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.

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