A few readers have asked me to post my writings because they like my lean writing style.

Actually, I tend to write applied documents such as complaint letters and such today :)  But lucky you, I am taking a Fantasy & Science Fiction Literature class on Coursera.org.

I will post my homework assignments and the comments I receive from other classmates.  So here is my essay assignment for Unit 1: Grimms' Fairytales:


The theme of a couple’s bond and marriage reoccurs in the Grimms' Fairytales to address the basic human need for love and its conflict with other needs.  The tales, although some seem confusing, argue that overcoming hardships together gives a relationship its depth.

Many hardships come externally, such as being forced apart in “Rapunzel” and “Roland.”  Making a difficult choice together is another kind, as seen in “Faithful John” in the decision to sacrifice one’s own children to show faith.  As numerous pieces today continue to explore this aspect of love, no one doubts that external hardships remain important in modern life.

Love is however, sometimes despite all literal effort, such an intense, emotional and personal experience that is difficult for others to comprehend.  Internal hardships such as repeated disappointment in “Raven,” or clashes between personalities in “King Thrushbeard” and “Frog Prince” have this quality.  It appears illogical that extreme aversion and hostility so close to hatred can be miraculously transformed into a happy marriage.  Hollywood movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith also attempts to explore violence in romance, where a couple learns their partner's true self and finds the intensity they need to revive their marriage in an all-out effort to destroy each other.  Yet even today, its screenwriter could hardly convince studios and later half of the audience that all the action was "more about the marriage.”  After all, this is a path that few take and will understand.

Unhappy marriage stories “Death of the Hen,” “Fisherman and his Wife,” "Robber Bridegroom," “How Mrs. Fox Married Again” and “Rabbit’s Bride” explore egotism, superficiality, ignorance, insincerity or mere seduction that turn relationships unhealthy.  Such lessons and fears exist widely in modern works such as Dracula and even TV sitcoms.  Both the Grimms' and modern works place materialistic measures such as financial or social status of little importance in a happy relationship.

Comments from classmates (from different cultural backgrounds around the globe):

The essay was very clear and the writing flowed smoothly. There were good word choices and the adjectives in particular were very descriptive. The only suggestion would be to use various synonyms in the place of the word, "hardship".

The connections to modern stories strengthens the argument, but were a bit too literal. It may have been better if you looked beyond the surface and went a little deeper.

My response to this comment, if I have the chance to, would be:

1. "Hardship" is the KEY of this writing and should be kept consistently to remind the readers.  This is the culture of writing in English, but many other cultures don't feel comfortable about it.

2. The purpose of this class is to write about literature works.  I think we have such a different view because this classmate probably comes from a very different culture, where either comparing literaure or talking about basic human need is surface. (I know he/she is not a native English-speaker because he/she puts the period outside the quotation mark.)

It is very interesting the themes you are trying to portray and I liked them however, it would be better to use one and write only about it with more examples related to the same book although, I liked the way you show how sometimes literature has some influence with other media.

Clarification:  This classmate suggests that I pick one story and write about how love and marriage is expressed in that particular story, and use the other stories only to relate.  I think, however, it is not going to be effective because my point is to compare/contrast all the stories in the theme of love and marriage.

Your thoughts are expressed clearly, and your sentence structure is good. You also used punctuation correctly and separated ideas into new paragraphs effectively. In your paragraph about unhappy marriages, one suggestion I can make is that even though these stories all illustrate your thesis, choosing just one or two or even three would have been enough. Once you start listing all those titles it can seem a little long and hard to read.

You had a clear thesis for your paper and used great examples to back it up. I like how you used modern examples to show how these topics are still relevant in today's world, but I think too many sentences were devoted to the Mr. and Mrs. Smith example.

Comment:  Again, another classmate suggests that I don't have to list all the stories, but this is a compare/contrast, persuasive essay.  If I leave out any story, someone will say, "Hey but I remember this other story that you didn't mention and I don't think your claim is valid on this story."  A persuasive essay should try to answer any potential questioning.

Very well presented essay, and yes the basic human need for affection, love, approval, acceptance, most of the time will conflict with other human needs. Certainly, like the writer states, "Both the Grimm's and modern works place materialistic measures such as financial or social status of little importance in a happy relationship" however, in old and modern realities it is not a norm.

The writer demonstrated an understanding of the assignment. The argument is persuasive and it gives the reading room for questioning the significance of the insights. Certainly the writer is very familiar with the book.


About Grimm Brothers and why they collect fairytales (from Prof. Rabkin of University of Michigan, English Department):

(Note: Lots of typos and no paragrphs because someone didn't do a good job making this subtitle for Prof'. Rabkin's video lecture.)

The Grimm Brothers, who lived in the 19th century, were, as it happens, professors. That’s not the only thing that made them weird. In fact, they lived together almost their entire lives. Jakob was born in 1875 and he was a rather active fellow, stayed a bachelor his whole life, and was the chief compiler of their tales. Wilhelm was born a year later, was sickly, he married, and was the chief rewriter of their tales. In theory, what Grimm Brothers did was go around to the farms, in the areas near where they lived, in Germany and talk to people. In theory, illiterate people, to find the stories that had somehow passed through the sieve of history. That is, if an illiterate grandmother were telling a story to her grandchildren that she had learned from her illiterate grandmother which she in turn had learned from her illiterate grandmother. These stories must go back to the very beginnings of culture. Now, it's true that there were people who were trying to collect fairy tales before the Grimm brothers did. They did them with specific reasons. Shal Pavo collected them in order to have entertainments to read at court, and his versions of things like Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella are, in fact, highly, highly literate. However. The Grimm brothers had something else in mind. Remember, Germany was not a country. As we know it today. Until after the Franco-Prussian war, 1870, 71'. Germany was the name of. A collection of different. City states. Principalities, Deutsche's and so on. Where people mostly. Spoke German. England, France... These were already well developed modern nations by the beginning of the nineteenth century. Germans wanted to emulate them. Greece, Rome... With the great countries of the classic era. Germany wanted to take its place along side them as well. The Grimm Brothers sought to collect stories that would demonstrate the purity and antiquity of the German Folk. These stories were meant, to bind the German speaking peoples together, and to show that they spoke for the oldest roots of humanity. So their books were, Children and Household Tales, published in three volumes in 1812, 1814, and 1822. Instantly they became enormously popular all over Europe. In 1823, George Crook shank published an illustrated edition of all of the tales that had come out. There were translations by one person, then another. I've asked you to read the Lucy Crane translation, if you find that convenient, from 1886. We now, that is the wide public, associate the Grimm brothers with these fairy tales, but that, in fact, is not their only scholarly contribution. Phonology. Is the study of the development of language sounds. And the Grimm Brothers, particularly Jacob, were instrumental in coming up with the very first law of phonological change. Now, let me see if I can make this. Palpable. If you say the word, voices, voices and hold your voice box, when you see, say the s sound in voice Your voice box doesn't move, but when you say the z sound at the end of voices, zzzzzzs, you can feel the vibration in your voice box. Speech sounds that use your voice box, zzzzz, are called voiced. Speech sounds that do not use your voice box are called voiceless. The Grimm Brothers noticed something that anyone who speak a large number of European languages would note that there are connections that seem to be regular changes between some languages and others. What they realize was that. If you go far enough back, say to Latin, you will find words that are Voiceless, stops. That is, they are produced by stopping the air. And then releasing it. Like ‘p.‘ If you look at the development of romance languages. That is, the languages that are based on Latin. The language of Rome. Those languages retain. That very same sound. In words that have the consonant in the same place. So, pater" in Latin remains “padre” in Spanish. But if you move to the Germanic languages. German, English, Frisian, Deutsche. Those initial, voiceless stops become voiceless fricatives. That is, sounds that are made by friction. Peter becomes Pierre in French, Padre in Spanish, but Father in English, and Vater in German. There are only three voiceless stops - p, t, k (PTK). Peter becomes father. Today's. Becomes trois in French. Tres in Spanish. But three in English. And Cornu as in Cornucopia becomes horn in English. But remains 'cu' as in cuerno in Spanish. In other words. You can find an absolutely regular shift in the phonology as you go from some other language and they split into Germanic languages and Latinate languages. This means it's possible to trace back to some hypothetical earlier language and know how it was pronounced. This is the first phonological law. Now, why were they concerned with this? Well, if you trace back to a common origin for say, German and French, and it turns out you go back for a common origin between say, Sanskrit and Hindi, you can keep right on going all the way back until you get to a single earlier language, spoken between the fifth and the seventh millennia before this era, called Indo-European. And that language is the oldest one to which we, who might speak English or French, have access. What the Grimm brothers were trying to do, in studying linguistics. Will show the direct line back from German to something that even pre-dated Greek and Latin. So that the Greeks and the Latins, those classic countries, had no real advantage in antiquity over the German. You know, when you study The, the meanings of words. One of the things that one often does is study etymology. Etymology, most people define as, the study of the history of words, and that's a very useful thing to do because our words have in them meanings that we might not really recognize but somehow they're still in there. The, the, the fancy word for England is Albion, and it's called Albion because when the Romans first got to the British Isles, and they came toward what we now call the White Cliffs of Dover, the land seemed miraculous, because it was all white. And alba is white in Latin. So that word Albion doesn't mean oh, a crummy way of look ing at England, it means a wonderful way of looking at England and you understand that better if you understand the etymology of the word Albion, so you might think. “-ology” means the study of, etymon might mean history or words. But it doesn't. Theology means study of, but the Greek word etymon means “truth.” Somehow. There is an intuitive belief that most people share, that if you understand how something began, you understand what it really, really, is. The truth of the words are in understanding their history. The truth of the culture is in understanding the history of its language. The truth of human culture is in finding those ever further back stories. That. The Grimm brothers saw it. In fact, they lied. We know that. They sent their graduate students out to collect stories and they gave them to Jakob and Jakob put together the stories that seemed like they might go together. And then he gave that draft to Wilhelm and Wilhelm rewrote it so that rewrote the story so that they would look appealing he had in mind and lots of collections of folk tales and fairy tales that they'd already seen. Nominally. These were tales from antiquity. In fact, the largest single source was a middle-class housewife who lived a couple blocks down from them in Germany. And we know this because we have access to their library. And hers. Why did this matter so much? As I say, it was a nationalist project. In the year nine of our era. A Germanic warrior named Arminius led a group of Germanic people to attack three full Roman regions in the Tutebourg forest, near modern-day Ostneburg. It was a 3-day encounter, but in one day. The Germans under Arminius wiped out all three legions. At that time, and for most of the centuries thereafter, Rome had about 28 legions. In other words, ten%, more than ten percent of the military might of Rome was destroyed on one day in Teutoburg Forest in nine of this era. The Romans never again tried to attack what they called Germania. And to this day. A line that goes east of the Rhine and north of the Danube separates two cultures in Europe. If you like you can call it the, the oil and butter line. On the west of the line, the south of the line people cook with oil. On the right on the west east I should say, and the north they cook with butter. Or you can call it the beer and wine line. Alright, they have beer north and east of the Danube and the Rhine. They have wine in the other areas. Those cultural realities stick with us to this day. In the year 98, Tacitus published a, a booklet which talked about these Germanic people. He referred to them as tall, strong, incorruptible, mighty warriors. Probably what he was trying to do was use the fear of attacking north of the Danube as a way to get his fellow citizens, the Romans of his day, to be less lazy and more militaristic, because he was trying to drum up their own political vigor. But in fact, the story of Germania, Tassidus description of what the Germans were like, although he probably had never met one, and certainly has never gone to Germany, or to the area of all of those states that he collectively called Germania. The existence of this booklet became a myth for German speaking people. And in the year 1455, a copy of that book was found. And almost immediately, German speaking people used this as a justification for trying to become stronger and unify and make themselves into this great nation. As part of that effort many people participated, and so did the Grimm brothers. They didn't collect their fairy tales, their Kinder- und Hausmärchen, because they were trying to please children. They collected them, because they were trying to show the might, antiquity, power and uncorruptibility of the German people. Those are the stories you've just been reading.

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