Changing Cinderella

Our class on Tuesday, January 24 centered on one of the most celebrated fairy tales of all time, Cinderella. This class session featured a film presentation, a two-part lecture, and a brief quiz. During our time together, we covered the origins and morphology of the classic tale now known as Cinderella, revisited items from last week’s lecture, learned about the devices of parody and pastiche, and discussed contrasting incarnations of the Cinderella story and the shifting morals behind the tale as it appears in various special and temporal settings. I walked away from the day’s session with a deeper perspective on the classic story and a better understanding of its enduring resonance across cultures and history.

This meeting opened with a film presentation given by students Courtney Koenig and Lindsey Simpson. The first part of their presentation focused on the historical background behind the story of the famous 1950 Walt Disney animated musical, Cinderella, imaginably the most familiar iteration of the fairy tale to the average American student. They covered the many regions in which Cinderella-type fairy tales can be found. While versions of this story have been told and re-told all over the world, the oldest version of the tale sprung from China, the iconic name has Italian Renaissance origins, and the first incarnation of the widespread modern story originated in France. While setting, characters, names, and large details of the plot all vary in these tales across time and space, certain characteristics define them in common: they feature a “persecuted heroine” (and in some cases where a young boy is the main character, persecuted hero) type of protagonist whose familial oppression and subjugation is ended when the hero/ine achieves an unanticipated “triumphant reward or fortune” and escapes their former destitution. The two main types of Cinderella stories can be divided by the main antagonistic force the story features, which is either a wicked stepmother or an incestuous father. The Disney film that we probably all know was based on Charles Perrault’s Cendrillion, featuring the wicked stepmother model. It followed the popular animation aesthetics of the time and was created for the post-WWII American society, upholding the optimism of the capitalist American Dream. Koenig and Simpson demonstrated the parallels between the Disney telling of the story with the very different Cinderella-type story also by Charles Perrault, Donkeyskin, which falls into the incestuous father category. Then they highlighted the numerous differences between the two stories.

After Koenig and Simpson’s presentation, Soudabeh mentioned the results of our class survey from the first week. She was pleased that many of us demonstrated an actual interest in Children’s Literature outside of a course requirement, and that we had some familiarity with the texts. She wants us to be able to give our unique opinions and discuss the texts in depth by the end of the class. She also encouraged the class to pursue learning new things without fear of supposed difficulty, like she did when she learned Sanskrit recently. Then she redistributed the notes we took as partners from last week on Folklore and Literature.

The lecture began with an introduction to the concept of “fairy tale logic”. Each children’s story has a defining “logic” and sequence of events that distinguish the world of the story, a child’s world, from the adult world. “Fairy tale logic” extends to all aspects of the book; not only does it shape the story itself, it also permeates the illustrations, the diction choices, the narrative style, etc. This is an important aspect of fairy tales and Children’s Literature because it makes the genre accessible to children. When a story has elements of familiarity that the “fairy tale logic” can create, it becomes acceptable and tangible to the child. When it does not, it isolates and disinterests them.

We then learned about the concepts of parody and pastiche. Soudabeh illustrated this with a copy of Goodnight Bush, a parody of Goodnight Moon. Because of the original book’s cultural significance and identifiable unique style, the parody has meaning and weight. The parody can only exist with the original; while it uses satire to send a message of its own, it draws it power from the beloved original book. It is this recognizable reference that enables the parody’s commentary to have relevance with the audience. Linda Hutcheon says that parody is all we have, but Fredric Jameson defines a postmodern parody form called pastiche which creates something new out of alluding to something that has already existed. For example, Pulp Fiction uses pastiche in its frequent references to classic cinema.

Next, the class took a 2-question quiz over the assigned Cinderella readings.

After the quiz, we resumed our lecture. Classmates shared their perceptions of the Cinderella story, character, and different versions. The disparities in time, place, and culture between the various stories we read all produced distinct stories that reflect different values. One must be cautious when imposing from the outside values upon a past time. For example, the Donkeyskin story depicted the heroine escaping the proposal of her father, indicating that to the tale’s intended audience, a father’s desire for his daughter is wicked and to be avoided even at great personal cost and risk. Just because today we never depict such a thing in children’s stories because it is too repugnant to be included at all, does not mean we can fully understand the cultural implications behind its inclusion in Donkeyskin, as times are always changing! The class had an in-depth look at the Yeh-hsien and Donkeyskin tales from the text and their differing story elements. The two versions communicate different morals by their conclusion, which demonstrates the shifting meaning of an old story originally about child abuse. What new iterations of this beloved, dynamic story may pop up as our values and culture evolves? What will future generations perceive about us from our favorite Cinderellas?

Cinderella-1/24/17

In class on Tuesday, January 24th, we started off class with a presentation on Cinderella. The two presenters started off by telling the class a little history on the fairy tale of Cinderella, which is also known as The Little Glass Slipper. The majority of their presentation was the comparison of the Cinderella movie with the version “Donkeyskin” in The Classic Fairy Tales. Some of the similarities included: the mother dies, there is a godmother, she didn’t know the prince was looking for her, she finds true love, and they live happily ever after. Some of the differences included: there was no stepmother or stepsisters in the short story, the short story contained a ring instead of a glass slipper, and she runs away in the short story. It was very interesting for me to learn about “Donkeyskin” since I am so used to growing up around the Disney movie, Cinderella.

We then moved on to a short discussion on how children understand stories. Professor Soudabeh shared with us the book Ten Timid Ghosts and how her daughter didn’t like how the witch was driving a car instead of flying on a broom. Another example she shared with us was a version of Rapunzel that consisted of very elegant pictures. Her daughter thought the book belonged to her mom because the pictures weren’t acceptable. The way children’s minds immediately think the book is unacceptable because it’s not what is typical of a children’s book really amazes me. At such a young age, they can point out what is different or doesn’t belong.

Then, we moved on to another short discussion regarding parody. Professor Soudabeh shared with us two other books: Goodnight Moon and Goodnight Bush. They had the same exact book cover and a lot of similarities throughout the book when it came to the pictures. We discussed how the power of the parody comes from the original one, which in this case was the original book, Goodnight Moon. As a class, we came up with the definition that parody is when you adapt something that was already created to be funny and/or culturally relevant. This was a good introduction to better understanding what the different authors did in the many versions of Cinderella.

Towards the end of class, we started the discussion of “Cinderella” and its many different versions from The Classic Fairy Tales. We only got the chance to fully discuss “Yeh-hsien” and got half way through “Donkeyskin.”

The first version of Cinderella we discussed was the Chinese version called “Yeh-hsien” and we really focused on the important role the fish played in the story. We agreed that there was some personification with the fish regarding Cinderella’s strong connection to nature and the fish represents that connection. Yeh-hsien forms a special relationship with the fish, when suddenly the evil stepmother kills the fish out of jealousy. Although the fish dies, it still remains an important aspect of the story when Yeh-hsein receives a visit from a man who claims the bones of the fish are magic. The interesting part of this version of Cinderella is the great significance the fish has to the story compared to the version of Cinderella where she has a fairy godmother providing all the magic. The fairy godmother always held an important role, but I feel like she never held a role as significant as the fish held. I say this because even after Yeh-hsien finds her true love, he not only wanted her, but he wanted her fish bones, too.

We then started the discussion of another version of Cinderella, which was very different from the first one we discussed. To start, “Donkeyskin” is written as a narrative that is more so telling the audience instead of the story being presented to them. The purpose of this was to be able to direct the understanding for the readers. “Donkeyskin” didn’t have any magical fish, but instead it had the typical godmother character, who held a very significant role as well. She was the girl’s teacher and protector. The biggest difference of this version, in my opinion, strayed further away from the usual storyline of Cinderella with the King wanting to have an inappropriate relationship with his daughter. This was one of my least favorite versions because I couldn’t imagine ever hearing this as a little girl or even reading it to my own children one day. Even though at the end of the story the King was happy for his daughter, who found her happily ever after, the whole dynamic of the father falling in love with his daughter was unacceptable to me.

Although we were able to only discuss two versions of Cinderella, I enjoyed reading the different storylines that came with each version. The discussion of the two expanded my knowledge and understanding of each plot, as I learned the most significant aspects of each. I look forward to continuing our discussion on the other versions.

The Other Side of Cinderella

Cinderella, when we hear this what is the first thing that comes to your mind?

Glass slippers, talking mice, singing doves, a godmother waiting to make a magical appearance, a handsome prince, an unfortunate girl becoming a princess and living happy ever after ; is the typical scenario anyone can imagine when we identify this classical character.

But is this all we know about Cinderella, what about the different versions that are apparent throughout history and cultures around the world. Class today started  out with an interesting question about Cinderella and those who like her vs those who don’t. This was quite interesting to analyze, in my opinion I do not favor the classical Cinderella that most people categorize her to be, the reason being it feels lacking and mundane in many ways. This includes the plot and the event of the storyline which to a child may be very complicated yet to an adult is very straight forward and typical for a fairytale.

In the assigned reading, different versions of Cinderella were analyzed and brought forth, each of which showed many different themes and plots. In a way, a new side of Cinderella was unraveled; each of which varied from father to daughter marriages, gruesome acts of self infliction on oneself along with other characters, gender changes in the role of the heroine, as well as very different plot lines all of which follow a typical “Cinderella” theme.

The first Cinderella version “Yeh-Hsien” is very unique in which other elements are pulled together to represent her connection to nature, more specifically the fish that she catches and releases. Not only did this act show her kind nature, she further nurtured and took care of the fish which went above and beyond an act of a pure heart even after being murdered by the cruel acts of her step-mother. In the end her good deeds and love to the fish is rewarded with a happy ending. This version essentially shows how ones good deeds and favor for another being, in my opinion can lead to good fortunes in the future; which essentially did happen. As for the evil deed of the step-mother and stepsister, they died by flying stones that struck them.

“The Donkey Skin”is probably one of the most intriguing version of Cinderella, compared to all the versions that were read. The story itself starts of with what one can describe as “Happy Ever After” but with a continuation. In this case the story dives into an exciting yet sinful plot of a fathers love for his daughter beyond what it should be after his wife dies and gives him a ultimatum if he is to marry again. This leads to the father daughter love between the heroine to morph into a form of frenzy that bypasses reason and logic in the fathers case. Leading to his daughter to run away and fending for herself. By disguising how she really is, this story teaches many morals throughout the beginning to the end from the idea of love which morphs into many different forms, which essentially evolves into the classical love between the heroine and her prince charming after running away from her father, as well as a fathers realization and love between a parents and child.Along with the idea to “Never judge a book by its cover” as demonstrated when the princess hid her true beauty and self-pervered through her hard trials.

“Cinderella” by Brothers Grimm, is probably one of the more classic Cinderella that we all know growing up as a kid but with a lot of details especially the gruesome acts that the stepsister attempt to do, in order to fit their feet into the slipper.  Along with the doves who peak both sisters eyes resulting in blindness. Overall this version of Cinderella itself seemed to be a more adult version then a child version of the Cinderella that we all know off.

Joseph Jacobs “Catskin” starts of with an unusual introduction to a child, who is actually abandoned by her father and left to fend for herself. Along with the idea that she has to be married to the first person that comes her way. But this “Cinderella “is no pushover, instead she is very cunning and smart. Requesting items of valuable assets to use at her advantage, at which she later runs away with hiding her true nature and deceiving those around her. In this version, we can see how truly smart the heroine is using hints to show the prince where she lives, after going to each ball he hosted and dressing up in the dresses she requested off. Though the prince never did figure out the clues he did eventually find out who she was and through self perseverance and eventually they both lived a happy ending.

“The Story of the Black Cow” in my opinion is one of the very few versions of Cinderella I have ever read that is unique in its own nature, the main reason being the heroine is a boy and not just any boy he is a innocent child. This innocent as well as his gentle nature is prevalent throughout the story. This includes sharing candy with his step sister even though the step-mother is cruel to him to the point of feeding him ash as food and him not mentioning it to his father from either fear or his kind nature. Overall, the heroine himself lives a happy ending due his friends help, the cow who helps him run away, and even after obtaining his happiness goes back to see the cow again, never forgetting the kindness and compassion that he shared with the cow, even after the cow tricked him to see if he genuinely cared about her.

“Lin Lan”is by far one of my favorite versions of Cinderella out of all the ones we have read, the reason being is that the theme itself involves a lot of culture diversity. Coming from a background of asian beliefs and culture it was interesting to note the spiritual aspect of the soul being reincarnated in a way to different objects and beings each of which have a much more deeper meaning to what the text says. The bird for instance could symbolize longevity and good luck, the bamboo can symbolize strength and resilience, and so on. Overall the theme of this version can be based of Karma in my opinion, with “what goes around comes around”, especially with poker face (her sister) battling it out with beauty in various competitions all of which Beauty prevailed in.

All in all, it is very interesting to note that some of these variants in Cinderella originated from Asia, also noting that the oldest record of Cinderella did come form China,  this in my opinion can be contributed to a long belief that many asians including myself and my family have believed in for many years. This steams from the deep roots of our history and culture where it is believed that those who are unfortunate but stay true to themselves and conduct themselves with poise, vigilant, honest, purity, and hard work will be awarded in the end. This theme in my opinion can be attributed to many of the versions of Cinderella we have read and discussed about so far.

 

Adaptations of “Cinderella” throughout time (1/24)

Class on Tuesday started out with a presentation on the classic Disney movie, “Cinderella”, in which the presenters compared the animated film to one of the versions of the story we read for class, “Donkeyskin”. The two versions share a few similarities—the death of the mother, the presence of a fairy godmother, misfortunes, and a “happily ever after”. However, it has more differences than similarities, especially when it comes to the parental figures. In the movie, both of Cinderella’s parents have died, and she is in the care of her wicked stepmother, and lives with her stepsisters; the story of “Donkeyskin” features Cinderella’s father as her guardian, who has an inappropriate infatuation with his own daughter. It’s interesting seeing how Disney was able to create a children’s movie out of a story that, traditionally, features so many misfortunes and erotic undertones into one of the most well-known and liked movies of all time.

 

We also talked about the idea of parody and pastiche in children’s literature, and how this relates to the story of the Three Little Pigs we read for Thursday’s class. We looked at how the classic bedtime story “Goodnight Moon” was transformed into “Goodnight Bush”, in which the authors adapted the original story with President George W. Bush. Obviously, this book is not meant for children. A lot of the jokes or innuendos the book makes are not appropriate for children, but rather for adults who have read “Goodnight Moon” themselves or to their children. From the brief part of the book we looked at, it is obviously a parody of Bush’s presidency, but also political satire. It’s interesting to see how some authors can take a children’s book and turn it into something so different from the original, about a very adult theme.

 

This version has an element of fun and does something comical to the original that a new audience can understand; Linda Hutchean is a proponent of this definition. However, Frederic Jameson thinks that parody can be further split up with pastiche, which is like parody but without the fun, comical aspect to what is being adapted. Whereas parody makes use of comedy, pastiche simply adapts something to bring certain issues to light. For example, we saw parody in Roald Dahl’s version of the Three Little Pigs, which has a drastically different ending to it than the traditional version. Traditionally, the wolf in the story destroys the first two houses, and depending on the version, will destroy the third house, or will instead learn a lesson about not destroying homes. That is the case in Dahl’s version, until we get to the third house; the pig in the stone house calls on Little Red Riding Hood to help save him and his home. She does just that, by whipping out a gun and shooting the wolf—but also shoots the pig in the process, to bring forth the idea that girls can defend themselves and be just as manitpulative as anyone else.

 

We started out our conversation about the different Cinderella tales from Tatar’s “The Classic Fairy Tales” talking about our opinions of the story. Many people said the more recent versions of the story, like the movie and later versions of the written stories, are mundane and too unrealistic; many people, like me, prefer the darker versions of Cinderella, like the Brothers Grimm version, and their versions of other fairy tales. We looked at how the story of Cinderella has evolved over time, from a story about a stepmother killing her stepdaughter’s fish out of spite, to Cinderella’s father wanting to marry his own young daughter, to the version we’re more familiar with—a girl uses the help of a magical source to go to a ball, despite her stepmother’s wishes, fall in love with a prince, have the prince chase after her after losing an accessory, the prince finding her after many futile attempts, and finally living “happily ever after”.

 

We really only got to talk about the first two Cinderella stories, “Yeh-hsien” and “Donkeyskin”, both very different variations of one story. With “Donkeyskin”, we talked about how the narrator constantly refers to the Cinderella character as a child, emphasizing the unethical relationship the father wants to have with his own daughter. This brought up the question of whether fairy tales like this were appropriate for children to read, and whether or not they should still be read and taught today. I personally think that they should still be taught and read nowadays, but ultimately, it is the parent of the child who has the final say in what their child reads. I think they can be used as a great teaching tool to show older children or young adults to explain the differences between our culture here and the different cultures around the world and from different time periods.

Entertainment for Adults or Teaching Tool for Children?

Thursday’s class began with a Mickey Mouse presentation starting the semester off right! The presenters went through the entire history of Mickey Mouse and how Walt Disney was able to accomplish all that he did through this famous icon. We were told that mickey mouse is one if not the most influential symbol in the entire world. With all the popularity coming from this little mouse, Walt Disney decided to get it copyrighted and trademarked in order to keep its icon only within the Walt Disney Company. The presenters also showed us a cool transition of the Mickey Mouse icon starting from the first one in 1928 to the current Mickey Mouse today. Although this mouse has small parts about it that has changed, overall this little mouse of Disney is still globally known today.

After the very informing presentation, we moved on to our first discussion of one of The Classic Fairy Tales, “Little Red Riding Hood” in all its many versions. We had the joy of being able to go through and discuss all eight versions of this fairy tale. It was interesting to point out who the hero, villain, and helper of each of these versions were. Although there are aspects of the story that remain consistent throughout the different versions, I personally was very surprised by how much these versions varied. It is evident that the moral of the story is dependent on the culture’s values. For example, some authors wrote of Little Red Riding Hood overcoming the wolf and working with her grandmother to kill the wolf, but then another version of this fairy tale tells of the wolf eating the grandmother and even the little girl. Very clearly there are different lessons or purposes for these tales being written in the manner that they were.

Most Americans probably grew up hearing the Grimm Brother’s version of “Little Red Cap.” The American version of this story was to teach children lessons. To be honest, Little Red Riding Hood is one of the fairy tales I remember the least in comparison to Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, and so many other stories that were able to expand, entertain, and keep my attention more so than the “Little Red Cap.”

The last version written in this Norton Critical Edition is “The Three Little Pigs.” I would assume just about every child has heard the story of the three little pigs, but I know that personally I had NEVER heard the version of Little Red Riding Hood coming to the rescue by killing the wolf, and then turning around and killing the sweet little pig. There is probably a reason I had not read that version—I know that if I had any children I would not want them to hear the gruesome and depressing ending of Roald Dahl’s tale.

The other five versions of Little Red Riding Hood have their unique quirks and morals dependent on how the author wrote. “The Story of Grandmother” has more of a focus on the mother of Little Red Riding Hood and her command for her daughter to take the hot bread and milk to grandmother. Although the wolf did kill grandmother, Little Red Riding Hood was smart enough and managed to escape her death. There were still aspects of this story like the description of grandmother’s blood in a bottle and her flesh in the pantry that I am not sure I would want my children to read, but overall the story is entertaining and at least Little Red Riding Hood survives!

Charles Perrault also wrote his fairy tale in a gruesome way, but the most interesting characteristic of his story is his separated moral section at the end of the tale. Typically authors write stories and leave it up to the reader to determine what the moral or point of the story was, but instead Perrault felt the need to clarify and explicitly lay out the lesson of the tale.

“The Little Girl and the Wolf” and “Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf” provide a more modern aspect to this tale by providing the little girl with an automatic weapon that ultimately saves her life and kills the wolf. “Goldflower and the Bear” tells the tale of a brave little girl who kills the beer with a spear. There is the additional aspect of Goldflower’s brother presence yet no help to the little girl in this life-threatening situation. The moral of the story here is most likely to encourage little girls to be strong and brave to defend themselves.

Finally one of the most entertaining versions of the tale in my opinion is “The False Grandmother.” Little Red Riding Hood goes through all these obstacles of the Jordan River and the Rake Gate to get to her grandmother’s house, and then when she has to escape and run away from the wolf, the Jordan River and Rake Gate end up helping her out!

Little Red Riding Hood tale ranges from teaching tools for children to pure entertainment for adults. The authors of these different variants of the tale expanded and transformed the tale with their own beliefs and desires allowing this tale to be spread and used for all different means throughout the world. The now publication of these tales will hopefully help to continue the spread of Little Red Riding Hood for the rest of time.

Little Red Riding Hood – 1/19

“Little Red Riding Hood” is a classic fairytale. Its beginnings can be traced to folk art and it has made the transition to literature. InThe Classic Fairy Tales, there are six versions of the tale, a snippet of a seventh, and an eighth story that does not follow the typical structure of a Little Red Riding Hood type story, but does feature the girl as a character. Each version is wildly different from the others, reflecting cultural differences, though each story remains recognizable for what it is: a retelling of a folk tale in which a young girl with a sick grandmother encounters a creature who means to eat her for supper.

The version recorded by the Grimm brothers is one of the most well known in the United States, and, in fact, is the one I first read as a child. As a child, I found this version utterly boring, and now I can put my finger on the reason for that boredom. With this variant of “Little Red Riding Hood,” the Grimm brothers put significant effort into teaching lessons to the children who will read their story. In this story, they give a worse lecture than any real life mother ever would. The character Little Red Cap is also incredibly naive, and much of the blame for her misfortune falls on her. If she had only listened to her mother’s instructions, a wolf would not have attempted to murder her and her grandmother.

This is a striking contrast to “The Story of Grandmother,” in which the young girl is clever enough to escape the wolf’s clutches before he eats her. In this version, there are no maternal lectures on manners and the proper way to behave while in the wood. The girl does not learn to obey authority or anything like that, but the audience learns to appreciate her qualities, such as her quick-wittedness and intelligence. The audience also is able to appreciate a sense of humor that is not present in the variants by the Grimm brothers, Perrault, Calvino, or Chiang. With bawdy humor, the story can be enjoyed as simple entertainment rather than as a lesson, because with subject matter such as nudity and cannibalism, this tale certainly will not be helping to cleanse the souls of Puritan children needing to escape damnation.

Similarly, Dahl’s version of the character is neither sweet, nor obedient, nor naive. First of all, this Little Red is a girl who never travels without a gun. In fact, she keeps it in her knickers. When the wolf insults her intelligence by thinking he can trick her into thinking he’s her grandmother, she pulls out her pistol and kills him. She personifies cunning and strength. These qualities, as well as brutality, are shown in Chiang’s variant, too. The young girl, Goldflower, throws a spear down a bear’s throat in that version. In fact, most variants of the story show the young girl herself conducting her own escape.

The Grimm’s story is different in regard to the young girl’s escape. In their variant of the tale, the action of killing or deceiving the beast is attributed to a huntsman. In folk tales, the actions and functions of a dramatis personae cannot change, yet in this story, the actions of the young girl did change. Has this variant, then, strayed away from the conventions of folk tales? And can it even be considered a folk tale at this point? The same could be asked of Perrault’s variant. In his tale, the young girl never escapes the belly of the wolf that consumes her. The antagonist wins this story, and that is not how the sequence of actions is supposed to be carried out.

The example that is most fully literature, however, is Dahl’s poem “The Three Little Pigs,” which follows an entirely different series of actions, referencing Little Red Riding Hood by name, but not incorporating her in the manner that a folk tale requires. The only similarity to the fly tale is in the girl’s murder of a wolf who was eating others.

The variants of the Little Red Riding Hood type tale range from raw entertainment to mere vessels for the lessons adults wish to instill in children. In ways, the story type wavers along the line between folk tale and literature, if only because of the liberties authors have taken with the actions and functions of the dramatis personae.

Glazer’s “Societies Views of Children over Time.” 01/12

In class on Thursday, January 12th we discussed our assigned reading. The reading, assigned as “Changes Over Time: Society’s View of the Child,” was a historical representation of the style and flavor of children’s literature over the last five or six centuries. The excerpt takes into account the religious context of the time as well as economic factors affecting children and families over the same time period. Also discussed is the intentions of some of the authors writing in each new tide of thought and style.

The assigned reading is a chapter from a book entitled, “Introduction to Children’s Literature'” and was written by Joan I. Glazer. Glazer begins the chapter by telling a story of a small town meeting discussing the books that the town’s young children are reading and if the selection in the local library is fit for young children to be reading. Glazer uses the introduction to beg the question, what should a child be reading?

This is a question of censorship. The townsfolk enter into a discussion of what is and is not proper for young minds to be exposed to, some individuals seeking to ban books, and by extension ideas, that do not fit into their own views. Other individuals strive to defend the right of authors and artists to express their own set of values and ideas, and that the proliferation of multiple views and ideas is good for the growth and advancement of society. Some feel that there are themes in the selection of children’s literature available at the local library are not appropriate for young, growing minds. Others among the group feel that the existence of multiple family types and views demands that the children be made aware of them and their importance.

Glazer begins her historical discussion of children’s literature with the advent of the printing press in the 1500’s. She references that the advent of the press and its affect on the spreading of literature and ideas creates a tension between differing viewpoints. The first category of literature she takes a deeper look into is the Puritanical outlook, prevalent in the 1670’s.

As discussed in class, the Puritans viewed children as merely small adults. They were considered the same as adults, but with the need of education and thus, saving. Puritans used literature for such ends. The books and stories that were read to and by children taught the children about what to do and not to do. These books were a tool to save young boys’ and girls’ souls. The stories were filled with morals and lessons that were designed to aid parents in teaching their children religious rules and tenets. They were filled with fire and brimstone, cautionary tales to trike fear of God into the young hearts.

Over the course of the next one hundred years or so, there was a transition from “Child in Need of Salvation” to “Child as a Sensible Student.” This period also saw the first instances of Children’s Literature as a marketable good on which to be focused. The businessman, John Newbury, saw the burgeoning of a market for books and stories to be geared for youngsters. His shop began to sell books marketed directly to children. They were still very much meant to be instructional.

In the mid 1860’s we entered another transition. “Children Out of School,” describes a period of much more stylistic freedom. It also began to look at books, and literature for children with an eye on entertainment and pleasure. While many books were still instructional and lesson leaden, there was a movement towards reading for fun. Books began to lose such a strong need for the moral. Lewis Carrol livened thing right up with his book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and he challenged the structure of children’s literature up to that point. This also came about as a reaction to the change in the status of children. The industrial revolution ushered in a wave of economic success and advancement. This meant the market for leisure literature also expanded and more money could be invested in children’s libraries and books needed to be written to fill those libraries. Alice spent a time in a goofy and fantastical land with characters who offered no advice on growth or growing up. She did not evolve, she simple enjoyed her adventures.

After the First World War we saw a shift further in children’s literature. Book sellers and writers looked at children as consumers and realized the affect they had on the spending habits of their parents. Publishers began to focus whole departments on the development and curation of children’s books and genres. This greatly expanded the scope and reach of literature focused in on young readers.

Currently, and in the last twenty or so years, we are seeing a new transition being made in children’s literature. The advent and explosion of the internet and technology has connected the author and reader like never before. We are seeing interconnectedness and globalization skyrocket. These advancements bring more and more children onto the global stage. The direction of children’s literature is changing and trying to adapt to thrive in a world more open and expressive than ever.

In class we also began to discuss the literary elements seen in Children’s Literature. Like all other storytelling, there are elements like setting, theme, style, characterization, and plot. These elements may take on a more simple scope than those geared towards more advanced readers, but are no less important. The help to guide the reader and fascinate the mind. Each has its place and value for the education and entertainment of young children everywhere.

Literature vs Folklore 1/17/17

The subject of the Children’s Literature class on January 17, 2017 was a discussion about the similarities and differences of literature and folklore. Before class, we read the introduction of The Classic Fairy Tales. The introduction established that fairy tales come in many different versions. We also read pages three hundred and seventy eight to three hundred and eighty seven. This portion of the book was Vladimir Propp’s interpretation of the irregularities between folklore and literature. As a class we divided into two to three person groups and wrote out what we believed to be the difference between folklore and literature. We established many distinctions between the two forms of artistic language. We concluded that folklore and literature differ in the way that they are preserved, passed down, and derived.

Folklore is preserved by story tellers. The fact that folklore is orally passed down gives the genre a certain dynamic. The presenter can change the story to his or her liking. Literature on the other hand is written down by an author. This does not allow for a changing story. This also means that the ownership of literature is defined by a specific author at a specific time. On the contrary, the ownership of folklore is difficult to determine because of the ever changing version of the same story that is told over long periods of time.

Furthermore, the relationship between the giver and receiver of folklore and literature are quite different indeed. The dynamic in literature is between author and reader. The relationship in folklore is between the presenter and the listener. The relationship between author and reader allows the reader to make different interpretations of the text than the author may have intended but the reader cannot change the story themselves. Also, the reader cannot have any objections to the work of literature because there are likely not any alternative versions of the literary work. In folklore, the listener may object to the presentation of the tale because they may not agree with or prefer the way the current presenter is telling the story.

Folklore and literature also differ in their morphology. The book defines morphology as, “The description of a tale according to its component parts and the relationship of these components to each other and to the whole.” I prefer to think of morphology as simply the study of various forms that stories can take. Literature has no defined forms and can cover a vast array of story structures. Folklore tends to follow a more strict, rigid morphology.

The various morphology of folklore and literature alters the characters that are present in each form of literary art. Literature can contain characters with deep complexities and varying desires, lifestyles, and motivations. Literary characters can undergo subtle or drastic forms of change over the course of the story. On the other hand, folklore characters tend to be more archetypical. Archetypes are very typical examples of a person or thing. For example, Propp’s “Dramatis Personae” includes the villain, donor, helper, princess and her father, dispatcher, false hero, and hero. These characters tend to be simple and unchanged throughout the story unless some outside power acts upon that specific character. Even the settings of folklore are archetypical. For example, the forest represents danger. Dangerous things will occur in the forest and not in the king’s castle that represents protection.

The morphology present in folklore also alters the functions of those archetypical characters. These functions are very limited and propel the story’s plot. Vladimir Propp comes up with thirty one functions of the characters and story that are present in folklore. I will not include the descriptions of the functions but the functions are abstention, interdiction, violation, recon, delivery, trickery, complicity, villainy, lack, mediation, beginning counteraction, departure, first function of the donor, hero’s reaction, provision, guidance, struggle, branding, victory, liquidation, return, pursuit, rescue, unrecognized arrival, unfounded claims, difficult task, solution, recognition, exposure, transfiguration, punishment, and wedding.

Our class has not delved deep into a fairy tale quite yet. The first few days of class have been spent on teaching us students how to read and interpret Children’s Literature. It is key to accomplish this task before diving into any Children’s Literature so that our class can have more intelligent discussions on the topic of Children’s Literature. Learning the difference between folklore and literature is paramount in determining one’s view on Children’s Literature.

Comparing and Contrasting Folklore and Literature

Journal entry for 1/17/17

Today in class we discussed the differences between literature and folklore. The main difference between the two is that there is a record of literature. This means that in literature, there is usually an author to attribute the work to. On the other hand, in folklore, an author is almost always unknown. This is due to the fact that folklore is the traditional beliefs, customs, and stories, passed through generations by word of mouth. So, in other words, folklore is the retelling of oral tradition.

More so, folklore has no set style and is considered changeable with a dynamic, or ever changing, structure, while literature is has a stable structure that is seen rather than heard. The book goes further to say that literature’s ownership can be traced back and, contrasting, the work in a folklore tale becomes more important that the author themselves. Thus, ownership of a folklore is often difficult, if not impossible, to pinpoint.

Another key difference is the type of relationships that are present and grown in the two different genres. In folklore the relationship is within the boundaries of the presenter and the listener. In literature, the relationship lies between the author and reader. This notable difference is the foundation of why folklore and literature differ. Folklore is the oral tradition and literature is the written record of the story. In some ways, because of this foundation, literature is sometimes considered “high culture”, with an air of importance and knowledge, while folklore is considered “low culture”, often attributed to a lower class or status. However, this view is often disregarded since folklore is repeatedly used as an inspiration for the basis of literature stories.

In class today, we also discussed the topic of morphology in folklore and fairy tales. The book defines morphology as the “description of a tale according to its component parts and the relationship of these components to each other and to the whole“. Basically, this means that just because one story or tale is passed down from generation to generation does not mean that there is no variation of the story, and that the same themes are used throughout, even if the story itself has a different setting and characters. The book laid out four examples that we discussed in class:

  • A tsar gives an eagle to a hero. The eagle carries the hero away to another kingdom.
  • An old man gives Sucenko a horse. The horse carries Sucenko away to another kingdom.
  • A sorcerer gives Ivan a little boat. The boat takes Ivan to another kingdom.
  • A princess gives Ivan a ring. Young men appearing from out of the ring carry Ivan away into another kingdom.

In class, we dissected the similar themes of all four short blurbs from stories of different cultures and areas while also looking at the differences between the four. To begin, we picked out the similarities. These included that there is a main character; we inferred that in all four examples the main character could be looked at as a male hero of sorts. In all of the story samples, the “hero” is given a gift from someone of significant power, whether it is royal, diplomatic, position or magical power. More so, in all the examples the “hero” is taken away to “another kingdom” by the gift that is bestowed upon them.

Even though the central themes of all the samples of folktales are basically the same: a man is given a gift and taken to another kingdom by way of the gift given. There are some key differences that show the diverse cultural variations of the same story. For example, the main character is different in three of the four stories, while the “gift-giver” is different in every variation. Another difference can also be seen in the gift itself. In all four samples, while it serves the same purpose, the gift is ultimately different from story to story.

In conclusion, today was one of the first days that we have really delved into the book and looked into different genres that are common among children’s literature. I think it will be really interesting to come back to this segment of the book once we begin reading specific stories. I think it will be a good resource to better understand how stories vary across cultures.

 

Introduction to CMLT 3250 – 1/10/17

Today was the second-class meeting given that the semester has just begun. It was much more comfortable coming into class today because on the first day we were able to meet the other classmates and start learning everyone’s names. Being that we are still going over introductions, we mainly focused on covering the overview and basics of what the study of Children’s Literature entails.

To dive deeper on this matter, specifically, in class today we as a group looked over the Pamphlet on the Types of Genres of Literature for children. The categories include picture books, poetry and verses, folklores, fantasies, science fiction, realistic fiction, historical fiction, biographies, and nonfiction. My personal favorite types of children’s literature include historical and realistic fiction. I find these two types fascinating due to the illusion of reality in both the past and present setting while also adding elements of fiction that add to the plot. All of these elements together make the story more interesting. The authentic images within the stories intrigue me as a reader and keep me fascinated.

Another main focus during the class was the guide to book selection for the different ages of children. I learned about the characteristics of children during the different ages of their lives and the features of the books to coincide with the ages. For infants and toddlers, birth to 2 years, they explore the world with their eyes, ears, hands, feet, and mouth. Because of this, the features of the books they’re exposed to invite child participation, have brief and rhythmic text, and are colorful and sturdy. During the Nursery age, 2 to 4 years, these children understand simple concepts such as counting and the ABC’s. The features of books that match the nursery age have clear uncluttered pictures, simple concepts, present simple plots, have animal characters, and have melodic and lifting language. The next age category is Primary, which consists of children 5 to 8 years old. This is the age range that a child becomes an independent reader, has a vivid imagination, and starts demanding strict moral judgment. The book features during the Primary age category include eye-for-an-eye morality, strong friendships, present phase structure for books to read alone, and books that contain fantasy and realistic elements. After the Primary age group comes the Intermediate age group, which consists of children between the ages of 9 to 12. The age group of 9 to 12 books present realistic views of the world, develop strong characters, develop memorable plots, and stress growing up themes. The last age group which includes the ages of 12 years and up is called Advanced. Features of books in the Advanced stage for children include dealing with social and personal problems, showing the underside of people and society, and developing complex plots and strong characterizations.

The last activity done in class was in groups. We were handed children’s books that ranged in languages from English to Japanese and even Persian. My group specifically read two books: “Clifford the Firehouse Dog” and “Clifford the Big Red Dog.” The book we focused on in Group Discussion was the Firehouse one. This book introduces Clifford as a big red dog who lives with his owner Emily Elizabeth. The story then goes to show how Clifford attempts to help the local fire station but accidently messes up by rolling over items and messing them up. After this Clifford is sad but does not let his little mistake ruin the day. He rescues people from a burning house and Clifford ended up saving the day. The message of the story tells children that it is ok to mess up sometimes. It also introduces children to the basics about fires and fire safety. This book would fit best within the Nursery age group of 2 to 4 because it has an animal as a character, lots of pictures, and a simple plot. I really enjoyed reading and discussing these children’s books because it put into context what we just read in the pamphlet and I was able to apply the skills I just learned to determine which age group best fits my book.

Today was a very educational day as we looked over topics that we will be focussing on for the rest of the semester. I am very excited to start analyzing the readings as the weeks go on to get a better understanding of children’s literature as a whole!