Tag Archives: stories

Reflections of a almost five year old on Fairy Tales

I have recently introduced Migu to popular fairy tales and now our bed time reading as well as meal time stories are generally Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.

As I have blogged in the past,here and here  Migu does not like to consume stories in a docile way. She has to constantly comment or critique a story. So this is how our story telling session on Snow White went.

Snow White had a step mother who had a magic mirror.

Migu : Wow step mother and magic. Is she like the fairy godmother? Will she wave her want?

Me : Well, no step mother and fairy godmother are different, sort of very opposite to each other. Will you let me continue?

As I continue we come to the bit about the mirror.

Me : The step mother asked the mirror, “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, who is the fairest of them all?”

Migu : Wait, wait, I am the mirror, you are step mother, now ask me.

Me: Ok, Mirror Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?

Migu : Goldilocks

Me : Not Goldilocks, Snow White.

Migu : But that day you told me Golilocks was also beautiful.

Me : Never minds, its another story. Can we continue.

After some time, as we come to the bit about Snow White falling after eating the apple

Me : How do you think she revived?

Migu : How? How?

Me : A handsome prince came and saw Beautiful Snow Whites Body. When he kissed her, she revived.

Migu : Thats not fair. Thats what happened to Sleeping Beauty. You are simply saying this.

Me : No that is the story.

Migu : Why is it always the prince?

Me : I dont know, can I continue?

Migu : Ok

Me : The prince and Snow White got married and lived in a castle

Migu : No, that is what happened to Rapunzel

Me : So its a different prince, and it was perfectly OK for him to marry Snow White.

Migu : Getting irritated, there is always a prince (She said it in Tamil, so all who follow Tamil can truly understand the impact of a line like Eppopathalum Prince, Eppopathalum Prince.

After some time,

Migu : I dont like these stories, I only like Red Riding Hood.

Me : Why

Migu : There is no prince, only a wolf.

The Feminist in Me : You go girl, yes you dont need a prince.

Like I have written before, I didnt really question any story while growing up. I dont not always fantasize about a life similar to the one which I was reading about, but I accepted it and never thought to challenge their choices. I am glad Migu is growing up, questioning stories, and maybe unconsiously breaking stereotypes and challenging possibilities and choices.

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A to Z Blogging Challenge F is for fanfiction and the pluralistic version of our epics

A to Z Blogging Challenge April 7 F

I guess fan fiction is here to stay and although the quality of writing is quite bad in some cases, I like fan fiction for making the inherent assumption that the author is not perfect and we always have a choice in changing the stories we want to. I think what I have enjoyed the most is some of the recent fan fiction which is based on the Hindu epic Mahabharata. I have been reading. I think the recent TV series has inspired a lot of this writing. The quality of the writing is not great, indeed as a story it is all quite amateurish, but I am surprised at the freedom people are taking in rewriting myths using modern jargon, modern ideas and quite contrary to the ‘holiness’ of the myth.

Rewriting Mahabharata is nothing new. In Indian literature, there are many point of view retellings of the epic. In recent years, there are many reimaginings, of Mahabharata as science fiction or political thrillers. While many are well accepted, they do tread the lines carefully and are respectful to the overall tone of the epic. But these fan fictions sometimes border on risque. Setting aside the bad writing, some are practically sexual fantasies, some are slap stick comedies.

And maybe that is why I find these stories so heartening. It is not their content or their writing style, but in the fact that they exist. In recent times, I have often wondered if my country and my religion is suddenly getting more intolerant. An esteemed university banned an essay talking about different versions of Ramayana, a play ‘Bed Time Story’ critiquing key incidents in Mahabharata was banned for almost three decades.

Therefore I marvel at how these fictions continue to be written. Maybe it is the annonymity of internet which allows them. Maybe, it is the fact that the readership remains fairly restricted. It is not that these stories receive uniform good reviews. But they remain. There is no call to censor them, or take them out. And so, despite the fact that as fiction, these stories are a sorry excuse, I am glad to have them, because they have restored the tolerance and irreverance, which for me is a critical part of the religion itself.

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Rewriting stories, Migu’s way

 

I have written earlier in this series, about the dissonance we have after reading some of our favourite classics and trying to reconcile the values they espouse to our own values. As part of the discussion following the post, I suggested that while discussing these stories with kids, we should perhaps highlight that they needed to critically evaluate them and not necessarily accept the values given in them as a norm. One way of doing this, perhaps, could be to encourage kids to rewrite the stories.

I thought it was important for kids to let go of the notion that stories are sacrosanct and start genuinely beleiving they can choose to do what they want with it. That will encourage rewriting from different perspectives. Right after I wrote that blog, my daughter taught me that kids never think of stories as sacrosanct, and they seem to constantly reinvent it to suit them.

I was reading out this story to her, and she seamlessly modified it into something totally different, and communicated the story to me in her own language.

Original Story

There was a little girl called Sonali. She had a crow for a friend. One day she was eating a biscuit. The crow was greedy. It snatched the biscuit from her hand and went away. It sat on the tree and ate the biscuit. SOnali started crying. Her mother came out and gave her another biscuit. She was happy. THe next day, the crow came to play with her again.

My daughter’s version of the story (coincidentally, I narrated this story to her right after a breakfast session with the crows).

Me : There was a girl called Sonali (like Migu), who had a crow for a friend.

Migu : Hmmm…..

Me : One day she was eating a biscuit.

Migu : No, dosa

Me : OK, one day she was eating a dosa. The crow wanted the dosa. So she snatched it from her hand.

Migu : No, she threw a piece of dosa and the crow ate it.

Me : Ok, what happened after that, did she cry?

Migu : She ate a piece of dosa.

Me : Great. What happened after that?

Migu : Crow clapped hands for her.

Me : Great, and then…..

Migu : She threw another piece of dosa for the crow.

Me : Then

Migu : She ate one piece of dosa

Me : What happened after that.

Migu : Dosa got over.

I was impressed with this story, because it showed how instinctively children are non-anthropocentric. The original story still saw the crow as a thief of the biscuit, but as far as Migu was concerned, the food was meant to be shared.

Unfortunately, I dont see this value persisting in her or any other child. Children either learn fear of animals or learn aggressive behavior for self protection, when confronted with animals. This is the behavior we teach them. None of us, as adults can serve as good role models, teaching them to accept and live with other animals. We are too comfortable protecting our own turfs, and I guess too scared to share it with others. Animals themselves can act quite unpredictably, because, I guess they also dont have good memories of human association. And the more they act unpredictably, the more they fuel the fear in us till living together becomes quite difficult.

 

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