Category Archives: Response 1

The Truth in Names

Every person born into the world is given a name, that name defines whom they are and will be for the rest of their lives. In A Wizard of Earthsea, each person born is given a name to be called and for a while that name is his or her identity. However, when a child in this world is ready to take on the passage to adulthood, they learn their true name. The idea of names or naming has long been practiced in our society because it helps give meaning to the world around us; the same is true in Earthsea.

 

At the beginning we learn that the protagonist of the story is named Duny, named so by his late mother, thus the name he is given is one thrust upon him and not truly his own. As soon as he turns thirteen though, he is immediately stripped of his name and sent out naked and nameless into the springs. The way Duny learns his true name is parallel of that of a newborn coming into the world, naked and nameless. As the story goes along we learn how names aren’t simply a tool used to identify something, its used to hold essence over that something, everything it is and can be. Guin also hints that knowing something’s name gives you both control and accesses to it, including its very life. Therefore a person must guard their true name from others because access to their name means vulnerability and control over their very existence.

 

Names can also be used to form bonds though, whether through power over the names of nature and elements or in the bonds of friendship. When Vetch tells Ged that his name is “Estarriol”, Ged returns the favor because “Vetch had given that gift only a friend can give, the proof of unshaken, unshakable trust” (Guin 68-9). Vetch convinced Ged of his trust because he shared his true name, giving the power over that name to Ged to lie in his safekeeping, suggesting that while it might be vulnerable to do so, sharing a name is the most sacred oath a person could give because it inspires absolute trust.

 

Another factor about the names in Ged’s world is that nearly everything on it has a given name but also has a secret, true name. The true name of things such wind or fog or herbs allows wizards or prentices such as Ged to take control of the entire thing in question has to offer. Knowing a name is power. Which is why when Ged is learning the names in the Isolate Tower he learns from Kurremkarmerruk that many great mages spend their “whole [lives] to find out the name of one single thing” (46-7). Names are the true power wizards or mages use and to learn name after true name means that you can accumulate power or that to seek out the name of even one thing grants a person great power.

You Win Some, You Lose Some

In Hans Christian Andersen’s account of “The Little Mermaid”, there can be multiple interpretations of a happy ending.  Sure the little mermaid dies and is unable to win over the Prince but she is still given the opportunity to earn an immortal soul, which was her ultimate quest.  One out of two isn’t too bad.  In baseball that’s a pretty good day.

Although it is unfortunate that she couldn’t get exactly what she wanted, it provides a lesson for children, who were the most likely intended audience for the story.  This lesson would be something a long the lines of: You can’t always get what you want.  Or that life is full of disappointments.

Just because the little mermaid didn’t receive her happy ending, it doesn’t mean no one else did.  The Prince seemed pretty happy about finding the girl he believed to have saved his life.  He even expresses his joy with the quote “Oh I’m too, too happy” (page 230) upon meeting her again.  Besides, the Prince was completely in love with this girl despite not even knowing her, and only cared for the little mermaid because she reminded him of her.  So would the little mermaid really have been content knowing she was his second choice as a wife despite the fact that she completely adored him?  That could have been possibly problematic.  As mentioned before he only loved her “…as one loves a dear, good child.” (page 228)

Ultimately the little mermaid seemed to accept her fate since she cared more for the prince than she did herself.  She had the opportunity to kill him to save herself but chose not to.  This was a wise decision on her part because then neither of them would have had a happy ending.  Since he was happy, she too was happy.  She shows her joy on page 232 as she floats towards the sky.  “Unseen, she kissed the forehead of the bride, gave a smile to the Prince, and then with the other children…”

In a way the little mermaid did receive her own happy ending.  She was able to spend time with the Prince and live amongst the humans and was able to find a way to receive an immortal soul.

“Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.”-Kurt Vonnegurt

In Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince,” the court is represents the concept of blissful ignorance and a kind of Heaven on Earth. Wilde describes to the reader through the Happy Prince that, “Round the garden ran a very lofty wall, but I never cared to ask what lay beyond it, everything about me was beautiful.” (255) The Prince and his companions waste their days away playing in the gardens and their nights dancing in the Great Hall. Only positive emotions are known and nothing seems to exist that causes discomfort. These elites in the story experience the ultimate prize of Utopia without having to go through any harsh realities. However, outside of the garden wall lays an entire city filled with “ugliness and…misery” (Wilde, 255) that the Happy Prince, specifically, chooses to ignore. Only after death does the Happy Prince learn of this harsh reality. This is when he is made to weep, as if, as consequence for living in false paradise, he must now understand the sorrow of humankind that he never grasped in life. What is worse is that he can do nothing about it since he is “fastened to this pedestal and I cannot move” (Wilde, 256). This could be seen as purgatory for living a life of complete happiness. Only when the Happy Prince has given everything he can and looks “little better than a beggar” (Wilde, 260) is he allowed into the true garden of Paradise. The Happy Prince had to give up all materialistic wealth before being given the ultimate prize; the admittance into the House of God.

 

It seems that Wilde is trying to portray the royals in a more pessimistic light. Where in other fairy tales the powerful and wealthy also seem to have generous hearts-as in “Catskin” by Joseph Jacobs-without needing any prompting from negative consequences, these royals are ignorant and selfish; they can only be concerned with their own happiness and well-being. Wilde also shows that just this is only rewarded in the human realm. It is not until the statue of the Happy Prince has been used to its fullest extent that it is finally melted down because it was “no longer beautiful” and therefore “no longer useful” (Wilde, 260) is the Happy Prince recognized as one of “the most precious things in the city.” (Wilde, 260)

 

Heroes compared but be prepared.

To begin the comparison of the two different stories, I think the morals matter the most because of the curiosity of the women. I know, since it is a fairy tale there has to be heroes but if the women in both stories decided to listen at the beginning instead of satisfying themselves in finding out what was going on in the hidden room, there would not need to be a hero.

Like most happy endings though, someone comes to save the day.

Bluebeard made sure to satisfy his women with whatever pleasures they insisted. His only problem was to not to go into the forbidden chamber. The younger of the two sisters in the story decided to go inside the room while Bluebeard was gone. After dropping the key and creating a blood stain on it, he knew where she had been. He gave her fifteen minutes to say her prayers before death but instead she asked Sister Anne where her brothers were and if they were on their way. Finally after a while, Sister Anne  spotted the two horsemen. Once Bluebeard was ready to chop her head off, the brothers barged in and put their swords through Bluebeard before he could do the same to their sister. The brothers of Bluebeard’s wife became the heroes in the story quickly.

The comparison of Fitcher’s Bird comes into play when a sorcerer decides to try and find a wife of his own. Once again, sisters come into play. All three are stubborn and the first two end up getting chopped up because they entered the sorcerer’s forbidden room. Even though the curiosity got the better of the last sister, she was much more clever. She decided to put the egg in a safe place before entering the room to see her sisters had been chopped up. Gathering all the body parts, the two others came back to life. Once the sorcerer returned home he was asked to go back out. Little did he know he was carrying the sisters with him. While a decorated skull was in the window, he thought it was his wife of course. He came home again, thinking nothing of it but was burnt to death along with his crew by the brothers of the three sisters.

In these two stories, the brothers play a major role in becoming the heroes. They save their sister’s lives and are even rewarded in Bluebeard with commission. We do not find much out about the brothers in Fitcher’s Bird but they still come in and become heroines while we know the two in Bluebeard are a musketeer and a dragoon. It shows a moral to take care of your siblings and know matter if you find it being a bad decision on their part or not, you still have to be supportive and make the right decision for your family at the end of the day. Maybe you’ll become a hero.

Are the Heroines the same in Bluebeard and Fitcher’s Bird?

In both stories, Bluebeard and Fitcher’s Bird, each story has at least two heroines. In Bluebeard, the two heroines are Bluebeard and the young sister which is Bluebeard’s wife. In Fitcher’s Bird, the heroines are the Sorcerer and the third daughter, who later disguises herself as fitcher’s feathered bird. The heroines in both of these fairy tales are similar in many ways, but yet there are a few things that make them different from one another.

The heroines in Bluebeard are both active heroines. Although at first his wife, the young sister starts off as passive character. Once Bluebeard goes away on his trip that is when she becomes an active heroine because now all the attention is mainly focused on her and her actions. Her main action that gets the story going is when she becomes so “anxious to get into that room on the lower floor. The roles of both Bluebeard and his wife start to heat up when Bluebeard discovers that his wife has gone against his wishes and has entered the forbidden room. Bluebeard’s character is a dominant one. He becomes very infuriated at the disobedience of his wife. His wife’s character although quiet, begins to show that she is somewhat smart.  Before bluebeard is going to kill her, she begins to stall him by praying and begging him, but in reality she is waiting on her brothers to come save her. A lot of the wife’s qualities aren’t shown, we don’t know much about her, but in the end she proves to not just be a pretty face and let herself get killed.

In Fitcher’s Bird, the heroines are both active, but the only thing is that the sorcerers wife doesn’t come into the picture until about halfway through. But from the start she knows she cannot commit the same mistakes her sisters made. We know that the wife is not only beautiful, but she was also “clever and cunning”. She is clever enough not to walk around holding the egg that is not allowed to fall onto the ground; instead she “puts the egg in a safe place”. The sorcerer pretends to be a poor man to get his wife, which is something new that I have not seen in any of the other fairy tales so far. Since the wife is so smart, she out wits the sorcerer and makes him believe she has not entered the forbidden room. Now that he trusts her, she tricks him into a trap and she is the one that ends up killing him and also she saves her two other sisters.

As we can see, there are a few similarities between the heroines in Bluebeard and in Fitcher’s Bird. Both the main male characters, Bluebeard and the Sorcerer have forbidden rooms that no one is allowed to enter and if they do enter there are major consequences. And for the both female heroines in the stories, they are both beautiful, smart, and they manage to escape there terrible husbands.

Morals in Beauty and the Beast!

Beauty and the Beast has the classic fairytale qualities; the evil stepsisters, a beast, and magic. Though it is full of clichés, there are valuable messages of learning not to judge and to have a good heart. “Beauty and the Beast,” by De Beaumont, is a traditional fairytale about love, however it focuses on internal beauty instead of physical beauty like that of a noble night or prince charming. Beauty De Beaumont’s purpose in writing the story was to teach children the good virtue of kindness, good behavior and that one should not judge until you truly gotten to know them.
Beauty is characterized as the youngest daughter “who was admired by everyone;” someone beautiful BOTH on the inside and outside. De Beaumont purposely contrasts Beauty with her two evil sisters by their behavior. While her sister’s spent time doing materialistic things, Beauty enjoyed reading and being kind to others. When their family had lost everything, no one wanted to marry the sisters, however Beauty still had many offers for her hand in marriage. Beauty sacrifices herself endlessly, while her sisters are selfish from beginning to end. De Beaumont shows that everyone admired Beauty for the way she acted, and the virtues she followed while her sisters are dislike.
Beauty sacrifices herself to live with the beast. She initially judges the Beast by his outer appearance, trembling “at the site of his horrible appearance.” However, she became accustomed to his ugliness, even waited to see the beast. “Each day Beauty discovered new good qualities in the monster” (De Beaumont 39). By the end of the story she realizes that she loved him for all the good qualities he possessed despite the fact that he was a beast. This turning point, accepting his hand in marriage, shows that Beauty accepted who the beast truly was inside AND out. Having “preferred virtues to looks” allowed her to be ultimately happy and rewarded. In the introduction to “Beauty and the Beast” there is a message to women who are in arranged marriages noting that one may not be initially attracted to their husband, but with time will learn to love their beautiful qualities. This is exactly what De Beaumont’s writing implies; beauty on the inside is very important. The author shows that Beauty was rewarded with a happy ending for being the kindest, best behaved and selfless shows the reader’s that these qualities everyone should portray. The fact the greedy, evil sisters were turned into stone to “witness her happiness” further emphasized this lesson.

Your Inner Beauty Still Needs Makeup

      At first glimpse, Beaumont’s “Beauty and the Beast” is clearly about the importance of inner beauty rather than outer.  But if you read carefully, you can see that this is not true.  We can almost look at the story as if there are two perspectives controlling it, that of the narrator, and that of Beauty.  If we look from Beauty’s thoughts and actions, we can see that she comes to understand the significance of inner beauty over superficial.  This first comes into play when she tells Beast that “There are certainly men more monstrous than” him, “who hide false, corrupt, and ungrateful hearts behind charming manners” (Beaumont, 38).  Throughout the story she comes to love Beast despite his visual shortcomings.  She realizes that “He is kind,” and wonders “why [she hasn’t] wanted to marry him” (Beaumont, 40).  In response to this thought, Beauty proceeds to accept his offer of marriage, and the two live happily ever after.

The narrator behind the story still at least puts up a pretext of agreeing with the claim that inner beauty is more valuable than outer beauty. An example of this is with the husband of one of Beauty’s sisters, who is famed to be “a remarkably handsome gentleman , but . . . spent all day in front of the mirror” (Beaumont, 40).  Here it is clear that beauty is not everything, but this example unfortunately proves to be one of the few successes in that moral of the story.  Despite, the outwardly kind opinions, the narrator still takes the time in pointing out the ugliness of the Beast.  The narrator slips too when comparing Beauty to her sisters.  While her superior virtue is pushed to the forefront, it comes across much more forcefully than the idea that she was “more beautiful than her sisters” (Beaumont, 32).  It almost appears that Beauty’s virtues came only with her superficial beauty.  The most poignant proof that the narrator is backing superficial beauty lies at the end of the story.  When Beauty announces her decision to marry Beast, he immediately turns into “a young prince more beautiful than the day was bright;” Beauty’s ultimate reward for her inner beauty is the outer beauty of her future husband.  All this evidence comes across as contradictory.  Perhaps the author intended to promote the values of inner beauty, but the constraints of society caused her to unwittingly include outer beauty, which is much more forceful than the intended moral.

Sometimes Evil Does Overcome Good

It is common belief that in children’s literature if the character or characters have faith in God then in the end God will help them and there will be a happy ending to the story. In the story of Hansel and Gretel it is obvious that both of the children believe that as long as they have faith that God will help them and nothing will go wrong. Their faith is shown every time Hansel tries to comfort Gretel. (185, 186) The first time Hansel puts his faith in God he is immediately rewarded with white pebbles that glittered “…like silver coins.” (185) White is a color that is often associated with the forces of good and with God. The funny thing is that the second time Hansel comforts Gretel by telling her “The Lord will protect us.” (186) Hansel is not able to gather any pebbles because his evil stepmother has locked the door. Now the children are brought out into the woods with no way of marking their way back except for Hansel’s bread crumbs which are eaten by birds.

The children spend several days in the woods searching for a way back. After a white bird (another symbol of God) leads them to the witch’s house it seems that God abandons the children at this time. Before this point white has always been a good symbol. While the bird has led them to food it has also led them to a trap. The witch makes up two beds for the children using white sheets and the children “…felt as if they were in heaven.” (188) It now seems that the witch is using white to trick the children into feeling as if they are safe. Now it is unclear whether the white bird was God leading the children to food or the witch luring the children to her house. It is like as soon as they enter the evil witch’s territory God has no power.

Hansel (who seemed to have the most faith in God at the beginning of the story) is locked in a shed so that the witch may fatten him up to be eaten. Gretel cries out for God’s help but nothing happens until she acts on her own. She tricks the witch and pushes her into the oven. It is only after the witch is dead that they are able to find their way out of the woods. They even meet a white duck that helps them across a large body of water on their way back to the house. This suggests that God is in power again.

As for the question of whether the children’s faith or cleverness was rewarded, it is a draw. When the children were outside of evil’s grasp their faith was rewarded. Whenever evil had an influence in the story (The children’s stepmother or the witch) the children’s faith in God was ignored and they had to rely on their wits to get them home safely.

The Danger of an Appetite

When thinking about food in fairy tales, many would believe that eating plays a minor role throughout the course of these stories, or, at least, is not something of which there should be much concern.  However, in both “Hansel and Gretel” and “The Juniper Tree” by Brothers Grimm, an appetite seems to foreshadow dangerous or even sickening events, implying that eating can lead to horrible consequences.

In the beginning of “Hansel and Gretel,” the children overhear their parents arguing one night.  A poor family, no one in the house has much to eat, and the mother selfishly argues that in order for them to be well fed they must get rid of the children (184).  Her desire to eat is so strong that she would rather give up the children’s lives than go without food.  After one failed attempt to lose the children in the woods, the parents send them deeper into the forest.  Hansel drops breadcrumbs along the way, hoping that they will be able to follow them back to their house.  However, they realize that birds must have eaten the breadcrumbs; without this guide, they cannot find home (186-7).  Again, something’s appetite thrusts the children into danger and not for the last time.  Starved by now, Hansel and Gretel come upon a little house made of food and they cannot resist the temptation to eat.  Gretel “knock[s] out an entire windowpane” and Hansel “[tears] off a big piece of [the roof]” due to their appetite (187).  At this point, even the readers are also delighted about the idea of a house made of delicious food, but the author wishes to change this thought.  The owner of the house is a witch, and after making the children comfortable by giving them pancakes, she imprisons Hansel and has Gretel feed him every day.  The witch’s appetite means danger for the children because she wants to eat them; the more Hansel eats the quicker she will do so (187-8).  Eating always seems to mean trouble for Hansel and Gretel.

Similarly, in “The Juniper Tree,” an apple tempts a young boy and the result is dire.  The boy, who like Hansel and Gretel has a cruel mother figure in his life, comes to eat an apple offered to him by his stepmother.  Once he does so she kills him and makes him into a stew, which she horribly gives to the boy’s father to eat.  He asks for more because the “stew tastes so good”; his desire for food leads him to eat his own son (191-2). This nauseating example of eating does not encourage an appetite; in fact, all of these examples encourage quite the opposite.

Usually when characters eat in these two stories, something dangerous or sickening happens.  In both stories, the authors blatantly discourage an obsession or even an appetite for food.  In order to emphasize this lesson, appetites have the most severe consequences imaginable.

Maria Tatar. Ed. The Classical Fairy Tales. Norton, 1999.

Dear God, please…never mind, we’ll do it ourselves

In many fairy tales, the main character(s) are rewarded because of their faith in God, or a higher power, during their trials and suffering. After a quick read through, it would seem that the story of “Hansel and Gretel” by the Brothers Grimm, falls along these same lines. Before and during their abandonment from their parents and their imprisonment by the witch, Hansel and Gretel appeal to God and are rewarded with a safe return home at the end of the story. To the casual reader it would appear that God is rewarding the children for believing in him, but when we take a closer look we realize that Hansel and Gretel do not have a strong belief in God and are actually rewarded through their own courage and ingenuity.

 Although Hansel and Gretel do appeal to God several times in the story, they are not rewarded because of this. In fact, their faith in God does not seem to be particularly strong. While Hansel does reassure Gretel that “God will take care of us” (Tatar 185) we must note that he makes this assurance after he has gone outside to retrieve the white pebbles from the garden. Prior to retrieving the pebbles, Hansel tells Gretel “…stop worrying. I’ll figure something out.” (Tatar 184) Hansel has already formed a plan as to how he and his sister will return home after being abandoned in the woods. No divine intervention came and told Hansel what to do; he figured it out himself. The mention of God after forming this plan shows us that either Hansel’s faith is shaky in God’s ability to protect them or he simply wants to reassure Gretel that everything will be alright, without having to tell her the plan and risk their parents overhearing. The children return home from the woods safely, by following the path of white stones that Hansel had laid out.

Later, the children overhear their parents planning to abandon them in the woods again; Hansel attempts to use his previous plan, but is thwarted by the stepmother, who has locked the door so he can’t get the stones. Hansel quickly comes up with a new plan, and then reassures Gretel that “The Lord will protect us.” (Tatar 186) Again, Hansel does not say God will watch over them until after he has come up with a plan, which still indicates a disbelief that God will take care of them, or is simply said to reassure Gretel.

The last time God is appealed to, occurs when the witch demands that Gretel get water in order to boil Hansel. Gretel cries out “Dear God, help us!” (Tatar 188), but then proceeds to formulate a plan of her own. Whether Gretel forms her plan because of mistrust in God or because she can’t wait for God’s help is unclear. It is clear, however, that Gretel formed and carried out her plan with her own courage and ingenuity, without help from God or anyone else.  When the witch tries to trick Gretel into getting into the oven, she outsmarts the witch and ends up shoving her into the oven. The children escape and return home safely thanks to Gretel’s courageous plan.

Although God was called upon several times throughout the story, there was no divine intervention in the planning to get home or the escape from the witch. The children become free and return safely through their own courage and ingenuity.