Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fair is Fair - World Folktales of Justice and Snow White

Have been reading some more of 'Fair is Fair - World Folktales of Justice' by Sharon Creeden. I bought this August House Publisher collection of folktales around the subject of justice at the NSW Storytelling Conference and have been dipping into it at regular intervals.

There's quite a range of stories both from different cultures and about different issues. One I enjoyed was 'The Two Otters and the Fox'. It's a short folktale from India and Indonesia about otters who are fighting over who should get the bigger share of the fish they've both caught. They ask the fox to solve the question for them and, of course, he makes off with the biggest share. The otters are left with an unexpected moral - fighting leads to losses.

This story can be used in so many ways, about bullying for example, but what came to my mind, I must admit, is the current fighting by the Australian political parties over refugees. We all lose by that fight, especially the refugees. More importantly though the political parties lose respect.

Another story in the book is 'Mr Fox'. I used to tell it a lot when I first started telling stories but I stopped. It is a pretty gruesome story. Sharon Creeden compares it to the serial killing of Ted Bundy. He was certainly gruesome. I still don't know if I want to tell it. It does have a brave hero, Lady Mary, and justice is done but it is capital punishment.

I find myself turning off TV a lot lately because of all of the murderous crime stories. Who needs them? I know I don't. What effect do they have on viewers? I don't know but I suspect that the balance is not positive. So should I tell Mr Fox or not? And in the words of a panto I saw as a child, 'That's the burning question. Let's have your suggestion.'

Who's seen 'Snow White and the Huntsman'?

I enjoyed it. Thought it was good storytelling in general. I liked the way they played with the Snow White story and brought in all sorts of other references from other folk tales, legends, movies, genres etc. - the three drops of blood on the snow, the rose, the witch and the ravens, the white hart and many more.

Snow White was quite Joan of Arc-ish riding into battle. If she was a contemporary country or nation which one would she be? What about the scarred women with the head scarves in the village by the lake? Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam?

The troll was cool but it was a bit of an anticlimax when he just slunk off. It demonstrated Snow Whites compassionate power but really they missed a good opportunity there. They went for  mono-cultural or mono-specific heroes. The closest thing to a non white human team members were the dwarfs and they were clearly white human, just a little quirky in a easily loveable way.

I thought it was interesting that, while there was lots of killing in the movie, most of the means of dying were not directly presented. I guess this was a way of making the killing more acceptable. It certainly worked.

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