Monday, August 2, 2010

No blueberry-picking, but plenty of Snow White and fairy tale musings

But I wish this were a post about blueberry picking - I have read so many blog posts about blueberry picking in the last weeks, seen so many luscious photos of berries in boxes and baskets and pies and jam jars and cakes and ice cream bowls! I have been beset with terrible blueberry-picking envy. I thought of it too late to pull it together, which is a shame. I really love blueberries. Cora and Chris love blueberries, too, and we are certainly eating our share of retail berries. Mostly in cobblers and pancakes and yogurt and just fresh-washed out of a bowl. And now the peaches are threatening to eclipse the blueberries in our hearts. Such is the fickle nature of summer.

I finally got around to downloading the Flip camera. We had movies on there going back to early May. Yikes. But I think perhaps my favorite movies are a two-part sequence of Chris and Cora re-enacting Snow White. I think you will agree that Chris earns his Daddy stripes by participating in this, knowing it would be filmed and (of course!) posted. I only wish I had caught on camera the effort that went into Cora perfecting her technique for the "apple rolling away from my dead hand" move.

Last fall, in class we read fairy tales and academic essays on fairy tales and folklore. I was really surprised that none of my students, all first-year college students, *none* of the 40 students, were at all familiar with any of the more traditional versions of the tales. They knew nothing about red-hot iron dancing shoes, eyes pecked out by doves, walking on knives, etc. None knew the Bluebeard story, even! (I feel like I did pop culture a service by teaching these tales, the oldest and the newer reimaginings.) And over and over what they said was, "Who would let their kid read these?! Who would tell these stories to children?!" They were scandalized as only 18-year-olds can be.

Imagine their horror when I confessed that not only did I read and tell these stories to my girl, but that she really liked them.

I always go back in my mind to my good memories of tucking myself away in the back (the back-back) of the family station wagon and reading and rereading the volumes of Grimm and Andersen tales on family trips. I so loved those stories (my favorite is "The Goose Girl")! They were pretty accurate old-time translations, too. With the occasional illustration. I especially remember one of the end of a story wherein the evil character was turned into a giant black poodle that was forced to eat hot coals for the rest of its (presumably short) life. That thrill of revulsion and shock was delicious.

I also remember doing a paper on Maurice Sendak and all that he said about children and what adults think is too scary for kids is probably not half as scary as what already exists in the child's mind and fears. I agree with that. I read those tales now, and I think they are scarier for an adult - because as adults, we know that while we would like to think that people don't abandon their children in the woods when times are tough, a casual read through a newspaper will tell you such things do in fact happen today.

I also read something my cousin Traci wrote recently about why she identifies with Ariel from The Little Mermaid (Disney version) - how she feels born to sing (and sings beautifully), but struggles with losing her voice due to recurrent throat health issues. That she is also curious and sometimes naive. And that reminded me again about how we find ourselves in literature. Just as that poor goose girl ended up finally whispering her troubles to an old stove, here I am talking to the internet.

And, finally, at least in fairy tales, we do still get the happy endings we crave after all the trauma and tension.

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