Thursday, December 6, 2012

BGC Reflection

This service-learning project was a very satisfying and fun experience.  Getting to teach early elementary school students about what we have learned about fairy tales was a great experience. I learned a lot from this opportunity by seeing the fairy tales from the eyes of a young child. By teaching these children, I was able to understand how a younger child would interpret the Grimm fairy tales. As a child, I was only familiar with the Disney versions of these fairy tales and I had not read most of the actual Grimm fairy tales until this year, as a college student. I had already learned a lot in class, but I was unable to see how a child would understand the tale. The tales we chose to teach the children were meant to be read to children. I think it is important to fully realize how children can interpret these tales. For example, the “Golden Key” leaves the ending up for the reader to decide. As a college student, I would have appreciated actually reading an entire tale, rather than coming up with my own. However, the children at the Boys and Girls club were thrilled to come up with their own fairy tales. They could not have been more excited to make up a story on their own.

            This project was much better than a final exam. I liked that it allowed for some creativity in what we could choose to do with the children. It was also very hands-on, which was great. Rather than reiterating the same thoughts and interpretations that we’ve been talking about all semester, this gave us an opportunity to apply our knowledge in a real-world setting. This project was probably a bit more challenging, since we not only had to know about the tales, but we had to adapt our knowledge to communicate an abridged, but still educational lesson. It was harder to decide what was appropriate and would be interesting to children that young, and also teach them something new. This project really required us to apply the information we’ve learned in a whole new format, which was challenging and fun.

            This project did have some difficulties, though. One of the main issues our group encountered was the size of the group of children. It varied quite a bit, and sometimes the groups simply were not divided up evenly. The first week, we had five children, which was a great size. The second week, we had ten followed by three the next week. That same week the other group had eight children, making the groups very uneven. The last week we had five children, which was once again very good. While the Boys and Girls club cannot control how many children show up on any given day, the different sizes of the groups was difficult to plan for. In retrospect, it would have been better for us to have planned activities for large groups and small groups. Some of our activities were easily adapted, like the play we had them act out for Hansel and Gretel. We only had to make up roles on the spot when we had a large group of children. However, our jumping jacks activity the next week would have worked much better with a larger number of children, and we had to cut it short. We discovered that it was better to over-plan, than to hope that our activities took the time we thought they would. When we had more activities than necessary, then we could always skip something if one activity did not pan out.

            Another difficulty was behavioral problems. For the most part, the Boys and Girls club staff would be there to help if a child was not cooperating. It was still difficult for us to make the children focus sometimes. This definitely could have been fixed in retrospect by planning more active activities. As tired college students, I think it was easy for us to want them to do quieter activities, like draw. However, the children often had more fun when they could get up and do something, even if it were as simple as acting out “Hansel and Gretel”. As for motivating them to stay on task, we used candy as bribes. It was a fairly effective way of getting the children to listen to us, because we could threaten not to give them candy at the end.

            The only advice I would have for future service-learning project students is to really focus on planning more activities than you would think you need. It is hard to budget time with these activities, because some take a lot longer than others. Also, because the children were not the same each week, it is difficult to know ahead what they will like. Some groups loved to draw and some groups loved to get up to do activities. Therefore, it is important that you have a detailed, varied plan before you go, and that you plan one extra activity than you’ll think you need. Then, you will not be caught off guard when you run out of things to do with the children.

            I think if I were to do this project again, I would definitely plan more, from a preparation stand point.  As was already stated, plans were crucial to being successful. Even with good plans, one cannot predict how the time will go, which is why it’s important to have more activities than necessary. However, on the project overall, it would be nice to have larger groups of children. Perhaps by splitting up the groups over a longer period of time would be more beneficial, because the groups would be a bit larger and therefore a bit easier to work with.

            Overall, this project has been beneficial in my opinion. It was definitely fun, but also educational for me. I learned a lot more about children and got to see the material from their perspective. It was challenging to make sure everything was age appropriate while still being interesting. Working in a group made the project easier because you could work together to come up with really creative ideas. The group could then get to interact more closely with the students because there were four of us, and we could split our time between the children. That individual time is when I learned the most about their different ideas and opinions about the fairy tales. This is where I learned the most throughout this project. The project was a great experience and I would gladly do it again.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Look Back

After reviewing all of my blogs, I am satisfied with the work I have completed this semester.  I am proud to be able to analyze fairy tales in pop culture, especially.  I grew up with Disney movies, and these stories are much more prevalent in American culture than the Grimm Brothers’ tales.  When I see these movies now, I understand their origins more and can watch them more discriminately. I understand the changes that Walt Disney made, like the more involved male roles. In Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, the prince plays a much larger role than in the Grimm tales. He is responsible for saving the princess, which is very different from the original tales. In the Grimm versions, it is more of a coincidence that he is present when the princesses wake up. I am now able to see these differences and realize that Disney made these changes to reflect his own propaganda. Many women say that Disney has raised their expectations of men to a point where they cannot be fulfilled. I believe now, because of this class, that Disney has made women lower their expectations of themselves instead. Disney wanted to portray male dominance in his movies, and as an educated viewer, I am more able to see that.

                Additionally, I am excited that I can more accurately view references to these tales in pop culture. Political cartoons are rather easy to understand at first glance, because their allusions are generally fairly obvious. Although the point they are making is more obscure, most people could probably pick out what fairy tale they come from. However, I think that I am more able because of my studies to understand the complete context of these cartoons. More impressively, I am able to see fairy tale stories and motifs in less obvious forms of media. For example, after recently viewing Silence of the Lambs in class, I am able to see the Little Red Riding Hood storyline. This is definitely not obvious unless one has studied fairy tales in depth. Relating Clarice to Little Red Riding Hood and Cannibal to the wolf is not an obvious connection, but the connection definitely exists.

                Overall, I am pleased with the knowledge that I have gained this semester. This class has given me a whole new appreciation for the fairy tales I heard as a child and a different viewpoint on the movies I see.  I have now have a more discriminating opinion of the very popular Disney movies, and do not have to be encircled by Disney’s appropriation.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Let Down Your Hair


                The Grimm Brothers’ Rapunzel tale is extremely famous. Everyone knows the story of the girl that is locked in a tower by a witch. The only way in or out of the tower is by climbing Rapunzel’s long hair. The witch visits frequently and calls “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair”. One day a prince comes, and calls up the same thing. He climbs up and the two fall in love. The Grimm version goes a bit farther, and later Rapunzel accidentally slips up and tells the witch that she is much heavier than the prince. The witch cuts her hair and sends her away. She then waits for the prince to come back and lures him up, letting him think that Rapunzel is still there. When he finds the witch and learns that Rapunzel is not there, he throws himself off the tower. He is blinded by thorns at the bottom, and starts to wander around aimlessly. He eventually finds Rapunzel by accident, and the two live happily ever after with their two children. The Grimm ending is generally not as well known, although the tale itself is very famous.

This cartoon is a spoof on how unrealistic the tale is. Although fairy tales are not meant to be taken literally, the cartoon brings out the absurdity in the situation. It would be impossible to grow your hair out long enough to fall from a tower. Likewise, it would be extraordinarily painful to allow someone to climb up your hair. The idea of hair extensions is funny in regards to this fairy tale, because obviously the extensions would not be able to hold someone. The cartoon is also poking fun at the idea of beauty. Rapunzel appears to be naturally beautiful with her long hair, but once her beauty is tested, it does not hold up. One can try to make oneself beautiful by putting using fake things, like hair extensions. But, at the end of the day, natural beauty is more valuable. The prince can be attracted to her long hair, but her extensions ruin their possible relationship because they are not the same as actual hair.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Bluebeard, The Robber Bridegroom and Fitcher's Bird

                “The Robber Bridegroom”, “Fitcher’s Bird” and “Bluebeard” are all fairy tales with similar storylines. In each one, a young bride arrives at her husband or soon-to-be-husband’s house. There, she is greeted with a cruel reality in which the husband has murdered many other women. Through her own wit, she is able to escape, and the husband is killed in the end. “Fitcher’s Bird” and “Bluebeard” are the most similar, as the young bride is given a set of keys to every room in the house and told that she can enter any room except one. Of course, the bride investigates this room at the first opportunity and finds bodies of many other former wives. She is shocked and drops an object that she was given (a key in “Bluebeard” and an egg in “Fitcher’s Bird”) and it is stained with blood and therefore is evidence of her disobedience. Her husband comes home and asks for this object back and discovers that she has not followed his instructions. He is very angry and wants to kill her. This is where the two stories divert from each other. In “Bluebeard”, the bride asks for some time to pray and is granted a short period. She uses this time to send her sister to watch for her brothers’ arrival and signal them to hurry up. Bluebeard begins to kill her, but does not succeed as her brothers show up and save the day. However, in “Fitcher’s Bird”, the bride is killed and the sorcerer marries the second sister. The outcome of this marriage is identical, and so he marries the third and youngest daughter. She outsmarts him by keeping the egg safely in her room while she explores the forbidden chamber. Then, she decorates a skull and puts it in the tower of the castle, so that it appears to be her looking out. She effectively tricks the sorcerer, and escapes. Her brothers then come to kill the sorcerer and all of his evil cronies. These two tales are very similar but contain slight differences. For example, Bluebeard is a man with a blue beard, which is strange. However, it does not give him any special powers. The husband in “Fitcher’s Bird” is actually a sorcerer. Both stories contain magical objects, like the key and the egg, which cannot be cleaned of the blood from the forbidden chamber. These objects make sense when the groom is a sorcerer, but they are a bit surprising in “Bluebeard”.

                “The Robber Bridegroom”, while similar to these stories, diverts quite a bit. A young woman is promised to a man, and he insists that she should visit his house in the woods before the wedding. She follows a trail of ashes that he leaves her and sprinkles peas on the ground on either side to ensure her way back. She then arrives to an empty house and finds an old woman who tells her to hide. As soon as she is hidden from view, her betrothed arrives with a band of robbers and they have a young woman with them. They kill the young woman and cook her in a stew. When the robbers are asleep, the old woman and the young bride escape and follow the trail of peas home. The robber comes to marry the girl the next day, and at the wedding she tells the story of what happened the previous night. The robber is killed, along with his comrades. This story is different from the previous two, because the girl did not disobey her fiancée outright. She was not tested the way that the other two heroines were. However, like the other two, she saves herself and causes the fiancée to get what he deserves.

                I liked “Bluebeard” the best out of all three tales. In the first two tales, I liked the test aspect of the story, when the brides are told not to enter a certain room.  However, I did not like that the first two sisters were killed in “Fitcher’s Bird”, mostly because the next sister always saw their bodies in the chamber. I found this to be a bit too gruesome for me. I also thought that the bride in Bluebeard was very clever by asking for a few minutes to pray before he kills her.  She was able to use this time effectively to save herself, although she sustained a few injuries before her brothers arrived. Overall, all the aspects of these stories that I liked, like the test, were in “Bluebeard”.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Frog King vs. Cupid and Psyche

The Grimm Brothers’ “Frog King” talks about a beautiful princess who asks a favor of a frog she sees. She drops her golden ball down a well, and the frog retrieves it for her. However, the frog makes the princess promise to make him her companion. She agrees in her moment of desperation, but later leaves without fulfilling her promise. The frog, though, is not deterred her initial rejection and interrupts the royal family’s dinner. Her father, hearing of his daughter’s actions, forces her to make the frog her companion. That evening, as the frog wants to sleep in her bed with her, she throws him across the room. He magically turns into an attractive king, and the two get married.

                In Lucius Apuleius’ “Cupid and Psyche”, there is also a beautiful princess. Her beauty, however, puts her on Venus’ bad side. Cupid is supposed to make Psyche fall in love with a hideous monster, but accidently shoots himself with the arrow. Therefore, Psyche and Cupid fall in love. Eventually, Psyche marries Cupid, but never sees him, as he only comes in at night. Her sisters advise her to secretly light a lantern with which to see him and discern if he is a monster. If he was a monster, Psyche had a knife to cut off his head. Psyche does this, and accidently awakes Cupid, he is angry that she has done this, as he did not wish for her to see him. He banishes her, causing her to seek help from other gods. Eventually, she seeks Venus’ help and is forced to do many difficult tasks. Other gods help her complete these tasks and Venus is always dissatisfied. Finally, Cupid asks Zeus for permission to continue his marriage to Psyche; a marriage frowned upon by Venus. His request is granted and he is able to save Psyche from her own curiosity a second time.

                In both tales, there is a princess is whose beauty is far greater than that of anyone else. In both stories, she promises herself or is promised to a husband that she cannot truly see. In the “Frog King”, the princess rejects the frog/her future husband, but is forced to comply by her father. In “Psyche and Cupid”, Psyche is lured into looking at her husband by her sisters.  However, both princesses like their male counterparts and fall in love. Psyche is initially banished from Cupid for her curiosity, but eventually their marriage works out. The Frog King and the princess marry right away in the Grimm tale.  The Psyche story has many more conflicts than the Grimm version, but it is also a different type of tale. The Grimm tale is obviously a fairy tale, and it is meant to be short and simple. The Roman myth is longer and much more complicated. It contains no repetition or magical numbers, as are characteristic of the fairy tale. The intended audience is supposed to know the identity of the gods involved and other myths. The fairy tale audience is not required to have heard any other tales in order to understand the full implications of the tale. Both tales have lessons involved and happy endings, which give them somewhat similar structures. Overall, both stories have similarities in the content and structure, even though they are from separate genres.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Little Red Riding Hood

                This cartoon, that uses Little Red Riding Hood as a theme, is depicting a police investigation. The police are asking the wolf who committed a crime. The wolf’s response is what really makes up the satirical nature of this social cartoon. The wolf describes the perpetrator was carrying a suspicious package and wearing a hoodie. This description is pretty vague, but Little Red Riding Hood is lying a few feet away, as if showing that she is taken as the perpetrator, even though she is a little, innocent girl. She was evidently proven to be a suspect based on a stereotypical, vague description. On a broad level, the cartoon is depicting the tendency of judging that people are guilty based on a loose description unless they are proven to be innocent. This tends to be a social practice in modern day society, since the media often indicts suspects with very little evidence against them.

                I personally find this social cartoon very clever. Although it does not require much knowledge of the fairy tale, nor does it accurately depict the Grimm version, the cartoon is very ironic and witty. I appreciate the use of the protagonist in the fairy tale as the suspect and how justice has already seemed to be served to her. She is a little girl in the common version of the tale, and yet she was indicted without anything other than a questionable description at best. The juxtaposition of the wolf as a reliable witness is also very intelligent, as it shows the harsh nature of our modern day attitudes. We are willing to believe that anyone is guilty based on very questionable evidence, unless we have evidence that they are innocent. In the cartoon, a young, innocent girl is punished based on vague evidence from a source with debatable trustworthiness. I think that it is very intelligently done, as the cartoonist has used a well-known fairy tale and switched the roles of the hero and antihero, but in an effort to display the injustice of our society.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Anne Sexton's Snow White

Anne Sexton’s poem “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” is a different take on the popular Grimm tale.  Sexton’s poem loses the timeless element. The poem has many modern day references. For example, the bodice is wrapped “as tight as an ace bandage” and Snow White has eyes “as wide as Orphan Annie”. These references enhance the imagery in the reader’s mind, since these images are references that the modern reader understands. However, this infusion of pop culture adds a modern element to the old fairy tale. The poem is told as a lesson, as the author says “Beauty is a simple passion/ but, oh my friends, in the end/ you will dance the fire dance in iron shoes”. The first person interjection gives the reader the feeling that the Sexton is telling us this tale as a lecture. It adds a new spin on the traditional lesson that the Grimms strived to put into their fairytales.  The lesson in the poem comes from the author, not the story itself.  Lastly, Sexton refers to specific times: “on the seventh week” and “the prince came one June day”. An important feature of the Grimm fairy tale is the timelessness. The fairy tale is inspiring because of the idea that it can happen to anyone at any time. The poem loses this feature by referring to specific times and using pop culture references.

                Personally, I prefer the Grimm fairy tale, because of its timelessness. Part of the magic of hearing it is being taken away from your own time and place. The poem, instead, roots you to the present, because it causes you to think about references that come up in your everyday life and the present time.  The Grimm fairy tale carries you away from your on world and allows you to dream about anytime you want: past, present or future. The poem has lost this important feature by talking about specific time frames and using modern day references. Also, I think the poem loses some of the beauty of the tale by showcasing the lesson. To me, the less obvious message in the Grimm tale is preferable because you are able to analyze it on your own. The Anne Sexton poem has an obvious message: vanity ultimately leads to destruction. I prefer the Grimm fairy tale to the more modernize Anne Sexton poem because of its timelessness and subtle message.

                There is one element of the poem that I did like, and that is the ending. In the end, Sexton narrates that Snow White gazes at herself in the mirror. This is not an action that the Grimm Snow White ever completes. Sexton believes in a cyclical version of Snow White, where, in the end, Snow White ends up like her stepmother. She is vain and therefore will eventually succumb to a jealousy that feeds evil. The Grimm tale has a happy ending for Snow White, as she marries the prince and the story ends. Nothing is ever mentioned about her life afterwards. In Sexton’s version, it shows that Snow White cannot escape any unhappiness or evil through marriage, because eventually the cycle will repeat itself and she will become like her evil stepmother.