Wednesday, February 29, 2012

But You Love Ladysmith Black Mambazo!

I totally forgot to write my follow up blog to attending the African Dinner. I did not, however, forget the experience- as it was one of the more unique ones during my time at McDaniel.

Now that I think about it, most of my time at McDaniel has been spent participating in limited activities. Usually by the time I go to class, track and finish up my most pressing homework, my creative "get up and go", has got up and gone. At that point I generally think my only option left for passing time is cashing in on my meal exchange for a grilled chicken sandwich while sitting at the pub for a few hours.

The African Dinner, however, coincided with a wake up call that I could be experiencing so much more. Never before had I attended a McDaniel Cultural Event. I guess I hadn't even credited them as an option for what I could be doing with my time. But after experiencing it, I'll certainly have a different opinion for my future at McDaniel. While honestly, I went because the tickets were free and there was a lure of extra-credit, I truly, truly enjoyed myself at the African Dinner. A real celebration of culture, the atmosphere was incredibly welcoming and fun. The food was unique and unfamiliar but also delicious. The music was similarly distinctly different, yet nevertheless appealing. The fashion show and the dancing were incredible visual spectacles. The whole night just struck me as interesting and engaging.

While I'm usually very content to settle into my daily patterns, I was reminded that when I try new things, many times I enjoy them. Accordingly, I can really credit the African Dinner for prompting me to recently keep an eye out for other opportunities of new or foreign experiences. I also credit it for me listening to Ladysmith Black Mambazo on loop repeat everyday for the last two weeks.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Beauty and the Beast Support Group

While reading Cupid and Psyche, I got the desire to pull together the contact information from the characters of The Frog Princess and Urashima the Fisherman and send it to poor Pysche. Pysche's numerous problems were just so strikingly similar to those in the other "Beauty and the Beast"-esque tales that I felt she could have greatly benefited from hearing the others' tales and having a support group of sorts.

In Urashima the Fisherman, Urashima does not fall in love with a beast but rather with a deity. In this ill-fated romance, Urashima's shortcomings as a mortal are used to showcase the human impossibility of obtaining the divine. Similarly, Pysche's problems are rooted in the fact she is a human, yet flirting with the divine. Originally, she becomes the victim of Venus' wrath for having nearly inhuman good looks. This jealousy perpetually challenges her relationship with her god husband, and threatens to stand in the way of their union.

taro3.jpgUrashima the Fisherman and Cupid and Psyche also share the dilemma of the temptation box that is not meant to be opened. In both tales, the main character's, despite knowing that they should not, can not fight the curiosity to open a box that was intended to remain shut. By opening the box, both tales' characters sacrifice their relationship with their beloved. Pysche fairs a little better than Urashima, and is shown mercy despite her misdoing.

 The Frog Princess also has a scene of nearly thwarted love that has bears similarity to Cupid and Psyche. When Prince Ivan finds her wife's frog suit, he disregards her wishes and simply has the outfit burned. Upset his distrust in their relationship, the princess leaves her husband. In a similar situation, Psyche betrayed the trust of her husband when she snuck up on him in the night with a light and a knife. He reacted similarly to the frog princess, feeling betrayed and breaking his relationship.

The_Frog_Princess_by_artsangel.jpgIn The Frog Princess, the wife is repeatedly subjected to tasks to prove her worth. First she is asked to make a shirt, then to bake bread and then to dance. Each time, the princess secretly receives help from her nurses to help her succeed despite all expectations of failure. Similarly, Psyche, while trying to obtain reconciliation from Venus, is challenged to three successive tasks. Like in The Frog Princess, the tasks are perceived to be beyond her powers. However, she too receives unexpected aide that allows her to accomplish her tests.

The dilemmas within Urashima the Fisherman, The Frog Princess and Cupid and the Pysche are strikingly similar. Like I said before, I just want Prince Ivan, Urashima and Pysche to meet. They'd at least have a lot to commiserate about together.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Comic Relief

I'd been shifting through fairytale related cartoons for a little while when I came across this one. It just struck me as absolutely perfect for this blog. First of all, it was about Little Red Riding Hood, which was a requirement of the assignment. Fulfilling requirements is always a plus. But more importantly, I feel as though this cartoon really captures the spirit of our class.

In this cartoon, a psychiatrist is questioning the motives behind the wolf's desire to dress as the grandmother after eating her. This straightforward approach of shedding light on the strangeness of what the average person has simply accepted in the tale is obviously the basis of the cartoon's successful, deadpan humor. Ironically, this strategy is also the basis of our fairytales class. 

These past few weeks, our class has been delving deeply into fairytales- far, far beyond the average reader's interpretation. Each class we bring attention to all the quirks in fairytales that somehow escape children's (at least conscious) notice and interpret their meaning. Like in this cartoon- Why does the wolf put on his elderly victim's clothes? Most readers would say the clothing choice was simply meant to be a disguise to trick Little Red Riding Hood. But in our class and in this cartoon, it is suggested that there is some deeper motives to the wolf's cross dressing tendency. 

Almost all of the interpretations presented in class have some degree of validity to them. However, to be honest, on occasion, the class presents interpretations that simply appear to be absurd. In such cases, like this cartoon, at least it keeps us laughing.
Marty Bucella

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Psychology of Fairytales

Dating back to the origins of their field of study, psychoanalysts have been enamored by the deeper meaning they perceived in fairy tales. Refusing to accept fairytales as merely stories meant to entertain children, most psychologists believe fairytales represent a window into the inter-workings of the human mind.

Despite analyzing the same tales, psychologists have managed to interpret fairytales to support their various unique theories. Dr. Mazeroff emphasized Sigmund Freud and Carl G. Jung as two prominent figures in the psychology world who applied their concepts to fairytales in different ways.

Freud believed that fairytales, like dreams, tap into an individual's subconscious. Accordingly, fairytales are capable of revealing all three layers of the psychic apparatus- the Id (which represents primal, pleasure seeking desires), the Ego (which corresponds to a more rational thinking process) and finally, the Superego (which is connected to moral imperatives). With every tale, the reader's unique responses and connections to the struggles within the storyline reflects upon his own Id, Ego and Superego.

Jung's work with fairytales concentrated heavily on the idea of a "collective unconscious" and archetypes. Jung theorized that every individual has buried within their mind a repository of universal experiences shared with the rest of the human race. Through these common "memories", archetypes emerge as patterns within the tales. Archetypes such as "the wise old man", "the evil stepmother", "the eternal child" and "the great mother" surface as characters familiar to every human, regardless of culture or time. The theory of common experiences of humans also allow for the great attention Jung placed on symbolism within fairytales. Accepting all humans to share some components of the unconscious, Jung accepts that there is meaning behind every detail of a tale. In this thoroughness, even details as seemingly petty as the color of the stone Hansel places on the ground to retrace his steps serves a purpose.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dictionfairy Defintions

Human communication is a rather funny thing. For something so incredibly important to our survival and general well-being, we are incredibly loose with the precision behind our words. If you think about it, the language we as individuals use every day is simply the result of an elaborate series of deduction and guesswork. Most of the words we use in daily vocabulary were never formally defined for us. Instead, over our life times, we simply unconsciously track the pattern of the use of certain words until we are comfortable enough to know when the word is applicable.

The phrase "fairy tale" jumps to mind when I think about this quirk of human language. No one ever told me a definition of the phrase, and yet, I could list you a slue of stories that it could be appropriately applied to. I could also correct you if you tried to call a book like The Grapes of Wrath a fairytale.
Now that I've been using the term for almost 15 years, I suppose I might as well go ahead and acknowledge it really does have a definition. To find this definition, I simply have to reflect on the commonalities of the stories that fall under its umbrella.

First of all, whether in the form of spells or enchanted woods or mythical creatures, every fairytale incorporates an element of magic. As fairytales are clearly presented as fictional, the magical element is always intended to be openly accepted. It would be inappropriate to question why Cinderella's mouse friend can talk to her. It just talks because its a talking mouse and talking mice talk. Accordingly, fairytales are stories of fantasy.

Furthermore, every fairytale has many variations that stem from one basic structure of a storyline. Fairytales come from a long line of oral tradition, and thus do not claim a single author. As a spoken form of art, the audience is intended to in turn eventually become the performer. As the story is passed from person to person, their time period and specific culture causes changes. While the dramatis personae's and their functions essentially remain the same, the variations on their details can make the same storyline hardly recognizable on the surface level.

Based on these retrospective insights into the patterns behind the term "fairytale", I can at last define fairytales as fantasy stories that have a fluidity that allows them to change over time and over cultures while maintaining the same basic narrative structure.