Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fairy Tales at University of Florida

The Center for Children's Literature and Culture at University of Florida (Gainesville) has a new webpage devoted to fairy tales, including a resources page (SurLaLune is listed!).

From the site:

Fairy Tales are those ancient stories that have been worn smooth from millenia of telling -- as someone once said, like the stones in a riverbed. These tales are rounded, compact, unencrusted with descriptive edges, or the specific angularities of any literary styles or mannerisms. They are usually short and, at least with the traditional tales, anonymous. The Grimms and other collectors and compilers have edited the tales, but they are not their authors. Writers like Hans Christian Andersen and Oscar Wilde, E. T. A. Hoffmann and George MacDonald, e. e. cummings and J. K. Rowling have written what are referred to as Kunstmärchen or artistic fairy tales -- stories that have been created by a known author who brings their unique style to the narrative.

Traditional fairy tales have their roots in our oldest stories, in myths and legends, in those primal tales that were formed when human beings first began to speak, in the myriad folktales that were and are still told in the oral tradition. For nearly two centuries, though, fairy tales in the West have been written down and often illustrated. No longer as listeners do we have to create for ourselves a picture of the maiden in the tower or the hero stealing the golden goose from the giant’s castle. For over half a century there have been films that retell the tales for us on screens bigger than our own powers of imagination -- with the music and visual effects to accompany them.

There is substantial debate about how to interpret fairy tales. Are they manifestations of our collective or individual unconscious? projections of our wishes? expressions of our longings for fairness and decency in a world that often does not seem to support these values? Is one of the principle functions of the tales, as some have suggested, to cast a branch of hope and comfort upon the often troubled waters of life?

However we may wish to define fairy tales, they remain an inescapable part of our psyches and our cultures. They are why we celebrate the underdog, and secretly acknowledge "The Ugly Duckling" as our own autobiography. Through their flights of fantasy, fairy tales set us free to seek our happiness, to follow our bliss -- if only for the few minutes we are enfolded in a particular tale. For many people, fairy tales are sustaining paradigms of conduct and possibility that inform their lives. To use James Hillman's phrase, they "restory" us, whether we're adults or children (and many fairy tales were originally meant exclusively for adults). In the end, fairy tales offer the reader something sublimely simple: a rare and absolute sense of justice. The wicked are punished, the good triumph, and the world is set in balance again.

In honor of the 200th Anniversary of Children’s Household Tales (1812), we have compiled a page about all things “fairy tale.” Read about the Brothers Grimm, find links to fairy tale blogs, browse recent films with fairy tale themes and more. Also make sure to check out the Baldwin Library’s collection of Grimms’ Fairy Tales.

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