segunda-feira, 28 de outubro de 2013


Grimm's Fairy Tales

In a violent, harsh world, how do you teach your children, conveying the necessity of keeping one's wits, be reasonably suspicious and react to invisible threats disguised as friendly offers? In the profundly poor and unjust world of medieval and post-medieval europe, how do you survive in the face of rapacious nobility?

Distilled through Grimm's and Perrault's collections, sanitized by countless film and children's book adaptations, today fairy tales appeal to us as innocent tales of a fantasy era gone by, with a clear cut morality where good triumphs in the face of evil. Betterment of social conditions and the rise of the bourgeoisie help to explain how we started to perceive fairy tales as innocent stories. But there was a time in wich it wasn't so. When Cinderella wans't woken by a gentle kiss but by a violent rape - and had to marry and bear children by the rapist. Or the revenge of Puss in Boots, showing how a peasant who keeps its wits may stand a chance against the feudal overlord, the sort of chance that could not happen in real life. Like this there are many others, visceral, violent, harsh and unjust traditional versions of todays tales of innocence.

They were a teaching aid, told by the dim lights of the hearth or the candle in the long cold nights of pre-industrial europe, with regional variations and yet a curious sameness of themes. All of them to teach children how harsh and violent the outer world is, how safety is an illusion and a kind smile hides a lurking danger. Or dreams of prosperity, mostly about abundance of food, for those whose dreams of the fabled land of cockaigne helped to bear their absolute poverty and isolation. As Robert Darnton puts it, "The peasants  (...) inhabited a world (...) of inexorable, unending toil, and of brutal emotions, (...) people whose lives really were nasty, brutish, and short."

Ensaios rápidos para o mooc Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World).

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