A Discussion of Shrek,Urashima, Pippy, Pinocchio and more

In class on Tuesday, February 14th we started off with a presentation of the movie Shrek. The two young women told us about the widely successful fantasy/comedy film, which earned a profit of $424.4 million in the Box Office. The movie was thought to have done so well because it was the first movie done by DreamWorks that referenced other Disney movies and characters in it: such as Snow White, her seven dwarfs, the evil queen’s mirror, Pinocchio, the ginger bread man and the three little pigs.

One of the more interesting points of this presentation was that Shrek was considered a “mock” fairy-tale by critics. They said that the humor was too inappropriate for kids. This complaint does have merit because the movie serves to make a mockery of the perceptions we have about beloved characters such as Snow White. It is also a contradictory story because its moral is to not judge a book by its cover, however the characters do just that by making puns about Lord Farquaad’s height. The audience is left to wonder why they should look past the ugliness of an ogre when the height of a Lord is just as much a physical burden that one carries.

After the presentation ended, we dove into a discussion of the remaining stories from the Beauty and the Beast section of the Classical Fairy Tales book. The first story that we discussed was Urashima the Fisherman. The idea of death was extremely present in this tale, in fact is seemed as though throughout the story the main character had died three times before his heart even took its last beat. First, Urashima died when he left his everyday life in order to be with an immortal woman in her world. When he left his friends and family, he was presumed dead and if you think about it a piece of him was dead because his life would never be the same again. When Urashima started to realize that a part of him was dead/ missing, he decided to return to his world and in turn die once again. Upon returning to his old life, he discovered that everyone he had known had long passed away and no one even remembered his name. When he tried to return to his beloved he once again was met with death when he broke her promise and gave up any chance of living a long and happy life with her.

The second story to be discussed was The Frog Princess. After reading the story the class came to the conclusion that it did not quite make sense. It was as if the story had a hidden message that we could not understand. This could have been caused by an error in translation, which led to the loss of cultural understandings associated with the story. Luckily, the third story, The Swan Maiden, was not quite as confusing. In this tale a young man was desperate for the love of a swan maiden so he practically forced her to marry him. It was only years later when he showed her the object of her own affection, her swan feathers, that she was able to live her life the way she wanted. The Frog Princess and The Swan Maiden had similar plot lines, because of the transformation of a beautiful lady into an animal, however they had strikingly different endings.

Later, we talked about Oscar Wilde’s The Nightingale and the Rose. In this story death was once again brought up, but this time in a different light. Instead of dying because of loss of memory, the nightingale suffered a prolonged sacrificial painful death. Not many people in our class admitted to liking this story because of its bleak ending. I personally did not care for it because it talked of a nightingale giving up its life in order to help out a young boy who gives up on his love. So to put it simply it was very depressing.

In order to finish our discussion from The Classic Fairy Tales, we were reminded of Pippety Pew. This small tale from the Hansel and Gretel portion of the book brought up the question of how readers interpret repetition. In my case, I don’t tolerate it very well. Instead of reading the same thing over and over again I simply read it once and skip over it every time it pops up again. By doing this I believe that the use of the literary device is wasted, but it does make the story go by faster.

The end of our class was used to talk about Pinocchio. Because we went through so many other stories during class, there was not too much time to discuss the new story. However, we did talk about the fact that Disney’s portrayal of Pinocchio was drastically different from the true story. However it did have similar morals.

The original tale of Pinocchio describes a newly made wooden boy who is easily distracted by the here and now. This leads him to an array of difficult circumstances in which he has to choose between helping others and entertaining his immediate desires. Each chapter amusingly describes the series of events that take place on Pinocchio’s journey of becoming a loving boy. As a class we decided that these titles not only provided the audience with comical relief, they also told the summary of the chapter. I personally can’t wait to see the other adventures that Pinocchio takes throughout the rest of the book.

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