Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Chana's Course on Fairy Tales & the Bible

(Also known as: stories I tell to five year olds.) Or as RaggedyMom refers to it, "Chana reviews dissertation topics at the dinner table."

I would structure the course so that everyone read the original Judaic text (Hebrew, Aramaic, Mishnaic, Midrashic etc) and then the various forms of the fairy tale. I would want everyone to have access to the Aarne-Thompson Tale Type Index and Motif Index as well. We would discuss similarities and differences between the Judaic and fairy tale text in class. If there was time, we would also go through variants of the fairy tale and/or Judaic text and show how they return or venture farther away from the comparitive text. Assignments would include coming up with your own comparisons between various fairy tales and Judaic texts, noting archetypal trends in Tanakh, or comparing and contrasting similar characters. The purpose of the class would be to demonstrate the many biblical themes and motifs in fairy tales. If possible, it would be nice to see if later Judaic texts or midrashim actually borrow from folklore and fairy tales (sometimes they do, although the veracity of these late midrashim is questionable at best to begin with.) Thus, this would be an interdisciplinary course and count for credit towards your English or Bible major.

1. Kamtza & Bar Kamtza/ Sleeping Beauty
2. Rachel & Leah (Wedded to Jacob)/ Swan Lake
3. Moshe & the Sapphire Staff (Midrash)/ The Sword in the Stone
4. Benjamin & the Stolen Goblet/ Simple Hans
5. Elijah's Violin/ Finist the Falcoln
6. The Demon Princess/ Jack and the Beanstalk
7. Leviathan, the Fox & Fish/ The Monkey's Heart
8. King Solomon & the Two Prostitutes with Infants/ The Future Buddha as Judge
9. Yiftach and his Daughter/ The King of the Golden Mountain
10. The Book of Esther/ Aladdin (The Princess & Vizier)
11. Choni Ha'Maagel (Taanis 23a)/ Rip Van Winkle
12. Nazir in Nedarim 9b/ Narcissus & Echo
13. Sanhedrin 105b /The Oak Tree & the Reed (Aesop's fables)
14. David & Saul in the Cave/ The Little Mermaid
15. Samson & Delilah/ Fenrir the Wolf (Norse Mythology) 

I'm sure there are plenty more. I'll add to these as I think of them.



2. Rachel, Leah and Laban are the source material (in my mind) for Van Rothbart, Odette and Odile. Odile wears Odette's form and Prince Siegfried makes the vow to her when in fact it should be made to Odette. Jacob marries Leah thinking that she is Rachel.

Read and perhaps include the book The Hebrew Folktale in the syllabus.


I could easily offer a similar course in film. That one would be 'Chana's Crash Course on Film & the Bible.'

1. David & Bathsheba/ The Man in the Iron Mask (starring Leonardo DiCaprio)
2. The Rav's Idea on Dignity in Defeat/ Beauty and the Beast + The Phantom of the Opera + The Last Unicorn (film and texts)
3. Theodicy throughout Judaism/ V for Vendetta (the torture scene with Evey and the fact that it frees her specifically)

Not to mention the 'Leitmotifs in Tanakh' course and comparing/contrasting symbolism between objects or places in Tanakh and those appearing in English Literature.

And plenty more, of course.

Copyright for the idea behind this course goes to Chana.


nmf #7 said...

Very interesting. Do you think you'll ever get a chance to teach such a course?

Shira Salamone said...

If you do get to teach such a course, please let me know, so that I can sign up!

By the way, Ellen Frankel had a similar thought. See her National Havurah Institute 2009 course What’s so Jewish about Jewish folktales?