Sunday, December 23, 2012

Grimm's Fairy Tales Celebrations, Fall 2012

This past semester, I was steeped in Grimm's fairy tales, not only in my course on the brothers, but also with a wonderful exhibit at the Baldwin Library and an amazing guest lecture from Maria Tatar.  I've been wanting to post on these things, so below I'm including photos from the exhibit and a reflection I wrote up for Maria Tatar's lecture, hope you enjoy!

First a few photos from Maria Tatar's lecture, and then some thoughts:
Had never thought about the Red Riding Hood allusions in Schindler's List

From left to right: Meg Leroy, Maria Tatar, and John Cech.
 The following are just some thoughts I jotted down the day after her lecture:

Wow, Maria Tatar’s talk was just wonderful.  I loved that she started out her presentation discussing what drew her to fairy tales as a young child, and then used that as a starting point to spring forward into conversation about fairy tales, from the “hearth and communal fire” to the “Amazon Kindle Fire”.  Professor Tatar reflected that when she was little, her older sister would “read” stories to her from an old German book, even though neither of them could read German.  However, what really drew her in, and caught her imagination, was the use of illustration and how they could tell the story.  It fell right into place then, that Prof. Tatar chose to frame so much of her talk around illustration and the visual, showing how essential that is to the fairy tale experience for all.
She incorporated ideas from other fields such as E.O. Wilson’s book “Social Conquest of the Earth”, which fleshed out some interesting perspectives for the rest of her talk.  Following her discussion of Wilson, she delved into the evolution of the nature of storytelling by way of images from Jacque Stella’s “Winter Evening” to Seymour Joseph Guy’s “Goldilocks”.  
scanned from Maria Tatar's "Enchanted Hunters"
Seymour Joseph Guy’s “Goldilocks”
Prof. Tatar then moved into the commodification of fairy tales, the ups and downs of Disney, and a wonderful suggestion that the “iconoclasts”, the “refashioners” of fairy tales are keep the stories alive, because they instinctually make us want to go back and see the original.
Jumping into film, Prof. Tatar laid out her five categories for the shape that fairy tales have taken in the resurgence in Hollywood: action/adventure, teen romance, fairy tale paracosm, grimm crime series, and "art films".  Two things especially stuck with me from her discussion of film: one was an image of the little girl in the red coat from Schindler’s List which Prof. Tatar’s used in a wonderful reading of this as an allusion to Red Riding Hood, a vulnerable small girl, dressed in red, be hunted down by the Nazi wolves, in the grim and bleak "forest" of World War II Nazi Germany; and the second thing, idea that fairy tales have been “dehistoricized” and “colonized” by American culture.  Lastly, her reading of Gretel as a trickster was fascinating and seeing how others have perhaps unconsciously alluded to this aspect of Gretel in other works was wonderful: starting with the discovery that Anne Sexton had caught onto this trickster agency role of Gretel in her poem from her Transformations collection, all the way to connecting  it with Jurassic Park and Katniss, and the idea that deception leads to beauty, poacher to song, snares to poetry.


  1. Oooh. I am very intrigued by the Gretel connections- definitely want to hear more about this!

    1. I know! It was really interesting, this idea that Gretel is not just this passive little person, cooking and cleaning for the witch, she's actually the one that defeats her in the end, and becomes the trickster figure, when she tricks the witch and pushes her into the oven. And then Prof. Tatar connected that to the Jurassic Park film, especially the scene in the kitchen and Katniss. I need to go back and look at my notes for more about the those last few ideas of deception/beauty, poacher/song and snares/poetry, but I just thought that was so intriguing as well!!