Aveneu Park, Starling, Australia

The current feeling about fairy tales (“The

The reality of everyday life is less
than magical. The good guy doesn’t always win, the child doesn’t always make it
home unharmed, and sometimes the prince goes home with the wrong princess. At
the beginning of The Frog or the Iron
Heinrich, the Grimms’ once said, “In olden times, when wishing still
helped…” and I think that perfectly describes the current feeling about
fairy tales (“The Frog King,
or Iron Heinrich.” Pg. 2).  Fairy tales are
stepping stones throughout life, leading the way through trouble and trial. But
in the fairy tales their wishes come true. The marvelous and social reality
weaves in and out of the stories to create a tale worthy of telling, allowing
an escape from the troubles our own actualities bring. The marvelous presents a
strict moral order, while the social reality is much more realistic on
relationships, outcomes and emotions. These types of relationships will be analyzed
through two Grimms’ tales, The Singing
Bone and The Cat Cinderella.

The Grimms’
fairy tale The Singing Bone, proves
no bad deed goes unpunished. An innocent sibling rivalry causes a turn of
events that are rare in social reality. The two brother’s personalities are
complete opposite, and this tends to be common in the “real world”. The
jealousy and rage of the older brother contrasts the innocence, simple brother.

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The fairy tale assumes that because the brother is innocent that he is the
better man, which in social reality is not always true. The spear in the story
is part of a marvelous reality, being able to kill the boar simple by holding
it. While killing the younger brother in order to deliver the boar to the king is
some ways social reality, it is not something that necessarily fits in that
world. However, the singing bone that shares its secret is very much marvelous,
and it is that object and the marvelous aspects that transgresses nature, life and morality
in order for justice to be served.

One key idea from the preface is that
the Grimms’ changed their ways about how they collected their stories (Tater
205). Maria Tater, the author of The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales,
wrote that “They no longer insisted on fidelity to the letter of the tales they
had heard, but on fidelity to their spirits” (204).  They claimed that they resisted the urge to
change stories based on popularity. However, an article by Marina Warner for The New York Review of Books stated that
“The Grimms’ also acknowledged that the
wonderful, shivery tale of “The Singing
Bone” bears a resemblance to the famous Scots ballad “The Twa Sisters” (Warner). The Grimms’ regularly went against
their own rules, changing their stories in each edition to improve them, or
alter them to what their perceived audience desires. For example, in the first
edition of The Singing Bone, the gruesome
justice at the end does not appear, going against the idea that in the
marvelous reality justice is always served.

If editions are
always being changed and facts being altered, the social and marvelous reality
can get a bit skewed. While we can all agree that a singing bone is definitely
marvelous, not everyone’s social reality is the same. Fairy tales promise that fairness
will be restored and the reward the hero or heroine receives, even at someone else’s
expense is seen as a positive outcome. One major part of the fantastic or
marvelous is that it is particularly difficult to pin down because one of its
functions is to signify or represent what is unsaid, invisible, or silenced.

That is exactly what the singing bone is doing when it sings for the shepherd –
making sure that the young boys story is being heard.

            Another
excellent example of marvelous and social reality is the story The Cat Cinderella by Basile. Zezolla’s
story was not just being unheard, it was being completely ignored. The social
realities of the widower prince and Zezolla’s evil step mother shape the
beginning of the story and the plot. The ordinary characters in this tale, the
stepmother, step sisters, father, Zezolla, all have real problems, but the
solutions are both magical and hopeful. While the story starts with one evil
stepmother, it goes on to offer a short relief only to have Zezolla forgotten
again. Not only did her condition change when the teacher became her mother,
but she changed her name as well. Besides the one marvelous occurrence of a
dove flying through the window to talk to Zezolla, the beginning of the story
is roughly social reality. It’s not until her father leaves that marvelous
reality starts to occur. First with the ship not being able to leave the port,
then with the date tree growing into the size of a woman, and a fairy
appearing. Fairy tales
use the poetic and embellished symbolism of fantasy to represent the challenges
and emotions that individuals face every day in the real world. Zezolla was cast
aside and she used the marvelous wonders of her world to change her fate. The
social realities of The Cat Cinderella
are the abusive family, sadism, masochism, and the moral order. In contrast,
the marvelous consists of deep connections between the birds and plants, which
nourished by her tears helps her be connected to her mother. The Cat Cinderella is a tale destined to
fulfill the universal need to be loved and cherished. However, what’s different
about this tale is that the evil does go unpunished. Zezolla is never punished
for murdering her first step mother, and the second stepmother who talked her
into the killing is never persecuted. The marvelous actions from Zezolla’s mother
and the tree outweigh any of her actions, no matter how bad they might have
been.

            According
to Tatar, most of the events in these stories are so basic that many readers
will have encountered them in real life, such as “a hard-hearted stepmother
makes them suffer and would even like to see them die” (206). The social
reality of these stories is relatable to many children who are being told them.

In this story and many other fairy tales the entire range of the world is
defined, even nature. The sun, the moon, and the stars are approachable, and
play a marvelous role in the characters stories. In The Cat Cinderella, the tale ends with “So they slipped off home to
their mother, confessing, in spite of themselves that you must be mad to oppose
the stars” (Zipes, Jack, and
Giambattista Basile 449).

These words create a new reality, both for the stepsisters and for Zezolla.

            Cinderella
stories around the world share certain motifs that empower folklorists to classify
them by type, according to the specific plot (Lutz 9). As tales are told and
plots changed, the alteration and artistry in the language misfires and may
have failed to capture the essentials of the story. Whether beloved or scrutinized,
Cinderella and other fairy tales have a history rooted in an oral tradition
that the Grimms’ were able to put down to paper.

In a world that provides so few
compensations for life’s pain and suffering, it is little wonder that people
turn to supernatural narratives as a source of light and change. Fairy tales like Cinderella are characterized
by marvelous or magical occurrences and they occur everywhere as a valid part
of the human experience. One major part of the fantastic or marvelous is that it is particularly
difficult to pin down because one of its functions is to signify or represent
what is unsaid, invisible, or silenced.

Both of these stories
allow the reader to escape into a different world, that’s filled with both
social and marvelous realities. But the true value of fairy tales lies not in
the brief literary escape from reality and the magical aspects it provides, but
in the gift of hope that good is truly more powerful than evil, and that even
the darkest reality can lead to a happily ever after. The gift of hope should
not be taken lightly. Whether tangible or intangible, reality or fantasy, it
has the power to look failure in the face and try one more time. Hope is what
makes the fairy tale a reality, no matter how many singing bones are in it. Through
both these stories, there is some marvelous in the social reality and some
social reality in the marvelous, it all depends on what fantasy we choose live
in.  

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