Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Fairy Tale Spotlight: Repetition

I have encountered extreme examples of repetition in a number of old fairy tales. These especially occur within the Grimm tales. Repetition is when a particular series of actions or dialog take place over and over again--occasionally with minor tweaks each time. These incidences of repetition often happen in threes, but not always.

Repetition is a common storytelling technique that is still used to this day. It is primarily an oral tradition entity. We hear it a lot in narrative jokes. In fairy tales, repetition happened in the form of a person having to do a series of actions or a set of dialog several times until some outcome occurs.

Here is an example of repetition: A young maiden awaits her lover to come home from war. She fears for his life. A bird was conscripted to keep watch over him, and every morning, the bird flies to her home and alights on a tree outside her window. When the maiden awakens, she opens the window and says, "Oh, beautiful bird up in the tree, will my lover come back to me?"

To which the bird will reply, "Your lover is well. I've seen him today. Any more than that, I cannot say."

This little ritual could go on many times throughout the story. The maiden may see her lover again, and she may not. But the point of repetition is that on each day, she must say those lines exactly in the same way with no deviation, and the bird must follow along as well unless her lover has actually died.

Repetition can also surface as a spell. A good example would be the evil queen of the famous story "Snow White." Remember what she said to the magic mirror? "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?" The reason this qualifies as repetition is because she says it several times throughout the story. The reader pretty much expects it by the last time she does it. Verbal spells in stories do not require repetition. However, it is something that occasionally happens, and the rhythm it creates becomes a memorable aspect of the story as a whole.

Repetition also helped making stories easier to remember for the purposes of oral tradition. A complicated story that is always changing is much harder to tell from memory than one that has a repeating mechanic to it. In fact, it's part of the fun of telling it. It winds the listener up into the narrative and they will likely stick around to see where it is going.

Next time someone tells you a joke where a repetition is present, keep in mind that that person is utilizing an ancient storytelling gimmick that really works. Human beings pretty much invented storytelling. We're damn good at it! Repetition is only one of many techniques that proves we were made for this sort of thing.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Fairy Tale Spotlight: The Solar Eclipse

In the real world, a total solar eclipse is super cool. It is basically when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth causing a momentary blackout in the middle of the day. As cool as it looks and sounds, that's really about it. It's rarity is what draws people to it, Let's be honest: If this happened every single day, nobody would bother looking up and burning their eyes out trying to see it.

The rarity is actually one of the reasons that the solar eclipse is important to our tales. Look at it from a tribal standpoint. You are doing your best trying to serve the gods as well as you can. One day, you make a little mistake and hope that the gods didn't notice. Enter then the solar eclipse. The sun gets blotted out for 2 and a half minutes. It's night time in the middle of the day. Obviously the gods were paying attention that day and have decided to take the sun away as punishment. Probably a good time to panic.

Indeed, we did not always understand what the solar eclipse was. That can have a major effect on ancient tales. My very first memory in life was a partial eclipse. At the time, I thought my mother had the power to turn the sun off at will. You can imagine how impressed I was.

Often fairy tales pitch the blotting out of the sun as an extremely bad omen. It can even be a clear and present danger. We all know how the dark creatures of the world like to roam around at night. What if it was eternally night? Those horrible things would suddenly have free reign to murder us, and the world would be a far gloomier place to live.

So does that mean that our solar eclipses are a bad sign? No, not really. At the very least, it does not seem to be much more than a simple rare solar event at the moment. Perhaps, there was more significance to it at an earlier time. Sometimes, fairy tales are true. Either way, there is clearly a fascination with the solar eclipse due to its strangeness and rarity. And we shall always have the inclination to imagine bad things when it makes a rare appearance within our skies.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Fairy Tale Spotlight: The Steadfast Tin Soldier

This blog contains spoilers. You have been warned.

I am the first to admit that most of Hans Christian Andersen's stories are very depressing. I really did not enjoy many of his stories. Grimm was always the uplifting collection, and I blew through those with great enjoyment. Nevertheless, I have favorites from both authors. In the case of Andersen, it's "The Steadfast Tin Soldier."

I was first introduced to this story through an old cartoon. I wanted to tell you a bit more about where the cartoon came from and who made it, but I haven't had much luck in my research. I did later find a vintage comic book adaptation of it, and that ended up being very good. Last year, I actually read the story finally, and it was definitely my favorite story in the Andersen collection. This also led to me making my own version of the story of which I plan to publish later on.

"The Steadfast Tin Soldier" is about a living tin soldier with one leg who falls in love with a tin ballerina. It is heavily suggested that there is a dark creature inhabiting a nearby jack-in-the-box who seems possessive of this ballerina. The story is about the tin soldiers desire to save the ballerina from her oppressor. Despite his efforts, the story ends in tragedy.

Having an Andersen story end in tragedy is not unexpected. It was the way it ended in tragedy that caught many people's attention. Likely do to the actions of the scornful jack-in-the-box, the boy who owns the toy tosses the soldier into an oven. A gust of wind then blows the ballerina next to him so that they die together. In the original version, the soldier melts into the shape of a heart, and the ballerina is entirely incinerated leaving only her spangle behind. In the cartoon I saw, they were melted together to form a single heart. I preferred the latter more than the original.

I guess the main beef I had with the original version was that the woman was not being treated very well by the author. The ballerina seemed to die at his side because she was expected to; not necessarily because she was truly in love with him. It was more that it was her duty because she was the girl he had chosen. My point is that if you are going to die for someone, let it be for love not duty.

Another problem with the original story was that the tin soldier was kind of a stiff portrayal of a soldier. He never really did anything other than stand at attention, and it seemed, to me at least, that he was worried about saving face rather than actually being a developed person. Other versions have tried to remedy these flaws and have done pretty well.

Probably the most subtle aspect of the Andersen story was the character of the jack-in-the-box. Andersen is not clear at to why bad things were happening to the family. He barely hints that the jack-in-the-box may be the culprit, but you never know for sure. Some of the cartoons, and the vintage comic went out of there way to expand on the jack-in-the-box character, showing him to be the demon-possessed villain that he truly was.

Whatever the case may be, "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" is one of the most beloved fairy tales in history. There have been so many adaptations of it. Even Daft Punk's music video "Instant Crush" was inspired by that story. Andersen laid the groundwork that inspired others to do better, and the later adaptations are better.

Thank you for reading my blog. Have an opinion that you want to share about this? You can comment below, or you can email me at tkwadeauthor@gmail.com. Goodnight!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Fairy Tale Spotlight: The Devil

I have actually read a surprising number of fairy tales that features "the Devil" as the main antagonist. This generally is referring to Satan but can also represent an evil creature such as a simple imp. I have encountered them mainly in western tall tales and in a few stories by Hans Christian Andersen. Let's talk about what this creature is intended as and who he truly is.

Almost always, the Devil is depicted as a hideous creature with horns and a pointy tail. The frightening aspects are intended to portray the devil as a creature of evil. He will sneak around and plot against human beings and sometimes even make deals with them. I don't have a problem with them depicting the Devil like this at all; however, I do believe that it is quite distant from the truth.

A common trope in fairy tales is that he will make a deal with you in exchange for your soul. I don't know about you, but if a horned, red-skinned creature who talks like Tim Curry tried to make a deal with me, I would be less than enthusiastic about it. These writers often try to promote the idea that the ends justify the means. They swallow back the idea that the Devil is ugly, and take the deal anyways for their benefit. Where the latter may be true for some people, I see a far more powerful deal-maker if he is beautiful in form.

The Devil is almost never portrayed as a pretty boy in old fairy tales. They do sometimes remove the monstrosities from his form, but they still will give him the looks of an old man or something less than pretty. Once again, that is fine. The idea is for you to be against this character. Just remember that in real life, that is very likely a falsehood.

It seems to be a far more realistic thing that the Devil, namely Satan, is a very beautiful man. A sort of Fabio type. He is very charming and friendly. His mannerisms are calm and lovely. It is a very hard thing to deny him anything. Unfortunately, he is quite good at putting on facades. He is so good at it that if you actually knew who he was and what he was up to, your efforts to get one over him would still fail. He is simply that convincing.

Evil is not always ugly on the outside. Fairy tales tend to paint a darker picture of these creatures so that you can see them more easily. As long as you understand that they are doing that. Don't get lost in the sensationalism of the Devil when the real one is a bit more subtle.

Thank you for reading my blog! If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at tkwadeauthor@gmail.com. Thanks!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Fairy Tale Spotlight: The Terrible Trivium

Showcase time! Norton Juster wrote an amazing fairy tale in 1961 called "The Phantom Tollbooth." This book is written with such rhythm that it just about compels you to read it out loud even if you are trying not to. It is also largely an allegory and demonstrates facts of life in the form of symbolism. Nevertheless, we can imagine seeing the things Milo saw in the book as if they were very real.

The book's most prominent villainous resource came from a creature known as a demon. There a lot of those in this book. The one we shall be discussing in brief shall be The Terrible Trivium. Pay close attention.

The Terrible Trivium is a faceless/featureless individual who is dressed not dissimilar to Batman's the Riddler. He comes across as very charming and convincing. He offers to be your friend and claims to have your best interest at heart. I want you to understand that this creature is actually very real and he is to be avoided in the same way as in the book

This demon wants you to keep busy doing meaningless things until the end of time. For example: moving a pile of sand from one place to another with only a pair of tweezers, dig a hole with only a needle, or emptying a well with only an eyedropper. Here is the scariest part: he is extremely convincing. The victim will believe he is better off doing those meaningless things than actually striving for better. Yes, this is real, and Norton Juster knew that just as well as I do.

There are demons in this world who want us grinding our lives away at ultimately meaningless jobs. They want us to be faceless individuals just like them and never truly meet with out potential. Let me be clear: Nobody was ever meant to spend there entire lives working at a McDonald's. If that happens, it is the saddest thing ever. Human beings were meant for more than that.

The Terrible Trivium is all about taking away human potential by literally grinding them into dust over the span of their miserable lives. As charming as he is, he hates humanity. He wants them all to be nothing and freely absorbs from them everything they could have been. He is real. Norton Juster did not create a fictional character at all. You see it all around you, and he must be fought against.

Life is hard and unfair, but you have to fight it to your dying breath. Be human! Be more than what you came here as! Find your talent, or love, or whatever and make this world a better place, Don't just be a faceless cog in the machine. You were always meant for so much more, my friends. You are the human race. Please... Please, don't give up your birthright.

"If you only do the easy and useless jobs, you'll never have to worry about the important ones which are so difficult. You simply won't have the time, for there is always something to do to keep you from what you should really be doing." ~The Terrible Trivium

Thank you for reading my blog! If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at tkwadeauthor@gmail.com. Dedicated to Shawn O'Toole.