June 12, 2008


So, I went and rented Enchanted a couple days ago. It is about a girl Giselle living in this fairy tale world, but she is pushed down a well, that brought her to New York City. She is taken in by a man, Robert (who is a divorce lawyer) and his daughter and she teaches them about true love.
The one interesting thing that seemed to be reoccurring throughout the entire thing was in the the "real world" New York there is no such thing as a happy ending or true love. Yet Giselle is determined to prove that happy endings do exist, but she keeps coming into conflict, like she is going to be wed to an egotistical prince, they guy she likes has a steady girlfriend. And yet, the movie ends with a happy ending for everyone, including the evil henchman.
Another theme is the swap of genders in this movie. The evil witch scoops up Robert and Giselle is the one who climbs up and stabs her and catches Robert as he falls. It's an interesting idea. because in the beginning, the same thing happened to Giselle and her Prince Edward. Basically stating that she has grown into an independent woman by spending time in the "real world"

So basically, this is a fairy tale that is kind of retold- there are parts from other fairy tales (such as snow whites apple, Sleeping Beauty's cottage in the woods...ect) But it is also made to be contemporary by setting it in New York.


So, I went and rented Enchanted a couple days ago. It is about a girl Giselle living in this fairy tale world, but she is pushed down a well, that brought her to New York City. She is taken in by a man, Robert (who is a divorce lawyer) and his daughter and she teaches them about true love.
The one interesting thing that seemed to be reoccurring throughout the entire thing was in the the "real world" New York there is no such thing as a happy ending or true love. Yet Giselle is determined to prove that happy endings do exist, but she keeps coming into conflict, like she is going to be wed to an egotistical prince, they guy she likes has a steady girlfriend. And yet, the movie ends with a happy ending for everyone, including the evil henchman.
Another theme is the swap of genders in this movie. The evil witch scoops up Robert and Giselle is the one who climbs up and stabs her and catches Robert as he falls. It's an interesting idea. because in the beginning, the same thing happened to Giselle and her Prince Edward. Basically stating that she has grown into an independent woman by spending time in the "real world"

So basically, this is a fairy tale that is kind of retold- there are parts from other fairy tales (such as snow whites apple, Sleeping Beauty's cottage in the woods...ect) But it is also made to be contemporary by setting it in New York.

oh, one more thing I just found, if you go onto IMDB.com and search this movie, they show you pictures from enchanted lined up with pictures from other fairy tales such as snow white, sleeping beauty, beauty and the beast, little mermaid. It's kind of cool!

Twister: Who's the Protag?

I happened to be watching Twister the other day and was trying to figure out who the "hero" or protagonist of the story could be. I thought that both Jo and Bill went through "hero" journeys, with Jo's being more like the Propp/Zipes version of the hero journey and Bill's being more like Campbell's version.
At the beginning of the movie, Bill refuses the "call" to chase tornadoes again, to be pulled out of the everyday man where he is about to marry an unadventurous woman and become a weatherman. His science group keeps saying "glad you're back!" and he keeps saying "I'm not back!" He is eventually sucked back into chasing tornados, whose power is mysterious and somewhat supernatural. He almost dies a couple of times, so I think that qualifies as "struggle with unknown forces," and in the end he has mastered two worlds, the everyday one where he had a job and a fiancee and the one he was pushed out of before-the world with Jo and storm-chasing.
At the beginning of the story Jo violates an interdiction in the form of missing a page in the divorce papers. At the gas station, she is assigned a task by Bill, who tells her he will stay with the project for one day, so she knows she only has one day to win Bill back and to succeed in working Bill's invention, which will pull him away from his weatherman job. She encounters the villain in the form of that guy from The Princess Bride who stole Bill's idea. She and the group have three encounters with the villain (ah! Jonas that's his name!) throughout the movie, and in the final one he dies a gruesome death.
The boons of Jo and Bill are much-desired scientific data, the reconciliation of their marriage, and survival and wisdom.

Trouble for Trumpets

The work that I chose to blog about is called Trouble for Trumpets. It is a picture book intended for young children. The protagonist named Podd goes out on a quest to save his people the Trumpets, from the evil Grumpets. The Trumpets are summer creatures and pretty much stand for everything that is good. The Grumpets are evil snow creatures who's only desire is to collect more land. The Grumpets invade the summer land, and it is up to Podd to save the day. In the end the Trumpets win out over the Grumpets and they have a big party. It is interesting that the author of this book Peter Cross managed to create a intriguing story almost completely without words. The illustrations are what drive this story forward and I think it is very effective.

Trouble for Trumpets has a lot of messages about acceptance, and how important it is to let people be as they are. There are also comments about war, and how violence is never a good option. I think that it is really impressive that Peter Cross managed to include all of this into a story that is told through pictures instead of words.

The Woman Who Fell From the Sky

I decided to use a myth from the Iroquois (Mohawk). This myth "The Woman Who Fell From The Sky, is part of the Iroquois creation story and the story shows the importance of obedience, respect, focus and discipline.

A young woman was told by her dead father to go and marry some stranger. She did not seek her mother's advice, she did as her father said. She journeyed to where this man lived, and this man was a renowned sorcerer. He didn't seem to have much respect for her because after he met her he said she was not a woman but a girl, and that he would rather make her his slave than his wife. He decided to have her do three tasks, and if she passed them, the sorcerer would decide if he would make her his wife.

The first task he made her grind mounds and mounds of corn. Despite the workload, she completed her task in a short time. The sorcerer was amazed, but for the second task he made her take off all her clothes and cook the corn in a huge pot over the fire. While she cooked the corn, she was burned by the cornmush splashing on her body, but she did not flinch, staying calm as she continued her task as she was told. For the third task, she was to feed the cornmush to the sorcerers beasts. The beasts came into their lodge and began to lick the mush of her naked body with their razor sharp tongues, leaving her with deep wounds from where their tongues sliced her skin. Through all of her tasks, she did not lose her composure and she remained calm and did not show emotion of torment or pain. The sorcerer decided to marry her.

This girl basically is not treated with too much respect from the sorcerer after they are married. The sorcerer appears to be naive and submissive with her. However there was a freaky part to this story. So there was this tree that grew outside the sorcerers lodge, and it had blossoms that would give light to his whole land. She really loved this tree, and one evening when everyone was sleeping, she laid down under the tree and opened her legs and body to the tree, and a blossom fell on her girl part, and eventually she became pregnant.

Her husband, the sorcerer became very ill. He talked with his medicine men and they all agreed she was more powerful than he was. The medicine men advised the sorcerer to uproot the tree (tree of light) in front of his lodge and push her down through the hole, and if he did that, he would become healthy again. The sorcerer's world did not know anything of divorce or death. The sorcerer did what he was told, and he asked his wife to come and see through the hole which the tree left. Through the hole, the sorcerer and his wife were able to see another world (earth) and he convinced her with curiosity to jump through the hole, and she did.

After I read this story, I was shocked about the girl becoming pregnant from the tree, grossed out by the incompetent sorcerer, and amazed of the girl's strength. I found this myth interesting because it is part of the Iroquois creation story, and I wanted to share this with the rest of the class.

June 11, 2008

Jackie Chan and Whitecastle

A great example of films with fairytale/retellings themes are Hong Kong chopsocky kung-fu flicks. They very much embody the wonder tale (although they also have Eastern, Confucianism influenced themes.) Jackie’s Chan’s Master with Cracked Fingers being the case in point. The movie portrays the story of a young boy who wishes to learn kung-fu but doesn’t have enough money. A mysterious old man agrees becomes his teacher though, and he learns the art, despite his father’s angry objections. He uses his abilities to defeat some local thugs in retaliation for which his father is murdered. He trains even harder and finally he defeats the evil master and wins the day. This is a common plot for such films and a multitude of them have been made. This plot fits in very well with our general fairy tale plot. The protagonist is forbidden to do something, does it anyway, and is thus banished. He then meets a mysterious individual and is endowed with an incredible talisman/weapon/force/knowledge (kungfu) with which he is able to defeat his enemies. There is a temporary setback (father dies) but the hero recovers to defeat the villain and save the day. I’m very curious to know more about “fairytales? from non western cultures, and the similarities and differences between them.

Ok, now, for a film that isn’t so clearly fairytalish... I’d like to postulate that Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle is filled with fairy tale/legend motifs. The plot closely follows traditional questing tales. The story recounts how two roommates/friends get high off marijuana and embark on a quest to procure hamburgers from the Whitecastle restaurant chain. Their attempts meets failure again and again, and their simple quest requires them to travel for the entire night in search of a far distant Whitecastle. Along the way they meet various challenges and outwit various foes. The story includes personal growth of the two heroes and their inward journey that allows each to gain confidence about his future. Each conquers his own fears and emerges stronger from the ordeal, that at times threatens their lives. Their Odysseyian trip comes to an end when they finally reach the white castle and there arrived consume copious amounts of food.
Along the way they encounter a series of obstacles, each of which they intrepidly bypass. They are chased off Princeton’s campus after being caught smoking marijuana, Harold is bitten by a raccoon and at the hospital Kumar is forced to perform a dangerous surgery. Next, they crash their car, and an ugly but friendly truck driver invites them to his secluded cottage and offers them the opportunity to enjoy sexual favors with his young, beautiful, and willing wife. He attempts to join in, and the two heroes escape after which their car is stolen, and they are arrested. The story continues in a similar vein for quite awhile, with fantastic and unlucky events befalling the two heroes.
They are high for most of the movie, and this adds to the fantastical feel of the story. Although it does not fit perfectly, it has many of the characteristics we studied in class. Protagonists set out on a quest, are confounded by a series of difficult situations out of which they escape through a mix of cunning and luck, encounter personified animals (crazy raccoon and pot smoking cheetah, the cheetah is also somewhat of an animal helper, as they ride it) a woodsman, (tow truck driver) and ultimately grow wiser and achieve their goal.

You Remind Me of You

Sorry, I am not a huge movie or television buff (I end up falling asleep in almost anything I attempt to watch) so I have to write this about about a book.

My maybe favorite book is called You Remind Me of You by Eireanne Corrigan and is meant for a teenage audience. The book is an autobiographical telling of struggles of an eating disorder in poetry form.

The story is a modern telling of Orpheus and Eurydice. Eurydice is Eireanne, she is stuck in an eating disorder hell but her high school boyfriend tries to help her by buying her bakery goods and standing up for her in school. There are multiple counts where Eireanne is hospitalized, and her boyfriend only visits her three times (like tasks) and Eireanne comes out of hospitalization. Her boyfriend figuratively looks back, like Orpheus, which lands her back in back in the hospital (of course that isn't actually why she needs multiple hospitalizations). The high school also plays guitar, which makes him more similar to Orpheus.

Without other illusions to mythology the couple has conflicts to deal such as religion, college, and suicide. This is the less than glamorous view of modern myth and real struggles and climaxes. There is resolution, or several at least. Readers learn that the two characters end up together, although not married, but alive and dating, which disagrees with the myth because Eurydice is never with Orpheus.
Ending up with a happy resolution is typical format to fairy tales, which is needed in this story of turmoil.

as a side note, my roommate told me that the story of eurydice is referenced in Gaiman's The Sandman, but I have never read that - just saw graphic novels were of interest.

June 10, 2008

Happily Never After

I recently watched a move called "Happily Never After" Yes that's right. NEVER after.

You see, the title ties into the movie's internal logic. The story takes place in aKingdom called "Fairy Tale Land". In this place, all the fairy tales you know and love: Cindrella, Snow White, Frog Prince, Little Red Ridding Hood, etc happen over and over again. They always end the same way, that is, the traditional happy ending.

THis is because there is a place the narrator calls 'Fairy Tale Land's Homeland Security' It's a tower in the castle l where three people live: The Wizard(who is never named) and his two assistants, Munk and Mumbo. These three watch over the Scales of Good and Evil. As long as these Scales stay balanced, Endings stay happy.

However, the endings are only happy for the main charactere of each story. Cinderlla, for instance, always marries the prince, she always gets her happy ending. The Scales exclude everyone else, like Rick, the prince's servant. He likes Ella but she's obbessed with the prince.

Anyway, the Wicked Step mother, Frieda, discovers the Scales just after The Wizard goes on vacation. She steals the Wizard's staff, tips the Scales toward Evil and takes over. Most of the movie is about Ella, Munk and Mumbo searching for The Prince because they are convinced only he can save the day. After all, he's the prince. The prince always saves the day. But the prince is idiot. In fact, he bases all his decisions on his 'how to be a prince' handbook. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but with the Scales tipped toward Evil, he is no longer protected by Fate and is quickly captured.

So, Rick the Servant teams up with Ella and the bumbling assiastants to save the day on their own merit.
This time, Ella marries a dishwasher instead of a prince and they open a resturant together. The Prince, on the other hand, throws away his book and goes on a journey.

The point of reworked fairy tale, as I saw it, was every one can write their own stories. You don't need a script to find a happy ending.

June 9, 2008

Shrek: A Not So Typical Fairytale

Everybody has seen the movie, and everyone has met previously with the characters being re-introduced in this new age fairytale. The story takes place deep in the forest (a swamp to be exact) and follows any typical story line of a damsel in distress to be rescued by a seemingly typical prince, but when the princess is to be saved by a big green ogre the whole tone of the story changes.
The story follows Shrek on his journey from almost becoming a victim of a local round-up of infamous fairytale characters like Pinocchio , Little Bo Peep, and the three little pigs, just to name a few but is later recruited to rescue the princess from the grips of an evil dragon in a castle far, far away. Unhappy about his newly appointed journey, he trudges along with his trusty, yet annoying side kick, Donkey, and fights his way through a myriad of trials and tribulations set forth to detour him from success. As a fairytale should it ends with a happy ending, having rescued the princess from harm's way, only to find out she too is plagued with an ogre identity.
Along the way the viewer runs into many well-known characters, like the gingerbread man, and get to see them in a whole new light, a way that wasn't possible within the confines of their own story and although the movie has all the tell tale signs of your typical fairytale story, it's satirical tone lends a hand to the film as a new age fairytale that pokes fun at the rules set forth by all the characters and their fairytales' as told differently in the past.
So even though the story follows the appropriate rise and fall of your traditional fairytales the simple fact that the main character and his bride to be are ogres is an immediate introduction to the very un-traditional events that are to unfold as the story progresses. It is even more unique that the once beautiful princess is seen as suffering from a disease because she is an ogre but Shrek shows her that beauty isn't the path to happiness, but love is, even if it is ogre love. I think it's important that the implicit nature of the film is pointing to the concept that even though the fairytale is an unlikely event for the reality of everyday life, the characters, attitudes and humaness of the characters and the story they are sharing holds the movie to a whole new standard as say Cinderella or Snow White. It would be appear that the re-telling aspect of the movie is not in the story line itself but in the humanity and reality of the characters that are being met for the first time and those that are being re-troduced in the modern world.

South Park the Movie

I was watching South Park the movie this weekend and I realized how much it fits into the mythological tale format.
After Kenny dies (once again) trying to replicate a scene from a Canadian movie starring Terrence and Philip the boys saw, the citizens of South Park take action and force the government to go to war with Canada. Terrence and Philip are put on trial and are sentenced to death. Meanwhile, while in hell, Kenny uncovers a plot involving Satin and Saddam Hussein who plan to take over the world. Basically, as soon as Terrence and Philip die, Saddam and Satin will be able to leave Hell. When Kenny finds this out, he informs the other three boys about the plot. Also, the parents were concerned with the language the boys were using and Cartman's mom had a "swear chip" installed that gives him an electric shock whenever he swears. The boys embark on an adventure to stop Terrence and Philip from dying. They try to free them during a USO show, but Terrence and Philip are killed regardless, allowing Satin and Saddam to enter into Earth's realm. Meanwhile, Cartman's chip malfunctions, giving him the power to shoot electricity. Satin, who had been confiding in Kenny about Saddam trying to boss him around, gets fed up and kill Saddam. As a thank you to Kenny, he grants him any wish he wants. Kenny wishes for everything to go back to normal. So Satin returns to hell, Kenny goes to heaven, everyone that died is brought back to life, and the boys return to their normal life. The movie had the calling of the hero, the embarking to a distant land (Kenny in hell), an assigned task, encounter with a villan (Saddam), endowed gift (Cartman's chip that malfunctions), punishment of the villian, and survival.

June 7, 2008

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Since no one else wants to, I suppose I can discuss this obvious one...But I really really dig the Coen Brothers, and although I haven't seen the film in a really long time, the basics still stick with me.

And I must confess, I am incredibly interested and in love with the idea of retellings. It really draws me into it, whatever it may be.

So yeah, it's a retelling of the Odyssey. I really like the subtle hints at who characters are. Such as John Goodman's character having one eye and portraying the cyclops. Or the baptists and the Lotus Eaters (which, interestingly enough is the subject of a track on the new Opeth album "Watershed", which came out last week. The song it called "The Lotus Eater" but I'm not sure if there's any relevance...).

The film is set during the Depression, in the south somewhere, but it follows the original story very closely. In all honesty, that doesn't seem like a relevant time/place to set a retelling of the Odyssey but it works incredibly well. And it also adds a completely different take on it. Which is always cool.

June 3, 2008

Freaky Friday Retelling

I recently watched an episode of 8 Simple Rules. This episode was a retelling of the Freaky Friday story (where mother and mom mysteriously switch bodies), which I would probably classify as a fairytale. This website talks a little bit about the episode: http://www.tv.com/8-simple-rules/freaky-friday/episode/393588/summary.html. In this episode, Cate (the mom) tells Bridget (the oldest daughter) that she’s not allowed to back down from her promise to go to the school dance with a dorky guy who helped her out with a class. Bridget gets angry and tells Cate she doesn’t understand what it’s like to be a teenager anymore. Later that night, Cate falls asleep watching the movie Freaky Friday.
When Cate wakes up, she finds she is in Bridget’s body, and Bridget is in hers! Furthermore, Jim (the grandpa) and C.J. (the cousin living with them) have switched bodies, and Rory (the younger brother) has switched bodies with the family hamster. The only one still in their normal body is Kerry, the other sister.
The day progresses when the whole family goes to school. (Cate is the school nurse, C.J. is a substitute teacher, and Jim was supposed to give a presentation on the Vietnam War today). What makes matters worse is that a school inspector is there and will be interviewing Cate and C.J.! Miraculously, Bridget (in Cate’s body) passes the inspection by showing how in touch she is with the student body and giving the inspector makeup tips. However, Jim (in C.J’s body) hits on the elderly inspector, Bridget (in Cate’s body) hits on her crush in front of the inspector, and Cate (in Bridget’s body) promises the dorky boy she’ll go with him to the dance.
Everything gets more and more chaotic, until finally Cate wakes up and realizes it was all a dream. She comes to the realization that it really is more confusing to be a teenage than she thought and tells Bridget she can make her own decision about who she goes with to the school dance.
This episode seems to closely follow the themes presented in Freaky Friday, except that it occurs only in Cate’s dream. Like many fairy tales, it deals with uncertainty as Cate didn’t really know what it was like to be Bridget, and during the dream none of the characters knew how the switch happened. Cate learns a lesson in the end by realizing she has to let her children make some of their own decisions and it’s hard to understand what they are really going through. The other characters didn't seem to have any major realizations; it seems the other switches were probably for comedic purposes.

June 2, 2008

Scrubs: My Princess Bride

The last episode of the NBC sitcom "Scrubs" to air this year, "My Princess bride," (you can read the recap here: http://www.televisionwithoutpity.com/show/scrubs/) makes a pretty classic fairy tale retelling. Although the title points to the movie "The Princess Bride," the episode doesn't so much riff on the movie as tell as its own fairy tale.

In the episode, the character of Dr. Cox tells a story to his son, Jack. In the story, he converts all the characters in the show (who are doctors and nurses at the hospital Sacred Heart) into magical characters in the land Sacred Heartia: the Janitor becomes a giant, a nurse an angry villager, the lawyer a deformed monster, etc. Every character's fantastical counterpart is some reflection on their real world personality: for instance, a couple, Turk and Carla, who are annoyingly joined at the hip, become "Turla," a witch that is two witches stuck inside one body.

The episode deals with a quest to save a Princesses' handmaiden from an evil monster (typical, right?: a curse that needs to be lifted). Several attempts fail, and the characters need supernatural aid to finally lift the curse. In the end, it is some wood nymphs that accidentally provide the answer.

In episode, we realize that every thing that happens in the story has a correspondence to "the real world": in the real world of Sacred Heart, they are trying to figure out what is wrong with a patient, who is rapidly getting worse. In the end, some interns accidentally provide the answer, and they diagnose the patient with Wilson's disease. However, the disease is so far progressed she now needs a new liver.

In the story, the handmaiden recovers, and the Dr. Cox is asked by his wife if that's what "really happened." Did the patient actually survive? Dr. Cox says, "That's how I'm telling it."

It's kind of an interesting example of layering a fairy tale narrative onto a "real" narrative. That's certainly an option for your work: the fairy tale tale could be narrated by a character in the story, who is using it to deal with a real life incident.

May 27, 2008

This Blog

This blog is for you guys to post your "outside responses." Originally, I had planned that, sometime during the class, you each should write me a one-page response on some narrative (movie, play, television show, etc.) that you encountered outside of class that made use of a "retelling." Then I figured...instead of just writing it and giving it to me and only me to read, why not post it on a blog? Then everyone can see everyone else's responses and comment on them.

So...this is the place. Noticed a favorite TV show or movie or cartoon that's essentially retelling one of the stories we've read in class? Noticed a mythic structure in a favorite book? Write about it here. You need to write at least one post and comment on at least two. I'll post from time to time, too.

I'm particularly interested in hearing about graphic novels, as I'm not super-familiar with the genre. I know that a lot of them --particular Neil Gaiman's Sandman series -- retell myths, and there's one series that uses fairy tale characters. Know anything about this? Write about here.