Thesis: Foktales Children Grow Up With Bedtime Stories

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Foktales

Children grow up with bedtime stories their parents or older siblings told them. As they grow up and expand their literary universe, they find out that the stories they thought were created by the national folklore of their country are actually using common themes with those from numerous other countries. It appears that there are archetypes that travel worldwide. Folk tales often present the same archetype under a different form, but the story remains basically the same.

There are two reasons for children's love of fairytales that come to mind when thinking about one's own childhood. First, they had the role of entertainment. Second, they were educational. Just as any other form of literature, folktales can also play an educative role, translated in a language children can understand.

Children have a vivid imagination and the reading of a folktale enables them to identify with one of the characters and accompany them in the land of imagination. They are able to relate to situations and to fantastic characters beyond reality that would appear as absurd to an adult.

The educational and manipulative role of the Red Riding Hood and a Woolf at the Door are obvious: children who do not listen to their parents end up being eaten by the bad wolf. The triumph of the good over evil is another educational hint for the children who are taught how to behave. They listen to stories where everything that stands for a just cause will win in the end. There are exceptions to this rule, though: the case of the German folk tales. Even in the case where they end up with good triumphing over evil, the German folk tales are full of dark details and their atmosphere is usually bleak and pretty traumatic for a child's mind. They are more inclined to scare young listeners instead of enchanting them.

The messages of folk tales have a variety of meanings and they are expressed in forms that range from a basic and direct message like: "do not open the door to strangers," to much more complicated and subtle ones. The Asian folk tales are known for their powerful impact they have thanks to their philosophical charge.

Human beings have always been fascinated with stories presented as the result of imagination. They gave one the power to use one's own imagination and to build upon the basic structure of the folk tale. The world of dreams is closely related to the folk tales, at least for children. They are used to listen to stories just before they go to sleep and their imagination does not stop once they have fallen asleep. They recreate the situations and characters in their dreams, with them as participants in the action.

Some folk tales were originally based on some true stories that were enriched by every story teller they passed through so that they were transformed in a way they became unrecognizable. They may have originally served the purpose of a historic record. There is another educational role folk tales have certainly plaid once.

From the same category, but with an entirely different significance are the folk tales that started up as a story about something witnessed next door and became a fabulous story. That could be the case of Cinderella. Basically, it could have started as a story about a stepmother who mistreated her stepdaughter and an oblivious and submissive father. Each of the storyteller then embellished the narrative until it became a fantastic story that revenges the wickedness of the stepmother and her daughters. Cinderella is a story that was analyzed, criticized and even demonized by those who saw in it another tool for the oppression of women. These are exaggerations of those who are trying to be politically correct by all means. Cinderella begins as a story about the family next door, regardless of the time in history: "There lived once a gentleman who married for his second wife the proudest woman ever seen. She had two daughters of the same spirit, who were indeed like her in all things. On his side, her husband had a young daughter, who was of great goodness and sweetness of temper; in this she was like her mother, who was the best woman in the world" (Cinderella, 7). There is nothing magical in this story until Cinderella's godmother, the fairy enters the scene. This could be the moment when one of the story teller decided it was time to revenge Cinderella and punish her stepmother's cruelty. The story originates from a time in history where ladies were supposed to be saved by daring knits and thus Cinderella will escape her misery and become a princess with the help of a fairy and a prince who will marry her. She could not act like a woman from the twentieth century simply because her story originated from an age where women were highly dependent on men and taking fate into their own hands was simply not an option.

Thompson presents different theories regarding the origin and the dissemination of folktales, given the fact the there are obvious common features in folk tales of different countries around the world that can be traced back to antiquity. He mentions Grimm's theory regarding the common origin of folk stories based on the common origin of the Indo-European language. According to Grimm, they appear to be broken down-myths inherited from Indo-European antiquity. Thus peoples who speak Indo-European languages have inherited these roots for their folk tales.

On the other side, everything that was apparently out of the ordinary and could not be explained by what logic and science were able to prove at a certain time, became a source for either legends or folk tales.

Before modern psychology came into action and explained parents that scary stories have just the opposite effect than what they had hoped for, stories were used, as pointed out before, to "educate" children. They were supposed to get scared and to fear the bad wolf if they opened the door to strangers or the monster under the bed that would come and get them if they did not fall asleep when the time to go to bed came.

Various researchers have classified folk tales according to their origin and their original purposes. To enable his researches in the folk tales of different European peoples, Aarne Antti created a system for classifying folk tales that continue to be the basis for many scholars in their researches today. The religious tales are one of the subcategories Aarne named. The legends about ancient gods and those found in the Old Testament, for example, are known to the whole western world in one form or another. They appeared as religious texts, but they were also appreciated for their literary value. Those that did not share the same religious beliefs as the authors of the respective legends could still enjoy the beauty of the story artfully told by the story tellers. The fascination with the characters and the magic of their deeds kept the audiences always charmed and ready to listen to the same story over and over again.

There are folk tales written for children and there are folk tales destined to a more sophisticated audience. They share the same basic role: to entertain. Their means differ, according to the degree of development of their audiences' minds.

Elisabeth Panttaja tackles the topic of empowering and disempowering women as a representation of society's flaws in terms of equal rights and gender roles. The stories represent the mentalities of a certain society at a certain time and since many folk tales were created centuries or millennia ago, they have not changed the way women were treated simply because they were relying on their roles as powerless and weak characters. On the other side, there are tales, like for example in the Germanic folk literature, where women give a precious helping hand in the development of the story. Haensel and Gretel are two chidren of the opposite sexes that act together and moreover, the one who finds a solution to their potentially deadly situation is the girl. This is a case where the power of mind overcomes anything else.

One essential trait of human societies remains communication. The art of story telling is a form of human communication. As explained before, the folk tales, regardless of their origins, plaid a variety of roles, depending on their message. They were educational, or entertaining. Children and even adults, especially in those societies where oral tradition was the most important learning tool, learned about the history of their folk or about the proper way to behave while being entertained at the same time. or, they were simply entertained listening to stories about fantastic creatures or plain people who gained superior powers through magic.

Oral stories are at the origin of any written form. Before the development of the writing skills, humans used to communicate almost entirely through speech. That is why the study of primitive societies… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Foktales Children Grow Up With Bedtime Stories."  Essaytown.com.  April 9, 2009.  Accessed November 12, 2019.
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