In “Buddha”, the father represents an evil perspective by taking protectiveness to an incredibly detrimental level. In the original Briar Rose, neither of the parents seemed closer to the girl than the other, but in Anne Sexton’s retelling, she explicitly assigns simultaneously protective and traumatic parental actions similar to those in “Buddha” to the father; she hardly mentions the mother. The African American tales often have a similarly overprotective father.

As for individual stories, I found Anne Sexton’s version of Briar Rose most interesting. The poem reflects how terrifying a 100 year sleep could be when you really think about it. Also, the descriptions near the end of the poem of the confusion and pain associated with her father’s rape were emotionally raw and deeply affective.
pippy's picture

Universal Issues Depicted in Fairy Tales

It was interesting to read fairy tales passed on by different cultures and ethnic groups. I was convinced that most fairy tales talk about marriage. The predominant stereotypes of princess reveal that if the main character has a kind mind and a beautiful facial feature, she can be transformed into a big success. This message psychologically affected many young women. It was once again eye-opening to know how in real life many women fantasize about a handsome, rich prince. The power of fairy tales is strong because regardless of their origins, they all contain universal issues of humans and delicately deliver women’s emotion upon obstacles and relationship with nature such as fish, and pigeons.

Riki's picture

Briar Rose and narcotics

I prefer Anne Sexton's transformation of Briar Rose because at the end she makes Briar Rose seem much more human. She can't sleep for she's afraid of her dreams and of never waking again, and I feel that the story seems more realistic because fear is such a universal human feeling. Also, the description of her under the influence of drugs is incredibly haunting and disturbing. Sexton makes is sound as though she is numbly sleepwalking through the rest of her life, which I feel is another universal human characteristic that we can all relate to. 
akeefe's picture

The Griot in Us

Fairy tales have always been a point of fascination for me. Despite the images we provide in our head they seem to exist outside of time, outside of our general universe. However, we seem to believe in them as passionately as we believe in a New York Times article, that if it doesn’t get it’s facts exactly right, needs to be re-written. Upon looking at Briar Rose and Cinderella, it’s interesting to note how the re-imagining of a fairytale acts like a reclamation. By not giving Cinderella a fairy God mother, but instead asking her to commit pious acts such as care of a fish or honoring of a grave, we give her more credit for her release. Similarly Briar Rose might be saved by a kiss, but still must endure a life of insomnia for her parents follies. I have read other revisions of fairytale. Without making this entry too unbearable long, it is interesting to note how the revision of fairytale, like the revision of other stories ingrained in culture (ie religious or mythological), seems to give the power to edit thought. Children will read this story and learn this lesson additionally. We can create stronger women, and more compassionate men by altering the stories ingrained in them since birth. It is for this reason that I believe even as adults we must explore our beloved fairytales. That even amongst our wiser years, we honor our basic human tugs, the griot in us, the reclaimer of our lives, and truths.

Allison Fink's picture

The Buddha

I loved the story of the Buddha, perhaps because it emphasizes the need to overcome all delusions. The other ones I could not relate to as well. In the story of the Buddha, I find it interesting that the gods are needing Siddhartha to be a teacher to them; they are not a higher power that provides guidance in that sense. It is a case of all of them being in the dark, but the gods realize that there is a light, even though they can't see it, and they work as a team, the gods helping to push Siddhartha through and believing in him whereas maybe he wouldn't believe in himself. It's a case of faith at work, and a time when the true beauty is allowed to come from the human condition. The Buddha story seems to speak to me more.

     In the other fairy tales, the protagonists do not have character flaws or deep struggles. They behave naturally, with pure hearts. And as such, their destiny unfolds before them. But of course it's impossible to live happily ever after, so maybe in some sense fairy tales are delusional psychological projections. I wondered where Anne Sexton got the idea for Briar Rose's experience at the end. I also wonder what causes Grimm's taste for the macabre.

Madi's picture

The Grimm's version of

The Grimm's version of these stories is definitely darker than the versions that I recall from my childhood. For instance, I was not expecting the stepsisters to cut off parts of their feet. I really enjoyed Anne Sexton's versions of Cinderella and Briar Rose. I love her mocking tone, especially at the end of Cinderella when she compares Cinderella and the prince to the Bobbsey Twins because of how happy and "perfect" their life is after they marry. Her take on Briar Rose was rather disturbing as it referenced the young princess being sexually abused by her father. I also really liked Yeh-Shen and how it was similar to the other versions of Cinderella, but had its own twists.

merry2e's picture

Using a voice

Fairy tales never fascinated me as a child. I found them fraught with lies and absurdities. Why does the beautiful girl always win the prince in the end? I did not understand. What if she wanted a princess and she was not beautiful but shy, homely, and thick in the middle? It was not until my adult life did I begin to understand the meaning of a good fairy tale. And still, I do not even think I really understand the meaning of most. And then finally, I came across Anne Sexton’s versions of Grimm’s fairy tales and became enamored. When reading these tales, Anne’s twists of sarcasm along with her outright anger at times, allowed me to understand why I thoroughly enjoy, understand, and relate to her writing style in a more logical, realistic manner. I feel she relates to the reader her understanding of patriarchy in her life and the different levels of pain she experienced in her life, all of which she was able to voice through her writing. For me, writing is an intensely personal experience. I have not learned the art of writing a paper that separates my emotions from my writing and find Anne Sexton’s works to be unbelievable inspirational because she used her own unique voice, whether it be controversial or not.   

calypsse's picture

twisted tales

I have to say that I loved the twist given to both Cinderella and Briar Rose, the originals might have a crude reality inside the fairy tale, but the alternate ending was simply delicious. At times the writer seems impatient by the story since it's been told so many times, and relieving that tension by adding a touch of sarcasm. However, the sarcasm used by Sexton brought the idealized characters to the dark side of reality, which made them more human. Now we don't only have the moral of good vs evil, we also have the voice of reason that tells you that nothing is forever, and that happiness is only relative.

About the other tales, well, I agree and disagree with those that said they weren't meant for children, they could. Most fairy tales come with a warning, that we ought to relate to. My Mom used to tell me the stories her grandmother told her when she was little, not to warn me like they did to her but to compare the different approach to parenting. Some of those stories were completely absurd but shocking at the same time. One of them was about a woman (now I can't remember is she had stolen a baby or killed one in envy for not having one) who was punished by having to keep a hair in a glass until the hair turned into a snake which she had to take care as if it was her own child. Another story was of a girl that took a shower at midnight during God Friday you will turn into a marmaid or blood will come out instead of water. I guess every fairy tale needs to have a dark side.
Catrina Mueller's picture


My favorite was the German Cinderella. I enjoyed the story very much when I was the child. The only version that I had know, however, was the Disney version. I really enjoyed the little birds that helped Cinderella and how the step sisters tried to fit their feet into the shoe. The fact that they cut off parts of their toes really portrays just how greedy and evil the sisters are.
ashaffer's picture

Grim tales and Grimm tales

So, the Disney version of these fairy tales kind of seems a bit flat and dissappointing, not to mention a bit bland- there are no dripping toes and heels in the Disney stories! On the other hand, this may be preferable since the stories are intended for children;-). Although, one thing the Disney-Cinderella has in its favor is the death of the father. Disney was kind enough to kill off Cinderella's father before the evil stepmother/sisters got started tortuting the poor girl. The Grimm version had the father still in the picture, but he didn't do anything- I hate that the father was there, but just didnt do anything!!!! As for Anne Sexton, I like the undercurrents and subtle irony she added to the stories- it took them out of 1 dimension, but I dont know how appropriate they would be for a younger audience;-).


BriBell's picture

rank as honeysuckle.

The story that most intrigued me in these readings was Ann Sexton's interpretation of Briar Rose. I found the way she used modern terms and objects -- such as cigarettes and saftey pins -- to be a very subtle way to bring the story of Briar Rose a time closer to the present day.

What I found to be most interesting about Ann Sexton's poem was the line, "each night the king/ bit the hem of her gown /to keep her safe" along with the explainations of Briar Rose's insomnia. I feel like there is something strange in the way her father is so over protective in the begining of the poem, so much to the extent of pining the moon so she will always be in the light...then, at the end after she has awakened from her sleep, she refuses to sleep in the presence of the prince, and has so many issues with sleep in general. After describing these fears and feelings of imprisonment, Ann Sexton, in the second to last stanza, speaks of theft, loss of control, and Briar Rose's father bent drunkenly over her bed in the night.

I feel like Ann Sexton puts so much between the lines of this poem, that I find it hard to sort out what truely the story she is trying to tell -- is it about a naive young girl whos father tries to protect her, yet still she falls alseep, only to be saved by a prince? or, Is it about a little girl who escaped into this story of a valiant prince to save her from her seemingly enternal darkness that she feels when her father visits her in the night?


"Thats another kind of prison

Its not the prince at all,

but my father

drunkenly bent over my bed,

circling the abyss like a shark,

my father thick upon me

like some sleeping jellyfish."


hannahpayne's picture

Anne Sexton

In my opinion the most interesting reading in this section was Anne Sexton's "Transformations". Not only did I thoroughly enjoy Kurt Vonnegut's introduction to the poems, but I loved the modern take on the traditional stories. Clearly Anne Sexton was much more cynical than even the Brothers Grimm, who told a much darker tale than Disney. I really liked her metaphor of comparing Cinderella and the Prince to dolls in a glass case. They don't live at all when they "live happily ever after" because part of life is getting old, getting in fights, and having some sort of trouble. I also like how she repeats the phrase, "that story." She uses this at the beginning to tell all the different versions of rags to riches stories and then again at the end to tell the "happily ever after" story. I thought this added to the cynicism, which I liked. Also her version of "Briar Rose" she repeats the phrase, "rank as honeysuckle." I liked this one even better because usually honeysuckle is considered a sweet and nice smell but here she is saying its too sweet that it's even sickening, just like fairy tales.
Hilary McGowan's picture

Once upon a time there was

Once upon a time there was a little girl who liked to read. No siblings to bother and a bedroom like an isolated planet. She would arrange her stuffed animals in order of ranking. Everyday the ranking would change in order to be fair. Sometimes Tridium the Cat would be feeling a little sad, so he got an extra hug and a kiss. Black Bear, Raddy, Christie, Tigger, Tridium and Spot would line up next to her in anticipation of a story. They would wonder to themselves is who was it going to be today? Dr. Seuss? Shel Silverstein? Grimm's? They were always excited to see what she picked out, even if it was a repeat.

She loved the stories: the excitement of a character striving to reach their achievement, a princess finding her true love, and good conquering over evil. Although bad things happened to the truest of characters, she knew it would end up all right. When the Goose Girl's horse was murdered, its head was nailed to the door and was able to talk her through her troubles. When an evil stepmother made her do chores, the animals would help her. See! It helped out to be good, true and loyal!

Even when she got home from school, or was captured in her own little world, there were lessons to be learned. No matter what tale was told, a common theme would arise: good vs. evil. At least it did in her mind.

Maybe the stories were to keep her occupied. Or they could have been excuses to imagine a more magical life. And there's a chance the stories were guides, like elaborate treasure maps, to direct her path. Take a right at the tower and take 143 paces north. Watch out, Evil Fairy ahead!

Cinderella was always there for her. Through thick and thin, little Cindy showed her what her life could be. When the little girl had gotten picked on in the schoolyard, Cinderella told her to make peace. Each side of the tale that was told erupted with new possibilities, but they all told the same story. And this story would stick with her forever.
Danielle P's picture

Humor in Fairytales

"Yeh-Shen" is a really different take on the "classic" Cinderella story.  For a while, I had been obsessed with various fairytales and myths, so I have actually read several versions of Cinderella over the course of a few years.  With the king sighing in relief when the show didn't fit the step mother and step sister, or when the stepmother and sister were killed (but no one cared...)"Yeh-Shen" is the first cinderella story I've read that incorporates humor.  I found this interesting, and of course, funny.

It is also evident that most cinderella tales were used as models of female behavior.  In Yeh Shen, the step sister is chatty, uncouth, and awkward whereas Yeh Shen is demure and graceful.  Besides being entertainment, fairytales seem to act as conveyors of morals, mode of conduct, and cultural norms. 


akerle's picture

the True fairytale..

I do not beleive that fairy tales were ever originally meant for children. Disney's own watered down versions clearly resemble little of the True fairy stories written by the brothers Grimm. In other tales such as the Little Mermaid there is nothing resembling a happy ending and the story itself is certainly not G-rated. 

In terms of which fairy tale I liked best I would have to agree with Anne Kauth. The story of Yeh Shen, in my opinion, was certainly the most interesting. This is mainly because it showed how the concept of the beautiful 'underdog' trancends all cultures.

I also find it interesting that the small foot is a symbol of beauty in both western and asian cultures- although undoubtedly the small foot played a greater aesthetic role in china.    

The concept of female beauty and piety is one and the same in almost all corners of the world.

Alison R. Mouratis's picture

And the wire bended, so my story's ended...

I'll never forget the bookshelf we kept in our livingroom. It spanned the entire length of the wall and one day, I'm sure after watching the movie Matilda, I decided to read every single book that resided on those huge mahogany shelves. I was determined to read every book, and not only that, but somehow manage to retain all the knowledge that I had aquired and become, I don't know, the world's smartest kid or something. And maybe I'd find a Ms. Honey along the way.

I remember vividly, however, that the first book I decided to read was The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm and that was quite a challenge in iteself. And although I did make it all the way through all 800 pages, I believe that it was the first and last book in my attempt to become Matilda. Anyway, the point is that by reading the first story, 'Cinderella,' in our packet, I was immediatly reminded of how much I loved reading the Grimm's fairy tales and just fairy tales in general. I throughly enjoyed every single story, but I thought Anne Sexton's little quips in her version of 'Cinderella' were particularly amusing: "The prince rode away with her until the white dove told him to look at the blood pouring forth. That is the way with amputations. They don't just heal up like a wish." The ending to 'Briar Rose,' however, was a whole other story and completely threw me off balance. It was quite a note to end the stories on.
Anne Kauth's picture


My tale that interested me most was Yeh-Shen, the Chinese Cinderella story. Morals in fairy tales translate into every language and I never really considered that tales like Cinderella or Briar Rose cannot be claimed by one country or culture. I found the Yeh-Shen tale to be the most beautiful of the three Cinderella stories as well as the most profound for me. It is harsher than the story I grew up with because Yeh-Shen violently loses her friend the fish and in the end the step mother and sister are harshly punished, but the descriptions are rich and really bring to life a vivid picture of the fairy tale which makes the moral that much more important. I really enjoyed this reading assignment, I have never read so many tales from different cultures and it was amazing to compare the similarites and differences in storytelling.

jforde's picture

Cinderella PG-13

This version of Cinderella was interesting. I liked how the author kept the same plot of the original Cinderella but added some bloodshed to emphasize that not all fairy tales are made for kids. It's ironic that Cinderella, who is protrayed as being selfless and innocent, receives help from birds with evil agendas. While I was reading the section about the birds poking the eyes out of the sisters, I thought about the Disney cartoon version of Cinderella and how the birds are portrayed. In the movie, the blue birds fly graciously through Cinderella's window and help her do her chores. The image that I have of them in this story has now been tainted and resembles the birds from Alfred Hitchcock's movie The Birds.

I wonder what Cinderella was thinking while the birds were doing Cinderella's dirty work? Was she aware of them poking out her step sisters' eyes or was she oblivious to her surroundings and engulfed in her dream of marrying the prince becomming reality.

I also find it interesting that the author decided to end the story with the notion of "an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth" as oppose to "and they all lived happily ever after."  


Corey's picture

I would like to compare the

I would like to compare the Grimm's fairy tales to Anne Sexton's versions. With the Grimm fairy tales we get the sense of a class system and a taste of the culture from that time. Cinderella is beautiful, but also beautiful on the inside. As oppose to her sisters, who are pretty, but not on the inside. (I think it's interesting how Disney decided to make them if they would be easier to hate). The reason I mention class for these two tales is that the reason that Cinderella's jobs are so horrible is because they aren't meant for someone of her status. Clearly, someone would be doing the work that she was, but that someone would merely be a servant. In Briar- Rose, we see the obvious workers for the King are the Wise Workers. They are merely numbers to the King as he easily disposes of one from the dinner, without thinking.

As far as cultural influences, we see the mystical powers that birds have. As well as the use of couplets with magic. That there need to be some sort of formula or spell in order for the magic to work.

Now, in Sexton's versions, she skims over the details (since we all know the story), and punctuates the obvious social flaws within the stories. Sometimes, they are funny, satirical, and ironic. However, the ending of her version of Briar-Rose caught me off guard. She turned a common fairy tale into a personal horror story with the overt hints towards a sexually abusive father.

Other differences between the two authors were the drawings. The drawings within the Grimm fairy tales (which were actually drawn by the brothers' younger brother) are peaceful and serene. Even when something bad the whole castle going to sleep, we see some dogs lying outside of a beautiful castle. We know from the beginning that the story is going to end well, and the drawings accentuate that. While Anne Sexton's drawings feature beasts wooing the heroines of our tales. I also saw that the basic shapes of the drawings resembled vaginas. I think this was done to show the implications that these stories have on women as a whole.

ErinDoppelheuer's picture

Twisted Cinderella

I liked the German version of Cinderella because it still had the basic plot and similar ideas, but some of the details were very different and intersting.  When the father was going to the fair he asked each of the three girls what they would like for him to bring back for them.  I found it very interesting and intruiging that Cinderella asked him for the first branch that knocks him off his horse.  The branch that her father brought back, she theb planted next to her mother's grave.  This tree then became magical and gave Cinderalla her wishes.  In the original Cinderella that I read in childhood, Cinderella's wishes came from her fairy god-mother.  I find it interesting that the German version chose to use a magical tree, which is an inanimate instead of a person or creature.  Uusally in childrens fairytales, the stories are cute, fun and have intertaining magic.  However, in this version,  the story is gruesome.  The evil step-sisters cut off their toe or heel.  At the end of the story I found myself confused because this fairytale was so different from the one that I heard as a kid, that it made me realize that all around the world there are different versions as each have their own unique details with the same underlying theme.