(7/26/00 6:04:19 pm)
I just thought I'd propose this new topic to see where it leads-
What tales of wonder (without the hero being a simpleton, greedy, having superhuman strength, extreme good looks, charm to spare, wealth, or magic on his side) show a male (boy, young man, adult male, etc) in a positive role, full of strong character, intelligence, hard work, etc? I tried to think of some, then found them to fall into the negative categories- Aladdin, while being of poor upbringing, only succeeds with the help of a genie; Jack, also poor, believes in magic that others do not, but is overwhelmed by greed and nearly invites trouble into his home; all of the princes are pretty passive Ken dolls; Hansel is the only one I've found who redeems himself by killing the person he offended in "self-defense."
Can anyone think of any strong male characters? I've often thought there were too few tales for boys and young men to look to for strong role models in areas other than strength.
(7/26/00 6:18:36 pm)
|Re: Male tales|
Good point. Personally, I cannot think of any. Although aladin is not a fairy tale, it is a good point. even rapunzel's prince was wealthy. None of the princes kinda eliminates alot of fairy tales. The pauper, from the prince and the pauper, while having the outward appearence of a good boy, he still lies to the people.
Read a good story lately, you should visit The Silver Library.
"Though this be madness,
There is yet method to it."
(7/26/00 7:31:42 pm)
|Re: Male tales|
I think you should re-read the story of Aladdin -- not the usual version, but the story as told in the Arabian Nights. You can find it in the Supplemental Nights of the Richard Burton translation (my favorite). It also appears in the Penguin "Selections from the Arabian Nights", and I believe it is on their audiotape as well.
Aladdin is the story of a boy who begins as a lazy and unpolished street urchin who is truly transformed by his experiences. It's true that there are TWO jinns involved, but the real transformation is an inner one. The story is well worth another look. I was pleasantly surprised at how good it as when I re-read it a few years ago. It is far better than the usual "Nursery Story" versions or animated features.
Alon those lines I'd also recommend "Pinocchio" Carlo Collodi's original story is different from any of the screen treatments or "Nursery Strory" versions of it. It's a gritty little tale, again telling the journey of a literally unformed boy into a human being. The transfrmation that's hinted at in the books and films is described in the book. Again, Pinocchio has his "magical" helpers -- the Fairy and the Cricket -- but he really transforms himself (In the book he squishes the Cricket!!).
(7/27/00 3:46:06 pm)
Take a look at two tales by Astrid Lindgren - The Brothers Lionheart and Mio, my Mio [also translated as Mio, my Son]. The males in both tales are young boys and are fantastic examples of role models as they demonstrate resourcefulness, integrity, courage etc. But they are also realistic boys in that they are often afraid and unsure of how to proceed in their respective situations, and have to call on inner resource or call to others for help. They face realistic problems - Mio is a foster child who is unloved and wants to run away and Karl [one of the Lionheart brothers] is seriously ill and learns he is dying - not a subject often touched on in such detail and is handled very sensitively and beautifully by the author.
Good luck !!
(7/29/00 7:17:05 am)
A few years ago I spoke to a number of Iraqi people at college and they all believed in the Jinn. Before my classes I made them relate as many tales as they could and they were all recent occurrences. They did not have many tales but they were all those that related to family and friends. It was really fascinating in the sense that these were physics students etc and yet they spoke with such conviction as to the existence of the Jinn. Disappearances, mysterious meetings with mysterious strangers - parallels with European folktales yet these were from the 1980s and 1990s.
Culturally from my perspective it would be easy to dismiss Jinn as just being part of a story but to some in Iraqi culture they are held as reality.
I don't know how this fits in exactly but just thought I would pass
(8/5/00 7:19:28 am)
for the replies so far! I've often thought how interesting it would be to see more literature aimed at young men- so often I see the stereotypical "blue, cars, toy guns, and competition are for boys" attitudes out there, that I've begun trying to intercept my little cousin with anything but those things. My dearest love has often complained about how there are never any "Men's Health" or "Men's Studies" sections in bookstores- as if there are "Women's Health" and "Women's Studies" and the rest is assumed to be masculine, when in fact it's genre or everyone's humble opinion. But for literature, especially for boys and young men, it seems limited to dangerous adventures, biographies of race car drivers or sports heroes or, worse, pop stars! They aren't exactly encouraged (at least that I've seen) to be cultured in literature, folk lore, mythology, except in RPGs or books based on the film (which I actually have rarely seen young men pick those up); Disney has their own technicolor corruption of the tales that don't really get any message across except "Be like me" through books, costumes, sing-alongs that every child *must* have; Pokeman is the latest fantastic creature a boy would recognise, not a minotaur, centaur, or some trickster. Hercules (the TV show) was a good attempt to bring these to light, but went overboard with the slang and modern terms, and some adult themes.
I think it would be marvelous if, in some way, these kinds of tales, or modern adaptations, could be gathered and specifically aimed at young men. Anyone else have ideas? (I know I've ranted and rambled a bit- I'd love to hear others' opinions on the matter)
(8/6/00 2:53:26 am)
Kerrie: It sounds like a book that you and your partner should create!
Some of the youngest sons in fairy tales offer good masculine roles, often compared with the arrogance or laziness of older brothers.
Queen Cat comes to mind, where the youngest son is basically rewarded, in magical terms, for being kind, considerate, and a good companion to the feline queen.
Modern fantasy tales have some good roles for boys. Le Guin's Earthsea trilogy is terrific in that respect. The boy protagonist (and side-kick to the girl hero) in the Philip Pullman books is good. The father-son relationship in Pat McKillip's Song For the Basilisk comes to mind too.
(8/6/00 7:12:55 am)
|Great guys in contemporary fantasy|
Michael, the hero of David Almond's luminous *Skellig* comes to mind, mostly because I just read it. Also for years now, Susan Cooper has been writing about very believable and heroic boys, in her "Dark Is Rising" quartet and this year in *King of Shadows,* the story of a young American actor who time travels back to Shakespeare's Globe. (I think her *The Boggart* also has a male protagonist, but it's been years since I've looked at it and I'm not sure.) Lloyd Alexander's "Prydain" (sp.?) books are also classics, and there's a beautiful book by Lionel Davidson that came out in 1980 called *Under Plum Lake* which is well-worth seeking out. Katherine Patterson's books are not fantasy, but I think both *Sign of the Chrysanthemum,* and *Bridge to Terabithia* are books that kids who love fantasy would appreciate, and they, too, are about wonderful boys coming of age.
(8/26/00 7:14:16 am)
|Re: male tales|
Thanks for all of your suggestions-
Jansen said he has read several of those mentioned (though I still
seem to see a genre bias), as did his friends. He can't remember
if he chose them himself or his parents did, which makes me still
curious about the choices that boys/young men make versus their
parents, other family, etc. Terri, Jansen and I have actually recently
talked about working on a tale together! Though from working with
him on a dramatic performance of one of my stories proved near fatal
(I almost did him in, he drove me that crazy!), and he's a tough
editor, it just might work out!
(8/28/00 10:41:52 pm)
|Re: male tales|
I just reread one of my childhood favorites, Madeline L'Engle's 'A Swiftly Tilting Planet'. The hero is about as far from the "sword jock" fantasy hero as you can imagine.
I highly recommend male writing partners! If you can avoid killing each other, you may wind up with a rich story, full of details neither one of you would have noticed alone.
(8/29/00 6:10:18 am)
Oh, I have so many male heroes that I admire from the oral traditions. Beowulf, not only as a young man in a rite of passage against Grendel (himself a reverse/fantastic version of the hero if one reads Gardner at the same time) and later as he ages, the mature hero, accepting death at the hands of the dragon. Mwindo, is the hero of the Congolese epic, "The Tale of Mwindo". Like Beowulf his tale is divided into two halves, his education as a young man where he learns to balance himself as a ruler between the aggressive, savage ambition of his father and the creative postive justice of his Aunt (there is a fabulous scene of his coronation where the three are suspended above ground with Mwindo on a chair between them) and then later he is oversteps his kingly purpose and messes with the forces of nature. They reeducate him up in the clouds of a thunder storm and he learns humility as well as authority. I love the bad boy Odysseus, a trickster if ever there was one, and yet it is Telemechus (his son) who is the youthful hero. His journey to find his father (and of course subsequently himself as a man) parallels Odysseus, but without that trickster/libertine energy that puts Odysseus on the edge. I like the Zulu epic of Usikulumi, which is a huge three part epic and each part has at its core, the education of the hero, from the tale of his unusual birth and the revelation of his prophetic life, the tale of his quest for the divine bride, and the ascendency into kingship. Each tale tests the valor, the commitment and the authority of the boy becoming a man. (one could easily add to this list, Gilgamesh and Sunjiata from Malagasy.)
In YA literature, I like Lloyd Alexander's work (whether Time Cat for the very young audience or Westamark Trilogy for the older reader). His heroes are always thoughtful and it is their intelligence rather than their brawn that gets them where they need to be. The protagonists of Almond's "Skellig" and Sacher's "Holes" are very interesting contemporary fantasy sorts of heroes...where the object is not the big quest, but the more reflexive and painful inner journey to find the strength that is there.