Fairy tales take the world inside us and push it into the outside world, so we're really looking at ourselves," says Frank L. Borchardt, a professor of Germanic languages and literature who teaches "Fairy Tales: Grimms to Disney." In "Beauty and the Beast," for example, the Beast's repulsive exterior reflects his inner anguish. His eventual transformation represents self-realization and redemption , themes that have permeated fairy tales for generations.
"Beauty and the Beast" transmits the most important moral in the fairy-tale genre, according to Borchardt: "to have a good heart." Although goodness is usually rewarded with love, wealth, or power, "wickedness is very severely punished," he says. There's "lots of sadism and violence, lots of dismemberment" in fairy tales.
Although many of his students have grown up with Walt Disney versions of these stories, Borchardt reintroduces his students to the heroes and heroines, mischief-makers and evildoers of their childhood in the original, tried-and-true versions. "My approach is wildly old-fashioned."
He challenges his students to explore various versions and interpretations of the classic tales by contrasting modern critiques and retellings with classic Grimm brothers fairy tales, arguably the most influential works of the genre.
The Grimms "brought prestige to this literature," says Borchardt. The brothers collected fables and folk tales from around the world and compiled them into one comprehensive compilation, The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales, 210 stories in all. Many of the stories are cleaned up and Christianized versions of traditional folk tales, Borchardt says.
Princesses and princes, frogs and wolves, witches and goblins have their place in every culture. Fairy tales transcend boundaries of language, space, and time to convey motifs and morals that speak to every society. Ultimately, Borchardt hopes that by taking his course, his students cultivate "an abiding affection for the stories and for this kind of storytelling from all over the world."
Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces
Frank L. Borchardt is professor of Germanic languages and literature and professor of education. From 1983 to 1997 he led the projects that produced the CALIS (Computer Assisted Language Instructional System) markup language for instructional exercises and its successor WinCALIS. He was executive director of the Computer Assisted Language Instructional Consortium (CALICO) and editor of the CALICO Journal from 1991 to 1997. He teaches language and literature in the German department and the occasional educational technologies seminar in the program in education.
Weekly online postings
German 173/English 146/Literature 151E - Fairy Tales: Grimms to Disney
August 1, 2006