Modern Day Fairytales (My ENG 301: Research Methodology, Term Paper)

Modern Day Fairytales

The art of storytelling is a phenomenon ancient as time itself. Beginning with the oral traditions since the dawn of civilization and evolving and manifesting itself in the written word, which has become its most prominent medium in the present; the modern novel is a fusion of different styles and different eras. This means the modern novel does not always depict contemporary issues such as technological culture and the stereotyped minorities; they may also reinstate issues from a variety of other spheres such as politics and even reinstate the problems of the last era as the fight between conservatism and emancipation.  The fairytale, as we know it, existed also initially as an oral tradition; however, due to the efforts of individuals as Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm[1] they have been compiled as a written collection. A fairytale primarily exists as an allegorical story that promotes some moral code but modern criticism of fairytales show that there seems to be latent content in fairytales. When explored these latent content bring about arguments or conflicts that still persists even today. In fact the Grimm Brothers themselves have said that fairytales are “irrational, monstrous unnatural.” Modern Day fairytales explore the possibilities of fairytales thus they actually solidify the latent content of these traditional stories. Modern day fairytales are not exactly retellings of the exact story; they can borrow ideologies from the traditional story or interpret them in different ways thus they serve also as stories in their own right[2]. This paper aims to explore the various attributes that make the modern day fairytale as a deeper exploration of psychology, role reversal, the possibilities after “the happily ever after” and the individualism that exists in the pursuit of identity (Irigaray). To understand the fairytales deeper the paper will also look at the movements of modernism and postmodernism. Thus the modern day fairytale prove that fairytales are a poignant, omnipresent phenomenon.

I remember how, that night, I lay in the wagon-lit in a tender, delicious ecstasy of excitement, my burning cheek pressed against the impeccable linen of the pillow and the pounding of my heart mimicking that of the great pistons ceaselessly thrusting the train that bore me through the night, away…into the unguessable country (Carter 1)

And so begins Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, a modern day fairytale that is Carter’s way of retelling the traditional fairytale Bluebeard’s Egg. These lines also depict the “odyssey” one takes when one ventures into the world of the fairytale. As mentioned before the fairytale is an allegorical tale, which possesses magic, anthropomorphic characters and the binarism of good and evil. Though this world is considered an exaggerated one as children one found them to be believable. However, fairytales do possess that latent content and so this shapes their realism that modern day fairytales draw out. To explore the various qualities that exist in the modern day fairytale (as mentioned above) I will be using various texts; the first is The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka which is akin to the fairytale The Frog Prince or The Frog King or Iron Henry[3]. Then I will be using stories that were meant to be modern day fairytales by Angela Carter as The Bloody Chamber, The Tiger’s Bride, The Erl-King, and The Company of Wolves. The Novel I have chosen to illustrate the fairytale archetypes is The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. I will also use the Japanese Animation Revolutionary Girl Utena by Chiho Saito as a reference to my research, which has been called the postmodernist fairytale[4].

Revolutionary Girl Utena has three primary incarnations: manga (comic), anime TV series and an animation movie called Utena The Movie or Adolescence Of Utena or popularly known as Adolescence Apocalypse. It also has a stage-play, but this incarnation played out by real-life actors (all female cast), was not really promoted outside Japan to that extent. In all the incarnations the basic plotline remains the same but the character’s personalities and the progress of the story usually gives each incarnation its own respective ending. However, the main protagonist is always Utena, the wannabe-prince, and the antagonist is always Akio, the fallen prince. Both are bound to Anthy, the princess of the Roses, but who is also called the witch in disguise. 

The storyline of Revolutionary Girl Utena portrays Utena Tenjou as an adolescent, fourteen year old girl (though due to the design methodology she appears older and even her real life actress was a young woman) who desires to be a prince. This wish was formed when she was young; orphaned at a tender age, she got into the coffin with her parents hoping to die as she felt she had nothing to live for. At that moment a beautiful prince appeared named Dios (who seems to come from Indian origins as he wears a bindi on his forehead and has a darker skin tone) and kisses away her tears; he explains that if she remains just and pure as she gets older then they will surely meet again. He also gives her ring with a rose signet on it to signify their bond. Utena is so impressed by this prince that she decides to be a prince herself. In Ohtori Academy, when Utena is beginning her junior high, she gets accidentally involved in a duel by an upperclassman, Saionji, who also wears a ring like Utena; he is a member of the student council and all of the members are duelists possessing the same ring. They duel for Anthy Himemiya, referred to as the Rose Bride – she gets engaged to the victor of the duels and practically becomes their possession doing only their bidding. Utena is horrified by such a ritualistic duel in where master and slave relationship occurs thus decides to win the duels as to free Anthy from her role. But the mystery remains, why do the duelists seek Anthy?  She is said to perform miracles and hold the power to revolutionize the world. The enigmatic Akio Ohtori (adopted name as he is engaged to the principal’s daughter and must have their family name to succeed as Chairman) is also Anthy’s brother but he seems to be the mastermind behind the duels. The series focuses on incest, sexuality, transformation and emancipation of identity: all elements of the modern day fairytale. It also possesses the fairytale archetypes of prince, princess and witch – I will further explore the series as I make comparisons with the other texts so as to give a clearer idea of the modern fairytale.

To understand the modern day fairytale two literary movements must be given special attention to: modernism and postmodernism. These two movements are hard to define due to their hybridity but can be understood by the fact that both engage in “creative violence” (Levenson) to which people have not escaped from. The philosophy of these movements does not restrain oneself with the waiting for something to happen but encourage individuals to take action; this serves as one of the reasons to the movements’ hostility. These two movements emphasized on freedom, sexuality and even a change of form – the literary periods are marked by myriads of styles evoking various perspectives like the “stream of consciousness” style of writing that represents texts in the way in which are thoughts appear in our head. “Creative violence” is then also a part of the modern day fairytale, so is the Freudian concepts of psychoanalysis. Modern day fairytales are noticeable as they are either considered as rewritten versions of an existing fairytale or are analogous to a certain fairytale.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka is analogous to the story of The Frog Prince. However, the story reverses character positions and the anthropomorphic beetle does seem to gradually fade away from humanity unlike the frog prince who retains his humanity and “ascends” by becoming human again. The Metamorphosis, as Martin Greenberg pointed out in his article “Gregor Samsa and Modern Spirituality” that Gregor’s ascension cannot happen as a human being thus the story begins with the climax and proceeds into a beginning of something else[5]. The story illustrates the human significance and insignificance – meaning, how purpose and rationality operates in society. It is an unfair and mechanical world and Gregor unfortunately realizes this in a bad way. To understand the fairytale concepts of The Metamorphosis we must analyze its role reversals, psychology and the emancipation of identity.

The frog answered, “ I do not care for your clothes, your pearls and jewels, not for your golden crown; but if you will love me and let me by your companion and play –fellow, and sit by you at your little table, and eat off your little golden plate, and drink out of your little cup, and sleep in your little bed – if you will promise this I will go down below and bring your golden ball up again.”

(Grimm 4)

The sentences above are from The Frog Prince and they actually make up the backbone of the story. Can a non-human creature demand to be humanized in a human society? The answer of both The Frog Prince and The Metamorphosis are the same: No. The Metamorphosis was written in 1915, the booming period of Modernism and now its analogy to The Frog Prince can make it a modernist fairytale, however, it is the reversal of The Frog Prince. The man does not become human again but he becomes what he believes he is not supposed to be: an insect. The nature of transformation is both crucial to the art of fairytales and also modern spirituality (Greenberg). The role reversal here is that by becoming an insect Gregor has now become an exile from the human sphere; so, the reverse transformation actually liberates Gregor. The medium of “happily ever after” which works as a dissatisfying anticlimax to most fairytales do not usually happen in modern fairytales and the reversal of Gregor’s transformation proves just that. He must remain non-human to liberate himself from himself – as Greenberg states – he was like a clockwork machine before serving only his family by being their breadwinner; as an insect he need only to serve himself.

To go further into the role reversals in The Metamorphosis the story of The Frog Prince must be consulted. The Frog Prince tells the story of a beautiful princess who loves playing with a crystal ball.  However, one day the ball falls into a well. A frog decides to help her but makes her promise to grant him his wishes in return. The princess complies but only because she believes that the frog will not be able to get out of the water. However, the next day the frog does come along and demands the princess honour the promise that she made. The princess is reluctant is to do this but the King orders his daughter to stay true to her words. The girl, with utter displeasure, does everything the frog wanted but in the end she gets furious. She is unwilling to share her bed with him and he threatens to complain to her father; this makes her pick him up and throw him at a wall only to become transformed to a beautiful prince. This prince has her father’s approval to be her companion. It is after this transformation that the princess allows the prince to sleep with her (this is obviously implied). The next day they meet the faithful servant of the prince who is called Henry. After the prince was turned into a frog by a witch Henry was so unhappy that he put three iron bars in his heart to stop it from exploding with sorrow. However, as they enter the carriage the prince thinks he hears sounds that suggest the carriage is breaking but instead it is the bars from Iron Henry’s heart. The fairytale possesses many unanswered questions: first why doesn’t the King protest at all to the demands of the Frog? Even though the princess committed a crime of believing she did not have to stay true to her words it seems comically unrealistic that the king allows a talking, male frog to go and sleep in his daughter’s room. Also, as he turns into a human the King wants him to be the princess’s companion. Why does the witch turn the prince into a frog? And why does Iron Henry stay faithful? In fairytales many important questions are left unanswered with the Deux Ex Machina of the “happily ever after” – this technique is omitted from the modern day fairytale.

The reversal of transformation is only the first reversal role; the second is one of the most prominent: it is the role of the princess handed down to Gregor’s sister, Grete. This immediately creates a contradiction, which is a usual phenomenon in modern fairytales, how can the princess be biologically related to the potential prince of the story? In modern fairytales sexuality is explored as deeply accompanying Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis. Gregor does not suffer from the standard Oedipus complex; what he does have is called the sister complex during modern times. He has an incestuous love for his sister and that is why she is the princess of the story. Grete Samsa’s behaviour gradually changes through time to indicate how she cannot accept Gregor anymore. As the frog prince could only attain the princess after his human transformation Gregor could only have the abundant love of his sister when he is still human. Like in The Frog Prince the princess cannot accept her companion when he is a Frog and only complies to fulfill his wishes when her father’s angry commands state that she must repay her benefactor. The princess is scared of the frog and despises him and hates the fact that he is attempting to be in an equal position with her:

“Lift me up beside you.” She delayed, until at last the King commanded her to do it….The Frog enjoyed what he ate, but almost every mouthful she took choked her… (Grimm 5)

In the same way despite what Gregor thought of his sister Grete he has to revise his perception. Grete cannot completely accept his insect form; when he thinks she has gotten used to him but at one point her reaction makes Gregor realize the mistake in his assumption:

On one occasion – perhaps a month had now elapsed since Gregor’s transformation, so his sister had no special reason to be astonished by his appearance any more – she arrived a little earlier than usual and discovered him propped up at the window, motionless and at his most terrifying, gazing out. It would have been no surprise to Gregor if she had not decided to come in, since the position he occupied prevented her from opening the window at once, but not only did she not come in, she actually leapt back in alarm and shut the door; a stranger might well have thought that Gregor had been lying in wait for her and meant to bite her. (Kafka 100)

The rift between brother and sister is now complete but Gregor does not understand this. It is natural for the prince to pine for his princess but he is only allowed to do so when he is a human not when he is a creature. For the princess, Grete, Gregor becomes a pet to her whom she has exclusive rights to (as seen in the rage directed against her mother when she cleans his room), thus their relationship is forever perverted in a master and slave one, a power-play[6].

We see this gradual deterioration from the archetypical princess who is the embodiment of altruism to a person who may be as an archetypical witch. – but my interpretation is that she is not really a witch but a cusp of haughty princess and young girl who only mistreats Gregor because she can no longer relate to him. In the beginning of his transformation Grete is the absolute princess:

But never would he have guessed what his sister, in the goodness of her heart, actually did. She brought him a whole selection, to find out what he liked, all spread out on an old newspaper. There were old, half-decayed vegetables; bones from last night’s supper, covered with a solidified white sauce; a few almonds and raisins; some cheese that Gregor had declared uneatable a few days before; a slice of dry bread, a slice of bread-and-butter, and a slice of bread-and-water with salt. In addition to all this set down the bowl, now presumably reserved permanently for Gregor, into which she poured some water.

(Kafka 84)

 Initially, the love his sister feels for him is abundant. But, as time moves on and Gregor stays as an insect, the respect and love she feels for him is rejected and she treats him as a forlorn pet. She cannot care for him that much anymore:

Without any longer considering what Gregor would might specially fancy, his sister now hurriedly shoved any old food into his room with her foot before she ran off to work to the morning and at midday; then in the evening, regardless of whether the food had been barely tasted or whether – as was most frequently the case – it had been left completely untouched, she swept it out with a swish of the broom. The cleaning up of his room, which she now always attended to in the evenings, could not have been done more hastily. Streaks of dirt ran the length of the walls, here and there lay balls of dust and filth. At first Gregor, when his sister came in, would station himself in some corner of the room that was particularly striking in this respect, so as to make his position there a kind of reproach to her. But he might have easily have stayed  there for weeks without achieving any improvement in his sister; she could see the dirt as well as he could, of course, but she had simply made up her mind to leave it.

(Kafka 112)

Grete, no longer identifies with Gregor as her brother, and Gregor cannot share his love with his sister anymore. What is worse is that when the boarders come to stay in their house and they accidentally see him one night and cleverly to refuse to pay their wages, it is Grete who states they can no longer live in the “illusion” that the insect is Gregor and must get rid of him. It is in this moment that Gregor realizes that his sister-princess no longer associates him as her princely companion as he is no longer human.

The role reversal is also seen in the father, the King in The Frog Prince seems to be justice incarnated as he wants his daughter to pay back what she promised to the frog, but, in the end it seems that he wanted the prince to be his daughter’s husband: Gregor and Grete’s father also impose on them obligations that need not be there or even just, so, he is injustice incarnated as a hedonistic and domineering man. To Gregor, he had never told he had saved money but instead made him sacrifice his days working for the financial support of their family; in the end Gregor is repaid by his father’s cruelty when he becomes an insect – his father pushes him back to the room twice, first by wounding Gregor enough to make him blood and the second time throwing apples at him where one of them embeds into his flesh and remains there. Even to Grete he gives the sole responsibility to take care of Gregor when he becomes an insect without any care of his disposition. Gregor’s mother seems also to care for him when he is a human but becomes alienated from him as he turns into an insect – scared to death almost just by the sight of him. There is no servant as faithful Iron Henry either – the maid begs to let go after seeing the situation of Gregor’s metamorphosis. There is however, a charwoman, who is better than Grete and the parents as in she tries to make a bond with the dung beetle (as no one tells her it is Gregor). But Gregor believes she is condescending her as a pet (not knowing how his own family is treating her as one) and dejects her advances.

Gregor’s transcendence and psychology deepens as his days pass by as an insect. As Greenberg he is able to reject his weak and pandering persona, his pathological altruism[7], to finally live for himself. But, at first even when he is transformed he can only think of going to work – this displays the bondage he is put his own mind into. His room gradually portrays himself – first full of work documents and humanly furniture to a dirty prison. However, as a dung beetle he becomes more demanding, assertive and liberated. His days are for himself and his wish to move around in his room is only impeded when he thinks he will lose his humanity (as his furniture is getting replaced). Thus in the reversed metamorphosis Gregor also starts to pine for the things he once got bored of in his human life, like the view of the hospital building outside his window[8]. Just in the fairytale context metamorphosis from animal to human liberates the prince, Gregor is liberated by his reversed metamorphosis. In the end, his death is the culmination of his bondage and oppression and is his transcendence to live for only his soul and not just a petty object of society and family[9].

A modern day fairytale writer is undoubtedly Angela Carter. Her book The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories was first published 1979 and the stories do focus on the latent content of fairytales. It depicts what Jeff VanderMeer wrote on Angela Carter:

Angela Carter was, without question, a 20th Century original. No matter what one thinks of her writing, no one can argue that she was ever less than unique. Magic Realism, Surrealism, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Gothic, Feminism, Postmodernism – all of these categories apply, and yet all are one-dimensional in their application to Carter; none of them, with the possible exception of Surrealism, encompass the full spectrum of her accomplishments.

(VanderMeer: Introduction)

The Bloody Chamber, The Erl-King and The Company of Wolves, and The Tiger’s Bride orchestrate a female independence; instead as staying as damsels the girls quickly navigate through their situations to emerge victorious. But their victories are not perfect nor are any in the real world, yet it emancipates them. It is good to examine the female psychology and liberation in these stories.

In The Bloody Chamber our female protagonist, a young girl, gets married to an odd and perverse man who gets stimulated by strange fetishes and pornography. Of course due to his princely charm and debonair attitude she had married him without the knowledge of his perversity. He lives isolated in his own castle but he is detached and strange, and does not possess true gentleness (this is shown as he takes her virginity). The Bloody Chamber is a modern fairytale capturing what was once written in Bluebeard’s Egg. So, in the style of the Bluebeard Egg, when he leaves her and she is all alone, she finds the dead brides. However, her battle with her enemy begins at the time when her virginity is “devoured” by her enemy:

I was brought to my senses by the insistent shrilling of the telephone. He lay beside me, felled like an oak, breathing stertorously, as if he had been fighting with me. In the course of that one-side struggle, I had seen his deathly composure shatter like a porcelain vase flung against a wall; I had heard him shriek and blaspheme at the orgasm; I had bled. And perhaps I had seen his face without its mask; and perhaps I had not. Yet, I had been infinitely disheveled by the loss of my virginity.

(Carter 14)

The battle of the sexes in traditional fairytale exclusively makes men the victor but in Carter’s eyes either neutrality or a woman victor is needed for the men in these tales are too iconic thus artificial. In this case the protagonist has lost the battle in which virginity was the prize but the war has not ended yet. She, however, at first demands passively for her right to which he responds rather egotistically; this is seen when he hands her the keys before leaving:

‘What is that key?’ I demanded, for his chaffing hand made me bold. ‘The key to your heart? Give it to me!’

He dangled the key tantalizingly above my head, out of reach of my straining fingers; those bare red lips of his cracked side-long in a smile.

‘Ah, no,’ he said. ‘Not the key to my heart. Rather, the key to my enfer.’[10]

(Carter 18)

When curiosity does get the better and she visits the room to find the corpses of his previous wives she is obviously fear-stricken and horrified. She decides that she must rid her feelings for him and do something before she meets the same fate. When he does return she exudes potential power – the same power in which her virginity was devoured she uses it to manipulate him, and she is almost successful:

I forced myself to be seductive. I saw myself, pale, pliant as a plant that begs to be trampled underfoot, a dozen vulnerable, appealing girls reflected in as many mirrors, and I saw how he almost failed to resist me. If he had come to me in bed, I would have strangled him, then.

(Carter 35)

Though the seduction does not work as he planned to kill her, the blind piano-tuner, who had stayed as the protagonist’s confidante, and stayed while the other servants in the house are told to leave, attempts to save her. He is overpowered by the demonic prince-pretender[11] but ultimately the protagonist’s husband is shot by her mother (contradictory to Bluebeard’s Egg where young brothers of the heroine come to save her). In the end there is happiness for our protagonist as she marries the piano-tuner, but it is not the Deux Ex Machina of the “happily ever after” – there are repercussions to the situation she endured:

No paint nor powder, not matter how thick or white, can mask the red mark on my forehead; I am glad he cannot see it – not for fear of his revulsion, since I know he sees me clearly with his heart – but, because it spares my shame.

(Carter 42)

The same thing happens in The Erl-King where the girl, charmed by the Erl-King realizes, that though he seems like an incarnation of the forest – and thus beauty – he is not. The Birds he keeps engaged in his bird cages seem all like fair damsels that he seduces. Instead becoming one of them she decides to strangle him though she knows that the murder will obviously strain her and that is why there is also disturbing imagery in the end:

The bow will dance over the new strings of its own accord and they will cry out: ‘Mother, mother, you have murdered me!’

(Carter 104)

In The Company of Wolves, we see the latent content of the classical fairytale, Little Red Riding Hood come alive. The girl is seduced by the wolf to take of her clothes and finally tries to dominate her sexually only the simplicity in this game of sexual domination is a fairytale. In the end it seems that the wolf (or werewolf) is tamed by the girl – they are now at an equal wavelength – as they lie in bed with one another.

The Tiger’s Bride show how a young girl is sold by the reckless gambling of her father and the Beast who receives her only wishes to see her naked (her father loses to the Beast in a card game). This is one of the Carter’s story of writing Beauty and the Beast (The other story was The Courtship of Mr. Lyon) where beast transforms the beauty (Carter xii).  However our beauty ridicules our Beast’s request and thus the Beast shows passiveness not really associated with the original tale. The Beauty finally does undress for him near a river and asks him to do the same. He reveals himself to be a giant Tiger – in the end rather than going back to her father the girl lets the tiger lick her, and she is metamorphosized into a tigress, thus his bride.  

The Female Psychology and liberation in these stories show how woman are assertive beings and instead of being stereotypical damsels they have chosen to be bold thus escaped a rather horrible fate. Their “princes” were not perfect; some were even the dragons that wanted to slay them. Yet, though do not receive their “happily ever after” in the traditional context of the fairytale they are content as what they have received is the real.

Fairytale archetypes are seen in The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera and can thus be compared to the animation Revolutionary Girl Utena. The male protagonist Thomas is an imperfect prince – he is once looked upon like Dios to Tereza, perfect and immaculate, but then when she finds out about his philandering she is traumatized. The same failure is seen in Franz, one of Sabina’s lovers, who embodies a lot of Dios’s qualities but in the end he cannot escape from the memory of Sabina (he tries to think he is physical strong to handle his assaulters, as Sabina liked his strength).  Sabina is like Anthy (from the movie) as she is sexually provocative but though her independence might have classified her as a witch she is more likely to be the most independent character. So, to contrasts to fairytales the modern shows how people are dichotomous rather than perfectly stereotyped.

In conclusion, I would like to say the modern day fairytale is a great blend of that which is psychological, deep and stimulating. It cannot be stereotyped as it is an amalgamation of different era and themes thus it is realistic as it delves into human psychology and explores what is beyond the surface.

Works Cited:
Primary Sources:

Kafka, Franz. Metamorphosis and Other Stories. England: Penguin Books Ltd., 2002.

Kundera, Milan. The Unberable Lightness Of Being. New York: HarperCollins, 1999.

Carter, Angela. The Bloody Chamber and other stories. London: Vintage Random House, 1995.

Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Brother’s Grimm: The Complete Fairy Tales. UK:  Routledge Classics, 2002.

Secondary Sources:

Bell, Michael. “The Metaphysics of Modernism.” The Cambridge Companion To Modernism (2003): 9-33.
         Talks about the various philosophies that emerge with modernism and helped me to focus on my texts.

Connor, Steven. “Introduction.” The Cambridge Companion To Postmodernism (2006): 1-19.
 Allowed me to explore the various aspects of postmodernism.

Philosophy, Postmodernism and. “Postmodernism and Philosophy.” The Cambridge Companion to Postmodernism (2006): 20-42.

Allowed to me the various aspects of modernism

Trotter, David. “The Modernist Novel.” The Cambridge Companion to Modernism (2003): 70-100.

Explored in detail the modern novel

Cixous, Helene. “‘Sorties’.” Modern Literary Theory (2001): 229-235.

Gender Binarism explained in this article allowed me to look deeper into fairytales

Dekoven, Marianne. “Modernism and Gender.” The Cambridge Companion to Modernism (2003): 174-193.

Gender and Modernity was explained by Marianne

Levenson, Michael. “Introduction.” The Cambridge Companion To Modernism (2003): 1-9.

A great introduction to understand modernism

Irigaray, Luce. “Sexual Difference.” Modern Literary Theory (2001): 236-238.

Was a short informative essay on the identity of individuals and gender parallelism

Wikipedia. Revolutionary Girl Utena. 1 April 2009 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolutionary_Girl_Utena&gt;.

Information on Utena

Wikipedia. The Bloody Chamber. 4 April 2009
< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bloody_Chamber&gt;.
Information On Carter

 

Dmoz. Open Directory Project: Revolutionary Girl Utena. 3 April 2009
<http://www.dmoz.org/Arts/Animation/Anime/Titles/R/Revolutionary_Girl_Utena/Fan_Pages/&gt;
A repository of all the fan-sites I visited for Utena.

 

Scriptorum. Angela Carter. 3 April 2009
<http://www.themodernword.com/SCRIPTorium/carter.html&gt;

Jeff VanderMeer’s introduction

 


[1]  In The Routledge Classics Edition of Brothers Grimm: Complete Fairy Tales, the folkloristic commentary has included the ways in which the Grimm brothers got their stories; it was taken as spoken by respective individuals who knew the legends or tales.

 

 

[2] In The Vintage Edition of the Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber Helen Simpson writes an introduction on Carter’s fairytales. Upon reading the other texts I see them to be similar to the explanation given by Simpson upon the Carter’s fairytales being their own stories and not merely versions. She also explains the latent content by quoting what Carter herself has said

[3]  The name Iron Henry is given in Routledge Classics edition of Grimm’s fairytales. I had not known of it before.

 

[4] Fans of the site “Empty Movement” have described Revolutionary Girl Utena in such a way. My reading on Postmodernism from The Cambridge Companion to Postmodernism has validated this claim. Utena (the abbreviated form of this anime) does have the elements to justify this claim.

[5] In Modernism and Postmodernism the concept of demise and ascension remain prevalent. However, to categorize them is hard as we in the case of Gregor Samsa, to become an insect (presumably a dung beetle) is obviously an unhappy situation, but is it? In Kafka’s story and Greenberg’s essay the answer contradicts the general belief.

6 All the fans of Revolutionary Girl Utena (or as most fan sites depict) relate the relationship of Akio and Anthy as a power-play in which Akio is always winning or dominating. Once, before Akio was a fallen prince, he was Dios, the true prince of the world (ironically this name is the Spanish word for God). Anthy and Dios had a loving relationship and they shared this bond throughout the time Dios was Dios. As Dios was once the true prince he always spent days and nights protecting princesses; but, that was he would always be – an ideal image, a deity to the eyes of the people who admired him. But, no one really loved him except his sister, Anthy, the true princess. He was worked to exhaustion and near to his death but he no one cared and wanted him to still save their daughters. Surrounded by people while they were in a barn house (a palace in the movie version), Anthy steps out and says to the people that the prince, Dios, is dead and that she has killed him so that he would belong only to her. In actuality, Anthy could not find justice in the way people treated Dios and wanted him to be safe. The anger of the mob is horrible – they brand Anthy as a witch and their anger become the swords of hatred and they impale Anthy. Dios disappears and in his place comes Akio (it should be noted that Dios usually appears as a child of around twelve to fourteen years but Akio is represented as a virile, seductive and manipulative man). Akio dominates over Anthy physically and mentally; Akio subjugates Anthy by having sex with her while Anthy (with her body impaled and her real self confined to a coffin) can only comply (this story runs true in the manga and anime, in the movie it is somewhat different). The relationship of Gregor and Grete is becoming like them – they, like Akio and Anthy, shared a loving relationship. Now, Grete has become the mastermind and she dominates Gregor’s life: she is now literally seeing him as an insect to be moved in any direction. The swords of hatred are obviously the society to whom now Gregor will be ousted for Gregor is no longer a useful cog in the machine that needs to operate it.  

[7] As even shown by Dios – it did not help him but sent him to his “death” – likewise, Gregor’s humanity literally dies within this self-sacrificing form and he becomes an insect to gain what he could not as a man: his freedom and identity as stated by Greenberg.

 

[8] As stated by David Trotted in his essay “The Modernist Novel” Naturalist (the progression of things) and symbolism (the representation of objects as deeper philosophical models of thought) merge in the modern novel. The hospital is Gregor’s human life, methodical and unnaturally rigid, it needs to be alienated from him so as to liberate him.

[9] My reading of “Beginning Theory” by Peter Barry suggests this philosophy almost to be Marxist in nature.

[10] Carter actually illustrates something here that is present even in the nobler princes of the traditional fairytale. It is their nobility as a savior that is given not their true selves: they do not incorporate weakness for to them that is the job, the female, the princess.

 

[11] Coincidentally, this is also what Anthy says to Akio, before finally gaining freedom from him thanks to Utena. She says that if he wants he can stay in his coffin and play as a pretend-prince and that is all he will amount to (as The Bloody Chamber’s protagonist’s husband): he can only seduce and manipulate, and be a paragon of perversity, never be what he artificially emulates – a daring, bold prince. Like Utena, who has her flaws and failures but can still succeed as a real prince, the piano-tuner, though blind, is also a real prince as he tries to do what is right and he is not physically strong as the traditional prince but becomes a better prince than the masculine, stereotyped one.

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