Russian Fairy Tales (RUSS 047/LITR 047R) -- Spring 2008 -- Swarthmore College

Lecture notes for March 31, 2008

Sibelan Forrester

“Snow White”

Any questions for Meredith re her presentation (on The Snow Miaden – Snegurochka)? Very nice use of illustrations, and easy-to-find commentary in a different colored font. This telling of the tale definitely has literary elements, recalls Hans Christian Anderson (female masochism again: the little mermaid whose every step cuts her like knives, and poor Snegurochka whose feet are hurting as she starts to melt).

“Snow White” tales – Bettelhaim, p. 200: the dwarves, “failing to develop into mature humanity, are permanently arrested on a pre-oedipal level (dwarfs have no parents, nor do they marry or have children) and are but foils to set off the important developments taking place in Snow White.” (do you buy his reading here? Note Zipes's comment, in "Breaking the Disney Spell," that in Disney's version of "Snow White" the dwarves become much more interesting and full of character than either Snow White or the prince.)

Bettelheim sees the story as all about Oedipal difficulties. What do you find persuasive? What less so? The argument (in note on p. 210) that Disney, by naming individual dwarves, is seriously interfering with “the unconscious understanding that they symbolize an immature pre-individual form of existence”? (Would you critique the other big Disney change – that she and the prince meet before she leaves her home castle?)

“The Dead Princess and the Seven Knights” – a little Pushkin background (1799-1837; his exile; his tale-telling nanny, Arina Rodionovna). Opening the topic of literary uses or adaptations of fairy tales.

A folk version (from Afanas'ev) – what surprises you about this one? What does it have in common with other tales we’ve read? (“The Armless Maiden,” “The Merchant’s Daughter and the Slanderer”)


Return to the class syllabus

Proceed to the lecture notes for Wednesday, April 2, 2008.