Hans Christian Anderson: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Child
by Teresa Martin--@Teresa__Martin
Hans Christian Andersen was a Danish writer living from 1805-1875. He penned many of the great fairy tales, his stories making up the corpus of some of the classics including “The Little Mermaid,” “The Red Shoes, ”The Little Match Girl,” “The Ugly Duckling,” and “The Snow Queen.” The latter is the tale on which the Disney movie Frozen was loosely based and will play a large part on Once in the Fall. He was prolific, writing poetry and some adult literature, yet it is for his fairy tales for which he remains most famous. Andersen was unique in that most of his stories were not collections from oral folk stories, but inventions of his own and because of this some place him as a forerunner of the fantasy genre (4, 5 Wullschlager).
Andersen’s stories also frequently feature the innocence, and therefore, wisdom of children. A biographer stated, ”Addressing himself to the child in the adult through a revolutionary shift in perspective, he gave voice through his characters to groups which had traditionally been mute and oppressed—the children, the poor, those who did not fit social or sexual stereotypes ” His stories indeed contain sophisticated themes. “ ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ and ‘The Ugly Duckling’ remain bywords for aspects of the human condition, while character emitting terror or sacrifice” (4,5 Wullschlager). “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is particularly a tale which epitomizes vanity, abuse of power, as well as the phenomena of mob behavior.
By Dieuwertje - @Diejj
Among all of the Once Upon A Time teasers during this year's San Diego Comic Con, the most exciting for myself and others was the video in which a certain someone stole Grumpy's fork - or should I say 'dinglehopper'? After which, a green tale and long red hair could be seen in the water. To anyone who knows their fairy tales (and Disney especially) - that could mean only one thing: Ariel is coming! Which leaves me with the question: what will she be like? We have learned from previous characters that the 'Once' writers tend to go with a mix of the original tale and the Disney interpretation - if an equivalent is available. This led me to take a look at the original little mermaid stacked up against Disney's Ariel, hoping that I would find some clues to the impending 'Once Upon A Time' Ariel.
The average person on the street would probably think of dancing crabs, fish and a mischievous red head if I were to say 'The Little Mermaid' and we have the Disney Corporation to thank for that faux image. "The Little Mermaid" written by Hans Christian Andersen in 1836 is far from the happy ending of the Disney story and there is not one dancing or singing crab in the entire story.
The original story tells of six mermaids, daughters of the Sea King. They are all beautiful yet the youngest of them – who remains without a name throughout the entire story – is the most beautiful of them all. Because the Sea King is widowed, it is their grandmother who takes care of them. She tells the mermaids stories about what life above the sea is like, for the mermaids are not allowed to rise up from the water to see for themselves before their fifteenth birthdays. The little mermaid is described as ‘quiet’ and ‘thoughtful’ and although there is no one who longs more to see what is above the water than she is, she patiently awaits the day that she will turn fifteen. It is only when she has turned fifteen and she is allowed to go up, that her love for human beings develops. She then falls in love with a prince she saves from drowning. She brings him to the beach after which a young girl takes further care of him. When the prince awakes he thinks it is this girl who saved him.
First of all, it is interesting to see how Disney changed some of the characters of the original story. In Andersen’s story the grandmother has quite a prominent role in the story. She is displayed as a wise old woman who raises the six mermaids. She knows all about life above the sea and tells this to her granddaughters, who all love, adore and respect her very much. Of course, it is the obvious choice to incorporate this character into the Disney movie transforming the wise respected grandmother into a small, male hothead of a Caribbean crab whose biggest quality is his talent for music – Oh, it’s not? Well, to Disney it apparently was.
Andersen also pays attention to the bond the little mermaid has with her sisters. The story shows you how close all six sisters are. They really care for each other and this is all the more proven when the five older sisters cut their hair and go to the feared Sea Witch. To Disney, this family dynamic was apparently not interesting enough, so apart from their names, we know close to nothing about Ariel`s sisters. It seems that Ariel is not too close with them either. Instead, this part of the story is replaced by the character Flounder, a young male fish who has such a lack of courage that would make our beloved pre-Dark-One-Rumpelstiltskin appear courageous. By introducing Flounder, Disney gave our beloved Ariel the ultimate opportunity to express all her maternal feelings to the fullest.
This brings us to Ariel’s character in general. You can say a lot about this redhead, but ‘quiet and thoughtful’ she is most definitely not. Ariel is disobedient; she disregards rules, and shows little respect to authority. She’s mischievous, yet has a big heart that accepts all and she is dedicated to what she believes in. The only traits the two mermaids have in common are their curiosity and desire to learn more about unknown things. One could say that Ariel’s character would be liked by feminists for the exact reason that she fights for her dreams. Yet when you look at it from another point of view, Ariel doesn’t seem to be so bad ass at all. After all, she sacrifices her voice – her right to speak, her right to be heard – so she can be with a man, a man whom she has to seduce therefore with her looks? According to Grandma Sebastian, that will work just fine, according to the little crab a woman is for the man to take, a verbal consent is not necessary, or so he sings in ´Kiss the Girl’:
There you see her
Sitting there across the way
She don’t got a lot to say
But there’s something about her
And you don’t know why
But you’re dying to try
You wanna kiss the girl
Yes, you want her
Look at her, you know you do
It’s possible she wants you, too
There is one way to ask her
It don’t take a word
Not a single word
Go on and kiss the girl
Also, when things are going wrong, and Ursula seems to win, Ariel does not live up to her courageous nature at all; she willingly lets her father suffer for her, and so breaks the contract. Triton has a much more prominent role in the Disney movie to begin with. He in a way takes the place in the story of the grandmother, as the respected powerful ruler of the seven seas. In this way the Sea World seems to have become more of a patriarchy under Disney’s touch than the matriarchy that it was in Andersen’s fairytale. All feminine aspects of any importance are aborted or changed into male characters. The ocean and mermaids are female, and in Andersen’s story the Sea Witch – who is of course female too – is made hideous and appalling, as to keep the female image pure and associated with positive thoughts. However, in the Disney movie it is practically the other way around: Apart from our feminine ocean, Ariel is surrounded by male characters. The only other female character of importance is Ursula, the Sea Witch. She is still fat and evil, yet not so very disgusting anymore, she’s being transformed into a voluptuous creature that is elegant in an octopus kind of way. She embodies pure evil and in this way the image of the female who is not quiet, calm, graceful, and pure is connected to negative feelings.
The mermaid can’t get the prince out of her head and asks her grandmother for more stories about the humans. Her grandmother tells her that although human beings die sooner than mermaids – who can live for 300 years sometimes – they have an immortal soul that ‘rises up through the clear, pure air beyond the glittering stars...to unknown and glorious regions which we shall never see”. After hearing this, the mermaid is determined to obtain an immortal soul. The only way to do this is by marrying a human being.
And so, the little mermaid decides to turn to the only person who can help her with this: The Sea Witch. The witch is all too happy to help the young mermaid and says she will make a draught that will give her a pair of legs instead of a tail. However she warns the mermaid, telling her that she will feel great pain, and that every step will feel as if she were walking on sharp knives and if the prince does not choose her, she will become the foam that floats on the sea. The mermaid tells the witch that she will carry those burdens happily if it means she will have legs. Not even the payment for the draught can change the mermaid’s mind, and so the witch cuts out the tongue of the young mermaid, so she cannot speak or sing anymore. The Sea Witch tells her that she will simply have to seduce the prince using her expressive eyes, beauty and graceful dancing.
When the mermaid reaches land she is found by the prince. He instantly takes a liking to her, however not in the way the girl had wanted. He doesn’t see her as a potential wife; instead she is a curiosity to him, whom he loves like a sister. When the time comes for the prince to marry, he does not choose the mermaid but the girl he thinks saved his life. This means the mermaid will die and become foam but then her sisters appear, their long hair cut off. They tell their little sister they sold their hair to the Sea Witch in exchange for a knife that will save the young mermaid from dying if she kills the prince with it. The mermaid accepts the knife, but in the end is not able to kill the prince, after which she throws herself into the sea expecting to die and become foam. However the mermaid does not become foam, for she is allowed to join the sisters of the air, who are given the chance to redeem themselves and obtain an immortal soul after all after 300 years of service. For every child that smiles they have to wait a year less, however for every crying child a year is added to their time. And so ends the story.
And they lived not so happily ever after
It is quite obvious that Walt Disney’s The Little Mermaid knows a happier ending. Therefore I feel no need to explain in depth how our Little Mermaid does not find a world where she is accepted like a woman and human being the way Ariel does. However, there are more subtle differences I find more interesting than the more obvious, surface differences.
The Andersen story appears to be the nightmare of every feminist. Fairytales were originally meant to teach us a lesson, and what “The Little Mermaid” basically tells us is: A woman needs to be silent and beautiful and it is only through her marriage with a man that she can go to heaven. However, seeing that this fairytale was written in 1836, this is not really a surprise. What is a surprise though, is the way in which women are discredited in the Disney movie of 1989. At that point there had already been two waves of feminism and the third wave would occur a year after the movie was released. You would expect Disney to have ‘updated’ its view on women since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1946). However, we would be wrong.
There’s Something About Marian
by Teresa Martin--@Teresa__Martin
A surprise happened during the summer of 2013. In the middle of #SaveHenry hashtagery and speculation, some news reached Oncers. The role of Robin Hood had been recast. Really? Odd, since Tom Ellis had made a strong impression in “Lacey” stealing from Rumplestiltskin thereby saving both his wife and their unborn son. The episode ended sweetly with the couple kissing and happily going off into the sunset. Fans sighed. Once had done it again, taking an iconic character, expertly played, if not well-developed, into the story. They even provided a treat with the brief appearance of Maid Marian. Signed, sealed, delivered. The End.
by Chris Fitzner (@chrisfitzner)
“Rapunzel” is a deceptively simple tale; even the name of the title character is obviously German, which would make sense seeing as it was first introduced to the world at large by the Brothers Grimm. But as I dug into the soil and began to pull at the roots of the story, I found that they ran much deeper than I had suspected.
It is a story with which most of us are familiar. A husband, desperate to appease his ailing wife, gets caught stealing the lettuce she craves so desperately. The price for the theft is their long awaited child and the witch whisks the baby girl away, eventually shutting her in a tower that has neither a door nor stairs, to keep her safe from the world. Rapunzel grows up beautiful, with golden hair the witch climbs up in order to visit the tower. But the witch cannot keep the world out forever; eventually a prince discovers Rapunzel, drawn by her enchanting singing. He figures out the trick to gaining access to the tower and begins visiting after the witch is gone and the two fall in love. The witch discovers them and banishes Rapunzel far away to fend for herself and springs a trap for the prince, who falls from the tower and blinds himself on the brambles. After a time of wandering, Rapunzel and the prince are reunited, her loving tears restoring his sight.
Happily ever after, right? This story makes me think twice about crossing an old crone at the salad bar.
The tale that we know as “Rapunzel” came to us from the Children’s and Household Tales collection, first published by the Grimm brothers in 1812. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm collected oral folk tales and wrote them down, sometimes editing them over time and removing the more cruel or sexual elements in some of the stories. However, their “Rapunzel” bears a strong resemblance to a French story titled “Persinette”, written by an aristocrat, Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force and published in 1698. This version with its title character, Persinette (parsley), is almost identical to the Grimm’s version save for having a more detailed ending with Persinette and her lover suffering even more than Rapunzel and the prince before their eventual reunion.
But if “Rapunzel” was French, how did Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm come across it as an oral folktale? They have J.C. F. Schulz to thank for that, as his translation of “Persinette” is thought to be the indirect source of “Rapunzel”. Schulz also changed the heroine’s name to Rapunzel. The Grimm brothers, however, were unaware of the stories of Schulz and Madame de la Force and assumed that the story was oral in its origin. Several similarities to Schulz’s translation may imply that at least one of the Grimm’s human sources had heard the Schulz telling. The intermixing of cultures and versions were common with folktales and took place frequently until the printed versions of the Grimm Brothers and Perrault were introduced.
The trail doesn’t quite end (or begin, rather) in France with Madame de la Force either. The first literary traces of “Rapunzel” can be found in 1637, in Giambattista Basile’s Pentamerone in the story “Petrosinella” (which, derived from petrosine, again, means parsley). In Basile’s version, the lovers elope rather than suffer at the witch’s hands before a reunion. It may be that the ending we know best could have been simply the artistic licence of Madame de la Force and a craving for tragedy on the part of her readership.
Flavours of the later “Rapunzel” do seem to carry Mediterranean undertones, though the name of the heroine may change from tradition to tradition. In some cultures, the witches are cannibalistic. The original folktales often involved the heroine and the prince fleeing the tower rather than succumb to the punishment that would result upon discovery. In these variants, the witches pursue the lovers but are outwitted three times (the girl often using magic that the witch taught her, no less). On the third obstacle, the witches in these tales are rendered harmless or killed, and the lovers are free.
The two most memorable components in “Rapunzel”, for me at least, are the tower and the heroine’s long hair. In the versions that I have come across in my life, the witch locks Rapunzel away around age twelve to keep her safe from the world which seems to say that as the elder, she obviously knows what’s best and her child does not. The “maiden in the tower” trope can be found littered throughout old stories and “Rapunzel” holds similarities to the Tenth Century Persian tale of Rudaba, in the epic poem Shahnameh by Ferdawsi (circa 1010 CE); in it, Rudaba offers to let down her hair so that her lover, Zal, may climb up to her.
We also find the tower trope in Saint Barbara, who lived sometime in the Mid-Third Century. Saint Barbara’s father locked her in a tower to preserve her from the world. During her imprisonment, she converts to Christianity from the pagan beliefs of her birth. The message of the tower and its representation of tradition, authority, and power rings loud and clear. As Mother Gothel sang in Tangled: Mother knows best.
Tangled is perhaps the best known adaptation of “Rapunzel” at present and my favourite to date. It is a very loose adaptation from the Grimm’s telling to be sure. Plucky Rapunzel leaves the tower against her “mother’s” wishes in order to achieve her dream of seeing the lights, armed with only an iron skillet, a mile of magical hair, and her incredibly positive attitude. Compared to the rather flat character in the folklore, this plucky princess seems like a huge departure, or is it? The plucky lovers escaping from the witch in the Mediterranean tales seem more on level with Disney’s princess than the Grimm’s, even with all of the liberties the Disney company took with the story.
Once Upon a Time’s very own is slated to appear in Episode Fourteen, “The Tower”. Portrayed by Alexandra Metz, Once has already broken any and all pre-established notions of how this character should look. Will they spin straw into gold with her character as well? Will we have a new member in their ranks of plucky princesses or will she be doomed to be another footnote in the greater story arc? We will have to wait and see.
Rumplestiltskin's Transformation in Once Upon a Time: Literary Anti-Hero to Hero Archetype
by Lori J. Fitzgerald (@MedievalLit) and Teresa Martin (@Teresa__Martin)
“Ah, but I’m a villain. And villains don’t get happy endings.”
~Rumplestiltskin to his father in Episode 3x11, “Going Home”
In the first few episodes of Season One on Once Upon a Time, it was easy to classify the characters into stereotypical roles: Snow White, Prince Charming, and Emma as the heroes/protagonists and the Evil Queen and Rumplestiltskin as the villains/antagonists. However, as the stories unfolded and we learned more during the Enchanted Forest flashbacks, it became apparent that the lines of good and evil were not as clear cut as they were drawn in the original fairy tales or the Disney movie versions. The creators of the show, Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis, emphasized from the very beginning that their take on the characters was not a traditional one; all their creations were complex and dynamic, or changing characters with both virtues and flaws. So the Evil Queen’s revenge stems from the murder of her true love, Rumplestiltskin was betrayed by his wife and lost his son, Snow White casts a curse that kills Regina’s mother and blackens her own heart, and Emma sanctions a Lost Boy’s heart being ripped from his chest to facilitate contacting Henry. These are just some examples of “Fair is foul, and foul is fair,” as the witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth would chant (I.i.10). So far, none of the major series players in Once Upon a Time are true villains or true heroes. They are all flawed protagonists. Rumplestiltskin in particular is a literary anti-hero, which is a flawed protagonist, or main character, which has qualities usually belonging to a villain, but these traits are tempered with other human, identifiable, and sometimes even noble traits as well.
One of the earliest uses of the narrative role of anti-hero is by John Milton in Paradise Lost (1667), who casts Lucifer as the central figure in the first part of his epic poem. Lucifer is overwhelmingly arrogant, powerful, cunning and deceptive, but he is also the most beautiful angel and so charismatic that he is able to rally the other angels in his army after a crushing defeat in the war. During the Romantic period of literature (approximately 1800-1850), the anti-hero was given further “dark” qualities of being emotionally conflicted, brooding, and self-destructive by the poet Lord Byron, and thus the terms anti-hero and Byronic hero became intertwined. A Byronic hero was described by the Romantic literary critic Lord Macaulay (1800-1859) as "a man proud, moody, cynical, with defiance on his brow, and misery in his heart, a scorner of his kind, implacable in revenge, yet capable of deep and strong affection.” Byron’s pirate anti-hero in “The Corsair” (1814) is
That man of loneliness and mystery,
Scarce seen to smile, and seldom heard to sigh— (I, VIII)
And He knew himself a villain—but he deem'd
The rest no better than the thing he seem'd;
And scorn'd the best as hypocrites who hid
Those deeds the bolder spirit plainly did.
He knew himself detested, but he knew
The hearts that loath'd him, crouch'd and dreaded too.
Lone, wild, and strange, he stood alike exempt
From all affection and from all contempt: (I, XII)
Some well-known Byronic/anti-heroes in literature include the wild and vengeful Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and the secretive, brooding Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Both of these characters may have been patterned after Lord Byron himself, whose own lover characterized him as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series is a well-known contemporary Byronic hero, and Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader can also fit this role.
The Pan Flute
by Teresa Martin--@Teresa__Martin
The Once episode “Nasty Habits” featured the story of the Pied Piper with Peter Pan being the man who used “unholy music” to lure children into becoming Lost Boys. This inspired admiration among the fandom for the haunting tune by Mark Isham. Talk also erupted of the featured wind instrument, the pan flute, and inspired a deeper look at the rich history behind its deceptively simple setup.
As a wind instrument, the pan flute developed later than the percussion instruments which are associated with the eldest of humanity’s ancestors. More ancient because the making and playing of them is more natural to the human instinct—hitting an object against another--and simple. The winds were not far behind, also being somewhat natural, as they are played by blowing through a tube. They likely developed when people blew into bamboo sticks and learned to pitch them by length. There is no particular place where the pan flute developed; rather it is recorded as being found from archaeological works dated as early as the Neanderthals, to the written works of antiquity all over the world. These were made from natural materials, in particular hollow wood. Reeds were also made into pan flutes hence leading to the reason the instrument got its name from the Greek god Pan (White).
By Chris Fitzner - @ChrisFitzner
Alone in the stairwell and hidden from the view of my relatives, I gazed, wide eyed, at the beautiful antique mirror hanging on the wall of the landing. What was it like on the other side of the mirror? Could the reflection be its own world, simply an inverse of the world I lived in and if so, how could I get into it? I would poke at the hard glass surface, waiting for that magic moment when the barrier fell and the glass was suddenly pliable and I would step through into the heroic adventure I read about and longed for.
By Lori J. Fitzgerald
J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan, first performed on stage in 1904 and later novelized in 1911, is a classic of children's literature. It's famous setting, Neverland, is a treasure map filled with adventures and fanciful characters of a child's imagination: secret hideaways, fights with pirates, daring rescues of Indian princesses, mermaids in lagoons, flights through the air, a boy who never grows up. However, upon reading Peter Pan as an adult, Neverland and its denizens take on a darker atmosphere in the older and wiser mind. Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis often said they based their portrayal of Peter Pan as a twisted character on the question, "What type of person would refuse to grow up?" Once Upon a Time's version of Peter Pan and Neverland take on the exact sinister atmosphere that an adult reader senses lurking underneath the whimsical plot of Barrie's book.
By Lori J. Fitzgerald
In Episode 3x02 of Once Upon a Time, “Lost Girl,” Snow White finds the inner strength and commitment to lead her people through what she thinks is a magical weapon, the Sword in the Stone. Excalibur, King Arthur’s sword, is an iconic symbol of kingship. In true Once Upon a Time fashion, this sword not only proves Snow White worthy of the throne but also connects to the greater theme of acknowledging one’s true self in “Lost Girl."
Above: Illustration by Howard Pyle
In medieval Arthurian literature, the Sword in the Stone and Excalibur are actually two different swords, although popular culture and Prince Charming treat them as one and the same. Sir Thomas Malory, in compiling the various Arthurian legends of his day and crafting them into the definitive version Le Morte Darthur, combines the tales of the two Excaliburs, thus solidifying them as one sword in our minds. Prince Charming claims that the Sword in the Stone, called Excalibur, was forged by the benevolent mage Merlin from the realm of Camelot. In Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur (1470), England is in political chaos for many years after the death of the king, Uther Pendragon. Merlyn (as spelled in Malory) finally sends for all the knights and lords of the realm to gather in London at Christmas because Christ the King would show them by some miraculous sign who should be king of England. “When matins and the first Mass were done, there was seen in the churchyard opposite the high altar a great stone, four-square and like unto a marble stone; in the middle thereof was an anvil of steel a foot in height, and therein stuck a fair naked sword by the point. There were letters written in gold about the sword that said thus: Whoso pulleth this sword out of this stone and anvil is rightfully-born king of all England” (8). Arthur is in London with his foster-father, Sir Ector. As squire to his foster-brother, Sir Kay, Arthur is instructed to go back to their lodgings to fetch Sir Kay’s forgotten sword, but the lodgings are locked. Arthur then takes the sword from the stone and gives it to Sir Kay, not realizing what it is. Sir Kay attempts to claim kingship, but his father gets the truth out of him. However, although Arthur is crowned king, many of the lords of the realm do not fully accept this sign, and he has to wage war to solidify his claim to the throne. He “drew his sword Excalibur, and it was so bright in his enemies’ eyes that it gave light like thirty torches” (13).
By Chris Fitzner
These days, what is a fandom without at least one ship? In Once Upon A Time many of us are familiar with the terms Snowing, Swan Queen and Rumbelle. But where did 'shipping' begin and for that matter, what the heck is a ship?
For those of you envisioning a multi-sailed tall ship bobbing in a beautiful blue harbour, I hate to break it to you but that is not the droid you are looking for. According to Wikipedia, so you know it must be true, in fandom, 'ship' is a word derived from 'relationship' and the belief that two characters, real or not, will be in a romantic relationship. In recent pop culture, Twilight comes to mind with the rabid fans on both Teams Edward and Jacob. It became mainstream enough for official merchandise and features in entertainment news. But that's not where it started.
The act of 'shipping' pre-dates the term and is thought to have begun in the 1990s with the television hit The X-files. The ship of agents Scully and Mulder was as hot as anything I could compare it to now. Rolling Stone magazine capped it off, in my mind, in 1995 with the couple featured on the cover, lying in each other's embrace with only the bed linens for company.
Explore the Arthurian legend surrounding Lancelot, take a trip into the woods to discover the mythology behind Red Riding Hood or learn more about a modern day hero called Snow White. Origins provides unique insights and perspectives from talented writers into the characters we know and love, going far beyond the boundaries of Storybrooke.