Fairy tales are part of every Western child's upbringing, and have been for decades. The method of telling and the stories them selves may have changed from the purely oral tradition to that of the written word with the introduction of the printing press and more importantly the Chap Book in the eighteenth century (Montgomery, 2009 p. 13). But the basic core of the tales remain hundreds of years on to instruct and delight children to this day. These days children are surrounded by fairy tales in the form of the books read to them at home or nursery/school, television and film adaptations, cartoons and even advertisements, as well as Christmas pantomimes. Each version they see will have differences, some more subtle than others, but the basic story will be the same.
Jack Zipes, (2009) believes that the nature of the fairy tale has been taken and used by Western society to help 'communicate about social and psychic phenomena' (p. 38). From its early and humble beginnings in oral tradition among peasants to its gathering appeal over the years until it finally became something so entrenched in society that companies such as Disney were taking tales and producing them for the masses. As society changed over the decades so too did the method of transferral of these tales, who they were told by and to and how. Zipes explains that fairy tales, much the same as other genres written these days for children were not originally written intended for the younger audience, (p. 26) although they were unlikely to have been excluded.
The term 'meme' first coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976 in his book The Selfish Gene, has been adopted by Zipes, who says that a fairy tale could be described as an informational pattern that can be stored, copied to another brain, stored and replicated, (Heather Montgomery, 2009, p.47). Montgomery continues, Zipes feeling is that fairy tales are a tool designed to 'turn children into the sort of adults their societies need and value'.
These days we are all aware of a fairy tale when we hear one, as discussed by Montgomery, (2009, p. 47), the format is often the same, similar beginning and ending, familiar characters and plots throughout, normally set in an unspecified land far, far away and always with a moral under tone of good verses evil, 'the adventures of banished heroes and heroines, youngest sons and daughters, impoverished and abused characters and people who have been cursed', (Zipes, 2009, p.27)
I agree that due to the viral like nature of story telling through the ages these fairy tales have gown and developed with the children of the time, and it is now apparent that virtually any child in the Western world would recognise a fairy story if they came across one. This is most apparent when dealing with the stories re told by giants like Disney or Lady Bird, the staple meme transfer of any Western childhood in recent years. Although the story may have changed with telling, each version is going to be slightly different, and certainly one century to the next this difference is very apparent, even when the basic characters and framework of the story remains.
When looking at the history of Little Red Riding Hood (LRRH), we can examine the text written by Charles Perrault in 1967, (Montgomery, 2009 p55-57) as a starting point as it is thought to be one of the earliest written forms of the tale. This particular version of LRRH ends with a 'moral' which is clearly pointed out to the reader. Comparing Perrault's version with Grimm's 'Little Red Cap' (p. 58-60), the first big difference to be noted is that although it too carries a similar moralistic ending it is not highlighted in such an obvious way.
The main characters remain in both, the little girl, Perrault refers to her as 'the prettiest that had ever been seen' (p. 55) whereas Grimm calls her 'a sweet little maiden' that all could not fail to love, (p. 58), both have her dressed in red. There is the Mother, Grandmother and the...
Bibliography: EA300 DVD 1, no. 4 ‘Visual Representations of Little Red Riding Hood’.
McGough, R. (ed) (2002 ) 100 Best Poems for Children. London, Puffin.
Montgomery, H. (2009) 'Block 1: Instruction or Delight ' in EA300: Study Guide. Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 7-70.
Zipes, J. (2009) ‘Origins: Fairy Tales and Folk Tales’ in Maybin, J. and Watson, N. J. (eds) Children’s Literature: Approaches and Territories. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 26-39.
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