Johnny's movies

“Without morality we would all compete and kill each other. Tales, and especially fairy tales, take a stand for social justice”

Posted in Books, Johnny Depp, movies by Anna Maria Polidori on January 14, 2015

 

Brothers Grimm and the role of fairy-tales in our society – Interview with Professor Jack Zipes

 

I have written several articles involving the role in our society of storytelling and fairy-tales. This Johnny’s blog in fact wants to give complete coverage where possible to every Johnny Depp’s movie and Into the Woods 420x560xitwdvd1.jpg.pagespeed.ic.o-MhuwsGAfB8mV5nwYXV Sondheim, Streep and Marshall is one of the most profound ones, because can permit to going into that profundity that just fairy-tales can express, describing at time with a rich cruelty and reality  the most secret human desires of  the human being. Johnny Depp in Into the Woods is the Lascivious Wolf 10429347_369472573226392_2384710390056942060_n of Little Red Riding Hood.

Days ago while I was posting my latest piece about Brothers Grimm Brothers Grimm I was feeling the necessity of interviewing someone of the sector.

And who could be better than Jack Zipes Zipes 1 Zipes 2, professor emeritus of german and comparative literature at the university of Minnesota?

A great chance for talking about fairy-tales, Into the Woods adaptation for the big screen and European folklore.
I asked to Professor Zips why there is this necessity for Humanity of inventing and creating as well a lot of fairy-tales. There is not a place in this world without a massive past of legends, stories, and folklore.
Zipes thinks that “Tales of all kinds emanate from our need and desire to share information so that we can better adapt to our environment. Humans are all hard-wired to share and communicate, and without telling tales that gratify us and help us grasp what we must do to survive, we would be lost. So the humanity of the tales depends on their moral stance, and without morality we would all compete and kill each other. Tales, and especially fairy tales, take a stand for social justice“.

So fairy-tales help us because they are able to bring back morality, the base for living in a right place surrounded by peace and justice. Without these values and without a process of creation and sublimation of the reality, we would be all lost.

Professor Zipes remarks in fact that “We would be lost without human communication, without compassion. It is the compassion and naive morality of the fairy tales that make them so essential for the civilizing process in each society“.

Brothers Grimm’s fairy-tales are incredibly important and with Andersen maybe the best known-authors and collectors of fairy-tales. Talking with Professor Zipes emerges another reality. The one of the forgotten collectors of fairy-tales.

Though I am a great admirer of the Brothers Grimm and their fairy tales, and though I agree with you about their importance, there are many other great collectors of tales in the nineteenth century who are just as important and are neglected. One of my favorites is the great Giuseppe Pitrè who was actually more prodigious than the Brothers Grimm. His collections of Sicilian folk and fairy tales, Tuscan tales, and numerous studies are incomparable, and he is only but one example of the brilliant European folklorists of the nineteenth century“.

Brothers Grimm as all know started to collecting fairy-tales, later adapting them (there are good examples mr Zipes shared with us) for the Romantic society, the middle-class and the various exigences they felt. They couldn’t believe possible at first that fairy-tales could become something so great for parents and children in Germany. As we know they were both Academic teachers, so they didn’t feel at first the necessity of divulging with everyone the folklorist knowledge that they were accumulating.

Our society is compulsively modernizing every classic fairy-tale. Cinema changed the idea of prince charming. he is portrayed like at an empty boy plenty of himself and not so intelligent after all. Cinderella is not anymore the bullied, rich, but weak poor girl of Disney’s cartoon but someone sly, who intentionally wants to capture her prince charming. World is changing and so fairy-tales are changing but…Is it better or worse? Should we try to preserve the old-fashioned fairy-tales or we should re-invent them? Better leaving alone fairy-tales, accepting them in their universal message or modifying them for the new society and the new necessities?

Professor Zipes doesn’t have any doubts

“I think that we should do bother.

1) preserve the great collections of folk and fairy tales and familiarize ourselves with them

2) Create new folk and fairy tales that speak directly to the problems and issues of our times. As you say, we are living in a time when changes are occurring at break-net speed, and the classical and old folk and fairy tales, though still relevant, need to be expanded and revised to address the immense social and political changes in our lives”.

Modernizing fairy-tales can be good says  Zipes but he adds: ” The difficulty is that most writers and film companies commodify fairy tales to transform them into commodities“.

 

Jack Zipes at first was somewhat critical with Brothers Grimm and their patriarchal notions but he added: “The more I began studying the history of their lives and times, the more I came to respect them and their collections of tales“.

Zipes last november published the book: “The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm” Princeton University Press the house publishing.

We all know that Zipes translated from german the first edition of these fairy-tales because the most genuine ones.
I asked to Zipes some considerations.

The first thing a reader might notice in reading the first edition of 1812/15 is that many of the stories such as “The Hand with the Knife,” “How Some Children Played at Slaughtering,” and “The Children of Famine,” have nothing to do with fairies and happy endings but are stark narratives about brutal living conditions in the nineteenth century

Professor Zipes takes in consideration this impressive tale: “The Children of Famine”. It begins this way:

Once upon a time there was a woman with two daughters, and they had become so poor that they no longer had even a piece of bread to put in their mouths. Their hunger became so great that their mother became unhinged and desperate. Indeed, she said to her children, “I’ve got to kill you so that I can get something to eat.

Isn’t it a strong tale? A mother, so poor and unable to feeding anymore the children thinks  although once she had given to them the life, of killing them, the most important part of her, because in this way she would have eated something. Something exclusively created by her. It is strong.

Professor Zipes continues:

“In another haunting tale, “The Godfather,” a man in need of a godfather unknowingly chooses the devil who may eat him after a visit to the devil’s house of horrors. These tales were omitted in later editions. Some tales such as “Puss in Boots,” “Bluebeard,” “Princess Mouseskin,” and “Okerlo” were also omitted because they were considered too French to be included in a German collection. Though it is impossible to clarify fully why certain tales were deleted or placed in footnotes in later editions, we do know that “Death and the Goose Boywas omitted because of its literary baroque features; “The Strange Feast,” because of its close resemblance to “Godfather Death”; “The Stepmother,” because of its fragmentary nature and cruelty; “The Faithful Animals,” because it came from the Siddhi-Kür, a collection of Mongolian tales. As the Grimms continued to collect variants sent to them by friends and colleagues gathered from oral and book sources, they either improved the tales of the first edition by combining versions, omitted tales in favor of new versions, or moved tales to their footnotes.

In contrast to the final 1857 edition, most of the tales in the first edition are shorter and strikingly different from the same tales edited in the later collection. They smack of orality and raw contents”.

Another example Professor Zipes takes in consideration is Rapunzel’s fairy-tale.

“Rapunzel is changed and embellished a great deal in the final edition as this comparison shows:

First Edition

Once upon a time there lived a husband and wife who had been wishing for a child for many years, but it had all been in vain. Finally, the woman became pregnant.

Now, in the back of their house the couple had a small window that overlooked a fairy’s garden filled with all kinds of flowers and herbs. But nobody ever dared to enter it.

Seventh Edition of Rapunzel (in religious style)

Once upon a time there was a husband and wife who for quite some time had been wishing in vain for a child. Finally, the dear Lord gave the wife a sign of hope that their wish would be fulfilled. Now, in the back of their house the couple had a small window that overlooked a splendid garden filled with the most beautiful flowers and herbs. The garden, however, was surrounded by a high wall, and nobody dared enter it because it belonged to a sorceress, who was very powerful and feared by all.

Aside from adding a Christian motif and substituting a sorceress for a fairy, Wilhelm Grimm concealed the instance in the first edition when Rapunzel reveals that she had apparently had sex with the prince and had become impregnated by him.

Other differences in the first edition show: Snow White’s mother, not her stepmother, wants to kill the beautiful girl out of envy; the wild man is not Iron John and plays a different role in helping the boy who liberates him, just as the devil plays a more unusual role in “The Devil in the Green Coat,” later replaced by “Bearskin.”

 

Jack Zipes continues: “The emphasis of the tales collected from diverse storytellers in the first edition is on action and resolution of conflict. The storytellers do not beat about the bush. They are prone to tell the truths they know, and even though magic, superstition, miraculous transformation, and brutality are involved, the storytellers believe in their stories.

It is important to note that the tales in the first edition were collected mainly from literate people whom the Grimms came to know quite well. The literacy of the informants, however, did not diminish the folk essence of the tales that, as the Grimms and other folklorists were to discover, were widespread throughout Europe and told more often than not in dialect. The tales came to the tellers from other tellers, or they read tales, digested them, and made them their own.

Indeed, we always make tales our own and then send them off to other tellers with the hope that they will continue to spread the stories.

The Grimms have often been criticized, especially by critics in the last 50 years, for having changed and edited the tales from the first to the seventh edition. That is, they never lived up to their own words that the task of the collector is to record the tales exactly as they heard them. In other words, various critics have complained that the Grimms’ tales are inauthentic folk tales. But this is a ridiculous if not stupid argument, for nobody can ever record and maintain the authenticity of a tale. It is impossible. And yet, the Grimms, as collectors, cultivators, editors, translators, and mediators, are to be thanked for endeavoring to do the impossible and to work collectively with numerous people and their sources to keep traditional stories and storytelling alive. In this respect their unknown first edition deserves to be rediscovered, for it is a testimony to forgotten voices that are actually deep within us. Hence, the irresistibility of the Grimms’ tales that are really not theirs, but ours”.

Jack Zipes told me in our first e-mails he went to the cinema for seeing Into the Woods. He had, of course, seen previously the Broadway’s show.

I must confess that the film is boring and tedious compared to the 1987 musical. This is not to say that the film is poor. It is to say that the film is contrived, conventional, and predictable. The original musical of 1987 has a narrator and a ghost who add a dimension to the storyline that the film lacks. the film also lacks the zest and vitality of the musical“.

 

 

Anna Maria Polidori

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