Three Characters: 12 Dancing Princesses Reimagined

Revision of story:

After last week’s presentation, I decided to rework my story again. This time, it follows closer to the original plot, just with a different setting.

Redo:

Instead of 12 young, beautiful sisters, there will be twelve elderly women in a senior citizen’s home. The person who will solve the mystery (in place of the young man) will be a nurse that works there. Instead of the old lady who helps the young man, there is a crazy old man who needs help facetiming his granddaughter. When the nurse tells him, he gives the nurse a hint about how to solve the mystery. In this version, the old ladies don’t drug the nurse. Instead, they knit her a blanket so soft and comfortable, that she instantly falls asleep whenever she uses it. I think the mystery is going be why the old women are always covered in sugar and cinnamon. One of their relatives comes to visit, and asks the nurse to find out. The nurse heeds the man’s advice, does not wear the blanket the ladies knitted for her, and follows them into a magical land of baked goods. There, they first pass trees with flowers of fondant. Next, they pass through a patch of forest that rains sprinkles. Finally, they reach the churro castle, where they boogie and bingo the night away in a cinnamon sugar paradise. The nurse collects a fondant flower, sprinkles, and finally a bingo chip made of churro dough to present to the relative. I haven’t quite figured out what the reward that the relative gives the nurse will be yet.

Sara: A young nurse who has just started working at the nursing home. She is eager to learn new things and curious, but is not sure what to expect at her new job. When approached by one of the resident’s relatives to solve the mystery of the sugar and cinnamon-coated elderly women, she is both confused and intrigued.

 

 

Paul: Paul is an elderly fellow who has resided at the senior citizen’s home for quite some time. His hobbies include whispering to the plants and conjuring up ideas about the other residents at the home. He is considered an outsider, and has no close relations with any of the other residents. (I might have to make him look a little crazier)

 

Rosa: Rosa has been a resident at the senior citizen’s home for a few months now. She is the social butterfly of the home, and has a close-knit group of twelve other residents. In her free time, she knits mysterious objects with her special wool, and entertains visits from her daughter who can never figure out why she is covered head to toe in small grains of sugar and cinnamon. When some of the other residents comb their hair, dandruff flakes fall onto their shoulders. For Rosa and her friends, sugar falls from her luscious silver locks when her hair is combed.

   

EDITS:

 

 

Philip Pulllman Response

Phillip Pullman provides the needed context to understand how the Grimm brother’s fairytales came to be. For many today, it can be confusing to understand how two siblings just took their time to rewrite stories that were commonly known. Understanding their backgrounds and their occupations helps explain the circumstance that came to create the fairytales that we are now so familiar with. The Grimm’s social status contributed greatly to the creation of the fairytales and explains how they were recorded. The fact that the Grimm brothers were highly educated and privileged allowed them to spend time recording the tales, rather than working physical labor jobs. It was also interesting to read that collecting oral stories was not an uncommon thing at the time. Today, collecting stories seems so unusual and specialized. When Pullman mentions that fairy-tale characters rarely have names, I was reminded of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, where peoples’ names appear within the smaller stories, but each of the narrators are only referred by their occupation.

The other thing that Pullman mentions is how fairytales have flat characters because they only focus on actions. I’d never noticed how quickly fairytales establish setting and life events until he pointed it out. In my first revised story, I realized how much I wanted to add dimension to the characters. It felt weirdly unnatural to have story characters without interests, motives, and personality. Now I realize, that’s now a fairytale needs to be. This also explains how we were all able to retell our fairytales in class. If we were to describe or retell a poem, we would need excerpts or a written copy to read from. Fairytales, however, are easier to remember from their actions. As a result, they’re easier to repeat and to recount.

In Maria Tartar’s article about Philip Pullman, I found it very interesting that he told Greek myths orally to his students. I was in a class freshman year reading the Odyssey, and my professor was very clear that reading 100 pages a night, as we were assigned to do, was not the way that the story was meant to be digested. After reading the Odyssey, it’s nearly impossible to imagine a single person who knows every story by heart and recites all of them with a certain degree of accuracy. Seeing Pullman bring that back to entertain his students was an excellent idea to help students become more engaged in the story, and understand how the stories would have been originally told. Retelling stories is not an easy thing to do, and in order for him to have been effective in keeping his students entertained, he must be an excellent oral storyteller.

The Uses of Enchantment: Response 2

In accordance with Piaget’s findings, Bettelheim claims that children should not be presented with real and scientific answers to their problems. Instead, they should be given answers that align with their mental view of the world. This can be problematic, however, when parents get too frustrated and when asked to explain something, they default to “because I said so.” I personally believe that children should be given “adult” reasoning, so that they can start to understand the world around them. Presenting a child with more unknowns is not so overwhelming as it is an opportunity for immense learning. Children are gifted with incredible curiosity, and instead of fulfilling that curiosity with shallow answers, adults should be feeding that curiosity by providing more unknowns for the child to ask. Bettelheim defends this idea, claiming, “A child can derive security only from the conviction that he understands now what baffled him before – never from being given facts which create new uncertainties.” In the rest of their world, children may never be able to fully understand everything that they want to. Isn’t it better to show children that they won’t understand everything in their lives earlier on, so that they’re not as frustrated with nothing comes as easy as they expected? This is not to say that there’s no room for imagination. Bettelheim also claims that if we tell children the real facts, they will doubt their own experiences and what their mind can do for themselves. If we were to only trust our own experiences, we might have never come to the conclusion that we live on a sphere. Not everyone as an adult understands how everything around them works, and sometimes we have to take information as it’s given to us without knowing all that goes on behind it. Learning to ask more questions about what is confusing is key to raising informed and intelligent children.

When Bettelheim claims that a child naturally concludes that there is a male or female god, I find that his conclusion is very limited. What about atheist children? Do they also come to the conclusion that there is a god? What about children in polytheistic religions? Do they all believe in guardian angels? If anything, I feel like children are told to accept God (and not question it) in the way that Bettelheim discourages. Bettelheim later claims that “To depreciate protective imagery like this as mere childish projections of an immature mind is to rob the young child of one aspect of the prolonged safety and comfort he needs.” I’m not saying that fairytales are inappropriate for children, and therefore everyone else, but instead that fairytales are for all of us. Entertaining our imagination should be something that happens at all stages of life, not just the beginning ones. To use them solely as teaching mechanisms is to underappreciate their reach and their ability to relate to people of all ages. I am even more confused when Bettelheim goes on to say that people who believe in “black magic,” “astrology,” or daydream are people who have been offered scientific explanations early on, and fail to understand how to master life in realistic ways. If anything, wouldn’t telling children that they should just blindly believe in unrealistic stories help them to translate that blind belief into mystical beings? I also find it interesting that Bettelheim doesn’t mention religion here. If religion is as metaphorical as many claim, shouldn’t children grow out of religion once they understand the metaphor? Why do adults continue to believe in the caring being that Bettelheim mentions is natural for children to believe?

However, when Bettelheim mentions illustrations, I do agree with him. I think allowing children to imagine their own worlds based on descriptions is much more valuable. We are often disappointed when movies render what we’ve imagined differently. Allowing children to make their own assumptions and create their own worlds helps them develop creative skills.

On dreams, Bettelheim explains that fairytales allow children to engage in their fantasies and explore them, without real-life consequences. Bettelheim’s explanation of the evil stepmother is interesting to me. Once, I saw a young girl who wanted to play and get to know a guest that her parents brought. Her parents wanted to talk with the guest, so they told her to sit quietly. Instead, the girl picked up a rag from the kitchen, and began to wash the windows. When I asked what the girl was doing, her mother told me that she sometimes pretended to be Cinderella. I made the connection that the girl thought she was being unfairly treated, and as a result, had to take the part of Cinderella. This switch from good mother to bad mother happened so seamlessly, that it took me by surprise. Although her mother was undoubtedly a caring and loving mother most of the time, seeing her mother behave strictly to her made the daughter feel that she was instantly transported into a fairytale. This relates to how Bettelheim talks about children coming up with reasons why their parents are sometimes mean, such as in the Martian example he gives. Bettelheim’s frequent references to Freud make me question how much he overestimates the subconscious. While our “real” intentions may be hidden to us, they may not exist at all. Frequently referring to the “oedipal period” has helped me gain perspective on where Bettelheim is coming from, and why he can be so focused on the fantastical aspect of fairytales. Using fairytales as a way to release frustration that can be experienced by the pent-up feelings that Freud often describes, makes more sense than seeing fairytales for their enjoyable and imaginative nature.

 

Assignment 1: Felting

 

 

Step One: What Can I Make with Olive Wool?

I first started by picking out a random color. The green looked pretty appealing to me, so I chose it. Once we were told that we had to make something out of whatever color we chose, I chose the first green thing I could think of and tada, the idea of my cactus was conceived! I immediately started felting away.

Step Two: Just out of my Reach

My next task was to figure out how I would use the LED in my cactus. My original plan was to have each arm of the cactus light up. My biggest problem with this idea was that the LED prongs were very short, and since I only had one battery, I wasn’t sure if they would be long enough to make it to the end of my cactus arms. I sketched it out to see exactly how long my arms could be in order to still be able to light the LEDs on the ends of the cactus’s arms. On this drawing, the dotted lines are where the pocket and the seam for the 3D cactus would be.

Step Three: Trying to be Resourceful

Here I am trying to see if some miscellaneous bobby pins in my room could work as wires to extend the reach of the LEDs. Although they COULD conduct the electricity, they were not great conductors and were too difficult to work with. Unfortunately, trying to execute the two LED arms was very difficult and I came to the conclusion that my arms would be too short if I were to execute my plan.

Step Four: Get Down to Business

Now with a better idea of where my LED could logistically fit, I tried drawing out how my cactus would fit together without the arms. I traced the pieces of fabric I already had and the battery to make it life-size and so I could have a realistic model to follow. I felted in the pocket (which is another piece of felt) and made sure to only felt it on the bottom and side part. I lightly felted the top, to make sure that the LED prongs could reach through and connect to the battery.

Step Five: Cylindrical Methods

Here I am felting the arms! I felted the arms and the body slightly differently. For the body, I felted the seam by slowly rotating the long piece of felt until I could stab at it from different angles. My finger seemed the perfect size to stick on the inside so that I could keep the form while felting, but I was reluctant to do so (for obvious reasons). I couldn’t find anything else firm but forgiving enough to be stabbed, and I didn’t want to use my little styrofoam piece, so I just kept rotating it around to get an even seam. In this picture, I used a Q-tip for the insides of the arms to keep the shape stable and still felt the seams together. After I finished a piece of the arm, I’d move the Q-tip further down and continue to work on the area around the Q-tip. Eventually, I had a nice rolled arm and I no longer needed the Q-tip. To bend the arms, I moved the arm into the desired shape that I wanted, and felted around the joint (again while rotating), until it stayed in place. For the round top parts, I folded the pieces of felt until I felt that the shape was what I wanted, and then I stabbed at it from many different angles to get it to stay.

Step Six: Get Lit

I then stuck the LED into the cactus, and considered making a flower with some yellow wool I brought home. For the flower, I felted in a circle and then folded some of the pieces into each other to get a cup shape. I felted them in place, and then took a scissor to make cuts into the circle as petals.

Step Seven: Moving Forward and Stuffing

All I had left to do what put my battery in the pocket, make sure it was oriented correctly, and light my cactus up! Since it wasn’t stuffed, it flattened out a lot when I stored it in my folder, but it was kind of amusing as a finger puppet. If I were to work further on this, I might stuff the inside with something and close off the bottom so that the cactus stays round.

Altered Story

 

Altered Story:

In this version, the twelve princesses do not have worn out shoes every night. Instead, their father (the king), is frustrated that their phones are dead every single morning. Every time he tries to call them the next day, they can never answer because their phones are drained of battery. He asks others to come and help solve the tale of why his daughters’ devices are all dead, even though they plug them in every night before they go to sleep. One day, a young man is on his way to the castle in an attempt to solve the mystery. He comes from a poor family, and is hoping that a reward for the king can help feed his family. Along his way, he meets an old lady who doesn’t understand how to use the maps on her phone to get home. The man helps her, and as a thank-you, the woman hands him a jacket of invisibility and tells him not to drink out of anything in the red solo cup that any of the princesses offer him. He goes to the castle, and as the old woman mentioned, he is handed a red solo cup. In an exchange with the youngest daughter who is in charge of drugging him, they immediately spark interest in one another. He tells her of his motive to feed his family, and she tells him that if he promises to not follow the girls that night, she will provide him with the proof that he needs to tell the king where they’ve gone. Since he respects her, he chooses to fall asleep without the help of the drug, and as promised, the youngest daughter returns the next morning with a branch of silver. This continues for three nights. The next night, she returns with a branch of gold, and the last night, she returns with a golden goblet. She tells him how every night, the girls go dancing in a far away land, where they are so busy that they cannot charge their phones. When they return, it is too late to charge them, and so they’re always left with low battery for the next day. She then tells him that if he presents the artifacts that she’s given him to the king and explains the story, he will have enough money to feed his family. Amazed by her story and her confidence in him, the man feels that he cannot tell the story to the king. It is her secret, and he does not wish to reveal it. He returns the valuable pieces to her and prepares to face whatever punishment the king has in store for him. When the moment comes to tell the king what he has discovered, he admits that he fell asleep all three nights, and has nothing to show. Astonished, the youngest sister steps forward and admits that she drugged him, and that it was not his fault. To save his life, she tells the story of where they go every night to dance and waste away their battery. To thank his daughter for her honesty, he grants her one wish for anything she wants. She then turns to the man, and asks him if he would like to marry her. The man grants her wish of marriage by agreeing to the proposal, and they live together for the rest of their days.

 

Sketches

My favorite part of this exercise was the boxes that we got to doodle in. The beginning patterns were great to start off, but I wish we had time in class to fill in the other boxes. I was not as comfortable with the exercise where we had to use the shapes to create things, but I still enjoyed it. The circle sketch was an exercise that I did many years ago where you start with a squiggly line across a box (or in this case, a circle). Then you take a pencil and follow the line but a little further down. Every once in a while, you go back and meet the original line. Then you start from the same side again, doing the same thing. The important part is that each time you return to the cut that you made in the line, you follow it all the way down. In my version, I didn’t fill it completely like I normally do, but I liked the way it looked filled in with black instead. I’ve done a lot of patterns and doodles before, and I usually do them when I’m bored or I feel like I don’t want to pay attention in class. I like pattern making because it offers some sort of easy regularity to follow, while still letting you be creative. Overall, I really enjoyed this exercise.

Reading Response 2

In Anne Sexton’s version of Cinderella, the story is told in a very matter-of-fact way. The story is staged with a few scenarios of rags to riches, insinuating that the tale of someone who goes from nothing to everything presents itself frequently in real life and in stories. Instead of “Once upon a time,” the part of the story that actually starts telling Cinderella’s story just begins with “Once”. In Anne Sexton’s Cinderella, I also noticed that the references were very dated. I looked up who Al Jolson was, since I’m not too familiar with the famous performers that practiced blackface, and it gave the story an old-fashioned feel to it. While fairytales are often dated in a long long time ago, the reference to blackface made me very aware of when the poem was written and what expectations the writer had when crafting it.

In “Stepsisters” by Ron Koertge, small phrases hint to the stepsister’s fate like “I write this on a brailler, a kind of typewriter for the blind.” There’s also a lot of mention of darkness, bitterness, and silence, verses the happiness that the stepsister mentions at the beginning. The last line in particular, “We still hold each other and kiss but now one of us pretends to be Death and the other his grateful bride,” really focuses the whole story on the dark and sinister results of the typically lighthearted tale. The other thing I found interesting about this version is that although the stepsister acknowledges that they mistreated Cinderella, she also doesn’t take full responsibility for it. She says there was something “dangerous” in Cinderella’s eyes, but that Sarah and Kathy’s reason for belittling her was because their mother encouraged it. Even when Kathy speaks of the wedding, she emphasizes that her mother insisted they go. Kathy sees the misfortune in her future, but she doesn’t acknowledge what choices she has made on her own that might have caused her depressing future.

The Persian Cinderella:

The Persian Cinderella Settareh is born with a star-shaped birthmark on her face. Her stepsisters tease her for it incessantly. When her father anncounces that there will be a celebration with the prince for the holiday of No Ruz, he hands each girl a gold coin to buy new clothes. She spends some of her money that she’s given on some spiced nuts, offers some money to a poor old woman, and finally purchases a blue jug. The jug is magic, and when she wishes for things, they appear within the jug. When the night of No Ruz (the equivalent of the ball) comes, she asks the jug for clothing and jewelry to wear. In No Ruz, Settareh does not dance with the prince. He simply spots her, and they have no interaction together. Instead of losing a shoe, she loses a diamond anklet. When a stable boy finds the anklet, he presents it to the prince, and the prince’s mother goes out to find the girl. The stepsisters oil their feet, but the anklet still does not fit. Finally, the ankle fits Settareh and she reveals her secret of the blue jug to her stepsisters. When she arrives at the palace, she is given a mirror so that she can look at her husband-to-be without looking him directly in the eyes. She then notices that it’s the same man she saw before. The prince also recognizes her and tells her that her star birthmark was foretold by an astrologer. Her stepsisters become jealous, so they come up with a plan to kill Settareh before her wedding day. One of the stepsisters distracts Settareh while the other grabs the jug, and they ask the genie in the jug to help them kill their sister. The jug bursts into shards, so the stepsisters gather the spliters and ask to style her hair. They tell her that as a married woman, she must keep her hair up, so they use the shards as hair pins and stab her head. On the 6th jab of shard into her head, Settareh turns into a small gray turtledove, which flies away. When the prince comes back, he can’t find his bride. The stepsisters suggest that he picks one of them instead, but he leaves and refuses to eat in sadness. Every day, a little gray turtledove keeps him company. One day, he strokes the turtledove, and finds blue glass shards. He starts picking more and more of them out of the dove’s feathers, and once the last one is removed, the bird turns into his wife. They are married, and the stepsisters are so angry that their hearts burst.

This version varies tremendously from the version that I’m used to in many different ways. In this version, the stepsisters are mostly evil after Settareh finds her prince, instead of before. This might be a cultural difference, since the story mentions that after the prince finds his bride, a celebration that lasts thirty-nine days commences. In the other versions, there isn’t that customary celebration that leaves time for the stepsisters to gain revenge. The genie in the jug also reminds me a lot of Aladdin instead of Cinderella. I found it very interesting that the prince wasn’t forced to marry another woman when his bride went missing, and that she turned into a bird that could so easily be transformed back. I also thought the fact that her father was still alive and that they were all given an equal amount of money to go buy something to wear for the celebration was odd. It might have something to do with the separation of the genders in Persian culture where the father wouldn’t have had much of a say or any kind of interaction with his daughter. Her use of the money he gives her was also odd. I think that her purchase of nuts and a jar might be meant to show that she’s not as vain as her stepsisters, but that wasn’t entirely clear.

The Uses of Enchantment – Reading Response 1

In reading the intro to The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, I questioned whether or not children actually are able to relate to stories they listen to. Bettelheim points at sympathy causing the main attraction to a hero/heroine’s position, but sympathy and empathy can be completely different. Just because a child can see a character and understand their struggles may not mean that when faced with comparative struggles, memory of the fairytale will inform the child’s decision. For example, when I was younger I would watch the Powerpuff girls, which focused on three seemingly helpless young girls battle an evil Mojo jojo character that wanted to destroy the world. Rather than see the value in characters who were probably designed to inspire young girls to achieve greatness instead of meeting societal expectations based on their appearance, I was caught up in one minor detail of the Powerpuff girls: the brunette (who mostly resembled me) was portrayed as the tomboy character, and always wore green. Green was not my favorite color, and I none of my girly interests related to a tomboy. As a result, I was unable to relate and felt so strongly that there wasn’t a girl that represented me, that I stopped watching the show. Bettelheim claims, “if a child does not take to the story, this means that its motifs or themes have failed to evoke a meaningful response at this moment in his life,” however, being underestimated and having my abilities judged by my appearance is relevant to any young girl’s childhood. While not every child is like me, if something as small as personality differences can deter a child away from a show that is meant to inspire and instill confidence in young girls, how much of the message actually comes across in children’s stories? If children can get easily caught up in details such as I did, how can we even tell that they can look past a character’s outward appearance and compare a fictional character’s situation and behavior to their own?

Bettelheim goes on to say, “Presenting the polarities of character permits the child to comprehend easily the difference between the two, which he could not do as readily were the figures drawn more true to life, with all the complexities that characterize real people.” Although this makes sense for oversimplification purposes, this caught my attention because although seeing who the “good guy” and the “bad guy” can definitely be helpful, I think it can often contribute to a lack of understanding of other’s motives. In real life, people aren’t often just good or bad, as Bettelheim later addresses. In real life, the bad guys seldom do bad things just because. Giving fairytale characters more realistic dimension and exploring the reasons why bad characters are bad would probably be a better way to encourage children to see things from others’ points of view. For example, live action versions of both Maleficent and Cinderella did a better job at portraying the reason for the evil in the villain. In Cinderella, a whole scene is devoted to why the stepmother treats Cinderella as she does. Her reasoning is that Cinderella is “young and innocent, and good,” whereas she has been corrupted by heartbreak and the harsh reality of life. In Maleficent, the traditional villain’s character is much better developed to the point where she almost becomes the heroine. The character transformation from evil fairy godmother who was bitter over her wings being taken from her, to a caring mother figure to the girl she cursed demonstrated that people don’t have to just choose one side. They can have reasons for their evil actions, and they can have a change of heart. Many times, morality is situational, and teaching children that as soon as possible might help children achieve a deeper understanding of empathy.

The story of Robin Hood is an example of a classic fairytale that deals with questionable moral obligations. Is stealing from the rich to give to the poor acceptable? Giving to the poor is certainly the right thing to do, but stealing is something that is rarely condoned in a child’s world. Things are not so black and white in Robin Hood nor are they in real life, but understanding the villain’s intentions is an important step to take in helping children understand how to resolve problems in real life.