Hero vs. Villain: An analysis of good and evil in traditional fairy tales by Shannon Henderson SLIS 5440, Fall 2003
Thematic Description & Rationale • This is a brief analysis of ten common fairy tales and the roles the hero/heroine and the villain play. • The purpose of this presentation and analysis is to determine the hero/heroine was such prior to the encounters with evil/villain and to understand the villain’s motive(s). • I selected the ten traditional fairy tales to analyze from my local library.
Archetype Analysis: Greed • Characters, especially villains, are motivated by greed, irregardless of their social status in the stories. • Heroes are similar to the villains in this very quality of greed. • All characters in this collection of books, be it hero, villain, or other, are after something for themselves, and some will stop at nothing to get what s/he wants.
Archetype Analysis (Greed) Examples • Jack (Jack and the Beanstalk) climbs the stalk several times, greedily, although he knows the risks he takes with the ogre. The greed motivates him. • The wolf (The Three Little Pigs) never once stops to think of any harm that might come his way since he is so self-centered and set on having a plate of pork for dinner. Thus we see the same danger faced in The Gingerbread Man in that he wanted freedom so badly (greed) that he did not think of the possible price he would pay (and did pay when he met the wolf).
Archetype Analysis (Greed) Examples • Cinderella is probably the one book in this collection in which the main character or hero/ine is not greedy, rather her sisters are. They are so greedy that they would do anything to attend the ball and meet the Prince. • We can look at Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf in that story as both being motivated by greedy thoughts. Little Red Riding Hood gets herself into trouble because of her greed: she strays from the path for flowers, and the wolf exhibits such extreme greed in that he could have stopped after he ate the grandmother, instead he wanted more—Little Red Riding Hood. That more (in this retelling) cost him his life.
Archetype Analysis Synopsis • We can understand the motive of greed, as we all exhibit this behavior at one point or another. Yet in many of the books in this collection, we can see that greed is the key factor in the development of many of the plots. • In this collection, it matters not whether the character is the hero/ine or the villain, s/he can still be motivated and driven by greed.
Character Analysis: Hero/ines Not all of the books in this collection have a hero/ine. Those without such some simply have a main character. • Jack, though a boy living at home, is really a hero to his mother in that he is able to get enough gold to make them rich. • The Prince in Cinderella is quite a hero in that he rescues Cinderella from such a pitiful situation and is able to give her more than her heart could have dreamed of. • The oldest and biggest goat in Three Billy Goats Gruff is quite a hero in that he is able to stand up to the troll which thus allows all of the goats to graze on the hillside.
Character Analysis: Hero/ines (con’t) • The Prince in The Sleeping Beauty has no extraordinary qualities. He is a normal man—a young Prince. However, it is his timing that is so special and just perfect. Thus, he appears to be the hero in that his kiss awakens the sleeping beauty.
Character Analysis: Other major characters • The Gingerbread Man is a very alive and vibrant character. He is very witty and cunning; however, the irony is that the wolf outsmarts him at his own game. • I like the idea of the wolf and its similarity in this story as compared to the wolf’s role in Little Red Riding Hood. In both books, the wolf is gobbling up someone/something.
Character Analysis: Other major characters (con’t) • Hansel and Gretel are very caring characters, especially for their young age. Their story of survival is very creative. I like the commonality between their attempt to “survive” and that of the Gingerbread Man before being eaten. There is no real hero or heroine that saves any of the three, but they are certainly looking out for themselves. • Hansel and Gretel’s parents (mother especially) are very different from us in that what parent would get rid of their children for lack of food without seeking out another alternative first? ( . . . of course today we have many more resources than perhaps their parents had).
Character Analysis: Other major characters (con’t) • In looking at the idea of appearance similarities among the characters of this book collection, I would surmise that the only really “ugly” (physically) characters were the ogre in Jack and the Beanstalk and the step-sisters in Cinderella. Perhaps the old woman who wanted to cook Hansel in Hansel and Gretel could be included in this group.
Plot Analysis: Eating another character • It is very interesting to look at these various traditional stories and analyze their plots. In at least 5 of the 10 books, someone or something was trying to eat someone or something else. • The troll wanted to eat the goats in The Three Billy Boats Gruff. • The wolf ate the grandmother and Little Red Riding Hood. • The wolf ate the Gingerbread Man. • The old woman wanted to eat Hansel. • The ogre wanted to eat Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk.
Plot Analysis: Eating another character • The wolf wanted to eat the little pigs in The Three Little Pigs.
Plot Analysis: Characters involved • The authors all seemed to intertwine inanimate characters with animals with people and so on. • Animals were given human characteristics and abilities (as were inanimate objects in some cases, i.e. The Gingerbread Man). • Rumpelstiltskin proved to be quite a character. He really was the suspense of the story, but it was never revealed as to where he came from and if he was human or other. He did, however, still possess that quality of greed which was mentioned earlier.
Plot Analysis • Most all of the stories in this collection are considered suspenseful. Some are rather predictable, but they are creative and really hook the reader with the colorful characters and all of their antics. • In each story, there is a definite climax. While the plots are rather different, they do have the climax aspect in common as well as the idea of opposing forces in one story.
Summary • I suppose I have learned more than I had thought. This project really gave me the synthesis aspect that I needed. I enjoyed going back to the various forms of analysis with specific books and applying what I had learned. I had no idea I knew so much! • The most challenging part of this project was the format I chose to write it in. After being about 11 slides into this PowerPoint presentation, I decided I should have written it in paragraph form in a paper. I have too much to say and too many connections to make to really produce a quality slideshow. I feel that this format has been very limiting to me, and I haven’t been able to make all the connection I originally wanted to make. That being said, I didn’t want to start over, either.
Summary • If I were really going to use this in a presentation, there is much too much text for a slideshow. • I liked using the traditional stories as my collection. I had chosen Rapunzel as one of my selections, but I had to use something else because the Rapunzel I had was RAPunzel: A Happenin’ Rap, and it just didn’t fit the traditional mold I needed it to. • I found it very difficult to analyze ten books and compare one to the other. I think an easier format perhaps might be that of a table. It is difficult to compare and contrast things that are so completely unique one from the other.
Continuing the Work • Perhaps to continue such a project, I would find a new format for my analysis, and I would add a variety of other traditional stories. I think one interesting study would also be the various forms and books of Cinderella. There are so many different versions and retellings depending on the cultures. I bet this would be very interesting to study.