(7/21/04 12:08 am)
To answer your question
1) Every story needs a villian. No story can survive without it. A charater only becomes a true hero when she fights a true villain.
2) The witch is the archetype of female evil:
The mother gone bad: The evil stepmother. The wife and lover gone bad: the seductress/ femme fatale.
Sno W's Stepmother plays both these roles: She seduces the king to gain power. She is the ultimale bad mother, who hunts her daughter as a rival instead of nurturing and loving her.
I suggest you include Vogler's book "The
Writer's Journey" in your research.
(7/21/04 12:36 am)
I belive that fairies and godmothers are not witches at all. They have magic, but they don't use it to harm people(unless they are cruel to others).
Evil witches are just plain evil! There is no inbetween.
Did you ever see the evil queen be kind so her stepdaughter once?
Rapunzel- O.K. not the
most evil witch. She really just wanted a child. Keep in mind that
she never harms Rapunzel. She never plotted to kill her. She never
killed anyone. Rapunzel's father promised the witch the child. Yes,
she did seclude Rapunzel but some overprotective mothers or fathers
Snow White- Understandable.
Her nager is understandable. I know for afact that most older women
look at the yuoung beauties and think "I wish I had that face,
hair, or body". This is all that the evil queen did. But she
was so cold that I really don't think it matters. BTW, Snow White
was 7 at the time. That's just cruel.
(7/21/04 6:44 am)
. They have magic, but they don't use it to harm people
The thirteenth fairy in the Sleeping
Beauty tales sure did her best.
This is all that the evil queen did.
And then tried to kill Snow
White three times.
In general, I think it's a mistake to create contemporary psychologies for characters that don't have them; these tales are not, I think, meant to portray 3-dimensional figures with clear motivations for their actions, good or bad. That's a more modern conceit. They act in a certain way because that's what the story demands.
Edited by: Veronica Schanoes at: 7/21/04 7:01 am
(7/21/04 10:01 am)
" Every story needs a villian. No story can survive without it. A charater only becomes a true hero when she fights a true villain."
Hmmm...I am not sure I agree entirely with this--what is interesting is to pay attention to the role of the fantastic in a narrative. I would argue that the role of the hero/heroine is to confront the ambiguous possibilities of the fantastic (a sort of metaphorical parallel to the dialectic changes in the rite of passage--the destruction of the child, the rebirth of the adult) and to wrestle from it--its creative potential. That's the real challenge for the hero/heroine--to return to the human world out of the forest (or the Veld, or the ocean--wherever in nature and away from human habitation that journey takes place!) having been transformed by that confrontation with the fantastic.
So in some narratives, the hero finds himself between the destructive sorcerer and his very beautiful and creative (sometimes down right life-giving) daughter-- In Baba Yaga stories, Baba Yaga sometimes has beautiful daughters and he marries one (as well as gets from Baba Yaga the fire horse he needs, the golden keys--all obtained because he has passed the tasks that Baba Yaga demanded--hence wrestling from this fantastic creature her creative potential--rather than succumbing to her destructive potential). The fantastic presents itself as dual possibilities and demands the hero to choose. Sometimes the hero chooses wrongly and death occurs. Iin one of the versions of "The Apples of Youth and the Water of Life," the hero is murdered by the nasty sorcerer father, cut into pieces and castoff a cliff (a bummer yes, but an important step metaphorically as the old identity of the hero as a boy now appears to die to make room for the rebirth of the new adult man). He is brought back to life by the king's daughter--sprinkling the the water of life on him and resurrecting him (now aligned with the creative forces of the fantastic). Here the hero has confronted the "villian" and appears to lose! But he is resurrected because of his relationship with the otherside of the fantastic--it creative potential in the figure of the daughter (or magic bride). (the image of father/daughter also underscores the duality in the figures--two possiblities in one bloodline--two halves of the fantastic)
The completely unambiguous characters (wholly bad) often exist at the heroine's home of birth--which is to ensure that the girl can not or will not ever return home. Unlike her male counterpart who is expected to return home...sometimes with a bride, girls journeys are outward--towards marriage at a new home. So to intensify this in a narrative sense--the human villians at home are pretty single minded--the incestuous father who cuts off his daughter's arms, the murderous and canibalizing brother, the wicked stepmother--all are there to insure that the girl can't go home again. But in the end, I don't believe these are the real "villians" that the girl fights--they merely serve to set her on her way--her real trials begin the moment she is in the woods/veld/ocean--and it is her interaction with the ambiguous fantastic that matters.
Edited by: midori snyder at: 7/21/04 10:06 am
(7/21/04 1:25 pm)
This is right down my alley.
--The villain is not always personal or even exterior. Very often
it is our own internal villains that cause the greatest conflict.
In the movie "I
am Sam" the villain is the title character's intellectual
disability. In Beauty
and the Beast it is Beauty's revulsion at the beast's appearance.
of Oz, Dorothy's main battle is not against the wicked witch,
but her own insecurities. As someone rightly pointed out here, she
has to conquer her own demons (her sense of not belonging) before
she can use the power of the red shoes to get home.
--The internal struggle is often in parallel with an outward journey,
which is often into the fantastic and has the elements of the death/rebirth
cycle. Eric sails over the edge of the world. Beowulf
goes into the underworld to confront Grendel. In the latest movie
loses his spider powers, and regains them only when he makes peace
with his identity.
Hansel and Gretel
go into the enchanted forest. They conquer death and return across
the river (the divide between life and afterlife) on the backs of
white swans (angels) to the land of the living. And they bring the
elixir of life with them, the resurrected victims of the witch.
(7/21/04 3:36 pm)
Yes--but I believe that these more abstract pyschological events appear in the stories as concrete images--employed as needed (as Veronica suggests) to suggest the underlying development of the character. And since so many of these characters are engaged in a form of dialectical development--the fantastic images rather than having *fixed* meanings (such as your earlier suggestion that witches always represent evil) have flexible, ambiguous meanings--depending on what the hero/heroine need in their stage of the journey--a push out the door, a destructive move (to destory the old identity) or the agent of a creative rebirth.
I suppose this makes me more of a "formalist" but I do like Vladimir Propps ideas about paying attention to the "function" of the image rather than the static meaning that an image might contain. Witches have multiple possibilities in a narrative--and certain from culture to culture as well they carry multiple meanings.
(7/21/04 10:29 pm)
I think I screwed up!|
With the evil queen, I meant to say that she did thr to kill her 3 times and that is why it doesn't matter about the other stuff. I just said that is understandable why she felt threatened.
(7/23/04 12:30 pm)
witches and higher education|
Professor, I would love to know more about how higher education makes use of fairy tales. I am in the process of preparing a PowerPoint for my state's English teachers' annual meeting and would appreciate your input.
(7/23/04 12:37 pm)
Re: witches and higher education|
Erm, there are approximately three professors active in this thread, along with a few graduate students who are occasionally mistakenly addressed with the title. Did you have any one person in mind?
What is the topic of your presentation, btw? What specific information are you looking for? Fairy tales are used in a variety of ways in higher education: if you focus on the discipline of English, you'll find specific courses on fairy tales; you'll find that the work of Structuralist critics such as Propp, Levi-Strauss, and Benjamin, who originally focused on fairy tales, to greater and lesser extents, have been applied to a variety of other texts. You will find also find fairy tale-related material in the fields of Psychology and Ethnography, among others, each field using the tales in their own ways. There's a lot to talk about on this topic ...
(7/25/04 5:30 pm)
the real Prof. Wong|
Contrary to what you have been led to believe, Prof. Wong did NOT post on this thread before. I don't know yet who it was that tried to get the easy way out of writing your paper by looking for answers on a message board, or who posted a reply in my name, but I assure you, I will do everything in my power to find out.
(7/25/04 6:25 pm)
Re: the real Prof. Wong|
Dear Professor Wong:
I hope that you won't think it presumptuous of me to address this issue: I just wanted to mention that students frequently visit this board in hopes of finding some inspiration for their work. I've sent students here myself, actually - board members are generally very scrupulous about providing students with references and advice without giving them all of the answers. I don't know if that alleviates the situation at all ... the impersonation is, of course, reprehensible. Just out of personal curiousity; is it a course on fairy tales that you're teaching? I'd love to hear more about it.
(7/25/04 11:04 pm)
role them witches|
I knew this was going to be good... Angelface- I think a crucial part of your question is missing. You stated that the subject is: What is the role of the fairy tale witch? Analyze why the witches do what they do. The missing portion is your own thought on the matter. For example, do you think all fairy tale witches are evil? If so, why? Give examples. Or do you think witch characters have another agenda aside from munching on the unsuspecting? Does it even matter why they do the things they do? What viewpoint do you have? I mean, are you trying to look at this topic like a writer, who might be interested in the witch as a plot device; or like a fairy tale scholar, who might want to define what a witch actually is or isn't; or like a women's studies student, who might investigate why the only grown woman characters are assumed to be evil? You said the topic was very broad; you have to narrow your parameters if you want real help in tackling this idea. As I suspected, this is a very neat thread, and lots of people have useful things to say; but you have to help us out a little by telling us the angle you wish to pursue. I'm sure it'll be a fantastic paper when you're done.
(8/1/04 10:55 pm)
Re: role them witches|
"like a women's studies student, who might investigate why the only grown woman characters are assumed to be evil?"
That is a very interesting thought!
What happens in a girl's life to make her desire to become a witch? Some are educated in magic, this takes time... old women are not usually considered good "student" material, so presumably they begin when somewhat younger and sharper? Could this be a menopausal reaction? They throw themselves into a completely new role - one that is fuled by (fear of) lost beauty, lost health or perhaps lost ability to have wanted children.
Another possibility could be that the very act of studying magic has a price, so even a young woman would be cursed by it - losing beauty, health, and childbearing ability and perhaps even finding themselves having a horrific desire to have children - as dinner...
Ah, I see a story waiting to be told!
(8/4/04 12:00 am)
Re: role them witches|
I believe that in most fairy tales the witch symbolizes the mother
who in not being able to provide for her children(with food, and
nurturing) must become the antagonist, at least in the POV of the
children. She must consume her children, give them new life, restoring
them to their proper form. It is this cannibalistic nature, especially
regarding Hansel and
Gretal, that leaves the greatest impression, the bad mother
must do away with her neglected children in order to save them.
Regarding stepmothers its different, they are outsiders, not apart of the blood, and so they cannot be trusted. They are women from another community, with a previous life that is always under suspicion. Their is jealousy/lust revolving around their relationship with the protagonist, the little princess may eventually take her place, and so the cycle of husbands will begin again, and so the little princess becomes a threat because of her youth and her beauty. I find it completely fascinating.
I especially love examples such as Miranda Richardson's role in
The Three Ravens, from The
Storyteller, which is an extraordinary performance on her part.
As well as Sigorney Weaver's part in Snow
White a Tale of Terror, which I regard as her best work, and
it is perhaps my favorite Snow White re-telling ever.
(8/5/04 3:57 pm)
It depends on who does the translation, and from what.:-)
It's my impression that in Grimm and Lang, 'witch' signals a villian and 'fairy' or 'fairy godmother' signals (usually) a good or neutral figure. Of course the 'fairies' of cabinet des fees and the 'fairy godmothers' seem to be of a different species (like Ozma), while 'witches' are usually humans who have studied magic.
I haven't studied this closely, but in Calvino
the term 'fee' keeps coming up, and istr gets translated differently
at different times. 'These woods are full of fees' seems to refer
to what we'd call 'witches' or at least mischevious old fairy ladies
rather like humans. Like the three (I think they were Calvino's)
who were taking their morning walk, laughed at the fradulent queen
dangling from the window, and then decided to reward her for giving
them so much amusement.
I can't find Calvino
at the moment, but here is Lang's version:
While she was thus suspended, expecting every moment to be dashed to the ground, four fairies happened to pass by.
'Look, sisters,' cried one, 'surely that is the old woman that the king sent for. Shall we wish that her clothes may give way, and that she should be dashed to the ground?'
'Oh no! no!' exclaimed another. 'Let us wish her something good. I myself will wish her youth.'
'And I beauty.'
'And I wisdom.'
'And I a tender heart.'
So spake the fairies, and went their way, leaving the most beautiful maiden in the world behind them.