In which Miss Molly gets Grimm.

As part of the International Committee through the local YMCA that I’m a part of, I got to do some awesome outreach at our local day camp. The committee’s mission is to bring cultural understanding to the people of our town, through hands-on and interactive discussions. I chose to stick with something that I’m good at…books.

I mean what better fit for a librarian.

This outreach is good for the library, it’s good for the Y, it’s good for the kids, and it’s good for me. Really, all the bases are covered.

The session theme was Disney when I went. I chose to talk about how fairytales have evolved and changed from Grimm tales to Disney tales. We also talked about parallel stories in other cultures (stories like Cinderella) from Germany to Native American cultures to China. It’s really fun.

When I got to camp, I was brought to the group I would be talking to, a specialty group called Bookworm Camp. The kids ranged from 8 to 10, I would guess. They were sitting in a shaded copse of trees by the pond, and having a free writing session. They were all sitting in the dirt, pencils and notebooks in their laps, staring out at the water.

When I got their, their excitement levels hit the roof…someone new!

So, I plopped down, said hello to several familiar faces, and dropped my books. Immediately they were interested. I had all the bright Disney books, some darker, illustrated Grimm editions, and the original Grimm edition. We were ready to talk about fairytales. I love fairytales, personally. Especially Grimm’s tales. Looking at where the tales came from, the culture, the people, and the morals about what each story was trying to teach, or what was happening at the time the stories were recorded is really interesting. What’s also interesting is how the scary versions of the Grimm tales have evolved and changed into the frothy confections that Disney has made so popular.

For my talk with the kids, I started talking about subtle differences in the stories, to see what they already knew, what gaps I could fill, and where their interest lie. It is so funny what kids get hung up on.
We ended up talking about Sleeping Beauty/Briar Rose and the various intrepretations of that story–in Once Upon a Time, Grimm, The Descents series of books, Maleficent…The common theme that came up was being left out, and how that contributes to misunderstanding and issues.
In Grimm’s Briar Rose, the 13th Wise Woman was not invited to the party because the King only had 12 golden plates; she shows up anyway and curses the child.
In Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent is evil for the sake of being evil. We come to understand that she wasn’t invited to the christening of Aurora, but don’t really know why she would react so negatively–other than that she is evil incarnate.
In Maleficent, we get a lot more backstory. Maleficent and Stefan were friends since childhood. He was a stable boy who dreamt of living in the castle. She was a fairy protecting the forest. They grew, and seemed to love one another, and then drifted apart. When the King of the land attacked, Maleficent beat back the hordes. The Kind decreed that anyone who could defeat Maleficent would be his successor and marry his daughter. Stefan went to Maleficent, drugged her with a sleeping potion, and stole her wings. Maleficent, obviously, didn’t take kindly to that. So, when Stefan was married, ruling the kingdom, and had a child, Maleficent decided to take her revenge on Stefan by cursing the child.
What all these stories have in common, the kids surmised, is that Maleficent was wronged in some way, and lashed out against the king and Aurora because she was hurt.
I read them the original story, which is only about 2.5 pages long. And the kids were astounded. But, why didn’t they make the movie like the original book? they asked. So we talked about that. Did you hear much about Briar Rose in this story? No. Do we know what she looked like? What activities she enjoyed? What she thought? No. Do we care much about her, other than that she’s a princess and was put under a spell? No. So, why would Disney change the story? Who was their audience?
It was an interesting discussion to have with them. Some other points they got hung up on…”But why did the whole CASTLE fall asleep? The spell only said her.”
“But, Miss Molly, how did she live for 100 years being asleep and not eating? She was ALREADY 15.”
“But in the movie it was on her 16th birthday that she was cursed. Not 15th.”
After that, we read Rumpelstiltskin. They were curious and I love that the original tale simply ends with Rumple ripping himself in half! I went for the dramatic and slammed the book closed at that point. The kids were like….what. Just. Happened. (And WHY does he want a baby!?!?!)
All in all, it was a successful day. It was good exposure for the library and for me. I got to see kids that I don’t get to interact with on a regular basis. It was fun. And it was a gorgeous day. Win win win all around!

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