The first assignment for the Fantasy & Science Fiction course I’m doing was on The Grimm Brothers’ Household Tales. For the assignment we were asked to “Please write an essay that aims to enrich the reading of a fellow student who is both intelligent and attentive to the readings and to the course. Each essay should be between 270 and 320 words.”. This is mine:
“We will remember and reward thee” is the central message of not just The White Snake, but many other tales in Household Stories. Doing good deeds is rewarded, often in unexpected ways, whereas being uncharitable, mean-spirited, or unjust will get the opposite response. This is clearly shown in stories which contrast the actions of one character with those of another in the same story. The step-daughter shares her food with the three men and sweeps for them. Her step-sister reacts much differently, and both receive gifts. One is rewarded, the other is punished.
This theme of just rewards is not always so simple. Hans, in Hans in Luck, may be seen by readers as acting foolishly and making bad trades so that he ends up in a worse situation than when he started. However, he does not see it that way; he is rewarded by acting honestly and thus remains happy. Contrast that with the wife in The Fisherman and his Wife. Nothing satisfies her, and in demanding greater and greater rewards for her husband’s good deed, she ends up with nothing.
In some cases the tales tell of good deeds that are rewarded; others suggest that sticking to the rules and regulations will see you right in the end. The Goose Girl makes the best out of a poor situation. By doing what is morally right she is restored to her rightful position and the waiting-woman who had stolen everything from the princess is punished.
On occasion smart thinking rather than obedience is valued. Clever Grethel is not the most obedient servant; she steals from her master but her wits and brains are rewarded. Similarly, the tailor exaggerates with his “seven killed with one blow” boast, yet he succeeds in his endeavours because he acts bravely and cleverly.
Ultimately these tales reinforce socially acceptable behaviours and values.
Peer responses: We then has to grade & write comments on five other essays, and today we got our grades and responses back. I got a 4. Which is totally average, but only two comments, and they don’t seem to be all that illuminating. So I don’t know… maybe people who signed up didn’t do the peer reviews, or there was a technical glitch. Hopefully that’ll be sorted for the next time.
Feel free to leave a link to your essay if you are doing this course.