I was very interested to hear what Dr. Rust had to tell us about the ASL story telling tradition. To begin with he answered a question I had held for a long time but had never actually asked anyone: How does ASL express tenses? He explained that verbs in ASL aren’t actually given tense, but are governed by indicators at the beginning of a sentence. So for example if you begin a sentence in ASL with “yesterday,” or maybe “once upon a time,” it is implied that the following statement is to be in past tense. Though it seems like a simple concept, it is something I had wondered for some time now and which is an important aspect of story telling. Besides this concept, Dr. Rust also explained the several most common types of story telling in ASL, one of which was Folk Tales. He also explored some other interesting ideas about translation from spoken languages to visual languages. While the translation of novels is difficult, he explained that the translation of songs can be perhaps be even more difficult as several words (in English let’s say) can be expressed in a single motion in ASL, which makes literal translation clunky and generally unimpressive. He also talked a little about the translation of obscure concepts as are expressed in the poem “The Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll. In this case translation often relied on the flexible nature of ASL and was expressed by the speaker through body language. Another concept Dr. Rust explained to us was the cinematographic nature of story in ASL which can employ anything from slow-motion, to close ups, and a sort of frame changing between characters in a story. While I understand the need to approach the topic of fairy tales in sign language from such a broad perspective, I was still a little disappointed that Dr. Rust did not get the chance to look at fairy tales specifically. I think it would have been interesting to see the ways in which ASL may have adapted to obscure concepts in fairy tales as it was forced to in the poem “The Jabberwocky.”
Despite everything Dr. Rust had to say about story telling in ASL I think the most interesting idea that he introduced me too was the idea of cross-cultural exchange between different sign languages. I think it is interesting that he spoke of ASL in almost the same terms as an invasive species might be spoken. He talked about the ways that ASL can infiltrate the sign language of another country and create discrepancies in the translation between a native cultures spoken language and its sign language. What I would be most interested to explore would be the cultural or linguistic features of a country and its language that cause its signing population to adopt or reject different parts of ASL. I would also be very interested to explore the shortcomings of ASL in another country if it was unable to evolve to meet the communicative needs of its speakers.
For today’s midterm we were asked to read and review the blog of the person who sits to our left in class, which means I had the pleasure to read through Mary’s blog at http://mcfairytales.blogspot.com.
Overall I was very interested in what she had to say. I share her trouble of remembering stories and tales from my childhood, and so a feel that in some ways we are probably approaching some of these tales from the same uninformed perspective. I was especially interested in reading what she had to say in her comparison of “The Tiger’s Bride” and “Cupid and Psyche,” not just because “The Tiger’s Bride” is my favorite tale we have read in class so far, but also because I am impressed with the connections she made; connections I myself didn’t make while writing the same assignment in the context of a different comparison. I was also interested in the way she found to analyze her Little Red Riding Hood. I came across the same cartoon while I was looking and at the time thought the cartoon had very little to offer a scholarly or analytical point of view. I would not have thought to compare the image to other common images, and conclude from this comparison the most typical depiction of such a well known tale. I would have been interested to read a further examination of possibly why this scene is so popular as a representative of the tale.
The thing I think I can most take away from Mary’s writing however is her personable style. I know I have a tendency to write in a very straightforward style which can sometimes get rather dry. Perhaps if I were to take a page out of Mary’s book (or blog so to speak) I might find that even I enjoy writing a little more.
Rammstein’s music video for they’re song “Sonne” represents an interesting twist in the tradition of the Brothers Grimm tale “Snow White.” While the tale is recognizable in the music video, it varies from the Grimm version on several details. The most notable of these variances is perhaps the absence of the Evil Stepmother/Queen figure. In the Grimm version of the tale, as well as in others, the Queen is a the center of the tale’s action, to such an extent that some analysts have suggested the tale would be more aptly named “Snow White and the Evil Queen.” Interestingly, although Rammstein does cut out the character of the Queen, the character qualities of the queen are still very present in this version and are embodied in Snow White herself. Snow White is depicted in the video as cruel and cold, manipulating and abusing the dwarves she lives with. To draw a further connection between the qualities traditionally assigned to the Queen and embodied in Snow White in this version, Snow White treats the dwarves like her children, spanking them and comforting them. The fact that she is cruel as well, and that she is obviously not their natural mother, makes her into an archetypal evil stepmother figure. Snow White also performs actions previously performed by the Queen in the Grimm version. At one point we see Snow White admiring herself in a full length mirror held up by the dwarves. She also in the end is the agent of her own poisoning, though not by an apple. It is interesting that Rammstein was compelled to take the beloved Snow White character and imbue her with the traditional evil qualities of the Queen. They are so similar we are forced to ask which character, the Queen or Snow White, Rammstein was hoping to portray, and also if the distinction between the two is important. Perhaps it is as some fairy tale analysts have suggested and in actuality Snow White and the Queen are two halves of the same coin, reflecting the passive acceptance of misogynistic societal limitations in stark contrast to the desire to rebel against them.
Of all the Beauty and the Beast type stories presented by Tatar, perhaps the most similar to the story of Cupid and Psyche is the Japanese tale “Urashima the Fisherman.” To begin with both tales contain characters which are of the divine. In the tale of Urashima, the turtle captured in the beginning is soon revealed to be a divine immortal when she transforms into a beautiful woman. In the tale of Cupid and Psyche, we are aware from the start that Cupid is the son of the goddess Venus, and as such is a god himself. The two stories also share the common theme that no character can really be considered a beast. Neither the fact that we first encounter Turtle in the “Urashima” tale as an animal, nor the fact that Cupid has animal like wings seems to detract from either of their inner or outer beauties. The power that each mortal lover has in both tales is another commonality between the two stories. Neither Urashima nor Psyche is given much control over the relationship; a power that in many other tales is given to the non-beast character. Take for example the classic “Beauty and the Beast” story by De Beaumont where Beauty in the end has the power to affect the Beast’s transformation back into a man, or the story of “The Swan Maiden” where the “young hunter” is able to control the “maiden’s” transformation back into a swan by withholding her feather garbs. Not only do Urashima and Psyche not have the power to change or control the physical nature of their lovers, neither seems concerned with it. Instead the inherent hindrance to their relationships is not that one is too beautiful or ugly for the other, but that one is divine and the other mortal.
Artist: Antonio Canova
Description: “Psyche revived by the kiss of Love.” Marble, 1793.
Artist: Edmund Dulac
Description: Illustration for the story “Urashima Taro,” from Edmund Dulac’s Fairy-Book (New York: G.H. Doran Co., 1916). This story has a slightly different twist to it but has the same basic themes, characters, and structure.
An organization known as Besame Radio in 2009 apparently published an image of the popular fairy tale character Little Red Riding Hood carving the words “The Wolf & Me” inside of a heart on a tree, while listening to a radio in a basket at her feet. The cartoon, while seemingly innocent may actually have some interesting underlying sexual implications. In analyzing it however there are a few things that need to be broken down first. To begin, it is nearly impossible to tell for sure which version of LRRH the artist had in mind when he created it, whether it was Charles Perrault’s version, the Brothers Grimm version, or otherwise. We can safely assume that the artist was not working with either Italo Calvino’s “The False Grandmother” version and the Chiang Mi “Goldflower and the Bear” version because they include an ogress and bear in their stories respectively. This cartoon clearly identifies the wolf as a character. Working further under the assumption that the LRRH in the cartoon is in the same woods as in the tale, we might be able to exclude the version known as “The Story of Grandmother” based on the fact that it contains a path of needles and a path of pins, neither of which seems to make up the path in the cartoon. That leaves the versions by Perrault and the Brothers Grimm as the most common, and therefore most likely, versions of the tale through which the cartoon can be understood. Working then with our frame of reference resting with the Grimm and Perrault versions and ignoring the radio at LRRH’s feet (which it is safe to assume is an addition purely for the purpose of advertisement), the most telling detail of the cartoon is the carving and message on the tree. The fact that LRRH is seen carving this message herself implies that she is in some way romantically or sexually attracted to the wolf, a concept also held by many psychoanalytical studies of Perrault’s version including Bettleheim’s. In Bettleheim’s interpretation of Perrault’s LRRH, LRRH is seduced or possibly raped by the wolf (male figure) as a result of her unconscious desire for sex. It is interesting that in the carving on the tree in the cartoon, LRRH leaves her message relatively ambiguous, writing “The Wolf & Me” and leaving the identity of “me” open ended. Perhaps this is a reflection of the artists Jungian understanding of the tale and is meant to reflect his belief in a universal unconscious female desire for sex and seduction. Whatever the artists intended message, I would have to say that based off of the physical properties of the path (not pins and needles), the inclusion of “the wolf” (not an ogress or bear), and the seemingly sexual or romantic nature of the message on the tree in the cartoon that the artist has likely created his work based off his understanding of Perrault’s version of the classic LRRH tale.
Advertising Agency: Ade, Bogota, Colombia; Creative Director: Nacho Martinez
Art Directors: Leonardo Silva, Cristian Borrero, Tomas Casallas
Copywriter: Eduardo Vargas; Illustrator: Miguel Ang; Published: October 2009
As mentioned in my last post fairy tails contain themes and archetypes that access human psychology on an unconscious level. Like dreams, these themes/symbols are really expressions of our unconscious mind, which in some cases represent unconscious thought that is shared by all humans through the universality of certain human experiences and feelings. This is the reason that fairy tales can have such a profound and helpful effect on the psychology of children in particular. Children identify with characters in fairy tales and assign personal significance to the actions which the character performs throughout the tale, sometimes allowing them to work through unconscious phycological struggles. It was not however until the early 1900’s that the psychological connection between the human mind and fairy tales was thoroughly explored. Most of our understanding of this connection has grown out of and is based on the work of Freud and Jung. One outcome of this development is seen in the treatment of fairy tales as by Thury and Devinney whose analysis treats them as though they are dreams, by identifying archetypes and breaking the tales into stages. Such archetypes include the evil step mother, the wise father, the woods, and many others. Bettelheim points out several instances in which fairy tales have unconsciously aided children in overcoming psychological fears. In one example Bettelheim tells that the tale Hansel and Gretel helped a girl overcome her dependence on her brother by seeing Gretel as a heroine figure in the tale.
At first thought defining a fairy tale or folk tale seems as though it would be an easy thing. After all, everyone knows what fairy tales are right? When you sit down to write your definition however the task becomes slightly more daunting. What is it that really separates fairy tales from the rest of fantastic tales and stories such as myths, legends, or fantasy fiction? At their core it is the nature of fairy and folk tales universality that really define them. Whereas myths and legends are saturated with local and cultural references that limit their effective frame of reference, fairy tales are the bare essentials of a story, a frame so to speak, upon which the reader or interpretation can add details as he or she sees fit. Despite the constant reinvention of folk and fairy tales every time they are told they retain this essential frame of a story in which are buried themes and archetypes that access human psychology on an unconscious level. For children particularly the themes and archetypes are so profoundly influential as to offer methods of coping with real life situations. As a result of the universality of human emotion and experience, true folk and fairy tales are not bound by any time or culture and therefore speak in someway to ever person’s unconcious self.