Friday, December 19, 2014

The Grimm Brother’s Surprisingly Terrifying Authentic Fairy Tales Recent Translation By Jack Zipes

As many of you probably already know (and if not this will be quite a surprise), the Grimm Brothers were the authors of many well-known folktales past down over generations. Many of these tales have been adapted into sweet movies of lovely princesses and songs that provoke nostalgic memories. The original published stories, however, were nothing like this. They were, dark and twisted, filled with scenarios of murder, greed, lust, death, and even rape.  Silly to think those stories adapted by Disney are so precious, right?

In a recent article for the Irish Times,Jack Zipes (acclaimed author of several books discussing fairy tales in society today such as Breaking the Magic Spell: Radical Theoriesof Folk and Fairy Tales and Why FairyTales Stick: The Evolution and Relevance of a Genre), talks about the contradictions and distortions these modern versions hold. He points out how there are dark images and descriptions in the original publications and how these new versions are probably opposite to the intentions of the Grimm Brothers original publications. He emphasizes that the original published fairy tales were not originally meant for a child audience and also never intended to become great works of children’s literature. Interestingly, the stories originated from European, Middle Eastern, and Asian tales passed down orally over generations and most of the stories did not even contain fairies.

Zipes states, “Clearly, if [the Grimm Brothers] were living today, they would be shocked to discover how their tales have been misread and hyped and spread throughout the world in all sizes and shapes, not to mention in films and TV programs that might make them shudder.”

From Rapunzel
To clarify just how different these versions of the fairy tales are, here are two examples:

In the Grimm’s version of Rapunzel, a husband steals from the garden of a witch to satisfy his pregnant wife’s brutal pregnancy cravings. When the husband is caught stealing ‘rampion’ from the garden, he is forced to give the witch his daughter, who then grows into the most beautiful girl with long golden hair. The witch locks her in a tower on her twelfth birthday that has neither stair nor doors. A prince wandering through the forest sees the witch call to Rapunzel to let down her hair one day and upon her departure mimics the call to the dame at the top of the tower. They fall in love and the prince impregnates Rapunzel. The witch finds out and in her anger cuts off Rapunzel’s hair and put her out into the forest to fend for herself. The next time the prince comes to visit, the witch pretends to be Rapunzel and ultimately throws him from the tower, blinding him when he lands face-first in a thorny bush. He wanders around for years blinded until one day Rapunzel, who has now given birth to twins, finds him and they are reunited.
         This is exceptionally different from the Disney movie version where Rapunzel starts out as a princess and the witch is the villain of this version. The prince's character in the Disney movie is a thief-outlaw and together they defeat the evil witch and return to the king and queen, who have missed their daughter for eighteen years. Then once the outlaw-thief gives up his bad ways, he and Rapunzel get married and live happily-ever-after.

The Grimm’s version of SleepingBeauty is sort of similar to the Disney version, expect for the whole second part of the story that gets cut out of the movie. After the prince rescues the princess from her hundred years of sleep, in the story, he does not go and fight an evil dragon fairy, but instead marries the princess and they have two children. His mother, the queen, is a terrible evil ogre who is very jealous of the princess and the children and desires to eat them for her dinner. She demands that the cook kill and serve them to her. The cook hides them in his house and instead uses different animal meats to disguise the dinner she thinks she is having. The queen ends up finding out the trick and as she is preparing to throw the kids and the princess into a pit with snakes and vipers, the prince arrives just in time to save the day. Disney probably assumed that mothers wouldn’t be so satisfied with a story that portrays them as an evil ogre. So they simply cut out that ‘unnecessary’ part of the story and included their own ending, which they could gain more profit from about fifty-five years later by creating a movie version of the villain, Maleficent.

If these original versions have caught your attention, check out Jack Zipes’s recently published The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of theBrothers Grimm from Princeton University Press. This collection is translated from the last original edition of the Grimm Brother’s fairy tales and is one that will bring up many hot conversation starters next time someone brings up a Disney movie, song or princess.

Sources and Notes:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Recap of Brilliance and Accomplishment

In an earlier post this semester, we announced some of our every own SDSU faculty, staff and alumni were participating in the 2014 PAMLA conference held in Riverside, CA. Fortunately, two of the presenters were able to share their experiences and what they presented on for this year's conference .

Alya Hameed presented on the film Paranorman through both a Gothic and a feminist angle. “The presentation examined Norman's queerness as one that both subverts and systematically upholds heteronormative and patriarchal structures.”

This was Alya's second year presenting at the PAMLA conference. However, not only did Alya present her brilliant ideas but she was also able to sit as chair to two panels, both on the topic of Children's Literature. “As a panel experience, my paper thematically flowed with the other papers (one on Coraline and Meg's on The Sleeper and the Spindle). Those discussed female protagonists contending with different experiences of entrapment and conscription (whether by the narrative or my socialized feminine standards).” Alya explains that she was able to guide the conversation in a direction that discussed the male protagonist “with an explicitly emasculated or feminized heritage.” Together the panel was ultimately able to cover the question of gender and selfhood within the concept of child-identity.

“Chairing is also a great experience,” Alya says, “offering an opportunity to be active on the other side--no presentation needs to be prepared but you are actively listening and possibly preparing questions to garner discussion, especially if you have a quiet audience. I recommend graduate students consider opportunities to chair at conferences (as well as present, of course) if and when possible.”

Meg Mardian, a current graduate student at SDSU, presented on the socio-cultural issues that come about from the depiction of female beauty as an inborn virtue found within the young female heroines of fairy tales. The main focus was Neil Gaiman's "The Sleeper and the Spindle,” a combination of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. Since both stories portray young, beautiful girls who are punished by evil, old women, Gaiman rewrote them into a Gothic twist in order to critique current day female anxieties surrounding beauty as well as age. “My main argument [was] based on the critical work of Naomi Wolf, called The Beauty Myth, wherein she talks about why the patriarchy propagates unreasonable beauty ideals for women as a way of keeping them under control.”

Interestingly, Meg points out that women over the years have focused aggression towards one another more so than trying to fight the oppression that defines gender roles. Once the female hero can assert her independence she is able to “pass on the torch—or in this case the bloody spindle.”

However, it gets better. Meg says her favorite part of the paper was discussing the absence of older strong and beautiful women, pointing out that they are normally portrayed as bitter old women who hold resentment to the younger beauty in the story and as a result wish to steal these qualities from them. Quoting Wolf, she states, “To airbrush age off a woman’s face is to erase women’s identity, power, and history. To show children that wrinkles are not beautiful means to show them their worth is only skin deep” and it allows the patriarchy to maintain dominance, which is why women should be fighting against this.

After Meg's presentation a man asked if she thought the gender of the author (Gaiman) mattered in the these new types of fairy tales that do challenge the patriarchy's agenda. To this she replied that it shouldn't make a difference what the gender of the author is, in the same way it shouldn't matter what the gender of the person reading is. “These types of texts, if they are meant to defy status quo, should be aimed at all audiences… I can't say if a woman could have done it the same way or better, just that Gaiman succeeded in creating a new fairy tale that makes the reader question their own expectations and roles in society.” 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Poetry, Youth, and Accomplishment: Poetic Youth and Poetry International Event of Poetry for Youths

Poetic Youth and SDSU’s Poetry International is hosting a free poetry reading tomorrow Friday, December 5, 2014 at 6pm.

Poetic Youth is a recently unleashed program affiliated with SDSU that aims is to offer free poetry workshops to under-served communities in San Diego. The program is led by SDSU graduate and undergraduate students, and held in collaboration with Dr. Ilya Kaminsky and Jenny Minniti-Shippey, Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor for PoetryInternational.

This is not just any poetry event; this one involves students and youth from Hoover High School, San Diego Global Vision Academy, Monarch School, Sudanese American Youth Center and the Ubuntu Poetry Project reading poetry and demonstrating the positive effects of poetry in youth of under-served or under-represented communities. It’s also a great way to show support to those leading the program, for all their hard work and bringing artistic forms such as poetry to young people who may never have been exposed to it otherwise.

This event is open to the public and complimentary refreshments will be served. 
Chapbooks of students’ work will also be available for purchase.

For any question please email

Friday, November 28, 2014

Upcoming 2015 Conferences in Children’s Literature Still Open to Submissions

Looking for something to delve into and contribute brilliant scholarly children’s literature insight to? Here are a few up and coming events in 2015 still looking for abstracts or proposals:

"Give me liberty, or give me death!": 
The High Stakes and Dark Sides of Children's Literature
Conference is looking to discover death and mortality, the darker side of children’s literature.
Hosted by Longwood University
June 18-20, 2015
Richmond, Virginia
Omni Richmond Hotel
Abstracts or panel descriptions should be between 300-350 words and will be accepted from October 15, 2014 through January 15, 2015.

The James Fenimore Cooper Society will be sponsoring a panel on James Fenimore Cooper and Children’s & YA literature at American Literature Association 2015
This conference is looking to discover James Fenimore Cooper’s influence on children’s literature or YA literature where through his work or what his work inspired.
Hosted By: The James Fenimore Cooper Society
Boston, Mass
May 21-24, 2015
Please submit a 250-word abstract and a brief cv (2-3 pages) by January 2, 2015.

Pippi to Ripley3/ITHACON40:
Women & Gender in Science Fiction, Fantasy, Children’s Literature and Comics.

ITHACON is one of North America’s longest-running comic book conferences. Pippi to Ripley 3 will be joining ITHACON to discuss women and gender through science fiction and fantasy in a wide variety of medias, such as comic books and films.
Hosted by: Ithaca College
May 1-2, 2015
Please send a 300-500 word abstract by January 15, 2015

Wonderlands: Reading/Writing/Telling Fairy Tales and Fantasy PGR Symposium
In honor of Alice and Wonderland’s 150th anniversary, this conference will cover the topics of wonder lands in fairy tales and fantastical literature and looking at the reading and oral telling of these tales.
Hosted by the Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales, and Fantasy
23 May 2015
University of Chichester
Please submit abstracts of no more than 300 words (or panel proposals of 1000 words) and a short personal bio to the organizers.

For more information or other possible events visit:

Friday, November 21, 2014

Books for Certain Unpredictable Occasions This Holiday Season

 “I knew the real you was in there somewhere.” –David Shannon A Bad Case of Stripes

Since winter, holiday and flu session is upon us, it seems useful to battle these (sometimes unpleasant) events with a few clever children’s books that entertains a those didactic messages capable of restoring a sense of what is really important. Sometimes all it takes is a pause from an adulthood mindset and by exercising some childlike imagination and laughter, things may feel a little brighter. So when you’re stuck in bed with the flu this session, overwhelmed with the rain, or simply surrounded by endless dishes, here are some fun kid stories that might speed up your recovery with happy thoughts.

David Shannon’s A Bad Case of Stripes is a fun story that starts with a young girl, Camilla Cream, trying to decide what to wear for the first day of school. After trying on forty different outfits, she becomes a walking, talking, breathing case of stripes. Through an unpleasant transformation, Camilla is faced to choose between being stuck in this dreadful state or ultimately being herself no matter what others think. So next time your stuck in bed with the flu, just think how lucky you are not to have come down with a terrible case of stripes and have virus tentacles growing from your walls.

Winter brings rainy days and Pinkalicious by Elizabeth Kann and Victoria Kann (and also illustrator) is one that may inspire some silliness when stuck indoors. When trying to give her kids something fun to do on a rainy day, the narrator’s mother helps the kids bake cupcakes. Since the narrator’s favorite color is pink, she insists that the cupcakes be made as pink as can be. Once the cup cakes are ready, the narrator has one to many and wakes up the next morning to find herself now as pink as her cupcakes. This of course grants her the name Pinkalicious. After realizing that being pink is not as amazing as she had thought it would be, she must follow the doctor’s advice to return to her normal self. This book is a friendly reminder that sometimes your elders (or doctors) have some good words of wisdom to follow.

Think your missing some adventure as holiday planning locks you into commitments you may not have wanted to do to begin with? How I Became aPirate by Melinda Long and illustrated by David Shannon is a fun tale of a little boy, Jeremy Jacob who tries being a pirate for a day. Jeremy’s family is busy not paying attention to him one day at the beach, when Captain Braid Beard and his crew who need assistance burying their treasure approach him. He decides to take this amazing opportunity, but he soon realizes that being a pirate entails the absence a few things he loves doing with his family.  It’s a great book that allows readers to reconsider what they already have and perhaps take for granted everyday. Just something positive to think about when you’re entertaining the entire family this Thanksgiving but no one really seems to notice.

Onto the topic of being nice to those you maybe don’ t want to be nice to, as the holiday spirit makes us do nice things we otherwise would not do, Enemy Pie by Derek Munson and illustrated by Tara Calahan King, highlights a few things about being nice. This fun story explores the lack of sensibility first impressions often have. Jeremy Ross shows how actually spending time with someone who you maybe started out resenting can turn this original enemy into a good friend. But read with caution since enemy pie does get eaten in this story. This story will teach readers that fathers have a funny way of teaching us about friendship but they might really know better than us.

If holiday dinner does not turn out the way it was supposed to and maybe missing a spice or two, fear not The Empty Pot by Demi will cheer you up. This book tells the story of an emperor that is looking for a successor to his kingdom. He decides to test all the boys of the land by giving them each a flower seed and the boy to produce the finest flower will be crowned. A young boy named Ping realizes that his flower seed will not grow. His father encourages him saying that he’s done his best and his best is good enough for the emperor, Ping chooses to present his empty flower pot to the emperor. Fortunately for him the flower seeds were not what they appeared to be and it was something else the emperor was really looking for. This goes to show that no matter what the outcome (of dinner), trying your best and being proud of it is the way to go.

Of course these are not the only children’s books that provoke the childlike spirit when stuck in bed, indoors or cooking a feast for unfamiliar (maybe bothersome) family, but these may be a good start as they remind us that childhood lessons transfer into grown-up scenarios too.

For fun read along videos of these books check out these links: