Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cinderella: A Story of Transformation

Step #1: Cinderella is a maid

In almost all of the Cinderella-type fairy tales that we read, the Cinderella of each story transforms from a poor, lowly servant into a wealthy, beautiful princess, envied by her stepsisters and stepmother alike. This transformation is possible with the help of a fairy, animals, or some other magical helper who aids Cinderella in running away from her father’s incestuous desires, completing ruthless tasks demanded by her stepmother, or the like. In real life, our form of “magic” can be considered to be money. In these fairy tales, whatever the fairy helps Cinderella to do could easily be achieved by money in the real world. Paying for a taxi and a hotel could substitute the fairy magically bringing Cinderella’s trunk along with her as she runs away in Perrault’s “Donkeyskin”; the white doves pecking out the rotten lentils in the Grimm Brothers’ “Cinderella” could be replaced with a hired maid; the fairy that gives Cinderella advice on how to cunningly avoid marrying her father in Jacobs’ “Catskin” could be replaced by a therapist. In the ways that magic helps these Cinderellas of the tales, money can help people in real life. Of course, just because you have money and can pay for assistance, doesn’t necessarily make you happier or more fulfilled; it can still be a very superficial “fix”.

Step #2: Cinderella gets fairy godmother

In these tales, the end goal of the fairy’s help is Cinderella meeting the prince and getting married. In life, it is also possible to marry a rich spouse and have your financial needs met; however, if this is your sole reason for marrying him/her, a divorce is probably in your near future. Of course, none of the tales tell us what happens after the prince and Cinderella wed, except for the occasional consolatory sentence, “they lived happy ever afterwards” (“Catskin”). In reality, a marriage based on wealth isn’t likely to last long; however, in these stories, the weddings of the prince and Cinderella aren’t completely superficial—there is the element of their character. For example, in the Grimm Brothers’ “Cinderella”, the prince is willing to marry Cinderella even as he realizes that the woman he danced with is a maid. In Perrault’s “Donkeyskin”, Donkeyskin “watched him [the prince] with tenderness from a distance… ‘What a grand manner he has, even though he is dressed casually. How agreeable he is,’ she said to herself” (113). Many times there is mention of “love” and the inner character of the prince and Cinderella, which draws them to each other. Perhaps this is the part of their marriage that ensures that they live happily ever after. More so than in these fairy tales, however, marriage in real life needs love, commitment, and friendship to last.

Step #3: Cinderella is married and lives happily ever after

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fairy Tales and ASL: Dr. Rust

Dr. Rust’s presentation was awesome! He’s very funny, animated, and easygoing; it makes me want to take a class with him. Before this lecture I knew almost nothing about deaf culture—the closest I’ve ever been to ASL was when I learned to fingerspell the alphabet in elementary school. It was completely enthralling to watch him and the people in the videos signing, especially when they were telling a story. Unlike written fairy tales, there is no textual history of fairy tales in ASL. What we do know about how ASL has changed throughout the years is due to video; this, and perhaps pictures and drawings, is the only way to document it. 

A common aspect of storytelling in ASL is the use of facial expressions. In the videos we watched, the storyteller’s face was very animated and showed the emotion corresponding to the action. For example, in a classic story about a little boy and his gum, every time the lady made the sign for picking up the gum, she would have a disgusted look on her face—as one would expect touching someone else’s gum. Signers can also change the speed at which they sign to indicate slow motion and excitement, among other things. Like in written fairy tales, the interpretation that the “author” or performer has in ASL affects the story. As Dr. Rust said, you have some poetic license when translating between ASL and English. Many things in ASL are expressed conceptually, versus word for word; therefore how someone signs a written story will be differ from person to person.

Dr. Rust also introduced us to several different types of storytelling in ASL. In ABC storytelling, you must tell a story making the sign of every letter of the alphabet. In finger spelling story telling, you use the hand form of individual letters to animate the actions of the story. For example, Dr. Rust acted out golfing by using the hand signs for the letters G O L and F to imitate four actions—setting up the tee, putting the ball on the tee, hitting the ball with the club, and the ball flying through the air. Now that was cool.

It’s amazing how much we individually picked up just by watching people sign stories, even though few of us knew ASL. It just goes to show the importance of body language for everyone, whether it’s ASL, or just daily life.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sarah's Blog!

For each blog post I was really impressed by how well Sarah laid out her responses.  In the post comparing “Beauty and the Beast” and “Cupid and Psyche”, I really like how she explained the similarities and differences following the chronology of the story.

Sarah’s definitions of folk and fairy tales were great.  Sarah seems to have a knack for writing: she knows how to pull out the main points and pose them succinctly, never losing the reader’s interest.

Gorgeous hair...but what a creepy mother!
I also enjoyed learning about Sarah’s favorite storybook as a kid, “Rapunzel” by Paul O. Zelinsky. I feel like it’s helped me understand her obsession with the movie Tangled now! P.S. I looked up some of the pictures in that book—Rapunzel’s hair is gorgeous! 

Sarah made some great points about Rammstein’s music video “Sonne” that I never would have thought of.  She made the point that parts of the story of Snow White can be seen as sexual in nature, such as Snow White lying on the dwarves’ beds, or the dwarves washing her.  I was really impressed with her idea about the use of black and white versus color in Rammstein’s video.  That was a great new point.

Hmmm, what to suggest…I really like the way the posts are now, but if anything, maybe Sarah could elaborate a bit more, I’d like to know more of her ideas.  I definitely look forward to reading what Sarah writes in the future.  

Sunday, March 4, 2012

"Sonne" by Rammstein vs. "Snow White" by the Brothers Grimm

Scene in "Sonne" by Rammstein

Wow.  “Sonne” by Rammstein is quite a music video. It’s very…different. First, the music video focuses exclusively on Snow White’s relationship with the dwarves, whereas the written story has the plotline about the evil queen trying to kill Snow White.  In the music video, Snow White clearly displays her sexuality—she tempts the dwarves by revealing her skin, and appears to be sadistic while smacking the dwarves’ bottoms.  In stories, dwarves are usually considered to be asexual, so this was quite a change. The dwarves worship her, but she is hard to please.  When one dwarf hands her a piece of gold, she throws it back at him, unsatisfied.  This aspect of Snow White is not present in the literary versions: there is no clear display of her sexuality, and the dwarves are delighted to have her at their cottage, but certainly do not worship her, as she is their housemaid.  The motif of gold is, however, present in both the video and the story.  In both, the dwarves are confined to the monotonous task of mining each day, with their goal to find gold, something of great worth.  On a side note, I thought it was interesting that Snow White was snorting gold flecks at the dinner table. 

The motif of the apple is also present in both versions.  In the video, a dwarf is laboriously shining a treasure chest full of apples with a cloth, while another dwarf brushes Snow White’s hair, and two more hold up a mirror.  In the story, the Queen gives Snow White a poison apple, causing her death.  The way I interpreted her death in the video, however, was that she died from an overdose—presumably from an injection, as the dwarves come in and questioningly pick up an empty syringe.  Snow White seems like a very troubled person, and her drug use results in her death.  It is interesting though, that an apple is what saves Snow White in the video’s end.  The last apple falls off of a tree in the middle of winter and breaks open her glass coffin.  This contrasts what happens in the story, in which Snow White is saved only because the apple dislodges from her throat.  So the apple appears to be an evil object in the story, but one that saves in the music video.  
It’s hard to say whether the dwarves have any desire to worship Snow White, or whether she has completely imposed herself on them.  When Snow White arises out of her casket—and very angrily, at that—the dwarves appear to be disappointed, more than anything.  The video ends as it begins, with the dwarves back to the same old, same old, drilling away in the mines.

I appreciate Rammstein’s creativity, but ultimately it doesn’t compare to the story for me.  It is a very interesting take on an old tale, but it is too modern and twisted.  I prefer a more traditional form of the tale, like that by the Grimm brothers.