(2/11/01 5:07:43 pm)
|Censorship of fairy tales|
Hello, I am new to this board and was curious if anybody had some advice to where I can get information on...should fairy tales be censored? I say the should not be, but need more evidence and am having trouble finding it.
If you think of anything or know where I can look--internet or books, etc. please e-mail me
Thanks for your time!
(2/11/01 8:02:33 pm)
What in them do you think other people imagine needs censoring? For many traditional cultures the tales, even the bawdy trickster tales, are important repositories of cultural information, beliefs and faiths. To censor them is to delete important cultural value and meaning. So who and why do you think a group of people might decide the tales should be censored?
It's an interesting dilemma since the tales have historically served the needs of high and low, the culturally power and the disenfranchised. Who gets to decide they should be censored? And who benefits when they are? And who loses?
It might be useful to look at only one example of censorship--for instance farther down the board there is a great discussion about the victorians and the censorship/rewriting of fairy tales in the "stepmothers" thread. Check out Terri Windling's site www.endicott-studio.com and go to the Forum and find the last article on the Victorians and Fairy Tales. Terri, Greg and Karen have an interesting discussion on the thread--and Terri's site might give you some additional backround. In this case there are social and historical reasons (as well as not so nice reasons) why one prominent group of people decided that the tradition of stories should be altered (and censored) as a tool to reflect their cultural peculiarities and agendas.
(2/11/01 8:38:14 pm)
It many senses of the word, the most popular tales already have been censored over the years for childhood consumption. The Grimms censored the tales, for example. Publishing houses censor the stories for storybook consumption. I have read several complaints about Rika Lesser (forgive me for misspelling her name) and Paul Zelinsky's "Hansel and Gretel" since it is more graphic than some parents like. Disney has certainly "cleaned up" the tales in its versions. Rapunzel is rarely pregnant in the storybook versions, but in the older and/or more complete Grimms collections she is pregnant.
I have faced the dilemma myself with my site. I know SurLaLune Fairy Tales has some of the less "censored" versions of the tales by today's standards and I had to make that decision based on what was available out of copyright and for the audience I knew I would attract. However, some of the tales are more sanitized than what I wanted. My site is really intended for high school and college students primarily, but I try to make it friendly to grade schools at the same time, especially since I get many e-mails from teachers (the majority are third grade teachers for some reason) who ask for permission to use it. My whole point in creating my site wasn't to offend but to teach. I certainly didn't want to generate hate mail for my inbox.
Let's face it, Sleeping Beauty is raped, Cinderella's sisters cut off their feet, Rapunzel gets pregnant, Snow White's stepmother is murderous and wants to eat Snow White's heart. The more grisly details are available through links I have provided and in the "alternate" versions from other cultures. You can find questionable material on my site if you look for it. But if you are looking for questionable material, my experience is that you can always find it. Depends on your mind set when you start out.
And I don't really remember reading much about censoring fairy tales in this day and age. There was the feminist movement in the 70s to negate the tales because they were subversive. There are always the religious groups who want to censor everything but the Bible--the book which always taught me more about mean and nasty things than any other book I read as a child. Censoring is bad news. Yes, guide your child's and even your own reading, but please don't try to control everyone else's. (Not that you are, of course, you are just doing research!)
But as Midori mentioned, the tales really need to be left alone primarily because they are a cultural repository. You take away elements of the stories and you ruin the ability to understand the cultures that created them.
(2/11/01 9:42:45 pm)
Thanks for all of your help, the two nice people that put replies on the 'board'. The info was very helpful and was able to expand on it more. Thanks
If anybody else has more info, please post--it would be greatly appreciated
(2/12/01 12:49:03 pm)
I think in general censorship=fear. People censor what they don't understand and are afraid of. Fairy tales operate on multiple levels, but unquestionably are most potent on some visceral, hind-brain level, which is why they can be transmuted by the likes of many of us on this board into other tales, contemporary tales, dark re-renderings, etc., without losing their power. In fact, I'd probably argue that the inclusion of that raw material makes my own fiction stronger--trusting in the unconscious is critical for me.
Psychotherapy paints the unconscious as the location of all our woes, fears, dementias, obsessions, compulsions, mental sicknesses... and so many people consider that to be an ugly, nasty place to go. They may not want to look there. They may not want anyone else to look there, either for fear that the others will find out the truth about *them*.
But, then, it's been my experience that those who scream the loudest against some disgusting social evil are usually performing it themselves, if only IN fantasy.
Greg (retiring now from venting)
(2/12/01 1:30:55 pm)
I'll sound in again by saying that my experience also shows that censors often mistake innocence for naivete. In my world, the two words are entirely different. Innocence can have great knowledge and wisdom--the same knowledge and wisdom that can keep one from making the grand mistakes that can come from naivete.
I will always be grateful for parents who did not censor, but taught me about the darker sides when necessary so that I could recognize, combat, aid, avoid, whatever, according to the situation. But most of importantly of all, they gave me the ability to choose. Their trust was inherent in our relationship and I continue to be blessed for it.
The fairy tale stories are often filled with naive protaganists who learn more about their worlds and how to cope and live in them through their experiences. Part of the charm is that they don't always lose their innocence as they gain their wisdom. Sorrow and pain doesn't have to ruin happiness, it most often serves to enhance joy.
(2/13/01 8:19:09 am)
Since I've worked in adult and children's libraries I've seen, heard, and talked a lot about censorship. Especially in children's and young adult libraries, it's a a frequent subject of discussion.
I would agree with Gregor that censorship equals fear, especially a fear that we do not have a common public morality. Yes, there are general rules of right and wrong and respect, but there is a huge grey area. While some may have no problem with their children reading Mickey and the Night Kitchen, others think the idea of children seeing another naked child highly inappropriate. Fairy and folk tales are frequently objected to for a variety of reasons - they are anti-feminist, they are anti-Christian, they are too violent, they are too Christian, they are racist or classist - the list could go on and on. Other works ( like Bridge to Terebithia and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings) are often challenged because people are uncomfortable with the family depicted - a parent neglecting or abusing a child, children disobeying parents. I'm sure the same has been said for fairy and folk tales.
My favorite reason, provided for a challenge lodged against Bridge to Terebithia, is that the children have an unhealthy fantasy life. (I'm paraphrasing but that was the gist.) As if children all dream of sugar plumbs, and only those nasty teachers and librarians are inserting ideas of sex, violence, swearing, etc. into their heads. Certainly not all stories are appropriate for all children at all times. But I would not want to be the judge and jury for all children and all stories. My own children yes, up to a point. But as they grow they have to go on their own journeys into the Dark Woods, and painful as it might be, I'll have to stay behind. (Though I might sail in with my magic wand now and then.)
Stepping off my soap box. Laura Mc
(2/13/01 4:21:23 pm)
I was actually given Bridge to Terebithia to read as a young 'un at school- I remember bawling my eyes out at the end, but it was, by far, one of the best books this little girl encountered.
While I do agree that censorship is motivated, to a large extent, by fear, my view of the process is somewhat more cynical. I can not speak for every country, but, from my observation, what happens here is that some backbench MP realises one day that they are not receiving the attention and adulation they believe to be their due. The easiest way to make a name for yourself as an obscure politician is to start a censorship furore. I don't think they care at all about the content of the films or books at the heart of the controversies. For instance, we had quite a fracas about the remake of Lolita- private screenings at Parliment house so the pollies could determine how damaging an effect the film would have on the populace. And yet, at the same time, another film called "happiness", which features far more graphic depictions of pedophilia, screened with barely a whimper. Really, it's all to do with reputation- everyone's heard about Lolita, nudge, nudge- hence, more publicity for the politician, more political points to be scored in banning it.
(2/13/01 4:39:03 pm)
|Why is this censorship?|
Let me first say that I don't like censorship. I think the stories as they stand are valid, informative, and excellent reads. One of the things that intrigues me so about fairy tales is how much they say about the culture that voiced them, and I want them to remain available to me.
That said, I would also like to include the newer, "censored" tails in my above statement. I think we all like to go back to the old stories and say, "That's the *real* Rapunzel. That's what *really* happened to Cinderella's stepsisters." It's easy to compare those tellings to, for example, the Disney Golden Book version of Cinderella and call the newer stuff blurry reprints of the real thing. But we all know that up until the Grimm brothers transcribed the original folktales, all of these things were constantly evolving stories, most likely changed or added to by each storyteller. Granted, the changes made since then have been made through a different medium (print), but we still recognize most newer versions as valid, informative retellings of the same basic story. (At least, that's what I took from the wonderful discussion about Victorian tales.)
I must admit that I mostly like the older incarnations of these stories better than the new ones. Usually there's a lot more going on, and I enjoy interpolating about the society that told each version. But the new versions have a lot to offer, too. Yes--they take out most of the gruesome stuff. And yes--the stories Disney turns out are usually barely recognizable as having the same roots as their progenitors. But the heroes and the heroines in the new incarnations--Disney as well as the shorter, picture book variety--have much more depth than ever before. In fact, they have personality: motives, dreams, intelligence, etc. Of course, I would argue that these qualities were present in the older versions as well, but mostly the kids aren't going to see them because they don't know how, or where, to look. What we want our children to see tells a lot about us. The same way the older stories tell a lot about where they came from.
I know I'm not saying anything new here. (I'm off on a bit of a rant.) It's just that I'm not sure why this is an issue of censorship, instead of one of interpretation and evolution. The brothers Grimm are still available at every library and bookstore, so far as I know. By calling the newer versions "censored," are we saying that only the older versions are valid, and should be considered static?
(2/14/01 9:56:29 am)
|Censored vs. Valid|
I don't think I would call the new versions "censored" necessarily. Stripped, perhaps, or conversely all dressed up with nothing to say. Censored for me is specific. The Grimms themselves chose to censor "Rapunzel" by its second printing. They decided that she could not be pregnant, we could not show that, and so they altered the story to conform to their particular opinion of morality.
Disney maybe didn't censor the stories. But they did scoop them out, remove the soul of them. They did this in part by dressing them up with fluffy fuzzy Disney trappings: cutesy talking animals and songs for instance, Disney elements that were there from the beginning. (The phrase "too cute to live" comes to mind.) They did not add to the stories in any viable way, and they didn't stick those things in with any sense of whether they fit the story. Rather, the story was being altered to conform to predefined Disney elements. So, they aren't censoring as such, but they are butchering the thing with all the sensitivity of Sweeney Todd.
Thus I think you are dealing with the application of two different intents, both of which lead to the devitalizing of the stories.
I've written two contemporary versions of two fairy tales for Terri's anthologies. Both of them do something with the shape of the original; hopefully, though, the transformation is not gratuitous. It may add elements not in the original, but my desire, at least, is not to rob the original of its power but to use that power in the rendering.
In terms of the visceral power of the original tales, I don't think it's static at all. I think the reason these tales still light us up is that what's working on some primal, emotional level transcends cultural and social boundaries, and flies in under the intellectual radar. So while I think the originals are not sacrosanct, I think anything done with them should be done with a certain amount of reverence and awe.
Greg (sharing in your rant)