Friday, March 16, 2012

Article: Fairy Tales Or Scary Tales?

Mystic Tales (Sehirli Naghillar) published by Tutu Publishing House

From The Globe and Mail: Fairy tales or scary tales: Should we sanitize stories for our kids?

I'm getting pretty tired of these types of articles. This one only addresses children being read and exposed to fairy tales rather than all the various ways society has used them through history so I'll stick with the kid angle in this post too.

This one appears to have done some research but although it's well written, really the writer is just regurgitating quotes used elsewhere to support a point of view, which is fine and valid except that it isn't really presented as a single writer's point of view. It's presented more as an issue brought about by research. While it quotes Professor Zipes a number of times the aim is always to get back to the sensational rather than consider what he was actually saying. And that's a large part of the problem. It's not about the fairy tales at all really. Nor is it about the children, despite what people think they're discussing. It's about making people feel like "responsible parents" if they can apparently think more intelligently than their predecessors and band such horrible things from scarring their children. Like they apparently were.

I have to honestly wonder if the writers of these articles (there are a rash of them at the moment) remember what it was like to be a child. I wouldn't have survived without fairy tales but even if I was unique in that regard (which I know I'm not but let's just say for the sake of argument I was an anomaly among the children of the world), I'd rather my kid pick up a book of fairy tales with all the gore intact than watch or hear the nightly news. That's far more frightening and has nothing to offer but fear, encouraging you to worry about things you have no control over and are largely being speculated about at best (break down any local news and you'll find the factual content is actually quite light). One thing fairy tales do for children is take away uncertainty. They're pretty clear about what happens to whom and why. To have these "definites", these boundaries, is actually very comforting for a child. Uncertainty makes for instability and adults cause enough of that even without meaning to.

You should be familiar with the article in case anyone holds it up to you and starts using quotes. Just be aware of what's really being said.

You can read the two pages HERE. It comes with bonus summaries of the original classic gory stories of Snow White, Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and the not-included-in-the-Grimm's-collection tale of How Some Children Played At Butchering. Classic.

To give you something positive to read to balance this out, the illustrations in the post are from a fairy tale book published in Azerbaijan in 2004 with illustrations by Nusrat Hajiyev.

From the article on Azerbaijan International, about the book:
Fairy tale books have always been very popular in Azerbaijan. Even during Soviet times when thousands of books were published each year, such books, even those of lowest quality were in high demand, according to Tarlan. Even when other books remained on the shelves, fairy tales sold quite easily since folklore is an integral part of life. Every child grows up listening to fairy tales told by their mothers and grandmothers. 

"Our aim was to publish the most monumental book ever produced about Azerbaijani fairy tales," said Tarlan, when describing his vision for the book. "That's why we decided not to rush this job." Indeed, it ended up taking one year to select, rewrite and edit the 12 tales, and two more years to create the art work and design the book.
"Since there are so many fairy tales in Azerbaijan, we knew we couldn't publish all of them," said Tarlan. "That's why we decided to concentrate on 'mystic tales', which are full of supernatural elements, including divs (monsters). 
That's when they consulted Maharram Gasimli, Director of the Literature and Folklore Department at the Academy of Sciences, along with Ilham Rahimli and Zeynal Mammadli. Most of these Azerbaijani fairy tales had been collected during the 1920s and 1930s. Unfortunately, during that period, personal tape recorders did not exist that would have guaranteed the authenticity of the tales. Folklorists were sent off on expeditions to remote areas to collect the tales. However, their methodology was dubious. They knew that they would be paid according to the quantity of pages they produced so there's no wonder that they lent a hand to enhance and expand the stories themselves. On other occasions, some of the tales were modified or censored because they did not fit the strict guidelines of Soviet ideology, in terms of Socialist Realism where contentment was supposed to have spread throughout the land.Of course, the original version of such stories can rarely be traced, and it's only natural that each storyteller always injects his or her own vision of reality and world experience into the telling of these tales. These are natural processes that take place in any oral medium any place in the world.  

Mystic Tales is based upon TUTU staff's own literary tastes. The twelve folk tales that were selected are: Bakhtiyar, Divbecha, Pari khanim (Mrs. Pari), Malikmammad, Dash uzuk (Stone ring), Shahzade Bandali (Prince Bandali), Tapdig, Ayghir Hasan (Stalion Hasan), Nar Giz (Pomegranate Girl), Guru Khala, Ibrahim, and Goychak Fatma (Pretty Fatma; an Azerbaijani version of the well-known fairy tale, Cinderella).
You can read the whole article on this special collection (and why it's so special) HERE.

1 comment:

  1. I am very sick of this frame of mind as well. I am still a big kid at heart and I remember very clearly what childhood was like. From fairy tales to more modern tales like phantom of the opera....there was a creepy factor when i was a child that appealed to me. It scared me sometimes...certain stories...but in a rather good way. It's impossible to put it into words. If someone had made them bland it never would have been the same for me. For instance, I love Disney..and I love their movie of the Little Mermaid but they DID take the darkness out of the original fairy tale. The poor Mermaid doesn't get her Prince..she dies and becomes foam on the waves because she couldn't bring herself to kill him and get her fins back. Is it dark? Very. I wouldn't have it any other way though. It is darkly beautiful and I think it makes for an even deeper story.