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?