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Registered User
(3/23/01 9:39:54 am)
fairy tales and national character
hi, I was surfing through the net and I found this wonderful site about fairy tales...we are doing a research on parallelisms of national character through the analysis of selected Grimm's fairy tales...

our objective is to know how exposed our respondents are to grimm's fairytales, then well relate to the national characters of Germans and Filipinos.

our problem is, we lack data on German national character.

we would just like to ask some comments, or advise regarding our thesis and ummm, we would like to add more, revise our review of related literature....but before we compare, we have to establish first that fairy tales indeed reflect a national character of a country.

any reactions, comments are most welcome...

Registered User
(3/23/01 10:25:00 am)
Re: fairy tales and national character
Elkana -

This is an interesting topic, but I wonder what your definition of "national character" is? Are you referring to the notion of Aryanism, or the German ideal person? Are you examining how this has changed over time, or specifically looking at the period in which the Grimms were working? And why are you incorporating Filipino "national character" when working with Grimms tales?

I think that fairy tales certainly reflect and re-create the culture from which they originate, but culture is not the same as National Character, which tends to be a more self-conscious, politically oriented idea. Old folktales have certainly been used by governments (often after first being altered to fit) to support their ideals and goals. This is a deliberate process, however, and, depending on its success, may or may not change the way most individuals perceive and remember the tale.

Looking forward to learning more about your project,

Heidi Anne Heiner
(3/23/01 2:56:21 pm)
Re: fairy tales and national character
Yes, I would definitely need a time period and definiton of "national character" from the assignment. I think Germany's "national character" has undergone some drastic changes in the past century, especially in the areas of patriotism and politics. The character is much different from the Grimms' time. I am not an expert but my conversations with Germans has established that much.


Registered User
(3/24/01 6:35:14 am)
fairy tales and national character

first of all, thank you for your comment, you and heide have no idea how helpful this is....thanks guys!!!

we're referring to a modal (or cultural) idea of national character. i think when you said aryanism, it has something to do with the nazis, right? so no, i am not referring to that...what do you mean German ideal person? we defined national character as well-known characteristics or traits and beliefs of a people that are distinctly for example, Filipinos are known for their split level Christianity. we also limited our study only to Germany, and not German-speaking countries or people. we feel that it would be more focused. we didn't think to consider the time frame because it would be in contrast with its Filipino counterpart. (meaning the folktales, and fairy tales that were collected have no definite time-frame).

we're incorporating Filipino national character because we are students of international studies and there should be an interface between europe and our country. at first, we thought we'd make a comparative analysis but it requires direct contact between germans and filipinos and there was none. so our reader thought it best to find some parallelisms. oh by the way, we used propp's morphology.

granted that it's not the same, and that german national character has undergone major changes, at least there are some that were retained and still exists until now? can't we just look at the similarities and differences without considering the time-frame? and when you say politically oriented national character, don't you mean national identity,coz i read in a book that cultural romanticism merged with nationalism and ti became national, i understood that national identity is somewhat political while modal national character is cultural? am i making any sense?

Unregistered User
(3/24/01 6:39:10 am)
fairy tales and national character
sorry heidi, i mispelled your name, typographical error

Registered User
(3/24/01 11:41:57 am)
Germany and the Phillipines (sp?)
Well this is certainly different!

Having decidedly less background in this area than some of our illustrious posters, I thought I'd take a stab at it anyway.

First off, am I getting the idea properly? You want to examine some Brothers Grimm tales and compare them with Filipino tales. From that comparison, you hope to deduce a sort of "national identity" that reveals itself in the stories, and then make statements about the similarities or differences you see?

Is this a work for a history class or a folklore class or what? That would be helpful in determining what kind of analysis you hope to do.

Next, I'd say you need to be very careful of the tales you compare. The Grimm tales evolved over time, as a literary collection. They were refined and altered to suit public tastes, and change noticeably from edition to edition. They are not what you might call "pure" folklore. Therefore, be very careful about drawing national-level conclusions from material colored by a single man's biases. As for Filipino tales, you presumably know them far better than I, since I know nothing about them at all. :-)

>defined national character as well-known
>characteristics or traits and beliefs of a people
>that are distinctly for example,
>Filipinos are known for their split level

as far as that goes, again be very careful to define your terms precisely. I had never heard that about Filipinos, being woefully ignorant of that region of the world. Make sure to define both concepts familiar to you and those foreign, so they are clear no matter who your audience. That's just a basic rule of good writing.

>didn't think to consider the time frame because it
>would be in contrast with its Filipino counterpart.
>(meaning the folktales, and fairy tales that were
>collected have no definite time-frame).

I don't quite understand. Do you mean that Filipino tales don't have any sort of definite time-stamp to them, no feel of a certain era? German tales don't either, really. They aren't set during the year Suchandsuch, in the reign of King Whositz. The place in time of a piece of literature, whether a novel or a folktale, is _always_ critically important (well, I suppose that's my bias as to critical style, but anyway ...). It seems to me that you MUST set a time of consideration for your paper. Otherwise, you'll be writing a book comparing all German tales throughout time with all Filipino tales -- plainly not what you're after.

>german national character has undergone major
>changes, at least there are some that were retained
>and still exists until now?

perhaps, but for me at least you need to be more specific. Any primer on German national culture will try to give you an idea of how profoundly the nation has changed in the last 100 years. I really don't think those of us from nations that haven't undergone that kind of upheaval can ever really understand ...

>can't we just look at the similarities and
>differences without considering the time-frame?

Anybody feel free to contradict me, but my impulse would be to say no, you can't. One of my first comments would be that such a paper probably lacks specificity of concept.

Maybe I'm way off base here. I'll be the first to admit that your last few sentences lost me totally. :-) Are you government students? I get the sense that you are, being focused in international relations.

I think what would be most helpful, for me at least, would be a statement of exactly what you are trying to accomplish in this paper. What is your driving idea? Where do you want to go? What are you trying to say? Distill that essence down to a few sentences (a proto-opening paragraph), and I bet you'll find you aren't so stuck after all ...

Hope some of that helped!


Unregistered User
(3/24/01 2:43:00 pm)
German Nationalism
While I agree with the other posters that you do have to be careful with the Grimms and the various alterations they made- and be aware that the majority of their informants were middle class and aristocratic women, not "the folk"- surely the design, the motivations behind their project (an attempt to capture the German "geist") might reveal something about the German national identity at that time- perhaps more so than the texts themselves. You could speculate as to what the urge or need to assemble such a collection in the first place reveals about a country's sense of its own national identity. For instance (I know you have narrowed down your focus), in Victorian Britain there was some concern with recording and preserving lore before it was bludgeoned by increasing industrialisation and Irish nationalists like Yeats seized upon folklore in particular as a unique facet of Irish culture. So I think you are right- folklore, at least in the nineteenth century, was seen as one of the primary areas in which a country defined its national identity.

I know you're probably limiting the German half of your study to the Grimms in particular, but it might be worthwhile to consider the appropriation of the fairy tale genre by the German Romantic movement- there's a Penguin collection of German Romantic fairy tales edited by Carol Tully.

Good luck!


Registered User
(3/25/01 7:09:21 am)
The Rise of Modern Mythology ...
Dear Elkana:
One really useful resource would be _The Rise of Modern Mythology, 1680-1860_, by Burton Feldman and Robert D. Richardson, Jr. It's just been reprinted, I think - it's a realy nifty collection of essays from various figures from the field of folklore, including the Grimms, and it has very nice essays introducing each figure so as to contextualize their views. When discussing Jacob Grimm, they write "All through Teutonic Mythologym he urges exploring other European, ancient, and Eastern or Indian derived myths; but at the same time, his preface and text fight an endless running battle aginst any encroachment on German mythic integrity. Most of all, and understandabely, Grimm argues pasionately that Germanic myth is neither inferior to nor derived from Greek or Roman or ven Christian sources. The view that german myth is "barbarous" is, he says, slander and ignorance; and only a "disloyal scholarship" could think it inevitable that Tannhauser must turn out to be Ulysses!". The relation to national character was a key motivating force driving him to collect these works, in their eyes ... a view which is supported by one of his essays which is reprinted in the book.
Hope it helps,

Registered User
(3/26/01 4:48:27 am)
Re: fairy tales and national character
hi everyone. well, i'm elkana's thesismate. as elkana said, we're international studies students majoring in european studies and our thesis topic is about german and filipino national character through the analysis of selected grimm's fairy tales.

basically, we would like to find out the similarities and differences of german and filipino national character basing it on our analysis of the main character of the Grimm's fairy tales employing Propp's morphology of the folktale.

just want to add some things that elkana have already mentioned. well, when we said national character we mean those characteristics that a group of people share in common. it is something like their social identity or national identity. also, our focus on the analysis of the national character would be on the pscho-social characteristics of both germans and filipinos. by psychological we mean the family (german and filipino) because as our mentor said, the family influences the way we think. and when we say social, we mean how germans and filipinos interact with other people.

what we basically plan to do is to get the top 10 Grimms fairy tales by administering a checklist to Filipino college students then, we would construct our own morphology of these fairy tales. after which, we would analyze the characteristics of the main character of these tales and then, look for some similariies and differences of the main character from the literature we have about Filipino national character. then, we would compare it with the German national character.

i don't really know if i'm making sense here...

i do understand the things you pointed out. most of what you've said are basically some of the problems we have about german national character. i hope i was able to clarify some things about our topic.

any comment and suggestion would really be of great help for our research paper...

Unregistered User
(3/26/01 5:55:09 am)
I am not exactly sure how using Propp's morphology of the folktale will help you achieve a subjective analysis that allows you to interprete the cultural nuances (and meanings) of the folktales. Propp's structural analysis is based on the idea that the images in folktales have a specific "function" and it is their function int he narrative that matters--thus any different number of surface images can appear in a narrative different on the surface, but functioning in a similar fashion to the construction of a folk tale. So it would be problematical to place a definitive cultural emphasis on a single image, that might function in a variety of ways in different narratives within the body of the folktales, and whose functions might also be performed in the narrative by a host of other images (and characters).

One of the interesting comparative aspects of folktales is 1) how similiar they are in fact in their structural narrative construction 2) in their particular attention to the themes of rites of passage (highlighting usually those areas of greatest social conflict for a community--adolescence, marraige, birth, death) and how easily they travel from one community to another. It sounds to me as if you have already decided in advance how Filipino and German cultures (and national identity--which even among the Germans as a single culture varies quite a bit depending on area, class and regional history) are different and now you are looking to the narratives to prove a preset argument.

And why are you only looking at Grimms? Certainly it would be helpful here to look at Filipino tales--especially if you are using a Proppian analysis--which might indicate you that at a structural level, the images of Filipino and German tales function in very similiar fashion--and that the meanings ( and the cultural concerns of each--at least as regards the traditional society that produced the narratives) is really very similiar. The modern appreciation of these narratives should also be compared as well. Modern Filipinos may react similiarly to the top ten Filipino folktales as they do the top ten may all be too much distance to be relevent to their contemporary cultural concerns.

Do you have any German students in this experiment to help you articulate the German cultural response to the narratives? Are you, yourselves Filipino students? On which case how will you account for your own bias in the interpretation of the data? Do you feel comfortable interpreting German narratives from a Filipino point of view?

Registered User
(3/26/01 11:22:38 am)
Evolutionary tales
It strikes me that you're taking on an extremely difficult task. The Grimms' tales evolved within their own lifetimes, many of them being transcribed from just a couple of households, mostly from women. The brothers were tangentially involved in politics at the same time and bitterly opposed to the regency of the period, even resigning their jobs at one point. The tales were also bowdlerized by the Grimms themselves--which may point up one aspect of the national character at a particular time in history. But the very concept of fairy tales for children met a lot of resistance in Germany due to notions such as that of "obsessive reading" which was believed to make children into compulsive masturbators (an incredible idea which by itself may say a great deal about national character at a point in time), and it wasn't until the social climate changed that the story collections were deemed acceptable. So I think in effect you are dealing with more than one aspect of (or maybe even one thing that is definable as) a national character, regardless of how that is defined.

I'm also a little dismayed at the idea of the "top 10 Grimm's fairy tales" as being representative of said character. This list is based on what a contemporary group lists as the 10 fairy tales it knows best? If I understand that right, then I'd have to question the viability of the sample, since for example they might pick "Bluebeard" as a choice, which was lifted pretty much whole cloth from the French tale that itself might have been created by Perrault and thus wouldn't be reflective of a *German* national character at all.


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