Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Story of Maui - Part 2

Besides taming the sun and raising the Pacific Islands, Maui's other great feat is bringing fire to the people. In the Maori version he tricks the fire goddess Mahuika into giving it, to which she responds with enraged fire across land, sea, and sky. Thankfully his ancestors send rain to douse the flames and save his life. The fire-god is male in Samoa, and dwells in the underworld, where Ti'iti'i journeyed to obtain fire. He did so, but Mafui'e the fire-god blew on it and broke up the oven in which he placed the fire for safekeeping. The two wrestled and Ti'iti'i emerged victorious. The price of defeat for Mafui'e was to surrender the secret of making fire.

Hawaiian fire dancer. Photo: Mynameisben123.

Thankfully, the Hawaiian version of Maui did not have to confront Pele to obtain fire. His adventure was far more comic. Once more we turn to the Hawaiian legends transcribed by Rev. A.O. Forbes:

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Mickey's First Feature Film Appearance

According to official Disney files, the first feature film appearance of Mickey Mouse was Fantasia. That may be his first feature film appearance in an official Disney film. However, Walt Disney rented is creation out in 1934 for a cameo in the MGM film Hollywood Party.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Perrault's Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper

Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper is another of Charles Perrault's most famous fairy tales. The oldest written version of the story is found in the posthumous works of Italian statesman Giambattista Basile, published 1634. In his version, dictated from oral folk traditions, tells of Zezolla, the daughter of a widowed prince, who is being oppressed by her governess-turned-stepmother and six stepsisters. After being given an enchanted set of gardening tools and a date tree seeding, she grows a magnificent tree whose resident fairy grants a new identity by which to attend the king's ball.

Perrault's version was published 60 years later, and subsequently translated into English whereupon it became a noted classic that was adapted by Disney into the celebrated animated film in 1950 and a live-action film in 2015. Many interpretations of the fairy tale have been suggested, the least interesting (as always) having to do with sexual awakening. Could the prince going around the countryside trying out whether all the maidens "fit" be an innuendo? My preference always defers to the great Edwardian Catholic apologist G.K. Chesterton. In this excerpt from his 1908 book Orthodoxy, he discusses the wholesome lessons to be learned from fairy tales:
But I deal here with what ethic and philosophy come from being fed on fairy tales. If I were describing them in detail I could note many noble and healthy principles that arise from them. There is the chivalrous lesson of "Jack the Giant Killer"; that giants should be killed because they are gigantic. It is a manly mutiny against pride as such. For the rebel is older than all the kingdoms, and the Jacobin has more tradition than the Jacobite. There is the lesson of "Cinderella," which is the same as that of the Magnificat -- exaltavit humiles. There is the great lesson of "Beauty and the Beast"; that a thing must be loved before it is loveable. There is the terrible allegory of the "Sleeping Beauty," which tells how the human creature was blessed with all birthday gifts, yet cursed with death; and how death also may perhaps be softened to a sleep.    
For those unfamiliar with the Magnificat, it is Mary's hymn of praise when she receives news that she, a maiden girl, will give birth to the Saviour:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. 
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;  he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46b-55)
It also echoes that Saviour's teachings called "The Beatitudes":
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:1-11)
That, I think, is the most robust of interpretations. Cinderella's is a story about the exultation of the humble, the liberation of the oppressed, and the vindication of the kind-hearted. Though forced into wretched circumstances, Cinderella's beauty - an external projection of her inner spirit - outshone that of her stepmother and stepsisters, for whom no amount of ostentatious finery could mask their cruelty and meanness. No doubt this most important of messages has contributed to the story's enduring power and popularity.

The following translation was by Charles Welsh, for his 1901 anthology The Tales of Mother Goose. Illustrations for this tale come from the incomparable pen of Gustave DorĂ©, for an 1862 compilation of Perrault's fairy tales.