Thursday, December 9, 2010


As the semester comes to an end it is incredible to look back and see how far I have come since I first stepped foot in this class. When I first chose the class, Once Upon a Time – Folk and Fairy Tales Around the World, I did not know to expect. I was hoping to just get some Mcdaniel plan requirements done but this class has impacted me in a way that I will never forget. I developed a greater appreciation for fairy tales and now respect them as not just children stories but valuable pieces of history and culture. These tales have been passed down from generation to generation primarily by word of mouth. When you think about it that is truly incredible. These stories carry with them years of tradition and they create a whole new dream-like world where anything can happen, where the impossible is possible. When I was a kid I never thought that fairy tales were anything more than just stories told for entertainment. This class has showed me that they can be analyzed from a variety of perspectives, including that of psychology, religious and feminist.
This class was extremely fun and very engaging. Our class discussions were always very colorful and entertaining. Each week I always looked forward to our guest lectures and really enjoyed their insight into the world of fairy tales. Through this class I was able to read and analyze fairy tales from a variety of cultures around the world. We read tales from the Arabic tradition all the way to African-American story telling traditions. We looked at the Jewish folktale tradition and the storytelling in Kenya. Before this class I had no idea how broad fairy tales were and that each culture had its own unique characteristics.
For me this class was never that difficult, primarily because the work was always enjoyable and the stories were fun to read. They kept you entertained and it was nice to see the variety that is out there. I especially enjoyed the trickery tales that are from the Kenya. I would defiantly recommend this class to others. I truly enjoyed this class and it would be safe to say that it was my favorite class that I have taken since attending McDaniel College. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Myths and Legends of the Adivasis India

This week in class Dr. Greg Alles came to our class to talk about the “Myths and Legends of the Adivasis in India”. This lecture was particularly interesting. Dr. Alles began his lecture by asking if we had ever heard of fairy tales being the cause of a genocide or court case. I was kind of taken back because I would have never thought that a fairy tale could be taken so seriously. We learned that in India fairy tales are not just tales that teach morals but rather they are considered an accurate account of history and religion. Fairy tales are seen as a constant theme in Hinduism. The magical world that the fairy tales posses are thought to be holy and the tales depict their god’s and deities. This is a huge difference from any other country we have learned about. In every other origin we have seen the fairy tales are not taken as seriously and are just thought to be stories, not reality. Additionally, I found it different that the stories were a whole lot longer than others we have encountered. Dr. Alles brought and showed us a collection of tales and the books were humungous, larger than most novels. He even showed us clips of a television series that was based on the story of Rama, depicting just how serious and widespread the tales are in Indian society. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Arabic Folktales

Last Thursday our class was lucky enough to hear a lecture by Professor Zaru about Arabic Folktales. I liked how she started out clarifying which countries actually make up the Arabic world. There is much confusion revolving around which nations are truly a part of it. After clearing up the misconceptions we had a better idea of the origins of the following tales and traditions.
 I think Professor Zaru’s Arabic lecture was a very good compliment to our last speaker, Dr. Ochieng' K'Olewe. Both Arabic and Kenya story telling involves themes of animals, trickery and humor. To me the Arabic tales of Kalila wa Dimna were very similar to that of Ashanti and Anansi, where the characters are animals who offer practical and moral advice. In both traditions storytelling is considered an art form, a form of entertainment and both set moral guidelines.  In Arabic folktales the common characteristics are: oral tradition, entertainment, insight into human behavior, and variations in theme.

Another aspect that stood out for me was the frame story of One Thousand and One Nights. I was fascinated how one woman pushed off her death for such a long time by using a web of folktales that intertwined together. It especially was interesting how each night she was able to leave the tale at a cliffhanger that would prolong the ending for another time. Her wits allowed herself to evade her execution and win the heart of the cruel man who once was extremely sexist and violent. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Folktale and Storytelling Tradition from Kenya

Today our class was privileged enough to experience a lecture by Dr. Ochieng’ K’Olewe titled “Folktale and Storytelling Tradition from Kenya”. This was by far my favorite guest speaker we have had so far. He was a very knowledgeable and entertaining speaker and was an excellent storyteller.  I especially enjoyed his use of the traditional drum and how he got the class involved in singing. His lecture was very engaging and extremely fun. Dr. Ochieng’ K’Olewe enriched our knowledge of folk and fairy tales by providing us with engaging traditional tales from Kenya and through the use of music. What stood out for me was that in Africa the tales are told at night when there is no light so that the voice of the story teller becomes more prominent and the focus is strictly guided to the teller’s voice. Story tellers are prominently Aunts and Grandmothers. We learned that the importance of the tales lie in entertainment, the musical aspect, carries values, beliefs, and taboos, teach morality, meant to celebrate and emphasize the importance of wits, and is used to provide an understanding for the “stuff” phenomenon. Dr. Ochieng’ K’Olewe also mentioned the value of riddles.  Riddles can be told anytime of the day, are based on things you can see and teach the importance of language and competence. In Africa the community and society may not be as safe as we would like it to be so the riddles teach children how to use their wits to outsmart any threats they may come across. They must learn to think on their feet and out do others.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there lived a hunter by the name of Fudd. He was the father of three and every day he would go out into the woods and shoot an animal to bring back for dinner. One day Fudd was hunting in a nearby forest and he fell asleep. When he awoke, standing in front of him was the biggest deer he had ever seen. Fudd picked up his rifle and pointed it at the deer. The deer looked up and said “please Fudd do not shoot me for if I was in your shoes I would not shoot you”. Fudd laughed and replied I’m a hunter and I’m better than you, therefore I will shoot you and eat you up”.  He then pulled the trigger but nothing happened, the deer laughed and said “I am clever and you will never get me” and ran off into the woods. The next day the hunter decided this time he was going to bring extra bullets and put in his pocket so if the deer unloaded his gun he would have more ammunition. He went back to the exact same place where he saw the deer last and once again fell asleep. When he woke up the giant deer was standing there grazing in the meadow right in from of him. He pulled out his gun and aimed it at the deer. The deer said “please Fudd do not shoot me for if I was in your shoes I would not shoot you”. Fudd laughed and replied I’m a hunter and I’m better than you, therefore I will shoot you and eat you up”. He then pulled the trigger and nothing happened so he reached into his pocket to grab the extra bullets. When he reached in the bullets were gone and he had grabbed a mousetrap and it snapped his fingers off. The deer laughed and said “I am clever and you will never get me” and ran off into the woods. The following day Fudd decided that he would go to the exact same spot but this time he promised himself not to fall asleep. After waiting for three hours the deer walked up and Fudd aimed his rifle at the deer. The deer said “please Fudd do not shoot me for if I was in your shoes I would not shoot you”. Fudd laughed and replied I’m a hunter and I’m better than you, therefore I will shoot you and eat you up”. He pulled the trigger and this time the gun did fire and hit the deer but then it ricocheted back and hit Fudd in the chest. The deer laughed and said “I am a clever deer and you will never get me, I am also immortal and my hide is indestructible and now you are dead. Since you treated me with no respect and insisted on shooting and eating me I shall do the same and go and eat your family as well”.  

African-American Folk and Fairy Tales

Last Thursday our fairy tale class had the privilege of hearing a lecture from Dr. Johnson-Ross about the African American story telling tradition. She provided the class with many historical facts and mentioned bits of history I had never heard before, leaving me with a feeling that I didn’t know as much about American history as I had thought. She placed a lot of emphasis on The Brownies Book and created a comparison to the magazine Highlights that I used to read quite frequently as a child. The Brownies Book  was written between January 1920 – December 1921, and it used folk tales, games, and songs aimed to help support African Americans through the times of segregation. The tales in this book included fairy tales from all around the world. A lot of the stories focused primarily upon animals as being the main characters which is unlike the European fairy tales we have read in class that are largely focused on humans. Dr. Johnson-Ross additionally addressed a story by the name of The People Could Fly. She showed us a power point that included many pages from the book and it showed people being told they could fly and then they would fly away and escape slavery. The idea behind this story is that if you believe you can achieve. This is a very meaningful message and was very appropriate for the time period it was wrote in. Overall, I found Dr. Johnson-Ross’s presentation to be very emotional and historical. It was an interesting lecture that included many key underrated pieces of American history and showed how fairy tales can be used to educate and encourage the concepts of freedom and opportunity. 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rags to Riches

 Cinderella is one of the so-called “rise tales”, which features a narrative arc of “rags to riches through magic and marriage” (Ruth Bottigheimer). For our class we have read a few stories that are related to this theme. They are comprised of an individual who is living in a bad situation and are troubled, later being introduced to magic and go through a social and economic transformation. Many times the main character ends up meeting and marrying a hero who is from a higher class and provides the character with a better standard of living. I do agree that in real life someone can go through a “rags to riches” transformation, although it is rare. These situations are not ones ignited by magic or happen instantly and spontaneously. In reality these stories are fueled by the desire to better oneself and through the use of hard work and perseverance. These situations also normally only include earning a substantial amount of money. It is possible and seen when an individual marries someone else who is rich, and in these situations they marry into money.