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[P]
Fairy Tales

By jolly st nick in Culture
Wed May 07, 2003 at 10:12:19 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Imagine going through a weekend without electric lighting, TV, radio, computers or even books. Use candles and lamps sparingly, as if wax and oil were rare and dear commodities. Instead, rely mainly on a fire. If you can, do this at an isolated rural house, away from the distractions and noise of the city. You are replicating the common experience of humanity before the twentieth century.

The outside world is darkness, full of the noises of unidentifiable animals and insects, the groan of creaking wood and the whisper of wind through unseen spaces. Out there is the unkennable realm of nature, indifferent or perhaps even hostile to mankind. As night falls, your family begins to huddle in the pool of light and warmth thrown by your fire; the light is to weak to do much work by, so mostly you sit and talk to each other. This was the nighttime world of virtually every generation before ours -- the place and time of the storyteller, the folk poet and singer.

In between the outer world of darkness and the inner world of light, there is an third place, where things can be seen but only indistinctly; of shifting shadows, curling smoke and imagined shapes. This is the world of Faerie11. Faerie has been our constant nighttime companion from the earliest days of our species until light bulbs and electricity became common in the last century.


Today we leave fairy tales to children, the way we might give them worn out or unstylish clothes for dress-up play. In other words, we treat them at best as useless, or at worst as the ravings of ignorant and superstitious minds. But until mass availability of lighting and mass production of books, the fairy tale in prose and poetry was the main form of literature (if we can call an oral tradition by that term) for humanity. To discard the fairy tale as something too juvenile for consideration is to throw away the fruits of every generation of human imagination back to the beginnings of imagination itself.

My job is to convince you that they retain literary and personal value. But to do that, we have to examine the ways that they may fall short according to certain ideas about what constitutes literary worth.

One quality fairy tales apparently don't have is originality10. They are all built according to a limited number of fixed patterns. Granted, this is probably true of any genre of literature; boiled down sufficiently, a very small number of repetitive themes emerge. However, in fairy tales, it is fair to say, this boiling down process doesn't have to be carried very far before you produce what Joseph Campbell called the "monomyth"12. Fairy tales are constructed from a particularly small number of highly standardized stock parts. It is easy to assemble an outline out of randomly selected parts and come up with a story that, if it doesn't match an actual documented fairy tale, sounds awfully familiar. Once there were three princes, who were brothers, who set out to rescue an enchanted maiden of matchless beauty. Each in turn must face an ordeal. Before that happens each meets a strange little man who asks for help. The eldest is too proud to speak to the man; the middle is too indifferent to hear the man. Both are defeated by the ordeal and fail to win the maiden. The youngest however helped willingly, and in return the strange little man tells him the secret of passing the ordeal. The youngest then rescues the maiden, and makes her his queen.1

These stories are homely items, fabricated in the household primarily for use in the household, like a piece of furniture, or the building itself. These home crafted items however are never quite like any other, despite being built out of stock patterns. And some are clearly better than others, more skillfully put together, having pieces well selected and acheiving something in their whole that exceeds the sum of their parts. If there is no originality in the fairy tale, then there is no originality in woodworking or vernacular architecture. Let us separate our roles as readers and critics (or at least as critics of a particular sort) for a moment2. Exactly what is the value of originality to us in each role? As a critic, we need grist for our critical mill. Unless we have unusual powers of expression, ineffable, emergent qualities don't serve us well at all. As readers, these qualities perhaps serve our main purpose best -- to read with pleasure.

In addition to pleasure, there is another half to the equation of literary value, which is profit. Is there value in reading or hearing fairy tales? There are two potential strikes against fairy tales on this account. First is that the characters lack any psychological depth, being struck from the same molds over and over. Second, and related, is that fairy tales lack realism. How can we learn from the example of people who are faced with dilemmas which are not only merely improbable, but physically impossible?

I've grouped these two objections together because they both stem from a profound misunderstanding of the nature of the fairy tale. As J.R.R Tolkien pointed out in his famous Andrew Lang lecture "On Fairy-Stories"3, the problem is that people tend to apply critical standards designed for one kind of literature to another where they are not appropriate. Specifically the values of drama can't be applied to the fairy story. In drama, the character of the protagonist4 as demonstrated by the action of the plot upon it is essential. In the fairy-story, the players are iconic; they are not burdened with an internal life, with the mixture of nobility and flaws of a Hamlet.

Does this mean that fairy tales don't have the power to speak to human character? I don't think so. What is most striking is how the fairy tales of one culture seem to maintain their evocative power when transferred to another. One can read the Arabian Nights or the Finnish Kalevala, and while it is unlikely you will get all the cultural allusions, you can immediately tap into the power of the tale. If they did not speak to something deep in th human psyche, would this even be possible? I am going to venture a rash, rash guess as to how this is done. It must be obvious to anyone who has read fairy tales as an adult is that they are laden with symbolism; however what is that symbolism of? I believe that the major players in most fairy tales represent, not the abstractions of allegory, but the different impulses within the reader. The three brothers don't represent three types of human beings, but the growth of a single human being. If this is true, fairy tales may be the most psychologically sophisticated literature in the world5.

So far we've talked about fairy stories in terms of what we expect from other forms of literature. It's time to look at what is uniquely its own. In Tolkien's famous Lang6 lecture, he posited "escape and consolation" as the chief functions of fairy stories. After mounting a spirited defense of escapism, Tolkien goes on to make in my mind a weaker argument for consolation7.This argument is problematic for two reasons. First, "consolation" implies receiving something of lesser value in return for the loss of something greater. Secondly, and more importantly, he supposes a need for a happy ending, a "eucatastrophe". This is simply not universally true for all fairy tales. While less common, there are cautionary tales in which the hero or heroine fails, or suffers a symbolic death that is not reversed. In the tale of Apollo and Daphne8, Apollo chases the nymph Daphne, the daughter of Peneus, a river god. Daphne calls out to her father to change her into a form where she is safe from Apollo's advances. Peneus turns his daugther into the laurel tree, a kind of symbolic entombment.

I think that the chief function of fairy stories are to teach an openness to change and the power of imagination to sieze the opportunity for change. Sometimes, as in the case of Apollo and Daphne, they warn against resisting the inevitable changes of advancing from one stage of life to another (in this case adulthood and marriage). In other cases (such as in certain species of Leprecaun stories) they tell of our capacity to endure the chaos of having our accustomed lives turned up and down. In countless examples, they tell of the power of trusting our luck when we cannot see where events are leading us. In the heroic quest stories, they teach the need to transcend our selves, perhaps even to die and be resurrected, in pursuit of a higher good.

These lessons, while perhaps valuable for young children, are not really aimed at them. Indeed, around our imagined preindustrial hearth, many of the young children are probably asleep; it this the older children, the adults and the old people especially who must endure wakefullness during the long hours of darkness9.


Some Further Reading

Web sites: D. L. Ashliman's (Index of e-texts of the Brothers Grimm)

The Tolkien Reader (Amazon: Tolkien Reader); includes a sample fairy tale by Tolkien (Smith of Wooten Major) and Tolkien's Lang lecture.

Fairy and Folk Talkes of the Irish Peasantry (Amazon: Fairy and Folk Talkes of the Irish Peasantry ) W. B. Yeats editor. Yeats compiled this out of both common stories and from compilations from others, but it is of great value because the folk traditions were still very much alive at the time of collection.

The Kalevala (Amazon: Kalevala): Collected by Elias Lonnrot and in this edition transalted by Francis Magoun. Epic Finnish folk poems/tales collected in the early nineteenth century by Dr. Lonnrot. Again very valuable because of the vitality of the folk tradition when collected. This translation is very readable because it avoids versification in the original meter which is unnatural in English (think Hiawatha, which was inspired by the Kalevala).



Footnotes

1 I'm certain this matches some Grimm story or another; I'm strugggling with tip-of-the-tounge to remember which one. (back)

2 On review, it sounds from the way I am defending the fairy tale from the attacks of a critical conspiracy against them; however my intent is to show how they differ from other literary forms. So far as I know there is no such movement which has looked at fairy tales in a hostile way; their antiquity insulates them from any such treatment. People who are interested in fairy tales have an good appreciation of them; for most people they are simply not part of the literary landscape. But, there is a strong critical bias against modern examples of the literature of the imagination, science fiction and fantasy, which contain many elements, held up as fatal flaws, that are shared with fairy tales.(back)

3 Still copyrighted, so unfortunately not available on the Internet. I believe the latest paperback edition of the Tolkien Reader contains this essay.(back)

4 For a brief summary of Aristotle's dramatic theories, visit The Moonstruck Drama Bookstore.(back)

5 You might argue that this is a psychoanalytic view of fairy tales; however on the basis of antiquity I'd claim that psychodynamics is a fairy-tale view of psychology.(back)

6 Memorial lecture named after Andrew Lang, who published a number of fairy story books (Amazon: Andrew Lang titles) which ironically, contained stories of a type Professor Tolkien disliked.(back)

7 Unfortunately, some of this paragraph will be obscure to people who haven't gone through Professor Tolkien's long and rather difficult lecture.(back)

8 Some will object that this is a myth, not a fairy tale. However for my purposes there is not a great deal of difference between the two. Furthermore parallel cases can be found in the folklore of various countries, for example in poems 4 and 5 of the Kalevala, which tell the story of Väinämöinen and Aino.(back)

9 Another argument along these lines is that many of the common symbols of folk tales don't make sense to children; for example the beautiful maiden symbolizing the heart's desire. This makes no sense to anyone who has not felt sexual longing. The Disney treatment of these particular stories recasts them as stories of female empowerment through sexual desirability. The distinction is that the original symbolism requires an understanding of a subjective experience wheras the Disney version has to do with reactions that can be seen and judged by independent evidence. While this could be consider bowdlerization, such a change is probably helpful in recasting of these stories for dramatic use.(back)

10 Reader lee_malatesta objects with some justice (see editorial comments) that this statement is too strong. If you read on, you can see that I don't take this proposition at its face value by any means -- at least that doing so would be to deny that architecture has originality too! However, I would say that folktales don't value originality like most of our literature does; it does occur as a happy accident, or as a means to solve particular story construction problems. It is not a primary end in itself. I make the point this way in particular to cover the case of literary imimtators who have been criticized because their use of stock fairy tale situations is taken as a lack of "originality". For this reason, it is useful to consider the question of the damning power of unoriginality in its strong form.(back)

11

(From The Ballad of Thomas Rymer)

'O see not ye yon narrow road,
So beset wi thorns and briars?
That is the path of rightousness,
Tho after it but few enquiries.

'Ande see ye not that braid braid road,
That lies across yon lillie leven?
That is the path of wickedness,
Tho some call it the road to heaven.

'And see ye not that bonnie road,
which winds about the fairnie brae?
That is the road to fair Elfland,
Where you and I this night maun gae.

back

12 See Joseph Campbell's Hero With a Thousand Faces (Amazon:Hero With a Thousand Faces). back

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o Index of e-texts of the Brothers Grimm
o Amazon: Tolkien Reader
o Amazon: Fairy and Folk Talkes of the Irish Peasantry
o Amazon: Kalevala
o 1 [2]
o back
o 2 [2]
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o 3 [2]
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o Also by jolly st nick


Display: Sort:
Fairy Tales | 120 comments (97 topical, 23 editorial, 0 hidden)
One point that needs shoring up (3.00 / 1) (#4)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue May 06, 2003 at 08:20:54 PM EST

One quality fairy tales apparently don't have is originality. They are all built according to a limited number of fixed patterns. More damningly, they are constructed from stock parts. It is easy to assemble an outline out of randomly selected parts and come up with a story that, if it doesn't match an actual documented fairy tale, sounds awfully familiar.
1. One could say the same of virtually any genre. Worse, yet all fiction boils down to one of three essential conflicts (man v. nature, man v. man, man v. machine as it was taught to me in grammar school). Perform the same experiment with a vague plot line from any specific type of fiction and I'll bet you come with an identical result. 2. There is tremendous variety in folk tales. While certain themes do repeat with some frequency, anyone who has read the Grimm Bros. entire work straight through will attest that there are many also many facets and themes that are unique to various stories.

Hmmm (none / 0) (#5)
by jolly st nick on Tue May 06, 2003 at 08:26:39 PM EST

I'd originally noted that with respect to plot elements, this could be true of any fiction genre; however the extensive use of stock elements was much more damning. Got trimmed for space; do you think a sentence along the above lines fits the bill?

[ Parent ]
IMO, needs more than a single sentence (none / 0) (#7)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue May 06, 2003 at 08:36:30 PM EST

But then before I buy in you have to convince me (1) that any other fiction genre doesn't use the same type of stock elements and (2) there is not a significant set of fairy details that differ in the `stock elements' that fairy tales are supposed to contain.

For example, do the works of Mallory and/or Hans Christian Anderson count as fairy tales? They both use the same sorts of stock elements as fairy tales do.

As another example, science fiction plot outlines can largely be reduced to a set of stock elements from which a story can practically write itself. How do fairy tales differ?

[ Parent ]

Some interesting points (4.00 / 1) (#11)
by jolly st nick on Tue May 06, 2003 at 08:54:32 PM EST

From easiest to hardest.

1) For example, do the works of Mallory and/or Hans Christian Anderson count as fairy tales? They both use the same sorts of stock elements as fairy tales do.

This is an interesting topic which unfortunately space didn't permit. Hans Christian Anderson fall into a class of writers I think of as "literary imitators" (no perjorative intended), including Lord Dunsany, C.S. Lewis, and, of course Tolkien. I am particularly interested in how potential criticisms of what are necessary elements of fairy tales are sources of critical damnation for imitators (e.g. Harold Bloom vs. J. K. Rowling).

What the imitators produce is not of course the organically occuring phenomenon of the folk tale, but something in effect very much like it. From the point of view of a reader, what matters is the effect and not the source, so in my mind I don't consider their work any different.

On to the trickier questions

1) that any other fiction genre doesn't use the same type of stock elements
The problem is that there is not a sharp dividing line between literature that uses stock elements and literature that does not, it is the degree of abstraction in these stock elements and their particularity.

To address this question head on, I'd say you could consider novels like Portnoy's Complaint, which I will confess to having started and never finished because I found it unspeakably dull. Consider this: there is plenty of literature that looks at individuals as unique and complex bundles of psychological factors interacting in scenarios created by other individuals who likewise have large and randomly selected psycholgoical, social and physical factors (perhaps these are drawn from the author's life, following the dictum "write what you know"). As such, the potential stock of elements is quite large; and in a sense such novels are realistic. But it is easy to make a novel realistic and particular. What is hard is to make a novel realistic and universal.

Perhaps a better question is not whether such genres exist, but whether any such genres exist that appeal to you.

2) there is not a significant set of fairy details that differ in the `stock elements' that fairy tales are supposed to contain.

Can't prove this because it's a negative.

[ Parent ]

Good points (none / 0) (#15)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue May 06, 2003 at 09:37:26 PM EST

Perhaps simply admit that questions exist relevent to your points in a footnote?

As for proving a negative, a negative can be easily proven in a finite series such as a set of certain fairy tales. For example given the set of prime numbers under twenty, I can demostrably prove that 23 is not in the set.

[ Parent ]

Before this degerates into a debate on logic (5.00 / 1) (#16)
by jolly st nick on Tue May 06, 2003 at 09:48:52 PM EST

Let me try to clarify my point.

It isn't that originality never occurs in a folk tale; it's just that originality is not really value the folk tales embrace (or if you prefer it is not what the tellers are aiming for).

When it does occur, it is more of a happy accident.

Consider a woodworker creating a chair. A chair is something to sit on, which is designed according to a number of different patterns (e.g. ladderback). In addition, these patterns have subpatterns, and the subpatterns may have their own subpatterns (e.g. mortise and tenon). A journeyman makes perfectly adequate chairs, possibly even beautiful ones, by more or less making copies. A master tries to make the best chair he possibly can. He's not trying to create a new kind of chair, just find the right combination of designs to make a more comfortable, more durable, more graceful seat by combining different patterns. Something original happens by one of two different ways: either the patterns combine in graceful and surprising ways, or in the process of combining patterns certain construction problems arise that require novel solutions.

There are sculptors who make chairs, in some cases very good and beautiful chairs, and woodworkers who make charis very good and beautiful chairs, but by in large these are different people with different motivations and criteria.

Substitute storyteller for wooodworker and story for chair, and you pretty much have my view. My problem is that it's rather a long diversion for the article.

[ Parent ]

Gack it's getting late (4.00 / 1) (#17)
by jolly st nick on Tue May 06, 2003 at 09:54:02 PM EST

Actually, I responded to the wrong point.

What I meant to respond to is that with respect to proving a negative, there is a difference between proving somethign that is analytically true (which to be more precise is to show that a given statement, when considered with the axioms we are using, forms a contradction). When speaking about synthetic truths (things which must be proved by providing evidence), proof of the truth nonexistence can't be made without making sweeping logical assumptions which are tanatmount to the conclusion you are seeking.

However, proofs of the falsity of a nonexistent, synthetic proposition are potentially easy to do: you just provide an example if you can find one.

In other words, if you disagree, it's up to you;-)

[ Parent ]

But not over a finite set (none / 0) (#19)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue May 06, 2003 at 10:09:43 PM EST

Or are you claiming that set theory is wrong?

[ Parent ]
Ugh, too late! (none / 0) (#20)
by jolly st nick on Tue May 06, 2003 at 10:18:06 PM EST

It has degenerated into an argument about logic! My fault though.

You are asking me to go through all the recorded folktales of a the world (admittedly finite but very large) to prove a proposition in a rather stronger form than I believe it should be taken. It's not that originality doesn't happen in folklore, it's just that it isn't a criteria to which they are built or are to be judged. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that orignality is a problem solving device, not a means in itself.

[ Parent ]

Which is why I suggested that ... (none / 0) (#23)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue May 06, 2003 at 10:24:26 PM EST

... you use a footnote and state that the question is open, or at least arguable. ;)

And I think that what I asked for in terms of evidence was quite less strong than you make out to be. I only asked for evidence that "there is not a significant set of fairy details that differ in the `stock elements' that fairy tales are supposed to contain." You could easily restrict your area of inquiry to say, the Grimm Bros. corpus.

[ Parent ]

Done! (none / 0) (#26)
by jolly st nick on Tue May 06, 2003 at 10:41:29 PM EST

Footnote added -- I even credit you for making a good point about this.

Let's carry on this question some more if the article makes it out of the edit queue. That's really what I'm trying to do here, which is to generate some serious thought and discussion about fairy tales as an art form. I freely admit that the article leaves somethign to be desired from the point of view of a dissertation, but I think it may suffice to the task I've set it.

[ Parent ]

Dissertation, Smishertation (none / 0) (#30)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue May 06, 2003 at 11:47:03 PM EST

I was just offering comments on what I would expect to see in an article on fairy tales in any magazine that I'd bother picking up to read.

Then again the closest thing to a general interest publication that I follow is K5. ;)

[ Parent ]

i'd recommend logic courses (1.00 / 1) (#46)
by lester on Wed May 07, 2003 at 02:45:03 AM EST

However, proofs of the falsity of a nonexistent, synthetic proposition are potentially easy to do: you just provide an example if you can find one.

you are confusing propositions and individuals, quantification and logical validity. please refrain from discussing logic, thank you very much

[ Parent ]

Andersen (none / 0) (#116)
by Amorsen on Sun May 11, 2003 at 01:31:21 PM EST

Andersen.

Thank you.

[ Parent ]

Also (none / 0) (#6)
by jolly st nick on Tue May 06, 2003 at 08:32:58 PM EST

2. There is tremendous variety in folk tales. While certain themes do repeat with some frequency, anyone who has read the Grimm Bros. entire work straight through will attest that there are many also many facets and themes that are unique to various stories.

Naturally; I never said it was a completely fair criticism. Themes are naturally in short supply. Plot lines, boiled down to the smallest possible number of elements (as your three part classification of all fiction) are necessarily small in number. However, I do think it is fair to say that with fairy tales, the condensation process doesn't have to be carried very far before you end up with a lot of repetition. However, as I also point out, like any cottage built craft artifact, no two fairy tales are alike.

[ Parent ]

Yes and no (4.50 / 2) (#43)
by Pseudonym on Wed May 07, 2003 at 01:42:52 AM EST

One could say the same of virtually any genre.

That's true, but it's not that simple. You're thinking of a boolean set, when you should be thinking of a prototype class.

All fiction draws on mythical archetypes, but some genres are better examples than others, just like how all weblog sites have some merit, but some (e.g. kuro5hin) are far better than others (example deleted due to potential Godwin's law violation).

Worse, yet all fiction boils down to one of three essential conflicts (man v. nature, man v. man, man v. machine as it was taught to me in grammar school).

Your grammar school teacher was full of it. What about internal conflict, for example (i.e. man vs. self)? I'll be looking at this in a future screenplay article, incidentally, so stay tuned.



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
thank you (none / 0) (#45)
by lester on Wed May 07, 2003 at 02:37:05 AM EST

That's true, but it's not that simple. You're thinking of a boolean set, when you should be thinking of a prototype class.

this not only clears it up, it shows off your fine poetic sensibilities

[ Parent ]

and (5.00 / 1) (#47)
by lester on Wed May 07, 2003 at 02:46:40 AM EST

What about internal conflict, for example (i.e. man vs. self)?

16th century european invention

[ Parent ]

Hmmm... (5.00 / 1) (#81)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed May 07, 2003 at 01:09:48 PM EST

I suppose I was horribly mistaken in detecting the strong presence of internal conflict in the stories of Gilgamesh, Job, and Achilles' wrath?

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
yes (5.00 / 1) (#84)
by lester on Wed May 07, 2003 at 03:23:16 PM EST

you are interpreting them by modern standards. there is nothing internal to achilles' wrath

[ Parent ]
Hogwash (5.00 / 1) (#85)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed May 07, 2003 at 04:52:05 PM EST

Reread Book IX and get back to me. The character of Achilles is notable specifically because it transcends the traditionally flat and typal mode of character found in mytho-poetic literature. Recall Thetis' divination and the fact that Achilles alone had the fortune to choose his own fate.

You also left out Gilgamesh, who's tale explicitly relates an internal struggle with his own mortality and resolves not with Gilgamesh's overcoming of death, but rather his internalized reconciliation with the idea of it.

And what of Job and his struggle to reconcile his faith with his suffering?

And then there's David, the most psychologically developed character in all of ancient literature.

And how about the plays of Sophocles? Do you really expect me to believe there's no internal dimension to the character of Oedipus in Oedipius at Colonus? Or Euripides' Dionysus in The Bacchae? Or Aeschylus' Orestes?

I believe that either your fear of anachronism has lead you astray, or that you intended by "internal conflict" something more specific than you've explicitly revealed (e.g., there's nothing in ancient literature quite like the rich interiority of character found in Shakespeare, Balzac, or Chekhov).

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
man v. self is a special case of man v. man /nt (none / 0) (#59)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed May 07, 2003 at 08:13:44 AM EST



[ Parent ]
+1 fp (3.00 / 1) (#8)
by circletimessquare on Tue May 06, 2003 at 08:41:33 PM EST

that reminds me, i have to go about creating my own religion before i pass away

need to create an oral narrative and get wise men to commit it to memory and pass it from father to son for generations

so many megalomaniacal plots, so little time...

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

don't forget the fundamentalist aesopians (5.00 / 2) (#9)
by circletimessquare on Tue May 06, 2003 at 08:42:55 PM EST

http://www.theonion.com/onion3525/fundamentalist_aesopians.html

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

Michael Ende Fairy Tales? (5.00 / 1) (#22)
by snowlion on Tue May 06, 2003 at 10:22:22 PM EST

I think that the chief function of fairy stories are to teach an openness to change and the power of imagination to sieze the opportunity for change.

Would you call "Momo" a fairy tale? How about the NeverEnding Story?

I think they are both highly original; I don't think I've ever read anything else like them. I would also consider them fairy tales.
--
Map Your Thoughts

It's a tough question. (5.00 / 2) (#25)
by jolly st nick on Tue May 06, 2003 at 10:37:56 PM EST

There are bona fide fairy tales that come from folk traditions. Then there are deliberate literary imitators (Tolkien, Lewis et al).

There are people who use significant fairy tale elements, but blend them with one or more elements from other genres; these present numerous problems. J.K. Rowling, for one. It's hard to place her, there are some aspects (the ogre step fammily) which clearly right out of a fairy tale; on the other hand, the schoolboy novel and the classic English detective story are stirred into the pot as well.

There are some writers who borrow fairy tale elements but are clearly not attempting fairy tale. The Artemis Fowl books are like this. The main issue with these books is not the conflation of science fiction and fantasy elements, which would not in my mind disbar a work from being fairy-tale like. It's the fact that the story has a kind of winking condescension to its own material. Fairy tales are laden with humour and sometimes even irony, but at their core they are about some deadly serious business.

Another example, better in quality, of fairy tale elements used in a non-fairy tale context is Steven Sondheims musica "Into the Woods". This musical reinterprets fairy tale characters in a dramatic context. The result is clearly not a fairy tale, because it is concerned with the inner elements of the characters; the question of "what if jack from the beanstalk story was a real person -- what would he be like?" question.

To your question, I don't no either book. Perhaps you could tell me why you think they should be considered fairy tales.

It's embarassing, but I don't have a hard and fast definition of what makes something a fairy tale. I do have some idea of things that disqualify stories from that status.

[ Parent ]

Neverending Story (none / 0) (#119)
by EffJot on Mon May 12, 2003 at 02:17:19 PM EST

First of all, I didn't manage to read Momo, although I really want to -- shame on me...  And I also haven't read The Neverending Story recently, so hopefully my memory doesn't fail me.

Thinking about The Neverending Story, I wouldn't call it a (typical) fairy tale.  It's really long, a lot of things are happening (maybe it's more like an epic), whereas I think of fairy tales deal with a single theme in a relatively short, concise manner.  Of course, TNES also deals with some basic ideas at its core.  But they often don't stand out that clearly, and different people see different things in it.  (Or the same people at different ages -- my impressions when reading it as a child and then again at 20-something varied substantially.)  It's a bit like an opal; different colours, always changing depending on how you look at it.

There are fairy tale elements.  In fact, most of the ``characters'' in the story are fairy-tale-like flat allegories or impersonation of some idea.  They don't show much interesting personality or development.  That's especially true for the second part.  All those strange beings exist only because Bastian has wished them into existence -- mostly with little thought --, as a sort of mindless drones for making him feel and seem greater.  However, some of those threaten to outgrow and overpower him (the sorceress/witch whose name I can't recall at the moment).  Wizard's apprentice theme?

But there are some singular characters who show a personality of their own and who might even develop (but that's mostly Bastian only).  They are the key figures in some kind of quest (without clearly knowing what that quest should be).

Ok, quests seem typical for fairy tales (and epics)...  The more I think of it, the more complicated it gets.  But I still wouldn't call it a fairy tale, it's more like a potpourri of fairy tales (plural), epics, a story of character development and a song in praise of imagination, story-telling and book-reading.

Also there is this nice twist of the reader being drawn from his position of the passive observer into the story itself, and even shaping its (which is by then also his) world, and wrestling with the problems he created for himself in it.  Not very fairy-tale-like.  I can't remember any fairy tale which lets its world interact with the world of its readers/listeners.

Hm, this has gotten quite long and a bit incoherent.  I didn't even really dwell on the core ideas of the book (at least what I think they could be).  There's a lot to be found in there.  And you can talk a lot about that book.  Yes, a bit like talking about the color of an opal (Or the shape of a fractal?) -- you could go on and on in ever-growing detail.

I might just as well stop here and wait for what others think.

BTW, it's sad that Michael Ende is already dead, and a shame that almost no-one seemed to realise.

[ Parent ]

Doorways to the Present World (none / 0) (#121)
by snowlion on Mon May 12, 2003 at 03:18:19 PM EST

  1. Do Read Momo.
  2. Narnia Chronicles have several links to this world. I have heard that Lovecraft opened many too. House of Leaves does so too. May want read "Leaf by Niggle" by Tolkien.
  3. I guess I'd have to see the definition of fairy tale.
  4. My understanding is that Tolkien thought he was was writing a fairy tale, and wrote quite a bit about it.
  5. Do Read Momo.

--
Map Your Thoughts
[ Parent ]
Roots of Myths (5.00 / 3) (#31)
by Lacero on Wed May 07, 2003 at 12:17:28 AM EST

The reason the Finnish Kalevala and Arabian Nights are so similar is becuase they are both descended from the same place. Indo-European stories are extremely similar in many ways, the easiest way to track their progress over the world in history is by the way names are translated, philology.

The really interesting part of these stories comes when you compare ones from different roots. Native American myths generally have the solar hero travelling from the west and going to his home in the East, whereas Indo-European ones have him starting a journey in the East and travelling to the West and dying.

This is the best thing I've found on the internet about it, although I'll warn you it was written in the 19th century. I know Anthropology has come a long since then so I'm unsure how many of the specifics are true. Myth and Mythmakers

I'm assuming the Kalevala is based off the indo-european set of tales and not by some quirk of history entirely seperate, I've never read them. It seems very unlikely they're not inspired by some kind of Celt basis.

Finnish, Arabic (3.00 / 3) (#35)
by kraant on Wed May 07, 2003 at 12:38:10 AM EST

Finnish is a Turkic language. And I'm assuming that the Arabian Nights were written by semites of some form so it makes it interesting that you say both are descended from indo-european roots.
--
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]
The Thousand and One Nights (5.00 / 1) (#41)
by jjayson on Wed May 07, 2003 at 01:03:36 AM EST

is from stories in the Arab, Persian, and Indian worlds. Some say that was derived from an earlier Persian work called Hazarafsaneh (A Thousand Stories), but that is not universally accepted.
_______
Smile =)
* bt krav magas kitten THE FUCK UP
<bt> Eat Kung Jew, bitch.

[ Parent ]
Finnish != Turkic (5.00 / 3) (#50)
by 6hill on Wed May 07, 2003 at 03:35:57 AM EST

How the heck do you figure Finnish is a Turkic language?

It's a member of the Finno-Ugric language family, period. Hungarian, a distant member of the same language family, has been contested as really being a Turkic language but it seems more likely that Finno-Ugric and Turkic are sister language families, with a common Ural-Altaic proto language (a contested classification, yes, but the most common one accepted today).

Finnish has a true affiliation to Finno-Ugric, Hungarian is in practice leaning more towards Turkic, mostly because of some constructs and basic principles of word composition in Hungarian. The separation is hard to make, since Finno-Ugric and Turkic languages have a lot in common (e.g. their agglutinative nature).

Anyway. Finnish is not a Turkic language. And is very unlikely related to Arabic except in a distant manner, Arabic being really an Afro-Asiatic language.

[ Parent ]

What got up your nose and died? (5.00 / 1) (#60)
by kraant on Wed May 07, 2003 at 09:21:46 AM EST

Where did I say that Arabic and Finnish were related?

Anyway just checked it out and most sources seem to agree with you on Finnish.

But my point that it's interesting that the origin of both is posited as Indo-European still stands.
--
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]

Good Catch (5.00 / 1) (#75)
by Lacero on Wed May 07, 2003 at 12:02:01 PM EST

Sorry, Finnish isn't at all IE. Like I said in my original post I'm not familar with it and I made an assumption based on Finland's location.

The whole question of IE origins seems a lot more confused than I thought too, Here is a review of a book that claims to discuss it. I can't vouch for this one either but at least it was written within the last hundred years.

And thanks, I've learnt something :)

[ Parent ]

A linguistics bug, perchance? (5.00 / 1) (#92)
by 6hill on Thu May 08, 2003 at 06:04:45 AM EST

Your previous comment, as well as this one, implied that Arabic and Finnish are (or might be) related through common Indo-European roots. Which at least Finnish does not have. I repeat: Finnish is not an Indo-European language. I should know, it's my mother tongue and thus the subject of extensive research over here :).

The Indo-European language family is wholly separate from the families (Turkic, Finno-Ugric) derived from the Uralic proto language(s). For more on Finnish, see e.g. here.

As for Arabic, I have to say I haven't read that much on the roots of Afro-Asiatic languages. So if there is a relation, it derives from the Uralic proto language connection and is in no way connected to the whole Indo-European family.

[ Parent ]

Perkele! (5.00 / 1) (#95)
by kraant on Thu May 08, 2003 at 08:01:08 AM EST

Heh, you may know Finnish but your English leaves something to be desired. ;)

If you read over this thread carefully I think you'll find that I was questioning the original assertion that the Arabian Nights and the Kalevala have Indo-European roots.

Although as a counterpoint <a href="http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Buddhism">there were long standing trade routes between Arabia and India</a> and <a href="http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/4737/dravid1.html">Dravidian might have some affinities to Finnish.</a> Which could explain the similarities without reaching out for a shared Indo-European ancestry for the stories.

Anyway Semetic languages are ones like Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, Phoenician etc that are all closely related.

People can learn languages, and stories can travel between ethnic groups and languages so it's interesting that we're having this discussion at all, no?
--
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]

Helvettisäetmitääntajuu! (5.00 / 1) (#100)
by 6hill on Thu May 08, 2003 at 08:52:52 AM EST

Hey, now -- at least my English is better than your HTML, judging by those links :). Anyway, you said:

Finnish is a Turkic language. And I'm assuming that the Arabian Nights were written by semites of some form so it makes it interesting that you say both are descended from indo-european roots.

Which I read as you assuming the previous poster was correct in his/her assumption that both Arabic and Finnish share Indo-European roots. You reinforced the notion in your follow-up to my first post to the thread:

But my point that it's interesting that the origin of both is posited as Indo-European still stands.

Since the Finnish/Indo-European connection is nonexistent, whatever positing was done was certainly not interesting but instead, a pot of crock. However, I interpreted the meaning of your word "both" to mean the languages (since that was the main topic in at least the latter mail), whileas you apparently meant the possible Kalevala/Arabian Nights connection, hence confusion. Both vocabulary and storytelling in any given language are usually an amalgam of the foundations of that language and its associated local culture, and imported terminology/myths. Although having read both Kalevala and Arabian Nights, I don't see the connection. Kalevala, as a collection of tales, has within its content more in common with the Bible than anything else. (As a point of curiosity, the only word imported into English that I'm aware of is "sauna," of all things.)

[ Parent ]

Hei (none / 0) (#101)
by kraant on Thu May 08, 2003 at 09:42:59 AM EST

Actualy your grammar and spelling are perfect, it's just that you're not picking up on the subtleties of english.

Saying that something is "interesting" is a polite way of saying that you think it's wrong. The responce I got from the person I was replying to will make more sense if you think of it this way.

I'm afraid I'm guilty as charged as far as the HTML goes... my only excuse is that it's late and I'm sleepy.

Anyway, I haven't read the Kalevala since my Finnish consists of a vocabulary of a couple of words and I've yet to find a translation, but what I've read of the Arabian nights does have a similar feel to parts of the Bible.

And finaly, I was quite shocked at how badly I was mispronouncing "sauna" I'm still not quite there but I'm getting better.
--
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]

Akabukoa da! (none / 0) (#106)
by runlevel0 on Thu May 08, 2003 at 06:03:59 PM EST

Hunkitu nau, suomari ikastezin da!

(this is Euskaldun, if you are wondering) ->

Goddam!, Impressing, Finnish is impossible to learn!

;)

agur

[ Parent ]

There may be other explanations as well (none / 0) (#72)
by jolly st nick on Wed May 07, 2003 at 11:43:51 AM EST

By way of counterexample, there are some Chinese tales that reproduce the same paterns found in Indo-European tales, for example Journey To The West.

However, there was considerable exchange between China and the west (The Silk Road, Buddhist evangelization).

What's perhaps trickier is explaining how very similary motifs (particularly the trickster stories) are found in Africa, Polynesia and the Americas.

A great story is both a durable and a highly mobile thing. It is passed down through the generations and across cultures.

[ Parent ]

Agreed (none / 0) (#77)
by Lacero on Wed May 07, 2003 at 12:23:09 PM EST

While the solar hero does something slightly different he's still a solar hero, a rain god is still a rain god and we can all understand the characters.

I was trying to say you have to compare the stories from different cultures in order to identify the parts that are global to humanity.

[ Parent ]

You just described my childhood... (5.00 / 2) (#33)
by pb on Wed May 07, 2003 at 12:30:51 AM EST

When I was growing up, I lived in a one-room cabin in the middle of nowhere for several years, without electric lighting or running water; that's because I lived in the mountains, somewhat removed from civilization. Still, even if we didn't have electricity, we still had kerosene lamps, a cast-iron wood stove, skylights, a gas camping stove, an outhouse, a small metal basin to wash up in, and a small black-and-white TV.

Yes, a TV; we ran it off of car batteries, which eventually got charged in... the car! And you could tell when the juice was running low too, because the picture would get smaller. (That isn't the result that I'd expect; I didn't find out why until years later--it has to do with diffusion in a cathode ray tube, I believe)

And of course we had fire, within our stove (for heat and sometimes also cooking) and frequently without as well, in the form of a campfire outdoors. We had a tin roof as well, which made rainstorms much more dramatic. And yes, at night the world outside was darkness, full of the familiar noises of the night--crickets and whatnot. And the flickering light of the lamps inside does provide some comfort, but it's nothing like the blazing electric lights that are common in most houses.

So I guess you could say that I grew up on the boundary of your "world of Faerie". Maybe this is why your introduction completely threw me--it's like you were describing an old friend of mine in hostile terms. I'm sure my youth wasn't typical around here, but realize that many people still live like this in the 20th century, and some of them even in otherwise rather urbanized nations.

Then again, I like Fairy tales, and therefore don't need anyone to explain to me about their importance, so I probably don't match up with your target audience at all, either.  :)
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall

So (none / 0) (#37)
by jolly st nick on Wed May 07, 2003 at 12:39:24 AM EST

What did you do for entertainment, when the light went down?

[ Parent ]
heh. (none / 0) (#38)
by pb on Wed May 07, 2003 at 12:57:31 AM EST

You go to sleep, silly! :)

In an actual power outage, (which happened at least once on most of our vacations in The Outer Banks) I personally like to play cards.

I have noticed that some people can get quite freaked out by power outages, being without their electricity for prolonged periods of time, (like a couple of days, or a week...) which I think is downright odd. But I guess I can see how that could happen...
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

Power outages (5.00 / 1) (#71)
by jolly st nick on Wed May 07, 2003 at 11:33:29 AM EST

I actually enjoy prolonged power outages, because of the change of pace they enforce.

Unfortunately I have a next door neighbor who has to drag out his extremely noisy two stroke generator and run it all night.



[ Parent ]

Heating and perishable foods... (none / 0) (#115)
by Amorsen on Sun May 11, 2003 at 01:27:41 PM EST

Most Western households these days store foods frozen or at least refridgerated. A prolonged power outage is a problem.

Worse, in winter (in those places that do have something that can reasonably be called winter) a power outage means that heat is hard to come by. At least your food does not spoil then...

[ Parent ]

Depends. (5.00 / 1) (#49)
by Akshay on Wed May 07, 2003 at 03:25:01 AM EST

Do you want the adult answer or the kids answer? :-)

[ Parent ]

Sure (5.00 / 1) (#70)
by jolly st nick on Wed May 07, 2003 at 11:31:27 AM EST

that was part of it. There was a Science News article on this very topic a few months ago. In cultures where electricity is uncommon, it turns out that adults have more nighttime than they need to sleep in, and relatively few options. It turns out that they often go early to bed, early to rise, and have a waking period of an hour or more in the middle of the night in which sex and storytelling are the major activities.

It turns out that it was likely that even our eighteenth century ancestors probably followed much the same pattern.

[ Parent ]

Some etymology (5.00 / 2) (#40)
by Pseudonym on Wed May 07, 2003 at 12:59:32 AM EST

The term monomyth was coined by James Joyce, not Joseph Campbell. (Campbell notes this in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.)

Second, the term "fairy tales" was originally a term of derision. Fairies (faeries, fey, etc) were the mediaeval equivalent of grey aliens. They would abduct people, steal children and replace them with changelings, cast a glamour on you should you step into their circles...

In the same way, these stories were though to corrupt young minds, hence "fairy tales".



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
There's a more sinister side to this too (none / 0) (#73)
by jolly st nick on Wed May 07, 2003 at 11:56:15 AM EST

Fairy abduction stories also may have covered up murders and infanticides. It's one thing for literate people to find sophisticated psychological truths in fairy stories, it's another thing believe in their literal truths. Sometimes superstitious fear reaches the point where it must be exorcised in gruesome ritutal. Theres a lot about the kinds of cultures that are able to produce fairy tales that is unattractive.

I agree that the impulse that created ghosts and leprecauns find their modern counterpart in alien abductions.

[ Parent ]

Another Fairy Tale worthy some thought (none / 0) (#42)
by United Fools on Wed May 07, 2003 at 01:06:13 AM EST

A fool as the most powerful man on earth, governing over a vast land and having the mightiest army in the world, and ruling the world as he wishes... Is this a fairy tale unrealizable? Or is it the reality?
We are united, we are fools, and we are America!
bah, how typical (4.50 / 2) (#44)
by lester on Wed May 07, 2003 at 02:34:47 AM EST

a story on "fairy tales" that utterly fails to consider the role played by expert tellers and audience participation in traditional storytelling performances around the world and attributes all sorts of powers to dead words that only people have (e.g. to symbolize). if you think storytelling is about edited texts you need some well-chosen anthro courses (stay away from the lit ones!). what's next, a piece on "computers" where people play no role whatsoever?

OK (none / 0) (#65)
by jolly st nick on Wed May 07, 2003 at 11:13:23 AM EST

a story on "fairy tales" that utterly fails to consider the role played by expert tellers and audience participation in traditional storytelling performances around the world and attributes all sorts of powers to dead words that only people have (e.g. to symbolize).

OK, be my guest.

I'm not trying to write a dissertation here, I'm trying to start conversation.

[ Parent ]

Uh stupid (none / 0) (#48)
by tkatchev on Wed May 07, 2003 at 02:51:07 AM EST

Wax and oil were never "rare and dear commodities".

Besides, there is no need to use candles if all you want is a light.

Simple wood will do just as well.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.

set pedantic_mode to 1 (none / 0) (#58)
by jij on Wed May 07, 2003 at 08:07:29 AM EST

Candles are portable - a wood fire is not. Wax and oil were "rare and dear commodities" in the sense that they had to be made, or traded for; one didn't drive to Walmart when one's lamp oil supply ran low.

"people who thinks quotes are witty are fucking morons" - turmeric
[ Parent ]

You're wrong. (none / 0) (#64)
by tkatchev on Wed May 07, 2003 at 10:57:51 AM EST

People had markets ever since caveman times.

Markets are there so that you could trade for common commodities -- like, for example, oil and wax.

Though you are right in that wax was probably expensive. It still is. But, on the other hand, aybody who keeps beehives (and I don't see why a normal middle-ages dude wouldn't) would have a steady and no-brainer supply of wax anyways.

Secondly, here is how you make an easy and effortless light source: when splitting wood blocks for the fireplace, rip out a long, narrow splinter from the middle. (It should be a foot or more in length.) When lit, it makes a poor man's candle replacement. (Though in other respects it is a crappy form of lighting.)

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

The normal middle ages dude (none / 0) (#69)
by jolly st nick on Wed May 07, 2003 at 11:27:22 AM EST

was a serf, whose total product above what he needed to survive belonged to his lord.

[ Parent ]
It's the other way around. (5.00 / 1) (#79)
by tkatchev on Wed May 07, 2003 at 12:58:38 PM EST

Serfdom is very much like tenant farming -- your overlord lets you use his land, and in return you are obligated to give over a part of your harvest.

Normally, a serf would give over 10-20% of his product to his overlord. Inhuman slavedriver landowners would ask for 50-70%, but this was considered in the Middle Ages to be very evil behaviour. (Though this differs from place to place, obviously.)

What was left over was the serf's property, though. (But keep in mind that a typical family has 6 or 7 mouths to feed, while there are only two or three working-age farm workers.)

Also, it wasn't the landowner's responsibility to keep his serfs fed, clothed and housed; if you were unable to feed yourself, well, then you just starved to death.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

You're completely correct. (none / 0) (#82)
by tkatchev on Wed May 07, 2003 at 01:13:09 PM EST

The practice of government-funded social programs came directly from Middle-Ages peasant society. (esp. in Europe.)

"Social security" began after European peasants started to exert a little bit of political weight.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Battle-Troll goes out of character (5.00 / 1) (#89)
by Battle Troll on Wed May 07, 2003 at 08:53:31 PM EST

Dear sir, you are an indoctrinated liberalist moron. Or at least unfamiliar with medieval social history.

Serfdom in Europe didn't become terribly oppressive until the 16th century. Medieval peasants lived better in virtually all respects than their Enlightenment successors, excluding susceptibility to barbarian invasion. Peasants in Russia and Germany weren't serfs at all until comparatively recently (Peter the Great instituted serfdom per se in Russia, and Catherine the Great tightened it; they were applying Prussian and Austrian models not yet seen in Russia.)

The normal middle ages dude owed his lord certain things, but he made more than enough to live on and prosper with, with the exception of French, English and Scandanavian peasants who were exceptionally poorly treated. You ought to try reading about life in Spain, Italy, Germany, Russia, Romania, Hungary, Greece, Turkey, and Serbia in order to get a more balanced picture.

Hmmph.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

Well (none / 0) (#68)
by jolly st nick on Wed May 07, 2003 at 11:25:23 AM EST

oil certainly was a rare and dear commodity until the advent of kerosene (paraffin oil for you brits). So for most people the best light they had at night was candlelight.

As far as that was concerned, whether it was dear depended on your station in life; for the abbot, the nobleman or burgher, not. However if you were a person at the base of society, a serf for example, you'd treat any kind of manufactured good with a great deal more respect. I have a little personal experience with this because my father was born into a third world peasant family; for the rest of his life he tended not to part with anything, even a blown fuse, which he would set aside in case he could think of some future use for it.



[ Parent ]

Naw, I meant vegetable oil. (none / 0) (#83)
by tkatchev on Wed May 07, 2003 at 01:15:47 PM EST

Funnily enough, practically the most readily-available vegetable oil comes from hemp. (And no, you can't get stoned off of it.)

Also, candles are easy to make by hand in your spare time. (The beeswax ones, though; paraffin is an industrial invention.)

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Vegtable oil... (none / 0) (#98)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu May 08, 2003 at 08:28:09 AM EST

has a lot of other uses than just lamps; and making the oil isn't effortless.

Heck, the whole reason we started drilling for petroleum was to find an easier source for oil than squishing seeds or harpooning whales!


--
Fishing for Men, Trolling for Newbies, what's the difference?


[ Parent ]
Not quite. (none / 0) (#103)
by tkatchev on Thu May 08, 2003 at 12:57:42 PM EST

Vegetable oil burns really badly, and some is barely flammable at all. (Olive oil makes a good fuel, but olives are fickle and don't grow in northern climates.)

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Spoken like someone (none / 0) (#97)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu May 08, 2003 at 08:10:51 AM EST

who never had to make their own candles.

  1. Wood fires produce a fair amount of smoke, and a good amount of heat. Who wants to sweat all night in the summer?
  2. Wax from where? Rendered animal fat? You gonna kill your only cow so you can see for a few hours?
  3. Oil from where? Oil was rare enough that men actually developed special ships and techniques to hunt whales for the oil their flesh contained. Do you think they gave that oil away for free?
  4. What will you make your wick from? String? Couldn't those threads be put to use mending clothes instead of burning them?

No, wax and oil weren't as rare as gold, but that doesn't mean they were free as air, either.


--
Fishing for Men, Trolling for Newbies, what's the difference?


[ Parent ]
Re:tard (none / 0) (#102)
by tkatchev on Thu May 08, 2003 at 12:18:59 PM EST

OK, admit that your post was idiotic.

Here, let me give you some tips on how to live in a natural economy:

1. Smoke is indeed a problem, though easily fixed by using the right kind of wood. Heat is not a problem -- the general rule of thumb is that you cannot have too little heating. (Though there is, indeed, a huge problem with using wood for lighting -- the risk of starting a fire.)

2. Wax comes from a beehive. The honeycomb that holds the edible sweet yellow stuff is made of wax.

3. Vegetable oil is made from crushing seeds between two large rocks. Like I already said, a good source of edible vegetable oil is hemp.

4. Which brings me to your last point: hemp is a very easy and cheap way to get string, though hemp cloth is ugly and uncomfortable. If you want better quality string, grow some flax.

Trust me, none of these things are either rare or expensive. All would be readily available to any normal Middle-Ages peasant.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Read a book why don't you.... (none / 0) (#109)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri May 09, 2003 at 05:59:40 PM EST

And find out exactly who had luxuries like candles during the middle ages, and who didn't.

No one said the materials for making candles were impossible to come by - just that they were more expensive than you seem to think.

Here, try a little thought experiment: How many bee hives would you have to find and destroy so that you would have candles every night for a summer? What other things could you be doing with that time you spent looking for bee hives?


--
Fishing for Men, Trolling for Newbies, what's the difference?


[ Parent ]
Cripes, and this person is going to teach me... (none / 0) (#110)
by tkatchev on Sat May 10, 2003 at 04:46:40 AM EST

Have you ever seen a real-life beehive?

Do you even realize how stupid you sound?

You don't have to "find" and "destroy" (WTF?) beehives to get wax.

At the end of the summer, when your bees are done collecting nectar, you go visit your beehive and take out some of the cells. The cells are made of beeswax and contain honey. Honey is the sweet stuff you can eat, beeswax is not edible. Then you either suck out the honey using some sort of suction implement, or you simply chew on the cells and spit the wax out.

In either case, anybody who keeps beehives is going to have large amount of useless wax when he's done eating the honey.

Also, nobody "finds" beehives. (Well, except wild anumals, I guess.) Bees are a farm animal much like the pig or the cow.

Now, whether or not people would waste time and effort on making candles is another question. Like I said, you can get the same net result by lighting a piece of wood, so the only reasons for using candles are aesthetic. (Also, they are safer; but people, as a rule, care little about things like that.)


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

LoL. I missed the part (none / 0) (#112)
by porkchop_d_clown on Sat May 10, 2003 at 09:24:34 AM EST

Where 14th century serfs had bee keepers.

Face it dude, you can't tell the difference between the 19th century and the previous 18.


--
Fishing for Men, Trolling for Newbies, what's the difference?


[ Parent ]
Hello, are you still arguing? (none / 0) (#113)
by tkatchev on Sun May 11, 2003 at 06:12:58 AM EST

In order to become a "beekeeper" all you need is a wooden box and queen bee.

Beekeeping is a very low-effort and cost-effective enterprise if you have the skills.

Owning a beehive is certainly orders of magnitude more affordable than, say, owning a pig or a cow.

P.S. How exactly does one "have" a "bee keeper"? Please explain what you meant.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

You really are reaching, aren't you? (none / 0) (#118)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon May 12, 2003 at 01:42:22 PM EST

Give it up! Just because you think it is trivially easy to raise bees and harvest the wax from their hives doesn't (a) make it so or (b) mean that this was common behavior throughout history.

All this, because you're upset that st. nick implied that candles weren't as common as dirt in human history?

Jeez, dude.


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[ Parent ]
I'm not "claiming". (none / 0) (#120)
by tkatchev on Mon May 12, 2003 at 03:01:06 PM EST

I know.

From personal experience.

Besides, I never claimed that beekeeping was easy. I merely claimed that it was afforadable in terms of both time and money. Which it is, if you have rudementary beekeeping skills. (Which you don't, no offence; and which humankind has known for something like the last 6000 years, since prehistoric times.)

Besides, candles weren't common in the Middle Ages; most people wouldn't waste wax on candles, though this doesn't at all mean that wax was some sort of luxury good.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Spoken like someone (none / 0) (#107)
by runlevel0 on Thu May 08, 2003 at 06:19:40 PM EST

> 2. Wax from where?

Bees ?

[ Parent ]

And your point would be? (none / 0) (#108)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri May 09, 2003 at 05:56:46 PM EST

Isn't there more value in keeping the bees alive for honey than in destroying their home to make a few hours of light?

Or didn't that occur to you?


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[ Parent ]
Hello, learn a bit about beekeeping. (none / 0) (#111)
by tkatchev on Sat May 10, 2003 at 05:07:29 AM EST

You don't need to "destroy" anything to get wax.

The bee colony doesn't need wax; wax is only used for creating the "container" (the cells) that holds the honey.

Honey is the stuff your bee colony eats during the winter; at the end of summer, when your bees are done collecting nectar, they fill up their cells with honey. At this point you can take away extra cells that your bees do not need; just make sure you leave enough for the bees to last through the winter.

There is no need to "destroy" anything. Our ancestors were not as dumb as you think.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Depends (none / 0) (#122)
by CENGEL3 on Tue May 13, 2003 at 12:44:25 PM EST

Whether they were "rare and dear" depends on who you were and where you were.

Certainly they were expensive enough that most people would not use them as a light source on a regular basis.

You're knowledge of beekeeping aside if you examine actual historical documents of the period you will find that indeed, candles and oil lamps were rare and expensive items that were not in common use by the lower classes.

Most candles of the period weren't even made of wax but rather tallow gathered from cattle or sheep suet. Beeswax candles were first introduced during the Middle Ages.

However, beekeeping was a speciality agrarian proffession during the period...thus beeswax (and honey for that matter) wasn't available in prodigeous quantity.

Firelight was indeed the main source of illumination for the average person during the Middle Ages.

[ Parent ]

Have you read Bettelheim? (5.00 / 1) (#53)
by fraise on Wed May 07, 2003 at 04:19:45 AM EST

You're going in the same (very) general direction as a book Freudian analyst Bruno Bettelheim wrote in the 1970s. Amazon link: The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. Here's an online excerpt dealing with Amor and Psyche; part of that excerpt:

Here Bettelheim emphasizes the dangers involved in developing consciousness. Psyche's repeated decisions to kill herself in order to end her despair at the prospect of completing her seemingly impossible tasks symbolically express the depression which frequently accompanies psychological development. For Bettelheim, a primary aspect of this development is the integration of sexuality with the highest aspirations of consciousness. He insists that nothing less than a spiritual rebirth is required to bring together these seemingly opposite aspects of the human being. The troubled relationship between Eros and Psyche symbolizes the difficulty involved in this integrative process, and Psyche's journey to the underworld dramatically portrays the powerful experience of rebirth which preceds and helps to bring about this hard-won integration.


Psychoanalysis (none / 0) (#76)
by jolly st nick on Wed May 07, 2003 at 12:05:20 PM EST

The place where I part ways with psychoanalytic ways of looking at fairy tales and myth is that they seem to have an assumption that there's a single correct interpretation, usually psychosexual. I tend to think there are multiple interpretations, some more valid than others, some equally valid.

Certainly some of the stories (Psyche, Daphne) can be looked at as symbolizing resistance to sexual development, but they can equally be taken as inspiration for other kinds of growth and change, for example changing your career.

[ Parent ]

Pioneering authoritarianism (none / 0) (#91)
by Pseudonym on Thu May 08, 2003 at 12:27:54 AM EST

You've got to remember that most of the psychoanalytic work on mythology and dream symbolism is from the "old school": Freud, Jung, Campbell and the like. Psychoanalysis has come a long way since then. Freud, for example, did not understand the role that brain chemistry played in mental illness.

I don't know of any modern works on the topic, but I think you'll find the theory underlynig that a lot more reasonable than The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Don't get me wrong; as a non-exhaustive look at archetypes it's good. It's the theory underneath them which needs updating.



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
To paraphase my professor about Bettelheim... (none / 0) (#90)
by schubert on Thu May 08, 2003 at 12:13:20 AM EST

To paraphase my professor from whom I took romantic german fairy tales... Bettelheim is a bloody moron. The problem with bettelheim is he takes the freudian sexual thing too far. Sometimes a big brown cigar is really just a big brown cigar (stealing that part from George Carlin). I mean in the Grimm's versions of tales, the sexual aspects were void precisely because the Grimms were very religious and hence the ending of many (all?) of their tales usually involved the "evil" characters getting limbs hacked off et cetera.

Some of the rural french versions however were QUITE overtly sexual. It seems silly for Bettelheim to be grasping for sexual links in the NON sexual fairy tales when other cultures came up with the same tales WITH the sexual elements in intact. If one version has no elements, and another version has the elements, why did he try and "interpret" hidden sexual elements in these tales that quite clearly were intended to not be sexual? Perhaps it would have been wiser for him to instead analyze the DIFFERENCES IN THE CULTURES that resulted in the various retellings of fairy tales to have or not have sexual and violent elements.

To reiterate: Bettelheim was a bloody moron. :-)

Oh and for a great retelling of Snow White, Garrison Keeler has one where it turns out the Prince only went after Snow White when she was passed out from the apple because he thought she was dead :-) "He keeps wanting me to lie still while we make love..."
-- schubert
[ Parent ]

got your back (none / 0) (#55)
by RJNFC on Wed May 07, 2003 at 06:33:58 AM EST

"I'm certain this matches some Grimm story or another; I'm strugggling with tip-of-the-tounge to remember which one."

It's "The Water of Life". Matches pretty closely. They go for the water at the beginning but the girl becomes a factor in the middle and it ends with the good son marrying her.

Hmmm (none / 0) (#67)
by jolly st nick on Wed May 07, 2003 at 11:16:56 AM EST

I think you're right. Is that the one where the elder sons get trapped by mountain passes that close in on them?

[ Parent ]
yes (nt) (none / 0) (#88)
by RJNFC on Wed May 07, 2003 at 08:24:34 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Reenactment (4.38 / 13) (#56)
by K5 ASCII reenactment players on Wed May 07, 2003 at 06:41:39 AM EST

... and then the mad Dr St Nick stitched
together a stumbling patchwork monster 
from pieces of dead articles that he had 
dug up, and breathed life into his creation!
|
|             Stop it, you're
|             scaring me.
|             |
|             | ~~~~
#####          ~~~~~~
#   \          /  ~~~
##o o          o o ~~~
 |  _\         /_   ~~~
 |  O           =   ~~~
  \__/         \__/ ~~~~



Well (none / 0) (#74)
by jolly st nick on Wed May 07, 2003 at 11:56:52 AM EST

I'm just glad you liked it. ;-)

[ Parent ]
All right, I admit it, that one was funny. (5.00 / 1) (#96)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu May 08, 2003 at 08:04:05 AM EST

But it would have been funny without the artwork, and easier to read without the font size=-5 tag...


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[ Parent ]
late editorial comment (none / 0) (#63)
by MadDreamer on Wed May 07, 2003 at 10:17:32 AM EST

"...the light is to weak to do much work by..."

Should be "the light is too weak to do..."


Sorry (none / 0) (#66)
by jolly st nick on Wed May 07, 2003 at 11:15:13 AM EST

I made some final editorial adjustments, including that one; after previewing them I hit submit and they disappeared ;-)

[ Parent ]
Bowdlerisation (5.00 / 1) (#86)
by gidds on Wed May 07, 2003 at 06:40:21 PM EST

I've heard that many of the fairy stories we know (e.g. from Anderson, the Brothers Grimm) have been cleaned up more than a little; that the originals were often much darker tales involving themes of sex, murder, &c.  For example, when Prince Charming woke Sleeping Beauty, do you think he really stopped at only a kiss?!  And also the symbology; the prick that Sleeping Beauty got from her spinning wheel, Snow White's poisoned apple.  Of course, even some of the bowdlerised versions are pretty dark (e.g. a wolf killing and eating a little old lady in Little Red Riding Hood), but there's clearly a lot more going on in many of them than we like to think.

Can anyone tell us more about this bowdlerisation; have I been informed correctly, and to what extent did it go on?

Andy/

The oral tradition and authoritative versions (5.00 / 1) (#87)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed May 07, 2003 at 07:48:32 PM EST

Basically, in oral traditional tales there is no such thing as an original or authoritative version. I've no doubt that decidedly more bawdy versions of many familiar folk tales were common at one time, but it would be a mistake to assume that those versions are somehow more authentic. It is more likely that there was a large number of variations in play at any given time depending upon region and the social context in which the stories were told. The version of Snow White told in one village would differ from that told in another just as the version told in a domestic setting might differ from the version told at the local Innkeeper's tavern.

By way of an analogy, folklore should not be thought of as a musical score with a definitive form and a definite author, but rather more like a jazz standard. All of Me as played by Bill Evans, Miles Davis, and Stan Getz are each recognizable as being roughly the same song, but each version differs from the others considerably and none is more authentic than the others. So it is with folklore as well.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Sleeping Beauty (5.00 / 1) (#93)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu May 08, 2003 at 07:57:00 AM EST

Best part is - schtupping Beauty didn't wake her up - she woke up when, after giving birth to twins, one baby found her breast and suckled it but the other found the thorn and sucked it out, dying in the process.


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[ Parent ]
Who cleaned up the fairy tales... (5.00 / 1) (#99)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu May 08, 2003 at 08:45:26 AM EST

My limited understanding is that the "official fairy tales" were cleaned up in two stages - the earlier attempt was by French Romantics who used the old oral stories as the basis for literary works (Le Morte De Arthur, anyone?) and, of course, Walt Disney is infamous for doing just this.

These days, the vigorous scrubbing of the stories continues, as various teachers and parents and concerned citizens apply their own biases to the old tales.

BTW - I don't consider that to be an automatic bad thing; changing old stories to fit their audience is a tradition going back to Homer himself, if not all the way back to "The Artist Formerly Known as Ogg the Caveman" who would entertain his neighbors with tales of his last hunting trip...


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[ Parent ]
Re: Who cleaned up the fairy tales... (none / 0) (#105)
by runlevel0 on Thu May 08, 2003 at 05:26:47 PM EST

Homer?

Uuuh, I *really* like this Simpson guy.

[ Parent ]

Cannibal Snow White (none / 0) (#104)
by runlevel0 on Thu May 08, 2003 at 05:24:04 PM EST

In it's origins Snow White was written by Perrault as a Romance a Table, in which the mother of Snow White was an ogre. At the end of the story the ogre nature of SW appears and she eats the evil mother-in-law.
I haven't found any links in english about the subject.
Here in this one you can find a confirmation of what you said about Sleeping Beauty. It's a quite interesting page about the subject you was talking, unfortunately in spanish only.
Se sabe que la versión de los hermanos Grimm de La bella durmiente, en la que la princesa es despertada por el casto beso del príncipe que la rescata, es una alteración que elimina los elementos de canibalismo, violación y adulterio del relato original.

Éste apareció por el año 1528, y en él, el príncipe, que no logra, por más que grita, despertar a la princesa durmiente cuyo nombre es Talia, procede a abusar sexualmente de ella para luego regresar a casa con su esposa.
.....

It's known that the Brothers Grimm's version of Sleeping Beauty, in which the princess is awakened by the rescueing prince's chast kiss, is an alteration which eliminates contents of canibalism, rape and adultery of the original story.
The latter appeared about 1528, and in this one, the prince, who does not succeed, in spite of screaming ,in awaken the princess (whose name is Talia), proceeds to sexually abuse her to return later back home with his wife...

(Quick And Dirty Translation(TM), sorry for typos)

AFAIK fairy tales where quite popular in the court of Louis XIV of France.


[ Parent ]
I always wondered about... (none / 0) (#114)
by mikelist on Sun May 11, 2003 at 11:48:04 AM EST

...Rumplestiltskin's name, you don't have to take the concept far to arrive at the conclusion that his story wasn't originally for children.

[ Parent ]
Fairy stories didn't die with electricity (5.00 / 2) (#94)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu May 08, 2003 at 08:01:01 AM EST

They mutated into John Edwards and UFO-ology.

Seriously, many of the behaviors once associated with fairies (kidnapping, benign oversight of our planet, attacks on animals and so on) just got reassigned to little green men and bug-eyed monsters. Meanwhile, the witches and warlocks of generations passed now run psychic hotlines.

Admittedly, busting a woman for running a psychic hotline scam isn't nearly as much fun as burning her at the stake, but the desires, behaviors and roles are the same as they always were.


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Story Form (none / 0) (#117)
by MicroGlyphics on Mon May 12, 2003 at 12:27:45 PM EST

There are fairy tales and there is a fairy tale form. Fairy tales are Archetypal stories refined through the ages. They typically have unnamed characters, like, "the boy," "the grandmother," and the such. There is some element of magic, typically from an animal helper, and the have a happy ending.

Hans Christian Andersen and Oscar Wilde wrote stories using this format, so why are they not true fairy tales? These men wrote stories bourne of their own psyches, whilst true fairy tales were passed down and refined through the ages to offer more archetypal meaning. So Little Mermaid seems to be a fairy tale, but it is not, technically speaking.

Myth is archetypal story form, too, but this is not the fairy tale form. Myth involves gods, and does not require the protagonist to live "happily ever after." One cannot include myth except as a comparative device in a discussion of fairy tales.

"Dreams are private myths; myths are public dreams." - Joseph Campbell

Fairy Tales | 120 comments (97 topical, 23 editorial, 0 hidden)
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