Weekly Video Update

Make Cycles

Our course is organized by two week “make cycles,” a term I borrow from Connected Learning. We will read, discuss, and make things based on the children’s books we’re reading. You can find the “weekly work” for each cycle in the drop down menu above.

Google+ Community

We will share most of our work in a Google+ Community. We can upload images, respond to each other’s ideas, and share links and artifacts here.

Example Student Work

Example Student Work

Example Blogs for Snow White prompt

Example Blogs for Kissing the Witch

Example artifacts

Olivia Charbonneau: Cinderella

The differences in perception of Cinderella as a character is a direct result of environmental factors of where these stories originate. For example, the Tatar text touches on the Oedipal nature of the renditions of Cinderella–referred to as Catskin–in which the jealousy and rage of the stepmother stems from a lust for Cinderella by her father (103). I find this extremely alarming, naturally, but also interesting in terms of gender roles and relationships. Rather than exposing this for what it is, unnatural and wrong, this incestual desire is used rather as an excuse for maltreatment by a stepmother.

One of the things I took away the most from these tales of Cinderella as a whole, was the way the character was written, in terms of gender roles. In each rendition, she was a victim of circumstance with no ability to stand up for herself, but rather just rolled over and took what was dished out by her “family.” In some stories, this was referred to as a “kind heart,” and in other stories, she gets her revenge at the end. But the middle part, the meat of the story, still has a woman defenseless, a damsel in distress in the sense that she is unable to solve her own predicaments without a little outside help. Granted, while I don’t agree with it, I know contextually that was how women were perceived: unable to exist without the presence of a man in their life. But I think these stories speak volumes for where we once were as a species and how far we’ve come.

I enjoy reading these and looking at where we as a culture began. Then, after marveling at how backwards we once thought as humans, it makes the reflection of the fairy tales that exist now so much more efficacious. We have moved from stories like Donkeyskin by Charles Perrault, where Cinderella turns to her godmother to rescue her from the fate of marrying her own father (110), to Disney’s Moana or Brave with no romance factor and a female heroine; Merida saves her future in Brave, and Moana saves her entire village and the world! I think it’s borderline amazing how far we have come as a culture.

The Emma Donoghue version really held my attention the most of them all, I think mainly because it was so different than the others. One of my favorite books of all time is The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, and the way this was written seemed very similar to me. The concept of Cinderella being a victim of her mind, rather than her environment, was a really unique change of pace.

The scene in which the Prince proposes (Donoghue, 7) is where the undermining of fairy tales come about. Rather than being forced to run away by the timing of the clock–the plot we are all too familiar with–Donoghue’s Cinderella was scared away by the future, a future of bland safety. I think this is a perfect example of a woman wanting more for her life than just to be someone’s “plus one.” Additionally, Cinderella running away with her Fairy Godmother is a different play, and actually a homosexual angle at that. I think it’s great for stories to have variation, and maybe discuss topics that may be unfamiliar. I think this version would be a great version to include in a fairy tale unit at a high school age, to show different perceptions of the same tale.

I would say my favorite line in this version was probably, “what he proposed was white and soft, comfortable as fog” (7). I think this analogy did a great job at getting the intended point across: that a life as a wife of a Prince would be dull, boring, and lackluster. There’s something so powerful about comparing comfort and softness to fog, that it may be safe and without risk, but it also will be dreary. This line seemed like poetry to me; I love usage of symbolism in literature.

Ismael Munoz: Cinderella

In the Cinderella cycle the stories were all different from the original Cinderella story most kids grew up. The one that was the closest resembling the Cinderella story I grew up with was Brothers Grimm/Cinderella. In this story we see Cinderella being abused and mistreated by her two mean stepsisters: they make Cinderella’s life impossible. Cinderella is treated like a maid and has to clean, cook, and meet the needs of her greedy stepsister. When the king announced a festival the two stepsisters call on Cinderella and ask: “Comb our hair, brush our shoes, and fasten our buckles. We’re going to the wedding at the king’s palace.” Cinderella cried and begged her stepmother to let her go as well. The part of the story that was different and a bit more gruesome from the Disney version is when the stepsisters try on the golden shoe. The oldest sister tried on the shoe first but she couldn’t get her big toe in that’s when her mother gave her a knife and said to her: “Cut the toe off. Once you’re queen, you wont need to go on foot any more.” Afterword’s the second stepsister tried on the golden shoe but her heel was to big. Once again her mother gave her a knife and said: “Cut off part of your heel. Once you’re queen, you need to go on foot any more.” When it’s time for Cinderella to try on the golden show it fits perfect and the prince knew she would be his wife.

The ending is also a bit different in the way the stepsister are punished for their evildoing and malice with blindness for the rest of their lives. Some ideas and thoughts that came as I read this version of Cinderella were that sometimes social attitudes towards disadvantage women are seen as weak and vulnerable. In this case Cinderella didn’t have her parents with her and was taken advantage by her evil stepmother and stepsister who took a pleasure in abusing her.

The story of Donkeyskin, by Charles Perrault, seemed more sinister and forbidden in nature when the king announces he wants to marry his own daughter after his wife dies. In her dying hour the queen said to her husband the king: “Before I die I want to make one request of you. If you desire to remarry when I am no more… I want you to swear that you will pledge your love and marry only if you meet a woman more beautiful, more accomplished, and more wise than I am.” After months of mourning his deceased wife death the king is ready to go ahead and choose a new wife. It was disturbing to hear how he said. “Only his own daughter was more beautiful, and she even possessed certain charms that his dead wife never had. Men are at times portrayed as sexual beasts when it comes to fairytales or in attitudes by society. This was seen in the father as he says: “He noticed it himself and, burning with desire that drove him mad, he took it into his head that she ought to marry him.” In Donkeyskin we don’t see the evil stepmother or stepsister abusing her; it’s the father who is to blame for her distress. In this story the princess is saddened by the kind of love she is receiving from her father. She wants her father to love her, but not in that way.

Donkeyskin was a very different and interesting version of Cinderella: it portrayed how overwhelmed Cinderella was when she learned she would marry her own father. Like in other fairytales, Cinderella has a godmother that guides her through moments of need. This shows how women could either be caring or abusive while men are portrayed as the handsome prince or the sexual predator. The story has a moral according to Perrault as he says: “This story teaches children that it is better to expose yourself to harsh adversity than to neglect your duty.”

Emma Donoghue’s version of Cinderella was very different compared to the original Cinderella story. In the tale of the shoe it starts by describing Cinderella somewhat emotionally unstable. No one tells Cinderella to clean but that’s all she does because theirs nothing else to do. It describes how she scoured the floor until her knees bled. Cinderella hears strange voices in her head and seems insane at times as when she says: “The shrill voices were all inside. Do this, do that, you lazy heap of dirt. Some days they asked why I was still alive.” In this version of Cinderella there was no abuse coming from anyone, Cinderella brought the abuse on her self. Cinderella seemed to have fallen into a depression after her mother’s death, she says: “I listened out for my mother, but couldn’t hear her among their clamor.” The story was a little odd in some ways but I guess that’s what made it interesting. One of my favorite lines was when she says: Some nights I told myself stories to make myself weep, then stroked my own hair till I slept.” That line was very strong and deep and it shows true emotion. This could teach children to express their feelings more openly.

Alice Thurber: Cinderella

The gender roles established in the Cinderella stories are roles that were expected to be depicted in the culture in which they were written. The tales themselves were effective at controlling children by fear – in fact some thought the more gruesome the better. (I do have serious doubts about these authors being appropriate authors of children’s books.) But times have changed, and the lessons the fairy tales teach are no longer culturally relevant. It makes sense to revise them to teach the values that we feel are important to cultivate in girls today, such as intelligence, resourcefulness, and strength, along with diligence, compassion and humility.

Gender stereotypes are found in every version of Cinderella, whether it is the mother or the father that is to blame for her fate. I think the worst father is the one in the Grimm version, when he says, “No…there’s only puny little Cinderella, my dead wife’s daughter….” That is so unfeeling. All of the stories place way too high a value on looks. In every one, people fall in love with one another because of their physical beauty. And why does every one of the stories assume that all little girls want to get married in the first place? Of course, in the Oedipus complex versions, she does not really want to marry her father. And maybe she feels she has to marry someone else to save her from marrying her father. And maybe in those days she would have to do that. I appreciate the quote that Tatar included from Giambattista Basile, “resistance springs from wrongful orders.” Certainly, the King delivers wrongful orders in the Donkeyskin version. I would think this version would be confusing to children, and I would not want to read it to my daughter or granddaughter.

When I read his story, I wonder if Perrault had a problem with women or marriage, especially when I read the passage, “People may say bad things about marriage, but it is an excellent remedy for lovesickness.” That passage actually made me laugh, but some of the others made me angry. I think he is being very sexist when he remarks, “Next came the working girls whose fingers, pretty and slender (for there are many well proportioned), seemed almost to fit the ring.” Of course, this is probably the way men talked about women. But Perrault does not stop at gender discrimination. He indulges in class discrimination, when he states, “Finally they had to summon servants” (to try on the ring). And of course, he indicates his race prejudice when he equates skin color to ugliness…”and from distant shores came the Moors, who were so black and ugly that they frightened little children.” From my experience, little children are not usually frightened by something, unless they are taught to fear it by such propaganda.

But even as objectionable as all of these examples are, I find Perrault’s moral in the last couple of paragraphs more objectionable still. This is filled with mixed messages. I do not think it is acceptable to teach our children “it is better to expose yourself to harsh adversity than to neglect your duty”. What about Door #3? Children could be taught to look for another solution. I also object to the message, “Virtue may sometimes seem ill-fated, but is always crowned with success….” This is simply untrue. I think it is unfair to teach children that they will always be successful as long as they are virtuous, among other untrue messages. I favor being honest with children. But of course that was not the norm at the time of the writings.

My favorite one of the tales was the “Princess in the Suit of Leather.” She was a trickster and a mistress of disguise. I think there are some great subtleties here. In this tale, women look out for each other a little bit. The minister’s daughter talks to the Princess and tells her what is going on; so she can make her own decision. This chick has her back! And the Princess is really inventive. She completely reinvents herself when she needs to hide. She is prepared to stay in this role forever. But maybe not really…she does go to the ball. I also like the fact that the other women in the story are not really mean to Juleida. They don’t want her to die or be punished. There is prejudice shown here too. In this story it is against the handicapped. But it seems more like it is pointing out the social injustice of it through story, not like it is the viewpoint of the author, the way it seems in Perrault’s writing. I find it interesting how readily everyone believes Juleida is handicapped just because she says, “My eyes are weak. I cannot see. My ears are deaf. I cannot hear.” She does seem like a talented actress. All of the stories have one more thing in common. In my opinion, all of the Princes, the scholar, all of them are naïve or dimwitted. I wonder if the Prince is worth all this trouble. He doesn’t pay much attention, and he is really gullible. But again, his wealth and looks are everything, just as they are for Cinderella.

In Donoghue’s version of Cinderella, “The Tale of the Shoe,” Emma Donoghue undermines the conventions of the fairy tale in several ways. I loved the way she made Cinderella responsible for her own punishment. The way Donoghue describes what Cinderella goes through when her mother dies I can tell she knows grief herself. The opening is beautifully written, and apt, “Till she came it was all cold.” This was my favorite line. This story also flies in the face of convention by switching gender roles and having Cinderella fall in love with her fairy godmother. A line that made me smile and raise my eyebrows was when she “claimed her little finger was a magic wand”. Lol. This version shatters sexual stereotypes and disarms prejudice.

Casey Wakai

What makes a story a fairytale?
A fairy tale is an imaginative and traditional story that isn’t realistic but can teach us real lessons. There are different spins on classic fairytales but I think a fairy tale always is magical and allows the reader to step away from real life to view an entertaining story where the characters are well-developed and predictable and where there is justice. While fairy tales used to be pretty dark, now fairy tales have happy endings to make children happy.

What are the elements of a fairytale?
Fairytales are magical and imaginative. The characters are predictable and they should have the purpose of teaching us lessons that are deeply rooted in the plot. Like how Cinderella’s step mother and sisters are bad people and they don’t end up benefitting from that and she is hard-working and she does end up benefitting…the ideas are a little outdated but the happy endings still can bring joy.

Why do we continue to read fairytales?
We continue to read them because they are happy and entertaining, and they allow us to step outside real life for an imaginative moment. Also, they teach morals to young children and are memorable so children could reach back to the times they were exposed to these stories.

What role do fairytales serve in our culture?
Fairytales are like a universal theme to teach our children the morals we value. In our culture, everyone could refer to the same fairytales at any point in life. They serve as a baseline for what our children learn about the world through the type of story that they love.

What are your memories of fairy tales?
I don’t remember a lot of my upbringing and was never a girl who adored princesses or anything, but I somewhat know the story line to most fairy tales, and that is what the purpose of having them around is…So we can all relate back to something from early childhood.

Sandra Nyland

A fairy tale is a highly imaginative story that shares (or conveys) a moral. For instance, don’t be evil like the stepsisters in Cinderella or you will won’t find true happiness. A fairy tale resolves a conflict between good and evil and usually involves magic. The focal character is striving for ultimate happiness and is rewarded with a happy ending. Fairy tales are similar to fables except that the moral of the story that a fable tells seems to be more straightforward and easier to discern. An example of this would be the Hare and the Tortoise where the tortoise won the race by staying focused and not being overly confident. Fairy tales leave more room for one’s imagination and provide a means to escape reality a bit.

I certainly believe we still continue to read fairy tales because of the guaranteed happy endings of course! We can think outside of the box and imagine a place where everything ends up right in the world. I think fairy tales are engaging to children and fills them with a sense of inquisitive wonder.

Fairy tales are important aspect of our culture because they are structured stories handed down from generation to generation and they convey moral and social lessons in a way that in the end is hopeful.

When I think back on my memories of fairy tales from my youth, I ponder “nurture vs nature”. This may seem odd to some but I do wonder if I was simply born with a romantic, hopeful heart or was it the myriad of fairy tales I read as youngster that that my vivid imagination latched on to…Just today, a friend asked me if there was anything they could do to help a situation I was dealing with. I responded “find me that magic wand”!

Janette Herrera response to Sandra

You make a great point about nature vs. nurture. I hadn’t thought about how fairy-tales may have an effect culturally on a society and whether they are a pessimistic or optimistic culture. It would be interesting to know when the fairy-tales as we know them were altered from their original darker versions and to know if this was part of the reason they were converted into a “happily ever after.”

Brianna Carlucci
What’s afforded from these various “tellings” of Little Red Riding Hood would be, different perspectives. We all see life in different ways, why wouldn’t we understand books in different ways. Each one of these authors shared a similar story with variations. Each author saw how this tale could be told and shared it. The conclusion that we can draw of these tales in terms of identity construction would be that “Red” played a different role in each of these various “tellings” of Little Red Riding Hood.

She was young, naive, vulnerable, clever, ruthless, violent, disobedient, trusting, honest and so many more things. As stated before the roles that are offered for children to imagine would be that they can be empowered, naïve, cleaver, violent, honest to a fault and weak. Some of these identities are good and some are bad. I think that children should be learning positive identities as they grow up and not negative ones.

“The Story of Grandmother” I don’t think that I would want any child to read this version of this tale. I think that it takes the tale too far. I don’t think that children need to be read or read this themselves. I don’t feel a child would benefit from reading about how Little Red Riding Hood ate her grandma’s body and drank her blood, this is gross. I also don’t think that children would benefit from reading about how the wolf tells the little girl to burn her clothes because she won’t need them anymore. I believe that this verse make Little Red Riding Hood look senseless. I think that this version would not be helpful but problematic. “The Red Cap” version could be helpful or problematic, it depends on how you look at it. It enforces violent behavior, standing up for yourself and shows what could happen if you don’t follow directions. In Charles Perrault, “Little Red Riding Hood” version I feel that it’s not very encouraging to read that the Grandma and Little Red Riding Hood were both eaten by the Wolf. After reading all the different versions of “little Red Riding Hood” I would have to say that each of these versions are both problematic and helpful except “The Story of Grandmother”. They each teach something that children should learn and something they shouldn’t.

Prompt 2: In your opinion, is Red Riding Hood better off following Bugs Bunny home in “What Bugs Bunny Said to Red Riding Hood”?  Why or why not?  Explain your thinking.

I think that Red Riding Hood would be fine if she went home with Bugs Bunny. From his actions and words, it makes me feel like he is honest and just wants to help. Bugs Bunny said what we as adults have thought so many time, why is Little Red Riding Hood in the forest alone. I don’t think many of us would have said it like him but I know that I have had thoughts like this before. Why is she walking alone to grandma’s house? Why didn’t her mom come with her? I think that Bugs Bunny is just looking out for her and wants to make sure that she gets somewhere safe. He doesn’t want her walking alone in a dangerous forest with a wolf that could eat her.

Jennifer Coursey
I was very surprised to see how twisted some versions of the Little Red Riding Hood stories were. I think we can all agree that not all versions of the Little Red Riding Hood are child appropriate, but these versions can be enjoyable for an older crowd. As far as identity construction goes, I noticed that in some versions Little Red Riding Hood is a character who is vulnerable and susceptible to being a victim of male violence. In my opinion, presenting Little Red Riding Hood as a weak character can be problematic. Little Red Riding Hood is presented in the story as a lovely girl, but showing children that beautiful women are weak isn’t ideal. She isn’t shown as a strong and independent woman. In Brownmiller’s version, both Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother are easily swallowed by the wolf without any struggle. I didn’t like this version because of how weak and dependent it made women sound. Gender roles and feminism are big sociopolitical issues in modern times, so this version wouldn’t sit well with several women.

My favorite version was “Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf” by Roald Dahl. This version is great because it teaches the audience to never underestimate what a female is capable of and to always carry a weapon of some sort, so you are capable of fighting back. Dahl states, “She pulls a pistol from her knickers. She aims it at the creature’s head. And bang! Bang! Bang! She shoots him dead.” This version seems more modern considering that Little Red had a gun.

I liked the versions where Little Red Riding Hood got away peacefully because I prefer happy endings in stories, but I also think that all the different versions do teach a good lesson to women and girls everywhere. Children are able to learn from Little Red Riding Hood that they shouldn’t walk alone because it isn’t safe, not to talk to strangers, and to never let their guard down around people they don’t know well. At the end of Perrault’s version of Little Red Riding Hood there is a “moral” of the story section. He states, “I say a wolf, but not all wolves are exactly the same. Some are perfectly charming, not loud, brutal or angry. But tame, pleasant and gentle. Following young ladies.” That part really stood out because strangers come in all shapes and sizes. I believe that the moral of that story could show children to not trust someone because they seem kind or compassionate.

Prompt 2:
In my opinion, Little Red Riding Hood should not follow Bugs Bunny home. Judging by his “cat calling”, his intentions seemed bad and he was acting rather sketchy. Although he is saying that he’s harmless, doesn’t actually mean he will cause no harm to her. It is always good to keep your guard up and never go to a private place with someone you hardly know.

Alice Thurber response to Elly

I think that given all of the data, even very young kids can make informed decisions on their own, and it is in fact our job to teach them to do so. Reading class could be taught in conjunction with scientific concepts, such as what is a carnivore, an herbivore or an omnivore. I would open the group by presenting this information with pictures that depict such animals and examples of what they eat. Depending on the children’s ages and what they already know, I would inform or remind them that wolves are meat eaters, or carnivores (I would use that word with even the youngest children to expose them to the vocabulary). And I would inform them that rabbits are herbivores that only eat vegetation. Afterwards, I would like to tell both of these stories to children, back to back. Then I would leave it up to the kids to decide who Red would be safer with. I think there would be just as many opinions and notions about possibilities outside of the story that would arose in the classroom as arose in this forum.