In preparation for running a short course on fairy tales, I have become interested by the difference in ending between Perrault’s Little Red Riding Hood and the Grimm Brothers’ Little Red Cap. In Perrault’s, the story ends with the wolf devouring Little Red with the attributive moral that ‘Children, especially attractive, well bred young ladies, should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so, they may well provide dinner for a wolf.’ The Grimms’ tale, on the other hand, introduces the huntsman who rescues Little Red and her grandmother, Little Red’s killing of the wolf, her subsequent meeting with a second wolf who tries the same trick, and the final death of the wolf at the hands of the grandmother and Little Red. But what are we to make of these differences?
Given the impact Covid-19 is having on education, like a lot of schools we are offering transition or ‘Step Up’ courses for the GCSE and A Level years. In addition to the traditional academic subjects, we are running some short courses, and I have offered one entitled ‘The Rise and Rise of Fairy Tales: From Grimm to Disney’. Though I love fairy tales, I must confess to having avoided Disney for much of my life.
No longer though!
Yesterday I began by watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and comparing it to the Brothers Grimm tale. I could write several posts on each of them, but some of the adaptations made from the Grimm story to the Disney animation are particularly fascinating and worth exploring.
From Christopher Booker’s ‘The Seven Basic Plots’ (2004) to the variously attributed assertion that ‘all great literature is one of two stories: a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town’, I have found it fascinating to consider to what degree we can abstract general narratives from literature. Recently, though, I’ve begun to believe that there is really only one story…
I was covering this poem with my Y11 class this week when I finally came to some kind of understanding of the recurring sea imagery. I find it sometimes takes someone else talking about a text to give me focussed thinking space in order to consider these things; and, as the group were feeding back their analysis of the poem, I had one of those wonderful moments when I saw something that had previously eluded me.
I have been covering William Blake’s ‘The Tyger’ with my Y11 class this week. Like many English teachers, I teach the companion poem ‘The Lamb’ at the same time, using the similarities and differences between the two to develop and deepen understanding. Having just finished teaching Of Mice and Men to my Y10 class, I was struck by some powerful similarities that are worth exporing1.
Continue reading “Blake’s Lamb and Tyger”
Lennie’s demise at the end of Of Mice and Men is the culmination of the deaths that Steinbeck has used throughout the text to convey the hopelessness of the world these characters inhabit. Yet Lennie’s death does not just represent the death of their dream; it has a much more significant and symbolic role in our understanding of ourselves.
Continue reading “Lennie’s Death and the Death of the Dream”
As the ‘Reading Group Questions’ in the back of We Need to Talk About Kevin indicate, there is much to be made of the nature/nurture argument in the text. To me, however, this argument inevitably leads back to the concept of control. Who has it? Are Kevin’s character and his resulting actions an inescapable consequence of genes (nature) or does he, Eva or society have control over these factors (nurture)?
Continue reading “Narration in Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin”
I was immensely fortunate to be given tickets to see Don Juan in Soho as a Christmas present. Being a fan of Renaissance and Restoration drama – as well as having something of a man-crush on DT – it had the potential to be a perfect gift. So nearly five months to the day since Christmas, up I went to Wyndham’s Theatre with my partner in tow (perhaps even more of a DT fan) and waited with baited breath…
Continue reading “Don Juan in Soho”
Macbeth is a play seldom associated with beauty; but having recently picked it up again, I have been blown away by just how beautifully written and structured it is. Admittedly it’s a rather horrific beauty, but still…
Continue reading “The Beauty of Macbeth”
The Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company’s residency of The Garrick Theatre is drawing to a close. Early on, I was exceptionally fortunate to see their production of A Winter’s Tale; though not a favourite play of mine, I thought the production was excellent and the acting – especially of Sir Branagh himself – enthralling.
It was with great anticipation, then, that I made my way back to the Garrick last month to watch Kenneth Branagh and Rob Ashford’s production of Romeo and Juliet. Having been bowled over with The Winter’s Tale, I expected the same from this production, especially with Derek Jacobi as Mercutio and the much-lauded pairing of Richard Madden and Lily James in the eponymous roles. Continue reading “Branagh’s Romeo and Juliet – A Jacobian Triumph”