As is to be expected, there are interesting differences between tales of other cultures. This does not exclude the culture of Bangladesh, a small country on the Indian subcontinent. In his lecture, “Rupkotha: Folk and Fairy Tales from Bangladesh,” Dr. Shabbir Mian describes some elements of Bangladeshi fairytales (called “Rupkotha”) and teaches about the fairytale of “The Blue Lotus and the Red Lotus,” about two brothers who fight demons.
Like most fairytales, stories in Bangladesh are passed down through an oral tradition, meaning that there is some variation between the tales each time they are told. I thought it was especially interesting that this is reflected in the names of the collections of the stories that appeared when people began to collect them and put them together. Two of the collections of stories are called “Thakurmar Jhuli” and “Thakurdadar Jhuli” (meaning “Grandmother’s Bag” and “Grandfather’s Bag” respectively). These titles remind readers of the people who may have originally told them these stories; their grandparents.
Another similarity between the stories of Bangladesh and the stories that we have read so far is that they all seek to teach the reader a lesson. The stories we have read in class have ended in a moral that the reader is supposed to take with him. According to Dr. Mian, this is also a characteristic of Rupkotha.
One interesting thing that came up in class discussion was the difference between Western and Eastern color symbolism. In the lotus story, the brother whose mother is a human is red, whereas the brother whose mother is a demon is blue. This is in great contrast to Western symbolism in which the red color would normally symbolize evil because of its associations with blood and wrath. One possible reason for this color dichotomy, given by Dr. Mian, is that in Eastern cultures red represents purity and; therefore, would have an association with good rather than evil.
Overall, I thought that not only the stories from Bangladesh were interesting, but also the similarities and differences between the stories. Like Western stories, Eastern stories are passed orally and try to teach the reader a lesson, but because of cultural differences they sometimes have different symbolism.


While all fairytales have certain elements in common, Arabic fairytales, specifically “1001 Nights,” have a crucial stylistic difference that set them apart from other stories we have read in this class. Stories such as the ones written by the Brothers Grimm are usually short and to the point. These stories are a quick tale that always ends in some sort of moral. “1001 Nights” is structured as stories within stories, all set within a frame story.

                At the forefront of the story, a king has been deeply wounded by his now dead, cheating wife. As a way to remain married the king decides that he will take wives, and when he does he will them the morning after the wedding night. In an effort to stop the problem, the daughter or the king’s advisor, decides that she will marry the king and tell him stories every night and leave him with a cliffhanger so that he will want to hear the rest of the story. She adds in the stipulation that she will only tell the stories at night.

                She structures the story so that while she is still telling one, she starts another. This way there are multiple stories to keep track of, and she continues to keep the king’s interest. All of the other stories are contained in the larger story, called the “frame story,” which is the last story to end.

                This stylistic difference makes Arabic tales vastly different from the tales of other nations. Whereas most other fairytales are short and contain a lesson, Arabic fairytales, specifically “1001 Nights,” have a much more complex structure.

Personally, I enjoy reading and I have always have.  It’s part of the reason that I took this class, and a large factor in my deciding to major in English. However, despite my love of reading I have to say that hearing Dr. K’Olewe tell African folktales surpassed my love of literature! Not only was it highly entertaining, it led to a much greater understanding of how fairytales were passed.

I’ve really enjoyed the creative aspect of this course so far, and it was so interesting to see creativity in the form of storytelling. Dr. K’Olewe set the atmosphere so beautifully with the lights and the drums. Also, while I was a little hesitant at first (as I’m sure many of my classmates were), I really enjoyed the level of interaction Dr. K’Olewe’s presentation had. The singing and dancing not only kept everyone’s attention, it was hilarious!

By telling the stories in class, rather than having us read them ahead a time, I feel as though I have a greater understanding of the storytelling tradition, especially because the stories were told in a way that was relevant to the culture from which they came. With the lights out and the audience response to teller signaling that the story was about to begin, I almost felt as though we as students had been transported to a time when storytelling was a social gathering and an important part of a culture’s traditions.

Like all of the stories we’ve read so far, Jewish folktales have some features in common with the rest of the fairy/folktale genre. However, due the fact that they are written by people of a specific religion, rather than a certain country, they also have some distinct features.

Fairytales typically intend to teach some sort of lesson to the readers, and therefore have a little moral somewhere in the story. For instance, Little Red Riding Hood stories seek to warn young girls about the dangers of meeting and trusting strange men.  “The Magic Mirror of Rabbi Adam” teaches the reader about repentance and forgiveness. Because the merchant’s wife was not a truly evil person, and repented of her actions, she is forgiven by God; however, the sorcerer is actually evil and this brings about his destruction.

There is also a story which does not seem to have any moral fiber. In “Chelm Justice,” the town cobbler kills his customer, and his life is spared because he’s the only cobbler in town. Instead, a roofer is hanged because there are two of those, so the logical thing to do, if the reader completely ignores that neither of the roofers is evil, is give up one of those.

Also, because these stories come directly from religion, some of the religious symbolism is very direct, whereas the symbolism from monotheistic religions is buried a little more deeply in other fairytales. For instance, “A Dispute in Sign Language” portrays a challenge between a Jew and a priest in which the Jew must respond to things the priest signs. While the Jew has one idea of the conversation in his mind, the priest believes that he signed about religion.

Because of where the tales come from, they have some differences from the fairytales that are derived from countries rather than cultures.

Many people are drawn to the Cinderella story because of the character arc of Cinderella going from “rags to riches” over the course of the story. Some women buy into this fantasy, believing that, like Cinderella, their Prince Charming will come and they will suddenly be rich (and lest this sound like I am specifically picking on women here stories like the Disney version of Aladdin portray this the other way around).

                While I would like to be a romantic, and believe in this notion I simply can’t do it. Success and riches are achieved through hard work and perseverance, not by dependence on a spouse, and I find it kind of sickening that some young women merely want to marry well rather than actually learn to do things for themselves. Furthermore, what would happen were Prince Charming to wake up one day and want a divorce?! Cinderella could theoretically open a cleaning business, since that seems to be her only skill, but how does she plan to survive should this situation not work out?

                The whole “rags to riches” thing has been frowned upon for a long time in storytelling, across different cultures, going all the way back to Plato. In his myth of the metals, from Plato’s Republic, Plato decries the “rags to riches” motif saying that an individual may not move more than one social class in a lifetime. While Plato’s judgment is definitely harsh, and has been proven wrong by numerous creative thinkers and pioneers, he does take a stand against the idea that people can all of a sudden become wealthy with no work.

                The “rags to riches” notion is really unhealthy. It gives people a belief that even if they don’t work hard they can eventually achieve success, and make it last until a happily ever after. The only good thing about Cinderella is her footwear.

We have already learned in this class that fairytales and other stories are communicated through a variety of different ways, orally and written being two of them. The lecture that Dr. Rose gave continued to open my eyes to not only another culture, but also to the many different ways that stories are told.

                I found the different ways of expression found in ASL storytelling to be particularly interesting. I knew already, through observing my friends who study ASL and asking them questions, that facial expression is a large part of the language. Watching people sign poetry augmented my understanding, and was very inspiring. I also found the different modes of storytelling neat. I had never seen anyone sign a story using the alphabet, and being able to spot different ASL letters in a story about a seemingly random topic was fascinating.

                This has contributed to my understanding of fairytales in that it has increased my knowledge of the different ways that stories are passed to an audience. Because deaf people have such a different way of communicating, they are able to tell stories in so many different and creative ways, just as fairytales are told in different ways. 

First, here’s the link to Cassie’s blog…

If I had to pick one word to describe Cassie’s blog it would be “personality.” Cassie’s blog addresses each entry head on with spunk, and she never hides her true opinion! The incorporation of a fairytale which is not on the syllabus is very interesting and sets her blog apart from others in a unique way, while bringing in knowledge of fairytales that the rest of the class doesn’t necessarily have. Cassie also ensures that every post includes a point of view that is culturally relevant to today’s society, taking the lessons learned in the fairytales and applying them to today’s attitudes.

                My personal favorite example of this is her Little Red Riding Hood post. She addresses the issues of the story, such as Little Red’s sexuality, at the beginning of the post, but she also incorporates an issue that is important to her and many others: health. While this is not a primary feature of the story, many cartoons poke fun at the wolf’s dietary choices. Cassie is able to use these cartoons and her knowledge of the story as a platform to advocate for good health choices, and she does so in a way that the reader can find humorous.

                Overall, Cassie’s blog is very enjoyable to read. It is humorous, sassy, and always the questions and issues head on!