The History and Mediatization of the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales in American Culture
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The Grimms' fairy tales are the most well known collection of fairy tales in America, but the original meaning of the fairy tales was changed for American audiences in modern adaptations. When Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm began collecting the fairy tales, they pursued not only a literary, but also a political agenda that supported a movement towards a united German nation state. They believed that the national soul of the German people could be found in German oral traditions such as folksongs and folktales; and, by showing the German people their common culture, the Grimms thought they could unify them. While the Grimms' fairy tales catered to 19th century bourgeois readers, American adaptations of the Grimms' fairy tales cater to 20th and 21st century American audiences. I will analyze both the Grimms' versions of the fairy tales and the American reinterpretations to illustrate how the values reinforced in each version reflect issues of social and cultural identity. I will demonstrate this by focusing on one of the most erotic Grimm stories, "Rapunzel." First, the Grimms' "Rapunzel" will be analyzed to discover its didactic function and underlying themes of eroticism in both the 1812 and 1857 editions. These results will then be compared to Disney's Tangled (2010) to show how Disney adopted a more "feminist" reading of "Rapunzel" that would cater to the modern American market. Finally, an episode from the Grimm television series based on "Rapunzel" will be used to illustrate how the series emphasizes Rapunzel's character as more violent.