Kate Bernheimer on Fairy Tales

1. “We know how to speak fairytales.”

I didn’t fully understand what Bernheimer meant when she said this. However, after she showed several images, I realized that I was relating each image with a fairy tale. Well versed in the quintessential elements of our favorite fairy tales (e.g. two lost children, long hair, cruel stepmother), we are able effortlessly identify the language in visual arts, reproductions, adaptations, discussions, etc…

I think there is considerable credence in defining fairytales as a unique language that one “speaks.” Having taken three linguistics courses, I have heard multiple times that languages are easier to acquire and perfect when young, for after a certain age, it becomes increasingly difficult for the brain to learn a new language. Thus, it makes sense that the language of fairytales, taught to us as children, remains with us even as adults.

However, as I never read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as a young girl, the story didn’t fully infiltrate my language of fairytales. In addition to this, to me, Carroll’s prose is uniquely his own. After all, I can hardly see the following interaction appear in a “classic” Grimm tale:
“‘I see nobody on the road,’ said Alice.
‘I only wish I had such eyes,’ the King remarked in a fretful tone. ‘To be able to see Nobody! And at that distance too!’” (AA 222-3)

I hope that by the end of this class I can speak Carroll, in addition to speaking fairytale.

Rapunzel II by Natalie Frank
Rapunzel II by Natalie Frank. By merely seeing her golden, braided hair, we identify Rapunzel.

2. “There are several techniques applicable to fairytales: depthlessness, magic, abstraction…”

Unfortunately, I didn’t get down every technique Bernheimer mentioned in relation to fairytales, but the list I did jot down perfectly coincides with Carroll’s Alice. Magic appears when a DRINK ME bottle transforms Alice into a ten-inch high figure (AA 17). Additionally, abstraction emerges when the Caterpillar asks Alice the poignant, mysterious, and unanswerable question, “Who are you?” (AA 47).

However, my favorite technique mentioned by Bernheimer is depthlessness, for Wonderland physically and philosophically goes beyond defined boundaries. For one, it literally resides in a depth below the earth, in the “underground.” For another, it’s comprised of logical and linguistically-inclined animals. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is inherently depthless, for it enables both Alice and the reader to go into the depths of their imagination and explore.

Down the rabbit hole Source: youthvoices.net
Down the rabbit hole
Source: youthvoices.net
Possibilities of imagination Source:http://garymvasey.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/book_of_imagination_by_t1na-d7mlgj9.jpg
Possibilities of imagination
Source:http://garymvasey.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/book_of_imagination_by_t1na-d7mlgj9.jpg

 

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