Questions, Intuitions, Revisions:
Telling and Re-Telling Stories About Ourselves in the World
A College Seminar Course at Bryn Mawr College

Forum 2 - Fairy-tales: Grimm/Disney/Sexton?

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Storytelling, about storytelling....
Date:  2003-09-08 15:59:59
Message Id:  6378

Friends, colleagues--
Welcome to Week Two of Questions, Intutions, Revisions...

when be turning our attention from telling and listening to our individual stories of learning...

to looking at a range of what may? may not? be more archetypal--universal?--tales. Tell us what thoughts arose, as you were reading

There are sure to be lots of stories generated by the intersection of all these stories....

and we are very much looking forward to hearing them--

Anne and Paul

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  NewRealities/New Storytelling
Date:  2003-09-09 10:06:08
Message Id:  6387

There was a piece in the new "Currents" section of the Philadelphia Inquirer last Sunday (9/7/03) which seemed quite a propos to where we're at just now (or rather: where we may be heading....)

Entitled "New Realities/New Storytelling," the article mused about the increasing acceptance of "the fractured story" form, and suggested that maybe

"the old forms of storytelling are worn out, and artists and audience are looking for something new....Perhaps 9/11 taught us that we weren't writing the story of our lives--someone else was and, in this one, we're not the heroes. We may be telling stories differently now because we've lost the story we thought we were telling...."

What do you think?


Username:  Anonymous
Date:  2003-09-10 12:17:51
Message Id:  6405

Name:  Bhumika Patel
Subject:  Fairy Tales
Date:  2003-09-10 19:22:24
Message Id:  6418
I really enjoyed reading both the Grimm's Fairy Tales and Anne Sexton's version of fairy tales. The Grimm's versions gave me the "happily ever after" that everyone needs to feel good sometimes while the Anne Sexton's versions brought out the humor in these fairy tales.
Name:  Jenny Barr
Subject:  Cinderelly Cinderelly
Date:  2003-09-10 21:15:08
Message Id:  6421
Having recently spent several very long hours in the "way back" of a minivan (equipped with a vcr, a sure sign of the decline of western civilization if ever there was one) watching the Disney version of Cinderella *twice*, it was pretty interesting to read the Bros. Grimm story.

This Cinderella is a much livelier character than the one Disney gives us. She's good and pious and pure, of course, but not to the point of being a sap. She asks for what she wants: when she wants help with sorting lentils, she calls for her friends the birds. When she wants a beautiful dress, she asks for it. She makes the choice to leave the ball ("...and then she wanted to go home."), rather than doing so because she's told to. And, at the end of the story, she puts the slipper on herself, rather than the prince slipping it onto her foot (a small thing, but I liked it).

In the Grimm story, I like the fact that the mother is a continuing presence. The dead or absent mother seems to be such a mainstay of fairy tales, and, at least in the Disney versions, once the mother is gone, she's forgotten. But our Cinderella is constant. She continues to grieve for her mother. This seems like a stronger element of her piety and virtue than just putting up with a lot of guff from her step-sisters and step-mother. So she deserves her happy ending.

Name:  Tamiyo Britton
Subject:  Fairy tale
Date:  2003-09-10 22:59:34
Message Id:  6423
I have not thought about fairy tale in a long time. It struck me how much cruelty exsit in these fairy tales. I was surprised to see myself feeling some kind of relief and enjoyment noticing about these cruelty in the story. I really liked "Yeh-Shen,"it brought me smile in the end.
Name:  ginny costello
Username:  vcostell
Date:  2003-09-11 00:28:08
Message Id:  6429
Name:  Gillian Confair
Subject:  Fairy tales, Fairy tales
Date:  2003-09-11 09:00:33
Message Id:  6431
Comparing the Grimm Brother's stories to that of Anne Sexton is like trying to compare one of Shakespeare's sonnets to a version that the Muppets might have done. Sure, the Brothers Grimm were there first, wrote these down first, but their versions lack the sheer poetry and movement of Anne Sexton's "Transformations." Maybe it's just that theirs is a translated work, maybe it's the fact that Anne Sexton went to such lengths as to write hers in poetry form, I don't know. The Brothers Grimm may have the originial rights to the stories, but Anne Sexton definitely deserves the credit for making them beautiful and sardonic.
See, that's what I like about Anne Sexton's verions- they're catty, sarcastic, a dry wit of humor that speaks volumes about what she thinks about those fairy tales. To her there bald-faced lies wrapped up in pretty happy packages. She goes so far as to really examine the psyche of the characters themselves. Briar Rose as an insomniac? It's perfect, it makes sense- who can't see her being terrified of sleep, or Snow White becoming anarexic out of fear of eating another poisoned fill-in-the-blank. In short Anne Sexton's "Transformations" isn't just about fairy tales- it's about showing what's really going on behind that happy illusion- making the stories darker, harder and, in the process, realer that the Brothers Grimm ever did.
Just my opinion, but there you have it.
Name:  Bethany Keffala
Subject:  Fairy Tales
Date:  2003-09-11 09:42:46
Message Id:  6432
When I was a little girl I always loved hearing fairy tales about pretty princesses to whom exciting things happened. I loved hearing about their pretty faces and their pretty things and their pretty endings of "happily-ever-after." Have you ever noticed how the comparison girl is always stupid or ugly and mean? And we wonder why teen girls in America have so many problems...But anyway, I love Anne Sexton's "transformation's" of the fairy tales. I love that she uses satire and that she boldly brings to light the true weirdness that is present in the originals, but also that there is a sincere questioning in the voice of her poems. She wonders about relationships between family members and between friends and enemies. She stirs thoughts about life and about death; what is living? what is dying? What does happily-ever-after mean? What was between the lines of the story-tellers' stories? After all, these tales were told by people, and they were most likely people with the same questions that seem to be innate in every human being.
Name:  Stephanie Hunt
Subject:  fairy tales
Date:  2003-09-11 09:46:46
Message Id:  6433
In reading through Anne Sexton's versions of fairy tales, I realized that all of them have roughly the same story: a beautiful but quite unfortunate girl beats some evil supernatural figure and marries a hansome prince. Sexton refers to this in Cinderella as she says "that story." I guess I just never really thought about all the fairy tales at once.

Maybe I'm caught up in the Wonderful World of Disney, but I did not remember feet being mutilated in Cinderella from when I was little. I would think that something like that would stand out in my head because I'm positive that Cinderella was read to me as a child.

Also, I was a little confused about what happened at the end of Sexton's Briar-Rose. I'm not sure whether she was implying that Briar-Rose had been sexually abused or if she was speaking personally about the subject or if she was making a blanket statement about it. Maybe someone else understood that.

Name:  Paul Grobstein
Subject:  tuesday
Date:  2003-09-11 12:00:20
Message Id:  6437
Thanks all for two very rich conversations this morning. I appreciated the sharing of 11 Sept story/emotion; it helped me continue to try and make sense of those events, to find a better story. For anyone wanting to see earlier stories, and, if inclined, to add to them, the on-line forum is at

The other conversation was of course Grimm/Disney/Sexton, how and why the stories changed. What struck me (of course subject to correction/modification by others) is the idea that the stories are intended to appeal to kids, and so reflect what kids are interested in prior to what they're taught. And that Disney took out all the yucky stuff in Grimm, and that Sexton put it back in.

The other thread was the idea that kids are attracted to "cute, fluffy" things but , maybe as per the end of our conversation, to bloody, nasty things as well (boys more than girls?). So maybe Disney is an impoverished experience for kids, relative to either Grimm or Sexton?

Which circles me back to 11 Sept. I wonder if the shock of that event , the sense of being utterly overhelmed by the unthinkable, might have been less if several generations of us had been reared on Grimm (or Sexton) rather than Disney? Might we have been better able to respond meaningfully to the horror, to act effectively to reduce the likelihood of such events in the future, if we were more familiar from childhood with ALL of what is inside us as humans?

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Seeds for New Stories?
Date:  2003-09-11 15:39:00
Message Id:  6440

Reporting in from the "other" section (that one w/ "older" women in it...) where a rich conversation also took place this morning....

also beginning w/ thoughts/memories of September 11th and reflections on the stories we have told since to make sense of it...

Then, after we'd worked our way through reactions to/thoughts about the function of those grim/nasty/cynical/sarcastic (assigned) stories...

we turned our attention to the question of what adult fairy tales might look like. All the McBrides shared a sense of "living a fairy tale" (Disney version) in finally coming to Bryn Mawr. So, we asked ourselves: what's the NEXT story, the one that comes after THAT story?

Taking a leaflet from the new Graduate Course on Explorations of Teaching: What, Why, How and Who? (which, in turn, had taken a leaf from a Summer 2002 Institute for K-12 teachers) we shared a range of metaphors describing what it was like, being in the classroom:

So: any chance any of these might be the seeds for a NEW kind of story? A DIFFERENT way of learning/growing/exploring the world together than the sort traced, nearly two hundred years ago, by the Grimms, or thirty years ago by Anne Sexton?


Name:  Sarah Sniezek
Subject:  Fairy Tales
Date:  2003-09-11 18:15:47
Message Id:  6445
Well, as I said in class, I really liked the Anne Sexton version of the fairy tales better. They brought back the real true grimms fairy tales with an addition of her own thoughts of each different character. Disney, of course is loved by all, the grimms fairy tales are barely even talked about in todays culture, and well the Anne Sexton version is a bit to blunt for most people these days. Im sure if I was younger, lets say 8, I would much more prefer Disney movies, over movies made from the Grimms Bros and/or Anne Sexton versions. I probably wouldnt understand what was going on in the Grimms and Anne Sextons versions. Overall it was great to see the differences in time periods, and how the fairy tales have evolved into a more conservative manner to pls the parents and the children.
Name:  Anita Lai
Subject:  Fairy Tales
Date:  2003-09-11 23:55:15
Message Id:  6449
My parents never read fairy tales to me or my sister when we were little for bedtime . Through Walt Disney's movies of the fairy tales Cinderella and Briar Rose, I first encountered these happily-ever-after versions of the tales. In fact, I wasn't even aware that other versions of the fairy tales existed until the end of seventh grade. I remember one of my friends talking about how Disney tended to change the endings to be "suitable" and appealing for children. Apparently, in the real story of The Little Mermaid, Ariel ends up turning into seafoam. However, in the Disney movie love conquers all and the "good" girl ends up with Prince Charming in the beautiful castle. After finding out different accounts of these tales existed, I never felt the urge to rent the Grimm fairy tales. Now, after reading the Grimm and Anne Sexton version of the Cinderella, Briar Rose, and other fairy tales, I feel that Anne Sexton takes fairy tales to another level of appreciation. Disney movies suited my earlier childhood, but Sexton's versions have an added dimension that is appropriate for adults who can appreciate and understand her sarcastic remarks. I really enjoyed Sexton's fairy tale poetry, and I am definitely keeping this book instead of selling this book off with the others like I originally planned.
Name:  Beverly Burgess
Subject:  Grimm Tales
Date:  2003-09-12 00:16:09
Message Id:  6450
The Grimm Cinderella piece suprised me with the morbid violence in the end. I recall the Disney version of that tale and there was no such horror at any point. I enjoyed Sexton's sarcasm and cynicism because it reflects the stark contrast between the perfect picture that we were fed as children vs the harsh reality of life.
Name:  karen delnasheen
Date:  2003-09-12 04:30:12
Message Id:  6451
Maybe there is a time for everything. When I was little I enjoyed Disney's version of Cinderella because it was simple and untroublesome, romantic and cute.

Now times have changed and I can no longer relate to Disney's version of the story. Today, I enjoy Grimm's Cinderella, which is gory and graphic. For example, Grimm's description the "bloody shoe". Why the change? Perhaps, now that I am more experienced I can better appreciate literature that relates to both happiness as well as pain.

Name:  Christine Lipuma
Date:  2003-09-12 23:59:27
Message Id:  6459
I found each of version of the fairy tales interesting in their own ways. Since the Grimm brothers were also retelling the fairy tales that they had been told, their version of them was as much an interpretation as the Disney version and the Anne Sexton version. We can't tell whether the original tales had been as bloody as the Grimm ones, but that was the way that they had heard it and they put on paper the way they thought it would be effective to tell them. Disney took out the less desirable parts and left viewers with something that was not as substantial but in some ways more magical. In the Anne Sexton version, she put back the gore and added in sarcasm. Her stories brought psycological depth to the characters which made them more approachable, but lacking in the happiness that we equate with fairy tales.
Name:  Alicia Jones
Subject:  Fairy Tales
Date:  2003-09-14 01:50:29
Message Id:  6469
I'm a little late, but better late than never.

As I said in class (section 10, fondly known as the "older" group)I think the Bros Grimm were aptly named. I know they only collected the folktales from others, but, my gosh, how much violence against women were they putting forth back in those days? Unless you were a fair maiden and good you got bashed or banished. I find the women-bashing distasteful. Sure, I'll just cut off my toes and heels so I can wear that glass slipper and marry you! Oh, and since I'm so mean and "dark of heart" can you get those birds to peck out my eyes too. Also, that theory of being rescued so that one can live happily ever after is clearly outdated. Was Princess Diana living happily-ever-after with her prince, I ask you? I think there should be fairy tales, but I think we need to update them, just like Walt Disney did, only now they can have a female perspective.

I enjoyed Anne Sexton's poems, not so much for the fairy tale satire, (although her cynicism was cool) but more for the seemingly candid glimpses of her life through some very revealing story telling. I felt like I was being made privy to some of the tragic moments of her life. I was inspired to go online and read more about her. I like writing that exposes the writer because it makes me want to know more about what they didn't say. What were the stories behind the poems that Anne wrote? Were they just new spins on old fairy tales or were they keys that opened a new Pandora's Box?



Name:  Flicka Michaels
Subject:  Fairy Tales
Date:  2003-09-14 02:15:24
Message Id:  6470
Fairy Tales were written for children. You must understand this before I begin to explain my view. I enjoyed reading Grimms and Anne Sexton's versions of Cinderella, but I still prefer the Disney version for children. I always loved to hear the story of Cinderella read to me as a kid; I loved the magic and the beauty of it. This is what kids want when they hear a fairy tale. Of course, one day they will have to learn that there are terrible aspects of life, and that not everyone lives "happily ever after". However, they do not need to hear when they are so young.
Disney's job is to tell a story, explain a moral, and leave the viewer with a sense of happiness. And that is what the movie does. Disney only took out the gruesome parts of the Grimms stories to please their audience of children. Even if the stepsisters do get punished in the end like they deserve, nobody wants to see their eyes pecked out! And wouldn't you agree that a magical fairy godmother is more romantic than a bird who throws down pretty dresses from a tree? For kids, I can see how the Disney version would be better.
However, as adults, we can appreciate the other versions of the fairy tales as well. I enjoyed reading the Grimms version of the fairy tales. It was different mainly because it revolved around birds, and her mother's grave. Aslo, her father was still alive. This version of Cinderella struck me as more real in the sense that it wasn't as magical but it displayed more prominently the emphasis on moral values.
I did not like the Anne Sexton version of the fairy tales. It was very interesting to read her view on the stories, but I was unimpressed by the sarcasm, the sly comments, and the straight-forward narration. Personally, I believe that fairy tales are stories to be passed on to other generations, either by reading it or listening to it read by your parents. Fairy tales are supposed to be fixed, and while they will naturally change over time (Grimm to Disney), I believe that one should not encorporate one's personal views into the stories. Obviously, not everyone lives "happily ever after" once they are married. Realistically, people have problems with money, with kids, with each other... but you're not supposed to think about it. That is not the point of the story. The point of the story is to explain a moral and show how the princess get prince charming because she was a good person....Lessons are the main point of fariy tales and I believe they should stay that way. I understand that Anne Sexton was just trying to expose how unrational these stories are, but for children, that just doesn't matter. What is important is to let your child see the good things in life, before the bad things and to keep him/her away from the bad things for as long as possible.

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