Sunday, April 29, 2012

Draft Essay

Jessica Hishman English 331 Folk & Fairy Tales Draft Essay

Fairy Tales: The Transformation from Oral Communication to Literature

“Naturally, the oral folk tales that were told in many different ways thousands of years ago preceded the literary narratives, but we are not certain who told the tales, why, and how. We do know, however, that scribes began writing down different kinds of tales that reflected an occupation with rituals, historical anecdotes, customs, startling events, miraculous transformations, and religious beliefs. The recording of these various tales was extremely important because the writers preserved an oral tradition for future generations, and in the act of recording, they changed the tales to a greater or lesser degree, depending on what their purpose was in recording them.” (Zipes 43)

Fairy Tales are rooted in an oral tradition that evolved into literary and visual stories. Oral Tradition refers to the verbal communication and is the way Fairy Tales were passed along in societies without writing. The literary Fairy Tale is one that is written down and is usually given credit to one author (some do have more than one). The author who wrote down the Fairy Tale is the one given credit even though the origin of the Oral Fairytales are impossible to pinpoint as they traveled around until someone chose to write it down.

When researching the Oral Tradition of Fairy Tales have to keep in mind the various distortions that run right alongside previous methods of documentation. In “Oral Tradition and Chronology” there is a mention of a phenomenon called “telescoping”. What happens is that some periods will drop out of the oral tradition completely resulting in the left over periods merging together. Henige mentions in “Oral Tradition and Chronology” on Kinglists, which is where telescoping can happen more often than not. If rulers created chaos, ruled for a short time or were “imposed by a foreign suzerain” these rulers were generally left out of the Kinglists. Telescoping can also occur when an epoch is compressed into one generation or under one ruler. Yet, the biggest error occurs from “faulty collective memories of the transmitters of the list”. (Henige) Another problem with Oral Tradition is that sometimes societies would lengthen rather than telescope which is where societies would add in rulers that never actually existed. The various methods of documentation, most prominent being Kinglists, cannot be fully trusted and must be cross examined with other documentation at the time.

“The only trustworthy kind of folk literature is that collected under conditions which give such information about the immediate informant as enables us to check his claim to be a bearer of oral tradition.” (Utley pg. 197) Many Fairy Tales were taken from their oral origin and translated into a literacy tale. This was done to preserve the tales, as Oral Tradition can die out more readily than literacy. Yet, with translating an oral Fairy Tale into a Literacy Tale we can see that there is a problem with giving due credit. “" One is not here concerned with ultimate origins-whether the story comes from Perrault’s Cinderella or Southey's Three Bears. Print is a contaminator, a reverser and freezer of versions, but it does not necessarily destroy the oral process, which is a very vigorous kind of growth.” (Utley pg. 198)

Fairy Tales were written down to both please society and others were written down as they were told. Fairy Tales began to transform on paper into a story that was intended to send a good message to children even though this was not the way the Fairy Tales were originally told. In “The Story of Grandmother” by Delarue there are some gruesome tellings that would be inappropriate for children. For example, the wolf in “The Story of Grandmother” not only killed Granny but “put some of her flesh in the pantry and a bottle of her blood on the shelf.” (Delarue) “Perrault removed those elements that would have shocked the society of his epoch with their cruelty.” (Introduction: Little Red Riding Hood 4) The Grimm’s tale of Little Red Riding Hood, named “Little Red Cap”, also erased some of the more inappropriate things found in Delarue’s “Story of Grandmother”. In Delarue’s “Story of Grandmother” there is a point in the story where Little Red Riding Hood has to remove all her clothing. This element is removed from The Grimm’s “Little Red Cap”.

As you can see, Delarue’s “Story of Grandmother” which is a version of “Little Red Riding Hood” is “presumably more faithful to an oral tradition predating Perrault, in part because the folklorist recording it was not invested in producing a highly literary book of manners for aristocratic children and worked hard to capture the exact working of the peasant raconteur, and in part because oral traditions are notoriously conservative and often preserve the flavor of narratives as they circulated centuries ago.” (Introduction: Little Red Riding Hood 3-4) Many Fairy Tales, once translated from an Oral retelling into literacy are transformed into the authors own version. Whether it be for personal pleasure, or to captivate an audience in an appropriate way, we can see how stories have been changed over the years.

Works Cited

Delarue, Paul. "Story of Grandmother." n.d. CUNY. 29 04 2012 .

Henige, David P. "Oral Tradition and Chronology." The Journal of African History, Vol. 12, No. 3 (1971): 371-389.

"Introduction: Little Red Riding Hood." n.d. CUNY. 29 04 2012 .

Utley, Francis Lee. "Folk Literature: An Operational Definition." The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 74, No. 293 (1961): 193-206.

Zipes, Jack. Why Fairy Tales Stick: The Evolution And Relevance of a Genre. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hansel and Gretel

Jessica Hishman

English 331-01

Symbolic and Literal roles of Food in Grimm’s “Hansel and Gretel”

The tale of Hansel and Gretel is a German folktale that portrays food in both a literal and symbolic role. The tale begins with a family of four, the poor woodcutter, his wife and their two children, Hansel and Gretel. This family has come upon hard times and we can exactly how food plays a factor in the way this story turns out.

Hard times came upon this family and it was beginning to take a toll having to feed all four of them. Food was scare and splitting what the family had, between four people, was no longer an option. The absence of food, fear of starvation, is what drove the mother to force the woodcutter to leave the children in the woods.

When the children were forced out of their home (twice), they were given bread to help them along the way. Bread is a staple and is shown as a poor family’s food as it is not that expensive and can be easily made. Bread, being a staple, is also a life-sustaining food and in the case of Hansel and Gretel was a hope to return home. “On the way, Hansel crumbled his piece in his pocket, then often stood still, and threw crumbs onto the ground.” (Grimm) Hansel believed that this would lead them home but during the night, the birds had eaten the breadcrumbs leaving no path.

The next example of food playing a literal and symbolic role is when the children find the house “built entirely from bread with a roof made of cake, and the windows were made of clear sugar.” (Grimm) This house is made of both bread and cake. If you look at bread and cake side by side, bread is quite plain and cake is much more elaborate. Cake, being more expensive, is not a normal staple in poor family’s diets. Cake is a symbol of feasting and celebration. Sugar, is just as much of a luxury as cake to a poor family. Using these types of food, the witch can easily lure children in, as sugar is a temptation to anyone who does not get to experience it often.

Once the witch is able to lure the children into her home using the house made of sweets, she provides them with a full meal. Giving the children a full meal is a symbol of generosity and comfort to Hansel and Gretel, who had been thrown out of their own home for not having enough food. Unfortunately, the witch threw Hansel into a cage and food was given to Hansel to fatten him up.

Food was given an extensive role both symbolically and literally in Hansel and Gretel. Food was used in Hansel and Gretel to represent an idea of comfort and hope. Food as also used to represent ideas of cannibalism (the witch) as well as fear (of starvation with the mother). Many Fairytales give food a symbolic and literal role and Hansel and Gretel is no exception.

Works Cited Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Hansel and Grettel. 2000-2002. 20 04 2011 .