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Fairy Tales: Then and Now

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Katie Pinkard

on 18 December 2013

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Transcript of Fairy Tales: Then and Now

In our culture, we have morphed fairy tales into something of wonder, an enchanting forest holding a sleeping princess waiting to be awoken by a kiss from her own prince Charming. These tales, however, have all been rewritten and made famous for their innocence by Walt Disney, and his corporation. Walt Disney, grew up always doodling and drawing on anything he could get his hands on. Encouraged by his mother and older brother, Disney went into the commercial business and became well known for his “Alice Cartoons”. He released his first full length movie “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, the first of the Disney fairy tales. He focused on fairy tales for a good part of his career and is most well known for animating tales such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and The Little Mermaid.

On the other, more somber side of traditional tales are the Grimm Brothers versions. The Grimm Brothers fairy tales were first published in a book in 1812 and contained 86 stories. They continued adding and subtracting stories to fill seven volumes of Grimm books, with the last one totaling 211 stories. These stories were highly criticized because they were named “childrens tales” when they were clearly not suitable for children because of the rather obscene subject matter. In later edits of the stories, they began to remove some of the most controversial subject matter such as changing the mother in Snow White and Hansel and Gretel to a wicked stepmother, and changing the more promiscuous parts of Rapunzel to make her more naïve. They did however add violence, especially when dealing with the villain, to those later edits.
Disney vs. Grimm Brothers
In the Disney version of Cinderella, the story follows a young girl who’s mother dies and leaves her father alone. He remarries a woman who has two daughters who are also Cinderella’s age. After a while the father dies, leaving Cinderella in the care of her stepmother, who becomes mean and bitter, and ultimately jealous of Cinderella and the love that her father had for her. She condemns Cinderella to be a servant in her own household, cleaning and cooking for her and her two daughters. The prince decides to have a grand ball that all eligible maidens in the kingdom must attend, in hopes that he will choose them for his wife. The wicked stepmother and stepsisters tear Cinderella’s dress and leave her in tatters on the floor, so that she would not be able to attend the ball, and therefore give the two girls a better chance with the queen. After they leave, Cinderella’s fairy godmother appears to her and fashions her a beautiful dress, and a beautiful carriage to take her to the ball. However, this magic had one condition, it would be over by the time the clock struck midnight. Upon her arrival at the grand ball, the prince immediately spotted Cinderella and was enchanted by her beauty. He danced with her all night and as they danced, they fell in love. Before he could ask her name, the clock began to chime to warn Cinderella that her deadline was here. She ran from the castle, leaving a shoe on the front steps of the castle. When the prince realizes that his love is gone, he finds the shoe and demands that every girl in the kingdom try it on, so he will find his princess and marry her. The stepmother finds out about this plan and locks Cinderella away in her room so that she can not try on the shoe. She is able to escape just in time to try on the glass slipper but the stepmother breaks it. Devestated, the prince feels that all hope is lost in finding his true love. Cinderella runs to her room, only to return with the other shoe, a perfect fit for her foot. They are whisked away to the castle, and married. There, they both lived happily ever after.

Sleeping Beauty
As for now...
In our day and age, especially in the United States, fairy tales are innumerable and have been transformed into literature, film, stage, and art. Though mainly read or shown to children they are used to give a pleasing feeling to the audience. They usually contain one kind and innocent protagonist and their (usually jealous and ugly) antagonist. Along with that, they contain a main character to adversary the antagonist and (of course) take down that antagonist to end the story happily ever after. Most popular American fairy tales hold a moral lesson, which makes them a popular choice for small children.
From the “Once Upon a Time” to the “Happily Ever After” fairy tales are told to children young and old to encourage dreams, and spark imaginations. The valiant prince riding in on his noble steed to save his beloved long haired, fair skinned princess while singing a perfectly harmonious duet brings a since of safety and happiness before bed or while enchanting a classroom full of eagerly listening ears. But, what if, in fact, we have it all wrong? What if handsome Prince Charming and the happily whittling dwarfs are not what we thought, but actually something far darker with no chance of happily ever after?
Fairy Tales: Then and Now
Fairy tales began as stories, told orally or by dramatic reenactment. They were simply passed down from generation to generation from places all over the world. Stories that we know today are a mixture of several culture's stories that have been molded throughout time.
Around the mid 17th century, intellectuals from Paris would host meetings in their homes, or salons to talk about the current events of the day. Because women of the time were not permitted to be educated in a school setting, they met to discuss politics, literature, art, and folklore. A well known topic of discussion was fairy tales. They are attributed to adding the more romanticized idea of the tales and spun them to show power and strength of the female characters.
Disney starts the story out on the new Princess Aurora’s first birthday, the whole kingdom comes together to celebrate. The evil witch Malificent shows up to the party and curses the baby. On her sixteenth birthday, she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel, and die. Fearing the fate of their beloved daughter and princess, the king and queen hide Aurora away for sixteen years. She is sent to the woods with three fairies to watch over her, and bless her until she is able to safely return to the kingdom. Almost sixteen years later, the princess is picking berries in the woods where she happens into a young man. They sing a nice duet and fall madly and passionately in love. The young man is actually a prince, who upon his arranged marriage to Aurora, will bring the two wealthiest kingdoms together. But, when on her sixteenth birthday, the curse is carried out, the princess falls into a deep sleep after pricking her finger. Eventually the prince takes down Malificent, and climbs to the tallest room in the tallest tower of the castle, to awake the sleeping beauty from her sleep with true love’s kiss.
It has been found however, that fairy tales have ancient roots even dating back to the beginning of the Chinese empire. Ancient Chinese philosophers such as Liezi and Zhuangzi wrote fairy tales and folklore into many of their philosophical works. The first accounted western fairy tales are found from Aesop who was from Greece. Many famous authors such as William Shakespeare, Jeffery Chaucer, and Edmond Spenser have used snipets of fairy tales in their works and have expounded on many tales passed down through their own families.
The Salon Era
In the Grimm version however...
Most of the story stays the same, the fairy godmother still rescues poor Cinderella and she still ends up happily ever after with her Prince Charming. The ending though is quite a bit more violent than told by Disney. The stepsisters, trying desperately to fit into Cinderella's glass slipper, mutilate their feet. They break arches and cut off toes to try and fit in the shoes. When the prince sees that, he chooses Cinderella and they go off to be married. They return to the stepmother's house later however, to watch as birds peck the stepmother and stepsister's eyes out for their wickedness.
Grimm Version...
The first major difference in the stories is that the princess does not prick her finger, but gets a flax stuck underneath her fingernail, which is what puts her into her deep sleep. Then, in the earliest versions of the story, the prince finds her and thinks she is so beautiful that he has his way with her right there, while she is still comatose. From there, the coupling leads to a pregnancy, and the princess gives birth to twins. (all while still sleeping) When the twins are looking for milk, one sucks on her finger, removing the flax and waking her from her deep sleep. From there, they all lived together as a family, happily ever after.
Little Red Riding Hood
There was a young girl who was taking lunch to her grandmother’s house through the dark forest. Before leaving, her mother told her to watch out for the wolves. She put her red cloak on and ventured to her grandmas house. As she was traveling thought he forest a wolf decided that he wanted to eat her. He snuck into her grandmothers house before her and put on a nightgown and night cap to mimic the look of the grandma. Upon Red’s arrival, she noticed a few differences in her “grandma”. Her famous words, “Grandma, what big eyes you have. Grandma, what big ears you have. Grandma, what big teeth you have.” The wolf replied, “Better to see you with, my dear. Better to hear you with, my dear. Better to eat you with, my dear.” About that time, a hunter happened by and shot the wolf before he could gobble up Red. She found her grandmother in the hall closet where the wolf had hidden her, and they shared the lunch that Red brought from home. The End.
In the Grimm Story…
The tale changes when Red finds the wolf in her grandmother’s bed. She tries to outwit the beast by performing a strip tease for him and eventually, unable to stop herself, she engages in sexual intercourse with him. But, the wolf still comes out on top, because after they are done, he eats her. He then throws the girl and her grandmother’s remains back up only to invite the hunter to a meal of their flesh, to win his favor before devouring him too.

Those multiple stories only give brief insight about how much fairy tales have changed as the cultures and traditions of the world have transformed them into the stories we know and love today. These stories have, and continue to be molded by each passing generation.
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