The Myths and Meanings of Fairy Tales

All over the world, people recognize and revere the stories and characters featured in Grimm’s Fairy Tales.  This famous collection was published long ago by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, first printed in 1812 in German with the title of Kinder und Hausmärchen, or ‘Children’s and Household Tales’.  The many tales collected by the brothers Grimm offer fascinating resources for considering the complexities of life in Europe in the early nineteenth century, and provide a window into key ideas related to childhood, gender, family, class, violence, fear, work, and socioeconomic hardship (among other things).  It may come as no surprise, therefore, that these themes are writ large in what has become the most famous series of fairy tales ever produced: the various films by Walt Disney and his company that are based upon earlier fairy tales.  The date that this blogpost is due is our pre-Thanksgiving flexday, and since I’m going to be giving you a break in class my hope and expectation is that you take this response very seriously and do a good job with it – while also having a little fun with a topic that many of you will find near and dear to your hearts. 

Fairy tales are simultaneously meant for entertainment while also being intended to intrigue and educate readers/viewers about certain moral ideas.  With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to see what might happen if you precisely and directly bring specific tales from different times into conversation.  Thus, I want you to carefully and pointedly compare a single, specific story (or character) from Grimm’s Fairy Tales with a particular movie (or character) from the Disney princess universe.  Your response should be at least two in-depth paragraphs in length, and in your discussion you might consider ideas of this sort:  What are these stories and versions about, and in what ways are they notably similar and different?  What did you find shocking or surprising in these stories, and why?  Do these “texts” ultimately suggest different ideas and definitions of “fairy tales” (or indeed “myth”)?  How/why so?  Finally, what is the “moral” of the story for your chosen “texts”, and more importantly, what social or political ideas relative to the various time periods in question do your selected stories seem to subtly highlight and comment upon?

14 thoughts on “The Myths and Meanings of Fairy Tales

  1. The Grimm’s fairytales can be seen a lot in common Disney movies. Such as snow white, cinderella, Rapunzel, and many more. When comparing the two, there are many similarities and differences. For starters, the Grimm brothers show more of the gory and violent aspects of these tales. In other words they don’t change the story for the kids. They tell it how it is, and are just meant for an educational and somewhat entertaining read. While Disney films are just the opposite. They change up the stories and leave out the messy parts. they do this to make it more appealing to children, and those younger in age. While the basic story lines and characters are the same, Disney just adds in more elements for the children. For example the lizard in tangled, and all the talking animals in cinderella and snow white. While they are seen in some of the original stories, Disney tends to take it to another level.
    When reading the originals side by side with the Disney ones, it can be a little shocking. Just to see what details got cut out, and being able to compare them to what actually happened. I think this can also link to their being different definitions of fairy tales, and the story telling aspect. Going back too tangled and Rapunzel the stories have the same basic idea. That being her long her and her being trapped in a castle. Everything else though seems to be loosely tied to the original, and while it makes sense, it is a stretch. All in all I think learning and getting to read both is very eye opening. It allows you to connect it with todays views and morals, and get to compare it to those of the past. Also getting to see everything that has changed as Disney continues to evolve and change their morals as well.

  2. For comparison I chose to do the same story but look at the similarities or differences between the Grimm brothers story and the Disney version. The story being compared in Rapunzel, which is one of my personal favorite Disney movies. Since this is one of my favorites I found it very interesting to read the Grimm brothers version. Right off the bat something that stood out to me was the sorceress in the beginning, and the offer. In the Grimm brothers the father steals the Rapunzel from the sorceress and when caught is willing to exchange the use of the flower for his daughter. As known in the Disney version the old lady uses the flower to keep her youth, when it is taken for the queen she steals Rapunzel and locks her up in the tower. Another major difference that stood out was the man who comes to the tower is a prince, in Disney it is a thief who is trying to find hiding from the palace. The final major difference that surprised me was in the Grimm version Gothel cuts Rapunzels hair, and the prince falls which leads to his eyes being gorged out by thorns. In Disney the thief cuts her hair so get rid of Gothel as she cannot use Rapunzel to keep her youth anymore. A similarity is both stories end with the two having a happily ever after.
    Overall, these stories both follow a type of fairytale storyline. The Disney version is just fluffed up for general audiences and gives more of an engaging plot. The Grimm version offers more of a tragic story that ends up with an out of the blue happy ending. For me personally I think the Disney version follows more of a today’s era of a fairytale storyline, but I also grew up not reading Grimm brothers or being exposed to those types of fairytales. In Rapunzel I think the moral of the stories is to not be afraid to explore the unknown. This can be seen in both movie and text. In the text the prince goes out of his comfort zones, takes a risk and finds Rapunzel. In the movie she takes the risk of leaving, and learns life wasn’t what she was taught. Both end with happy ending because of the characters choice to take risks. Something that can be seen in both is that the male character is the one to save Rapunzel from the tower. In the text he is the prince, which is obviously a higher class then what Rapunzel was in is the one to save her. In the movie the roles are switched as Rapunzel is the princess who is saved by the thief. But both end with the male saving Rapunzel leading to a happy ending.

  3. The Grimm’s fairy tales slightly differ from those by Disney. The Grimm’s are more violent and dark while Disney’s version is more family appropriate. They both give the same lesson, but just had minor differences. A well known fairy tale is Cinderella. In The Grimm’s version of Cinderella, it’s a bit more dark. The step mom cuts parts of the daughters feet so they will fit into the shoe. This was too gruesome for Disney, so they excluded this part. I find it shocking how similar Disney kept this story.

    The story of Cinderella is very much a fairy tale. It follows many of the fairy tale “guidelines.” For example it has magic. In the Grimm’s version, it has a bird that brings Cinderella a dress or the ball and in Disney’s version it has the fairy god mother. Not only does it have magic, but it also have a sense of happily ever after, which is a common thing in fairy tales. The moral of the story is that good things happen to go people. I think Cinderella was written to distract people from what was going on during the time. It was written in 1812, the same time as the war, therefore Cinderella was probably used to get people’s minds off things.

  4. The Grimm’s stories and Disney fairytales have many similarities and differences. One being that the Grimm’s is more in depth and shows violence, horror, and more action than anything Disney shows. Disney is meant for children and younger viewers so it is more shelter and only shows the happy parts rather than anything that is too much for children to see and learn about. This being the big difference the two are also similar. the story line and plot. They have similar works like Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow white. these stories are taken by each the Grimm’s as well as Disney and made into their own. Disney makes it more kid friendly with talking animals and happily ever afters while Grimm’s makes it more violent and gruesome. The similarities reflect the differences make the two different fairytales connect back to each other.
    Reading the Twelve brothers and then connecting it to the fairytale of cinderella you can see the similarity of how the children are treated. A parent figure is out for their death and only wants one child or in cinderella the two sisters to be the star of the show. Grimm’s however wants the twelve brothers dead while in cinderella she is just treated poorly. Although thees two stories are completely different because of their similarities they connect back to each other tying in the though of unfairness and how only one child can be the star. The both have mentors ,bad parents, magic ,and talking animals yet how they are portrayed makes them so different. The moral of the story is kindness towards all. Everyone is important and deserves to be treated the same way meaning not one person should have it all. They use the political problem of class in both where they are taking the riches away from someone to give more to someone else.

  5. The Snow White Grimm tale was somehow more realistic but also far more jarring than the Disney version. The beginning of each story starts basically the same which makes this, arguably, one of the darker Disney iterations as the evil queen still orders Snow White’s death and that her heart be brought back as proof. Even this aspect has been sanitized but is still dark by Disney standards. The rest of the Disney version, though, strays pretty far from the original leaving out and changing a lot of details. Adding two more failed attempts on Snow White’s life with a bodice laced too tight and a poison comb before reaching the iconic poison apple. One of the most notable differences between the two versions is that the way the poison apple is cured is by complete accident. The prince randomly shows up and is fascinated by Snow White, resulting in them moving her coffin, the movement of the coffin results in the apple dislodging from her throat and she wakes up, apparently cured. The other two times, the dwarves (who remained unnamed and overall minor characters) rescued her.
    The structure of the plot and characters in the Grimm version is extremely interesting as it does not follow a normal fairytale, or even general story, structure. There is no clear hero, although Snow White is obviously the main character and a physical representation of “good.” There are also no mentors, only the dwarves who Snow White comes to live with. They remain minor characters who just kind of appear to make sure she doesn’t die every now and then. The only traditional role maintained is that of the villain, the Evil Queen, who consistently meddles in Snow White’s life. In the Disney version, more story-telling, fairytale norms are followed; The Prince is more present (though not by much) throughout the movie, the dwarves are all given names and some even serve as mentors, Snow White has a closer relationship with nature and the animals, and the resolution is based on magic. By adding more magical elements to the story, magic, specifically true love, becomes the “hero” of the story. This concept in itself is interesting since there is still no definitive hero character.

  6. The Grimm’s fairytales are definitely very different from the Disney movies, but they also have a lot of similarities since they do in the end tell the same storyline. I personally think that Rapunzel might be the one that is most different. In the Grimm stories Rapunzel is depicted as vulnerable, the prince who is saving her is brave and a bigger focus within the story, while in the movie Tangled the man who finds her is a thief and is a part of her journey to the castle. In the movie Tangled Rapunzel is a lot more independent and strong, she is the one who decides where she wants to go and is able to make it out of the castle and into a journey in which she takes the lead.
    You can clearly see these differences because of the way the characters are portrayed and the story is told. In the Grimm’s stories everything is concise, the story is short and to the point while in the movie we are able to get to know Rapunzel and see her explore this whole new world she has never seen before.
    In the movie Rapunzel actually gets out before Gothel is able to catch her, but they eventually make it back to the tower in which she cuts off her hair just like in the Grimm’s fairytale. Another similarity is that in both stories Rapunzel lets down her hair after she is told to, and they do make it back to the kingdom in which they live happily ever after. But there is more differences within that such as them making it back to the castle immediately and that in the Disney movie he cuts her hair off to protect her from Gothel. What is so surprising about this is that we can clearly see how much gender roles have evolved, and how in the movie Tangled Rapunzel is portrayed as an independent powerful female, which leaves us the audience to fall in love with this story because of what it is portraying. Another difference is that in the story the father is willing to exchange his daughter, however in the movie this is not the case at all, they find the magical flower and she steals their daughter, so that bad parent storyline does not really work for this specific movie. It is interesting to see how different but similar the same story can be, and how much it can change as society evolves.

  7. The little brother and little sister starts with two siblings who go to a lake and the brother takes a drink from the lake and is then magically turned into a deer. The siblings found a little cabin to live in. Hunting season came and the king and huntsmen are constantly hunting for little brother every day. They found the cabin he lives in with his sister, king asks little sister to marry her, she obliges. After this, they move into his castle and this is when things get a little blurry for me honestly. From what I understand a witch breaks in, gouges little sister’s eyes out, and replaced her body with her daughter’s body. I assume this kills her and every night the king will see her and she’d ask to take care of her child and eventually she came back to life. They lived happily ever after, the end.
    Princess and the Frog have similar elements such as the main character being magically turned into an animal. There are also talking animals in both of these stories Another similarity is that there is a supernatural villain in both stories, the witch and Dr. Faciller. There are many differences between the two such as one having two siblings as the main characters whereas in the other one it was two virtual strangers who eventually fell in love or whatever. In Little Brother and Little Sister, I found it shocking that the king wanted to marry the sister so quickly after hunting down her brother. Also that the only reason he wanted to marry her was for her looks, he just looked at her and proposed marriage. I think both stories teach morals of compassion and to be less judgmental towards others. After Little Brother was turned into a deer his sister didn’t leave him in the woods to die, she helped take care of him in the cabin. And in Princess and the Frog, she hated Naveen in the beginning but eventually grew to love him in the end.

  8. The Grimm fairy tale Little Brier Rose is a tale about a king and queen that had a child and upon that child’s birth they gave a celebration. Unfortunately, they didn’t have enough dinner plates so they decided not to invite one of the wise women in the kingdom. During the celebration, the woman not invited came and cursed their child and sentenced her to death on her 15th birthday by pricking her finger on a spindle. One of the other wise women was able to change this to a sleep rather than death. Unfortunately the curse came true; the princess and the rest of the kingdom went into a deep sleep for 100 years. Just before the princess would wake, a prince came and gave her a kiss awakening her and the kingdom. The Disney’s fairy tale Sleeping Beauty is very similar to the Grimm version. However, instead of 15 years with Disney it is 16 and rather than 100 years actually passing, the prince comes much sooner to save the princess and the kingdom. Also a noticeable difference is instead of wise women, Disney had three good fairies and one bad one – the bad fairy they decided not to invite and she became angry.

    I am more adapted to the Disney version of this tale so upon reading the Grimm brothers’ version, I was shocked to read that the kingdom had to wait for 100 years to be awakened rather than the prince coming sooner. I don’t believe these texts suggest different ideas of fairy tales because if you glance at both, they both end with a happy ending. The moral of Sleeping Beauty in the Disney version is that love conquers all; in this version the prince saves the princess almost immediately after the curse has activated because the prince was already in love with the princess. However, in Little Brier Rose from the Grimm Brothers’ version, the moral seems to be a little different. In this tale, the moral seems to be more towards the “treat others you want to be treated” or “love everybody” type of story. Everything bad that happened in Little Brier Rose was because the king and queen did not invite everyone and they left the one woman out because they couldn’t get another plate.

  9. There is a distinct difference in attributes and tone when it comes to the Grimm fairytales versus the popular Disney fairytales. On one hand, we have a suspense-building story that leads you out to a happy ending on all accounts (except maybe the villain in some cases), and on the other hand, we have a story that doesn’t hint at where it is going, where it may finish, what it is trying to tell you until the end. The Grimms tales seem to let you decide and interpret what the moral of the story should be- Disney says it loud and clear.

    When I was reading the Cinderella story, I remembered that her name is actually Ella. Being just a nickname, Cinderella was just a nickname for her because she cleaned the cinder and ashes from the fireplace. Grimms story, obviously darker, compares drastically (in my opinion), with the story from Disney. Not having seen Cinderella from Disney in a while, I remember how she had so many things going her way in terms of help. She had not only the godmother, but also a bunch of talking mice. All the animals wanted to help her as well- from birds to bunnies and the ‘horse’ drawn carriage. It almost seems like she was ultimately set up for the best.

    In Grimms story, the step sisters were trying on the shoe and when it didn’t fit, the mother cut off a bit of the heel and the toe. I’m curious as to why Disney didn’t make a different rendition in which she did something else that was bad or harmful- after all, they want the audience to hate her. We did, but I wonder. A similarity would be that they kept the story line, but Disney made it more about themes like love and doing your best despite circumstances. Grimm was able to convey a little bit of sadness and depression in a more definitive way Disney wasn’t able to with just Cinderella’s emotions onscreen.

  10. The most common similarity between Cinderella in both the Grimms’ Aschenputtel and the Disney version is the overall plot: Cinderella is treated cruelly by her step-mother and step-sisters, and also desires to go to an event held by the king. When the step-family denies this, she eventually gains a beautiful dress and pair of slippers and dances with the prince. When Cinderella leaves the celebration, she leaves behind a single slipper, which is taken by the prince and used as a way to find the woman he loves and danced with. When the prince visits Cinderella and her step-family, the step-sisters attempt to put on the shoe but it does not fit. Cinderella, being her shoe, fits perfectly. Her and the prince wed and live happily ever after.

    The most noticeable different between the two is the tone. The Disney version, while having some dramatic moments, is generally very light hearted and a “feel-good” movie. It has a fairy godmother character who acts as a mentor to Cinderella, talking mice who sing, and other animal companions. Cinderella’s mother and father died before the movie, but her father married her step-mother after her mother’s death. She wishes to attend a one-night ball hosted by the royal family. She gets her dress and slippers through the fairy godmother, but all of this will go away once midnight strikes. Her step-sisters’ feet do not fit, but it is simply left at that. At her wedding with the prince, none of her stepfamily is shown to be in attendance. The moral of Disney’s Cinderella is to be kind and brace no matter what you may be going through, as one day things will turn out for the better. The film was released in 1950, so some of the elements of that time period follow through with Cinderella almost being considered a damsel in distress. In some sort of way, she does take charge by going to the ball on her own. But she relies mostly on the fairy godmother and the prince for a happy ending. An unpopular thought of mine is that her personality is very much visible. Patience is her biggest virtue, and what has gotten her through her step-family’s cruel ness for years. She is kind and caring to the mice when she shouldn’t have to be since they are rodents and she is in an abusive household. Many of the Disney princesses from around this time period (30s – 50s) are seen as weak and bad role models just because they are not physically taking charge of what happens in the story. Yet all of them display strength in different ways such as kindness, patience, and courage from within. Being a strong female character does not necessarily mean you have to be physically strong or a fighter.

    The Grimm fairytale is incredibly dark, not just in comparison to the Disney version, but to other adaptations of the story. Cinderella’s father is still alive and is married to her step-mother, no fairy godmother is shown but instead a wishing tree, and the animals that help her out are mainly birds who do not talk. Cinderella attends a three day festival instead of a one night ball, and each night she runs away through the garden. There is no time as to when she has to leave since the magic wears off. In order for the step-sisters to fit their foot into the glass slipper, one cuts off her big toe and the other her heel. Neither of this works. At the prince and Cinderella’s wedding, their eyes are plucked out by birds due to their wickedness and cruelty towards Cinderella. There is no concrete lesson other than to not be wicked, jealous, and cruel to others. This story was reimagined in 1812, so Cinderella’s lack in personality and dependence on her beauty and the prince are still at high.

  11. A story that was used for both the Grimm brothers and Disney movies was Cinderella. She was one of the biggest Disney movies and her success is shown through the Cinderella castle in Disney world. But, I think that the brothers original story is a little less magical. In the original story there were no ugly step sisters, they were beautiful. This taps into the idea of Disney associating ugly with mean and that ugly is a terrible thing. In the original there was also no fairy god mother. She received all of the things she needed because every day she would cry at her mothers grave. Disney decided to make it less depressing and violent (the sister cutting off a toe to fit in the shoe). He added a more fairy tale element to it with the fairy god mother, happily ever after and adding more talking animals.
    I think the thing that shocked me most as a child was finding out that these tales exist. I only knew of the Disney version and I heard of the sisters cutting off their toes to fit into the shoe I was for sure appalled. I felt that I knew all of these stories so well and to figure out that they were a lot more violent. I think that the Grimms and Disney had very different ideas of fairy-tales. The Grimms brothers were the originals but they had less of a magical element and more certain things happening and it ending well for a person. I think Disney reimagined what a fairy tale is and added more magic and adventure. The brothers stories were very short and Disney expanded on those and added more conflict. The moral of both stories are a bit different Disney always has a happily ever after and everything seems to work out. While the brothers Grimm may have been a bit similar but still was not the big and glam thing that Disney has created today.

  12. The Grimm’s fairy tales and tales from Disney have key similarities and differences. One story that catches my attention between the two is Cinderella. Grimm’s version holds the same magical elements but had far more twisted moments than Disney’s. A key similarity is both stories involve a girl who overcame hardships and lived happily ever after. Disney’s version of the tale is sugar coated and designated for kids. The grimm’s version has a far more violent tone. For example, i was shocked to see that in the grimm’s version, Cinderellas sisters cut there toes in order to fit the shoe the prince had.

    Both these Creators have different definitions of fairy tale’s. Disneys views on fairy tales is more kids oriented, as to grimm’s being more for adults. The moral for both of these stories are the same. The moral is kindess towards all. A social idea that cinderella highlights is how your social class could affect how you are treated.

  13. The story of “The Frog King” appears to be very similar to Walt Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”. “Beauty and The Beast” is a tale much more well known during our modern time, with lots of merchandise of the characters from the movie, showing it’s impact on people. “The Frog King” is a tale that is older with similar meanings but it is less known, even though it is a classic. Both tale’s have in common that a beautiful princess does not wish to spend their time with an animal that they perceive as disgusting, because they are ugly and uncivilized. However the roles are slightly different in both of these stories. In Walt Disney’s “Beauty and The Beast” a beautiful princess of unfortunate circumstances finds herself in the palace of an ugly, uncivilized beast. In Grimm’s “The Frog King”, a frog makes a deal with a beautiful princess that he must be able to live with her.

    The Princess in “The Frog King” is much more cruel however. She is very unhappy with his arrival, tries to keep him out of her house and only brings him in because her father made her. She even goes so far as to throw him at one point when he wants to sleep in the same bed as her. In “Beauty and The Beast” the princess tries running from the ugly beast but eventually finds him charming and falls in love with him, and decides she wants to marry him instead of Gaston, who is attractive and manly. In “The Frog King” the frog seems very perverted at first, but later when it’s found that he’s a dashing prince the princess falls in love with him and even leaves to live with him at his castle. However in “Beauty and The Beast” the Beast is not perverted. This is probably for censorship since these movies are for kids. Grimm’s “The Frog King” was made during a more harsh time so there’s less sensitivity with perversion, and the violence that happened of the princess throwing the frog against the wall. “The Princess and The Frog” is probably more direct, but I wanted to skip over that since it is too obvious and I wanted to do another story to show how they all are very similar.

  14. When looking in class at the Grimm Brothers versus the Disney fairytales it can be seen that they are geared towards two different audiences. The Grimm Brothers wrote their stories for adults and women. There was a video that explained that these books inspired and helped women interpret their roles. That is why in many of these stories they featured a female main character who had to overcome some type of barrier. Specifically if you look at Cinderella, you can see a female lead who has to overcome the challenges that her own family and status bestow upon her.
    In the Grimm Brothers tale the story of Cinderella can be seen as a lot more grim (no pun intended). There is a lot of vivid and impactful scenes in the Grimm tale such as the step-sisters cutting off their own toes in order to make their feet fit into the slipper. The tale deals with death and gore to show the problems that Cinderella faces in order to find her prince. In the Disney version of the tale, Cinderella has to deal with her evil sisters and step mothers. Yet it takes out the layer of death and gore that is incorporated within the Grimm tale. This shows the difference between audiences that the Grimm tales and Disney has. Disney will forever be censored in order to fit the needs of the younger audience.
    When thinking about the political and social aspects of the audience as well we can see more of a message through Grimm’s tales. The gore and death show a deeper level to the step sisters. They want so bad to move up in life and have a better life with the prince that they are willing to cause pain and suffering to themselves. This shows how women so desperately wanted to move up in life during this time period so they could be more. Disney makes tales for people who want to be happy though when you think about the time periods in which he released them. Snow White was made after the depression and war, it was made happier because that is what people needed. Disney caters to the needs of the American people and tries to lift their spirits. Grimm makes a subtle message of political and social unrest.

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