Friday, November 24, 2006
Folklore about Folklore
1) In The Frog Prince, the princess does not kiss the frog to break the enchantment. In utter rage, the princess throws the frog against the wall. What does it mean that violence, and not love, transforms the enchanted frog? And where did we get the idea that “You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince?” However, I cannot quarrel with this beer ad that uses the “kissing the frog" motif:
There’s an early XXXX ad called “Castlemaine Princess” floating around as well. It features a naive young woman skipping through the countryside talking to the animals and birds. She finds a frog, kisses it hoping for a prince. What she gets is an Australian sheep shearer. It’s his turn for a wish. She turns into a bottle of Fourex Gold!
2) In Hansel and Gretel, Hansel leaves a trail of stones the first two times his father takes him out into the woods. The third time, Hansel’s father is watching him carefully, so Hansel surreptitiously leaves a trail of crumbs from the bread he had in his pocket. The birds eat the crumbs, and the children can’t track their way home. People will mention leaving a “trail of bread crumbs” to find their way back from a new, unfamiliar place. I rarely object aloud (because that would be annoying and idiosyncratic), but I think, “Please, go with the trail of stones instead. They’re more dependable.”
3) For years, I believed that the English versions of “Cinderella” featured glass slippers because Charles Perrault mistook the French word for “fur” (vair) as the French word for “glass” (verre) . Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s anecdote about this alleged mistranslation in his preface to Anne Sexton’s poems about Grimms’ fairy tales, Transfomations, only solidified my belief. It’s pretty cool when there is folklore about folklore, but I get grouchy when people whom I think know what they're talking about... don't. I include myself in this group of "people"-- I get sick to my stomach whenever I find out that I've passed along erroneous information and am haunted by it until I can fix it. It's not a quality, but a quirk. I irritate people when I refuse to "guess" at a statistic and qualify statements with, "I can't remember my source, so don't quote me until I verify it."
If today's topic sounds familiar to you, that may be because I've written about it before:
*Alien Abductions and Glass Slippers
*This is All a Fairy Tale