When I started the class in the beginning of the semester, I thought that this class was going to be a fun, interesting, and watch lots of Disney movies, kind of class. The first year seminar definitely lived up to these expectations. The class was filled with jokes, laughter, and lots of Disney puns. I got to meet fourteen wonderful classmates, a fearless peer mentor, and professor knowledgeable beyond belief about fairytales. Most importantly, we watched one movie a week. However, what I did not expect from this class was the meanings and interpretations from the original Grimm tales. Yes, I am a person who overly enjoys fairytales, but before this class I had never read the original tales. I had only seen the Disney versions, or other adaptions to the famous tales. I was expecting the tale and the Disney movies to actually be rather similar, but when the class started, I realized that was not really going to happen.
When the class first started, we looked at understanding who the two men behind all of the fairy tales were. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were two hard working, dedicated brothers, who strived to preserve and rebuild the people’s belief in Germany and of German culture. Their method of doing this was through collecting, rewriting, and publishing the fairytales and fables that had been passed down from generation to generation by way of story telling. They looked to preserve this part of the culture for centuries to come, and indeed they did. Behind each of these stories were messages and lessons used to teach the younger generations, without them even knowing it. Today, the same messages and lessons remain the same but are received differently by the younger generation.
Like it or not, the Grimm fairytales are often stories related to sex, and sexual maturity. It may seem a little inappropriate to be reading these stories to young children then, but the tales cover it up in their construction. There are heroes and princesses who little boys and girls can idolize, but most importantly, there is the magic. The magic that allows for spindles to make a princess fall asleep for a hundred years, houses be made completely out of sweets, hair be the length of a tower, an apple make a princess fall asleep, and have a frog turn into a prince. The magic is at the core of the fairytales, and with repetition, evil, and happy endings, it allows for the lessons to be taught without the child realizing the lesson until they are ready. As fantastical and magical as fairy tales are, there is more to them than just the words on the pages we read. There are also the emotions that are evoked in us: hope, amazement, and wonder. We read these stories because we love them, and all of what makes a fairy tale a fairy tale.
In this class, when comparing the Grimm stories to the Disney films it is often found that the main characters are often similar, but there is not much after that. Disney took the fairytales as stepping-stones for his success. He incorporated his own life story into the tales; having the small town worker defeat the giants, and rise to the thrown. Disney was able to portray his own, “Cinderella story” through many of his works, but when making the movies he often became the villain to thehardworking individuals, taking all of the credit for himself. Walt Disney was also able to change the Grimm stories to fit the zeitgeist of America during the World War and was able to spread his versions of the tales globally. He took the fairytale business away from the Brothers Grimm and to this day Disney still controls it.
In the realm of today, Disney is the overpowering force that
drives fairytales into the lives of young children. However, it is not the only force to be reckoned with. The Brothers Grimm’s tales still hold truth and information relatable to this day in age, and I think they should be read. They give off true messages to the readers such as waiting until you are mentally and physically ready for sex, or not to be greedy and gluttonous. There are also feminist interpretations, and views from Bettelheim and Jung that give other perspectives and advice to the meanings of these tales. In comparison, most of the Disney movies leave you with a song stuck in your head, a smile on your face, and a belief that your prince charming is just going to find you and save you someday. Though there are not as many princes today as there used to be, there is nothing wrong with this mentality. However, as Einstein said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Einstein was a pretty smart guy, and by looking and understanding the original text it is clear how reading the Brother’s Grimm can in fact make us even smarter.