jasonsteinfairytales

Cupid and Psyche and the Frog Princess

February 26, 2012
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Lucius Apuleius’s Greek tale “Cupid and Psyche” contains many themes concurrent with Aarne-Thompson fairytale numbers 420 and 425, “The Man on a Quest for His Lost Wife” and “The Search for the Lost Husband,” respectively. Focusing on AT 420, “Cupid and Psyche” mirrors Alexander Afanasev’s “The Frog Princess” by exposing the main character’s curiosity as it leads him or her into trouble, and then viewing the character’s determination to right what is wrong and ending happily. 

Skipping briefly to AT 425, the Greek story embodies the same principles as Jeanne-Marie de Beaumont’s “Beauty and the Beast” in the sense that a beautiful woman who does not marry finds herself as if by destiny in the hands of what is supposedly a monster. Only after spending time with this monster does she realize he is actually a very desirable individual. The main character deceives the monster in some way (either staying at home too long in de Beaumont’s version or by stashing a lamp and knife to protect herself when viewing him asleep against his demands) and must show some kind of regret and grief in order to gain back his love, which inevitably happens.

Oh look at that: her arms look like a heart. Coincidence? I think not!

In AT 420, as depicted in “The Frog Princess,” the main character’s deception is what proves that “curiosity killed the cat.” Psyche secretly takes a knife and lamp and peers in on her monstrous husband at the advice of her less-than-perfect sisters only to find that he is a godly being (he is actually the god of mischief, Cupid). His acknowledgment that she went against his wishes and looked at him causes him to fly away. Her vain attempt to follow him gets her temporarily killed (it is a fairytale, after all) by falling out of the bedroom window. In “The Frog Princess,” the frog is actually a beautiful princess and unsheathes herself each time the king commands the daughters-in-law to prove their worthiness in some way; the frog princess always supersedes her sisters-in-law much to the dismay of the king. But when the prince and his wife attend a ball and she wows the audience with her   magic and beauty, the prince secretly has her frog skin burned before she arrives home. By being so curious as to how the frog became such a beautiful princess and then being so selfish as to take her for granted and burn her frog skin, the prince loses her (she goes away after reprimanding him for not waiting a little longer). It is the mutual vanity between main characters that causes them to lose their loved ones. 

Something tells me this isn’t what I was looking for…

This is vaguely better; I suppose that’s the princess with chicken wings in her armpits wowing the audience at the ball. I guess that’s how they did it in the 1800s.

 

Furthermore, both characters must run through a list of tasks in order to essentially prove their love for their respective significant other. Psyche must sort seeds, shear killer sheep, and travel to Hell at the snap of Venus’s fingers in order to get her son, Cupid, to come back to her. The prince goes on a journey of solitude only to find three little grandmothers in huts who send him on to one another in search of Elena the Great; he must run before she gets married to another man and, since she has magically turned into a spindle and her dress golden thread, he must break the locked-away spindle in order to save her from another man. In both stories, the main character proves their vanity was only temporary and ultimately shows that everlasting love is worth a trial or two, or three. 

Certain key differences include the premises of each story: “Cupid and Psyche” starts more along the lines of an AT 420 story whereas “The Frog Princess” is more an AT 425 story. Furthermore, while both significant others prove their love many times throughout the story while the couple is initially together (Cupid dotes on Psyche while they live in the castle; the princess wows the king and audience at the ball just to show she is worthy of marriage to the prince despite the appearance of being a measly frog), Cupid continues to help Psyche on her tasks prompted by Venus whereas the prince must go alone on his journey. In fact, many gods help Psyche because they pity her because of her natural beauty being so jealously acted upon by Venus, whereas the Afanasev stresses the fact that the prince means to go alone to find his love. Thus, Psyche is led to her lover, whereas the prince must go find her independently to prove his love. Additionally, Venus, the goddess who opposes her son’s relationship with Psyche, ultimately gives consent to the marriage based on Jupiter’s pleas. However, the man the princess was supposed to marry in “The Frog Princess” ends up maniacally chasing the original prince and princess on a magic carpet, though both stories end happily because Cupid and Psyche marry and the other prince cannot get into Russia (for one reason or another…).

Sources:

“Cupid and Psyche” Lucius Apuleius

“The Frog Princess” Alexander Afanasev, 1855

http://paulsquire.com/wp/?p=151

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Frog_Princess

 

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Why I would get Ghana[rrhea] any day of the week

February 22, 2012
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Having attended the Celebrate Africa dinner sponsored by the Sophisticated Ladies and Gentlemen Club, I find a new respect for the multicultural nature of our campus. Knowing that over 70% of our campus is Caucasian, I often forget the minorities and assume that they for the most part do not exist. However, I now find that we have a broad spectrum of individuals on our campus that originate from other countries, many of whom come from Africa.

After listening to a translated French poem, I realized that even in Africa, a continent I assumed to be shunned by the rest of the world, there is a mixing of cultural and that it is perhaps as large a ‘melting pot’ of cultures as in America. And the powerpoint presentation detailing common perceptions of African individuals revealed surprising truths about the current cultural and societal states of many of the nations. Of course I assume everybody lives on the plains and mines diamonds for me all day long, but this is not true! They have houses and cars and live in urban/suburban/rural communities just like the rest of the developed world.

Not to say that the delicious and earthy foods harkened me back to what I perceived to be the earlier times of human evolution (like the 10,000s BC), but I loved the fact that all of the foods (plantains, collard greens, rice, stuffed peppers) made the case that organic foods straight from the ground can be incredibly flavorful too.

And let’s not even get started on the fashion show! Beyond the strange Phi Kapp integration, the colorful patterns and exaggerated styles of dresses, pullovers, skirts, and collared shirts struck me as indicative of the true colors of the culture that most people do not often see from African nations. Most people assume the Africans run free (i.e. naked) or wear woven straw hats and carry baskets of water on their heads, but of course that isn’t true! I loved seeing how the different clothes accentuate certain parts of the female and male bodies to best suit each individual. And even with modern trends in fashion and the ever-changing style each year, the African traditions prevail due to their timelessness and appeal regardless of style fads. They are just generally appealing, so they effortlessly supersede some of today’s trends.

Having attended Celebrate Africa, I have a new appreciation for the diversity on our campus and a renewed interest in the anthropological mixes we see all around the world if not especially in Africa.


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Hilarious, just hilarious

February 18, 2012
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fairy tale little red riding hood the three folktale wolf big bad corporate corporation satire

Mark Parisi’s political cartoon from 2000 plays on the rise of big business and capitalism at the turn of the century. The story uniquely combines two fairytales (AT 333 and 124): the wolf eating little red riding hood’s grandmother, and the wolf blowing the pigs’ houses down. Both stories end either with the wolf’s demise or the survival of the main character (LRRH or the third pig).
 
Parisi addresses the commonalities among many fairytales and the relatively small canon of characters, stressing Jung’s psychological theory of the collective unconscious. In both stories, there is a Big Bad Wolf archetype, and there is also a Self that overcomes challenges through intellect and trickery. Little Red Riding Hood also includes the Primeval Forest archetype that stresses the aspect of independence and danger, as well as transformation. Both stories represent the power in intellect, as trickery is the only way the characters survive. Little Red Riding Hood stresses female independence as well, a disconnection from the common 19th century female stereotypes.
 
Of interest to me is the fact that this cartoon can adapt one of the common morals of these stories to current life. Little Red Riding Hood and the third pig are both tricksters and are cunning, almost mirroring the wolves who threaten to kill them. Thus, it comes as no surprise that these tricksters are leading America’s enterprises as so depicted in the cartoon; the artist believes America’s capitalist conglomerates are controlling everything and leading to unemployment (as depicted) among other economic and governmental issues. This political cartoon uses the fairytales’ moral that intelligence and independence are necessary for survival to twist it into the big businesses’ schemes to trick people and lead to their demise. Bravo.
 
Artist: Mark Parisi. Year: 2000. Link: http://www.offthemark.com/cartoons/little+red+riding+hood/

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So tell me how you feel about fairytales…

February 12, 2012
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Once Sigmund Freud popularized the study of psychology, fairytales underwent more psychological analysis than ever before the 20th century. The two schools of thought on the psychology of fairytales stem from Freud and Carl Jung. Freud, of course, divides one’s brain into the id, ego, and superego, as well as the conscience into the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious, each controlling relative levels of awareness and need versus want. Jung, on the other hand, bisected the unconscious into personal and collective levels, the latter being a genetically-passed canon of all human experiences as the species grows and spreads.

Fairytales can be psychologically analyzed by overarching themes common to most fairytales or by the archetypal images found amongst them.

Most fairytales stress a journey, often of a hero-type character, starting with a departure, going through initiation, and finally the return. Each of these delineations along the journey symbolize different parts of a transformation. Whether the main character is crossing the first threshold, pummeling through a series of trials and having to bypass evil in search of good, or having to come to terms with him- or herself in crossing the last threshold back to normalcy, the main character indeed traverses psychological obstacles to better him- or herself.

Jung’s implication of common human experiences lead to the creation of various archetypes, common characters/motifs/images across the spectrum of fairytales. As Marie von Franz calls them, dramatis personae represent the same images, and certain examples coined across fairytales (trickster, shadow, anima, animus, eternal child, ego, primeval forest) represent ‘energy centers’ in the unconscious; that is, readers relate to certain aspects of almost all fairytales because they resonate within them as an obstacle to overcome just like the main character.

Psychologists use fairytales in their treatment because people’s unconscious ideals align with certain characters in fairytales, and some people can relate to motifs and themes in one fairytale over another because it better represents something within their own conscience or that they are lacking. For example, a child who often feels victim to others may relate to the witch in Hansel and Gretel because her sight limits her ability to consume the children, and she gets killed in the process. Another child may side with Hansel and Gretel because they are both learning independence as they traverse obstacles in the forest and would find that same witch with whom one child sided to be the epitome of evil. Thus, psychologists can use fairytales to discover people’s unconscious shortcomings by analyzing their readings of the works.

Dr. Mazeroff’s lecture, in exposing the theories of Jung and Freud and their application to fairytales, did not necessarily increase my knowledge base following what you (Dr. Esa) had already taught us. I enjoyed the psychoanalysis of the Spirit in the Glass tale from an archetypal perspective. But one piece of information stuck in my head more than others, and that was that a theorist Campbell believed that dreams are personalized fairytales and fairytales are personalized dreams. And I agree with these statements because everybody gets something different from a fairytale, and just like we may not always remember our dreams despite acknowledging they occur, I believe people aren’t really aware of how they react to fairytales but can agree that they learn something from them. Children are not the only ones to learn from fairytales; it is a universal, ageless component of learning, and that is why fairytales are timeless and indicative of generations of humanity.

Sources: 

Dr. Mazeroff’s lecture

“The Spirit in the Glass”

“Hansel and Gretel”


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Fairy Tales Make the World Go Round

February 5, 2012
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Regardless of where they began or by whom they were created, fairy tales are written expressions of correct and incorrect beliefs and actions. Many of the works shoved under the umbrella term “fairy tale” transcend societies, eras, and culture because they portray common sense; these fairy tales often portray an erroneous main character who learns a life lesson following a journey, be it mental or physical. Other works offer an educational experience more myopically considered for a smaller audience or culture, often revealing an ulterior motive for authoring such pieces. But, uniting these stories is the fact that they are all in some respect didactic.

Beginning with the two common theories of the origin of fairy tales, mono- and poly-genesis, there is a discrepancy between whether these stories began in a specific geographical location and spread by word of mouth through trade and migration or if there is a common thread between how humans behave and interact and that this collective human experience led to the creation of many stories containing similar archetypal images. While many stories between cultures most likely had similar characters and lessons, they probably were also mixed and traded between cultures just like goods and services between towns and countries. Thus, assuming some validity to both theories of the inception of fairy tales, these works must be representing ideas that all humans have, and they would not be transmitted among cultures and people if those individuals did not in some way agree with or believe the stories told or written. Thus, what could a fairy tale be other than a fairly common story about people acting properly or improperly?

Of course there are different ways with which theorists have attempted to summarize how different tales told at different times have different meanings. But regardless of motive for writing or speaking, all the stories show what is right or wrong for the time. To make these types of stories renowned as fairy tales, sixteenth century bourgeoisie members Giovan Francesco Straparola and Grambattista Basile condensed many tales, both told and written, into texts that were written specifically in Italian to be accessible to the lower classes of Italians to teach them what the ideal person should be—civilité, as coined by Louis XIV. Thus, for the time, fairy tales were meant to teach lower class individuals how to act appropriately for ‘modern’ society.

Taking the fairy tale out of a single era, Carl Jung, Max Lüthi, and Sigmund Freud share the idea that the stories are timeless. Jung believes that they collect human experiences that are universal to all beings and represent them in archetypal images. Lüthi takes the tale one step further in deeming the characters within are merely “schematic;” that is, they are abstract and represent a combination of emotional and physical attributes to add to the image in each tale (von Franz 17). Freud believes these images provide examples of certain behaviors so that people can reflect upon themselves in the story to develop a sense of what it is to be human—what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong.’

Whether one theorist explains fairy tales by transcending time, character type, or even motif, as shown by Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson’s classification indices, they all agree that in showing the human experience, fairy tales provide a path for an audience to create a code of behavior and ethics based on what is right and wrong, moral and immoral, proper and improper.

Bibliography

Von Franz, Mary-Louise. The Interpretation of Fairy Tales. Boston: Shambhala 
     Publications, Inc., 1996. Print.

Zipes, Jack. Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion. New York: Routledge Taylor 
     and Francis Group, 2006. Print.


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