(7/13/02 8:54:33 pm)
| Re: Women and men|
First of all, thank you, Katie, for such a perfect summation of the Grimms' activities. Admittedly, I have never pursued the origins of the tales. I was told them orally so many times as a child that I never bothered to question whether they had existed in a different form. (Of course, questions arose the first time I saw Disney's Cinderella; but then again, amybe they did with all of us.)
But maybe, it is the fairytales in the forms that the Grimms set them that have shaped modern Germany. In my recollection of German history, it seems that the time period in which they published the various editions of their tales was one of the more turbulent periods in all of German history, in many ways even exceeding the shock of the Depression and Nazi Era. Maybe it was the reshaping by the Grimms that set the minds of the German people as they are today. As open-minded as I am, I cannot imagine what the nation would be like in mind if some of the tales were slighly different.
Another interesting thing I just noticed was that while the Grimm fairytales, among some others, are strictly national tales, and told all over the country, there are also lesser folk tales about regional history. I remember a folk tale about a miller who outwitted the devil in another village only 20 or so km from mine. However, heading away from the hill country, no one has heard the story. There are probably hundreds of these little tales that no one has bothered to collect, and doubtless there are hundreds more in the other German regions.
These smaller and lesser-known stories have predominantly male protagonists, while the common tales, such as the Grimms' tales, have predominantly male protagonists- as per William's suggestion earlier.
This suggests a number of possibilities, but I would require your opinion, Katie, to give weight to any of them. One idea is that the Grimms were trying to change the way Germans viewed women by creating compelling art tales based on folk stories. Another is that the stories of women were universal across the many tribes of Germany, while the stories of men were petty and more localized. There are many other possibilities, and I would appreciate any and all thoughts on this.
(7/15/02 9:20:06 am)
| fairy tales in German history|
You might be interested in a collection of "Fairy Tales and Fables from the Weimar Days" edited by Jack Zipes. It shows how political and social activists of the period used the form of the fairy tale to try to shape social consciousness in the youth of the period. As a result the stories are often subversive. Various artists, Dadaists, and so forth from the period contribute.
(7/16/02 1:41:56 am)
| Re: Women and men|
Sure, I'd be glad to offer some of my opinions. Unfortunately I don't have my collection of tales with me at the moment for reference, but I am able to recall a number of tales in the Grimms' collections which contain tales centering around male protagonists.
Several of them are (to name a few):
~ The Three Feathers
~ The Story of a Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was
~ The Two Brothers
~ The Three Sons of Fortune
~ Faithful John
~ The Six Men Who Got On in the World
~ Thumbling as Journeyman
~ Faithful John
~ The White Snake
~ The Valiant Little Tailor
~ Clever Hans
~ Hans My Hedgehog
~ The Wishing-Table, The Gold-Ass, and The Cudgel in the Sack
~ The Juniper-Tree
~ The Three Snake Leaves
~ Brother Lustig
~ Hans in Luck
~ The King’s Son Who Feared Nothing
I don’t feel as though it is a question of whether the Grimms predominately recorded tales concerning female protagonists rather than ones concerning their male counterparts, because while reading the Grimms’ tales, one comes across both types (male and female).
What strikes me is that the tales that focus on either the female or the male protagonists are strikingly different. The tales, in which one comes across female protagonists, tend to focus on domesticity and the role of women in the home (housework, marriage and family, “the village”), whereas male protagonists tend to venture out into the world. They are more epic-like in nature, much in the tradition of the Illiad and the Odyessy or the Norse Edda and the Finnish Kalevala (both of which inspired Tolkien for his “Lord of the Rings”- if I may put it in a modern context).
So, I feel as though it is not so much about what sort of tales the Grimms recorded (as they recorded both types- with both female and male protagonists) but about which sort of tales modern society prefers to associate itself with, and it is a sort of selected ‘popularization’ of tales. But I agree that the Grimms’ tales appear to be very national. But as they have been ‘popularized’ they’ve also been ‘nationalized’. I don’t believe that the Grimms were trying to change anyone’s notions on how women were viewed. I do, however, believe that some of the changes that they made throughout their seven editions of their collections concern themselves with how the image of the family is perceived. For example, evil and cruel mothers slowly evolve into wicked stepmothers (such as in Hansel and Gretel and in Snow White), and incestuous fathers evolve into devils (such as in The Maiden Without Hands). So with these changes we have the portrayal of “healthier” German families, and not the ones where mothers try to kill their own children- that job is handed over to the stepmothers-, and now fathers no longer lust after their own daughters, as well.
But back to the notion of the “nationalization” of tales. As Gregor9 has pointed out, Jack Zipes is a good read if you want to familiarize yourself more with this topic. It is fairy interesting, particularly when fairy tales were used as a sort of propaganda during the Nazi era. It seems only natural to chose the tales which focused on female protagonists such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty in order to reenforce the patriarchal order and gender specification in Germany. To reenforce the notion that a woman’s place was in the house and that it was their job to focus on “making babies” so that they could provide the country with future leaders and soldiers. I’ve seen some great posters which use fairy tales as propaganda, such as Little Red Riding Hood, but I can no longer locate them. It is fascinating though.
The Grimms had perhaps never intended their tales to be used in such a way, but while they collected their tales, it was a nationalistic effort in order to preserve the “Germanic past”, so it almost seems natural for the tales to be used to further promote nationalism during the Nazi era. When the Grimms had first began collecting their tales, women didn’t have much of a role to play in society. They were still “second class citizens” and there was a great rise in feminism during this time and the fight for women’s rights. Things were just only beginning to change. Eventually, women did gain their rights and they began to take a few steps forward, but then once again with the rise of fairy tales as propaganda, women were then expected to retract their steps and go a few steps back. It is as though these powerful figures (i.e. the Nazi leaders) read the fairy tales as biblical doctrine- the role of women is in the house, and they used these fairy tales as a way to manipulate and brainwash society. Well, that is the purpose of propaganda!
So to sum things up, I think that the popularization and the nationalization of tales goes hand in hand. You use the most popular tales to get the greatest and best effect out of people- you find tales that they can relate to. And the tales that are popular now are the tales that have been popular for the last century. (We can also thank Disney for also popularizing the tales that we know today, and he also focused on the tales about women, as well)
Well, I better go now, I hope that this all makes sense. After all, these are my thoughts, and I know that my thoughts tend to go a bit wild at times (kinda like a ping-pong ball bouncing off walls).
Edited by: Yellow McMaggie at: 7/16/02 1:45:55 am
(7/16/02 7:40:32 pm)
| Women and Men|
I have found this thread to be interesting, while I haven't had much to add compared to the logic and reasoning I have seen, but....
How about tales in which there are both male and female protagonists. You mention the Juniper Tree as an example of a male protagonist, but unless I recall it improperly there is both a male and female protagonist in that story and it is the female that ultimately conquers evil. Hmm. Do I have that right?
Which leads me to another question, how many tales (Grimms or others) which have male and female protagonists. Very few in my recollection. Even tales like Hansel and Gretel have one character dominate. And even more interesting, what is the balance of female:male dominance in these tales?
(7/17/02 12:37:30 am)
| Re: Women and Men|
I just read through the Juniper Tree again, in order to see why I had included it in my short list of Grimms' male protagonist tales. I now know why I did. It is the boy in the tale, who after having turned into a bird, revenges his death and kills his stepmother by dropping a millstone on her. The sister had only done two main things and that was 1) she cried quite a bit and 2) she wrapped her brother's bones in a scarf and planted them beneath the Juniper Tree.
I can see now that the brother and sister in this tale also do work together to some extent, but the story mainly focuses on the boy/bird’s revenge against his stepmother. The sister did help him, but she tends to work more as an agent, or as a helper. Her gift, the gift of a semi-restored life (as a bird and not as a boy), is that which is necessary, for the boy/bird to confront the villain, his stepmother. It is he who acquires (by singing) the gold chain for his father, the red shoes for his sister and then, finally, the millstone for his stepmother (the instrument of her death). And after he kills his stepmother, he is completely restored to his original self- a boy.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the tales that include both male and female protagonists in the Grimms’ collection of tales, and yeah, I think that there are relatively few.
~ There are the tales of the youngest sibling, and this tends to be the youngest of 3 daughters or the youngest of 3 sons, but the gender is rarely ever mixed (I don’t think it is ever mixed in the tales of 3 siblings, but I might be wrong). However, There are some tales with mixed gender siblings, but only really when that number is 2 or higher than 3, as in the tale of the Sevens Ravens. In that tale there are seven brothers and their sister, but this isn’t the point of this discussion, so I will move on...
~ There are the tales of the Good Girl vs. the Bad Girl (who are mainly stepsisters)
But when you pair up a boy and a girl together in this relationship, they both tend to be equally as good. They don’t work against each other, but rather, with each other. (Same as in the tales of two boys, such as the tale of “Two Brothers”- they work together, as well). And the only tales that spring to mind that fit into this girl and boy pairing are “Hansel and Gretel” and “Little Brother and Little sister”(as someone has previously mentioned in this posting).
I’ve been recently listened to a discussion about Hansel and Gretel, and it was about which one was more dominant: Hansel or Gretel? Most people will say Gretel because she pushed the witch into the oven. But there are people who argue for Hansel, as well, because he is the one who tricked the witch with the chicken bones. So I’ve come to view the two siblings as near equals, because they BOTH outsmarted the witch in their different and given situations.
>what is the balance of female:male dominance in these tales?< I’m not sure. In my opinion I don’t feel that the most dominant one is necessarily female or male. I think that the one that comes out to be more dominant is the one who has to work harder to beat the odds and has more obstacles to overcome. It may be the stepchild (in comparison to a mother’s more favored natural child), the youngest child or what not. So maybe this is why one finds so few “equal relationship” tales such as Hansel and Gretel, because a lot of these tales deal with the survival and success of the “least likely one”.
I’m sure that none of this really makes sense, and I am sure that people may disagree with me, but...
I’m going to go have my morning coffee now!
Edited by: Yellow McMaggie at: 7/17/02 12:40:23 am
(7/17/02 5:32:29 am)
| Re: Women and Men|
As to which sibling dominates - It may be an issue of the teller or listenersor reader's perspective. It is interesting that Jess sees the Juniper Tree as a story where the girl is the more active agent, while Katie would attribute the boy as the more active agent. While maybe Jess would change her mind if she read it again more recently, she might not. This may be a nice example of how people perceive tales differently depending on their differing needs or experiences.
(7/19/02 7:34:43 pm)
| Men and Women|
I have yet to reread The Juniper Tree, but will soon keeping your comments in mind.
Actually, I just happened on a "Bluebeard" story in Zipes adaptation of Burton's Arabian Nights. Given the earlier discussion of Lane and Burton, I thought you might be interested. You are probably already aware of it, but in this tale the one opening the door is a man not a woman. An interesting twist. It is the Third Calendar's Tale found within The Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad. Certainly is not written by a woman, nor is it German, but I thought perhaps you should read it if you haven't already. Maybe some of those copious footnotes of Burton and Lane will lead you somewhere useful.