In another post I talked about how Disney toned down fairy tales to make them more suitable for children. There has been another shift however in introducing fairy tales to children. “The fairy tale, relying on various forms of cultural transmission and ever-changing ideological configuration for its very existence, has pride of place in the system of children’s literature. Like many children’s genres, it is characterized by a much higher degree of intertextuality than general literature.” (Tosi, 367) Fairy tales come from a very long tradition, passed down orally and written through several generations. Lately, fairy tales have been rewritten, and parodied and satirized through different books and films. Fairy tales, originally determined to rule children with fear, have become something used for enjoyment and even comedic effect.
For example, the story of the Gingerbread man is changed. Just the title alone “Interrogating Gingy” makes fun of the character of the gingerbread man- he now has a nickname- he is no longer a hero but a victim. It is also set up as a detective scene- there are threats- gumdrop buttons will be removed if the gingerbread man doesn’t answer. It is a spoof of the detective genre. “Hard boiled detective films focus on a protagonist who represents the law or a more ambiguous version of it, such as a private investigator. Usually these individuals must battle a criminal element (and sometimes the police) to solve a mystery or resolve a crime.” (Corrigan and White, 340) Farquad is the detective attempting to interrogate Gingy. “Rewritings both for children and adults assume the reader’s knowledge of the original tales, thus encouraging the reader to take note of the formal changes which have led to an ideological reorientation of the tales.” (Tosi, 371). In order to see the humour, the audience needs to be aware of the stories that the Gingerbread man, and the Muffin Man poem come from. They may also need to be able to recognize the detective genre being shown.
The lighting is the same as in an interrogation scene. The only thing that has really changed is the context. The Gingerbread man and Farquad are both their respective fairy-tale characters, but at the same time they take on the roles of the detective and the witness. His confession is a nursery rhyme. While the context is serious, the content is childish, creating friction and parodying both fairy tale stories, and the detective genre.
With the shift in thinking about children, there has also been a shift in the way stories are introduced. “The constant restructuring and rewriting of fairy tales’ hypotextual classes, in order to adapt them to the new social and moral requirements of contemporary audiences, has had the effect of preserving and encoding traditional fairy tales within the canon so that they are still widely read, alongside more challenging and subversive versions.” (Tosi, 371) People still read the originals to understand the new stories, which are more culturally and historically appropriate for modern times. Original fairy tales then, are still important to the modern world because the new stories depend so much on people having knowledge of them.
“What these stories are reacting against is not so much fairy tales in general, as the specific, saccharine Disney kind, which sanitized the far darker originals.” (Poniewozik) The watered down version of Snow White with her animal friends- if it were to play out in real life would look ridiculous and odd. Animals are wild, it is unrealistic for them to seem so tame, and the scene in Enchanted uses this fact to create comedy.
The Jolly Pocket Postman, “which relies on the reader’s knowledge of other children’s texts, creates an appealing context for a genial twist… of the tale.” (Tosi, 375). The Postman is an outsider, who meets and delivers letters to different characters from children’s books. The postman is an observer to all these stories- including Dorothy’s from the Wizard of Oz. “Away from the house and down the lane, the peppered postman racks his brain. He meets a girl in a gingham dress, a scarecrow, a lion, and a tall tin man, who offer to help him all they can. ‘You must come with us,’ they cry, ‘because…WE’RE OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD OF OZ!’ Then, just when the postman’s about to agree, he’s blown away by sneeze number three.” (Ahlberg, 17) He is confused and, not knowing the characters and being thrust into the story, he needs to make up his mind. He vanishes, and we move on to the next fairytale. As readers, we know the story of the Wizard of Oz, and seeing it from an outsider’s point of view changes the tale for us.
Fractured fairy tales are a good indication of how the children’s literature and the fairy tale is changing. Instead of being serious, about morality; or about idolizing Disney, it is about over exaggerating or changing the traditional stories,, to make them funny. They can be enjoyed, but they are not real. We may find ourselves lost like the Postman, but it’s okay to be confused. Once immersed into another culture, through texts such as fairy tales, there may not be significance to us; however we can embrace them and learn from them anyway. We should do so, to ignore other fairy tales because we don’t understand them would be devaluing another historical or cultural meaning which we could have access to.
IMAGES (In order of appearance, everything else in alphabetical order)
- Ahlberg, Janet, and Allan Ahlberg. The Jolly Pocket Postman. [Toronto]: Reed Canada, 1995.
- Corrigan, Timothy, and Patricia White. “Rituals, Conventions, Archetypes, and Formulas: Movie Genres.” The Film Experience: An Introduction. 3rd ed. Boston: Bedford/St.Martins, 2012. 315-51. Print.
- Poniewozik, James. “The End of Fairy Tales? How Shrek and Friends have changed Children’s stories.” Folk & Fairy Tales. By Martin Hallett and Barbara Karasek. 4th ed. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview, 2009. 394-397.
- Tosi, Laura. “Did they live happily ever after? Rewriting fairy tales for a contemporary audience.” Folk & Fairy Tales. By Martin Hallett and Barbara Karasek. 4th ed. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview, 2009. 367-386.
- Grimmreport. “Gingerbread Man Tests Positive for Food Allergies.” Web log post. The Grimm Report: News Based on Fairytale and Folklore. WordPress, 29 Jan. 2013. Web. 15 Mar. 2013.
- Katie. “Fairly Stupid” (But Incredibly Hilarious) Web log post. Youth Literature Reviews. WordPress. 5 July 2012. Web. 7 April 2013
- Shrek Moments-Interrogating Gingy. Prod. DreamworksAnimation. YouTube. YouTube, 18 Nov. 2010. Web. 11 Mar. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpBJih02aYU>.