I was away from this blog for a VERY long time. I got so busy with my work and the courses that I was taking that I forgot that I needed this space for myself. This blog keeps me sane and is my own special little place and I shouldn’t ignore it, should I?
Anyway, in the months that I was away, I got a full-time job with a social media agency, I completed some pending freelance assignments I had and I finished the Fantasy & Science Fiction course on Coursera. Woohoo! I didn’t do much reading, I must admit, besides whatever was assigned during the course. But I did write some half-decent essays, which I though would be great to share with you guys. The first one is about The Grimm Brothers‘ Fairy Tales. A lot of the stories were very new to me, such as Cat and Mouse in Partnership, the Mouse, the Bird and the Sausage, Clever Grethel and Foolish Hans. On the other hand, there were others that were familiar, such as The Juniper Tree, Aschenputtel (Cinderella) and Hansel and Grethel. Nevertheless, it was great fun reading the old and the new and even more fun discussing the stories on the forums with the other students.
So anyway, the following is my essay on The Grimm Brothers’ Fairy Tales. I didn’t want to take the typical angle of these actually being stories for adults and not for kids. So I added a little twist by asking exactly why adults told each other these stories. At least, I think it’s a twist. You might disagree. Nevertheless, here’s my essay, for your pleasure (or not).
‘Amorality’ seems to be a feature of many Grimm Fairy Tales. Traditional morals and ethics, such as obedience, hard work, familial love, modesty and loyalty are not rewarded, and are often punished quite cruelly. What is also interesting is that these stories feature no supernatural or fantastical elements. The only exception to this is the use of talking or anthropomorphized animals as the protagonists.
There doesn’t seem to be a higher purpose to the stories than simple entertainment; if there are any lessons, they only teach us that life is unfair. For instance, if The Death of the Hen is analysed using the more conventional parameters used to judge fables, then it has no real meaning. A hen reneges on her promise to the cock and dies. But everyone (including the loving cock) who very kindly decides to give her a decent burial also dies at the end of the story. The actual meaning only comes through if one accepts that rather than teaching an ideal, what the story is saying is that it doesn’t matter if we’re good or bad; the end is the same for all of us.
Similarly if Cat and Mouse in Partnership had been written as a moral tale, it would have ended with the cheating cat being taught a lesson. Instead, the innocent and trusting mouse is eaten by the cat. In The Vagabonds, the innkeeper, who allows the animals to stay on his premises, is left cheated and wounded.
We know that most of these stories originated as tales that peasants told each other for amusement, even though the Grimm brothers themselves did not get most of them from that section of society. It is very likely then that the purpose of these stories was not to teach the peasants how to lead better lives, but simply to teach them to accept the harsh realities of their lives.
- A Student’s Perspective of Coursera (susannahartigan.com)
- The challenge of retelling Grimms’ fairy tales (guardian.co.uk)
- Erstwhile brings rare Grimm fairy tales back to print (robot6.comicbookresources.com)
- The evolution of Snow White: A close textual analysis of three versions of the Snow White fairy tale (udini.proquest.com)
- Sleeping Beauty (clacirillo.wordpress.com)
- The Problems with Coursera’s Peer Assessments (hackeducation.com)
- The Problems with Peer Grading in Coursera (insidehighered.com)