Hello and welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.

So last time I wrote a fairytale for class, so this time I’m analysing the very fairytale that I wrote. Which gives you the opportunity to look back and go ‘so that’s what he was on about’. So without further ado, enjoy.

The fairytale “The Wolf in the Courtroom” primarily uses the structure and character breakdowns found in Vladimir Propp’s “Morphology of the Folk Tale”. While it does not correlate perfectly, many elements found in the analysis are used in this fairytale. As such, the fairytale is primarily a satirical critique on common fairytale tropes and motifs. Also, it has a moral that is repeatedly stated for both teaching and humorous effect.

The genesis for this story came from the in-class discussions during the tutorials. I often pointed out that the villains in the fairytales were misunderstood. This inspired me to write a fairytale revolving around this very concept. The setting of the courtroom was used because it gives a quick shorthand. The audience already knows that a courtroom is a place where trials are held, allowing them to fill in the details via their own presuppositions. The plot was designed to be a ‘role-reversal’ of classic fairytales, casting the traditional antagonists as being victims of slander. This was done for two reasons. The first was to have the characters discuss the symbolism of the wolf in various fairytales. Both the Grandmother and the Little Red Riding Hood make deliberate comparisons between the Wolf and a lustful man. Furthermore, the Old Woman later defends the actions of the Wolf, stating that the Wolf was only acting within its animal nature. Both times the Wolf is defended by pointing out the absurdity of the accusers claims, which in turn illustrates to the audience what the wolf has stood for in the past. Furthermore, the second reason for the fairytale’s existence is to teach adults the composition of fairytales. The fairytale is not designed for children, since much of the humour and analysis would go over their head. The primary audience are adults, specifically a Western audience who know the fairytales being parodied. By turning the tables on the traditional protagonist/antagonist concept, the fairytale becomes both subversive and satirical. It pokes fun at the concepts and logic found within the original fairytales, creating a different set of fictional events to cast doubt on the accusers. Beyond this, the deliberate references to the sexual content found within “Little Red Riding Hood” is almost meant to be a teaching tool. Hopefully it will encourage readers to seek out the original versions of these texts. By sparking their interest, they may do research to verify the information provided in the story. The fairytale is an attempt to educate the readers, by showcasing various symbolic and historical allusions. In turn, by adding a satirical parody to the fairytale, it is also an attempt to amuse the reader. Overall, both aspects were created together to make a humorous critique on the nature of fairytales.

The structure for this story comes from Vladimir Propp’s “Morphology of the Folk Tale.” In his book, Vladimir breaks down the various tropes found within Russian folk tales to analyse the overall structure. This analysis lead to the basis of the story. Although it is not a complete one-to-one correlation, the flow of the story was directly lifted from the sequence that Propp described. The opening line of the folktale sets up the story, as well as the main conflict of the plot. This immediately tells the audience what the story is going to be about. This is followed by the story’s interdiction, that lying is not permitted in the court. As with many fairytales, this rule is quickly broken by the Grandmother. She is then punished for it by being forced out of the courtroom. But this interdiction helps set up the main ‘quest’ of the fairytale, in this tale being the prosecution and defence of the wolf in fiction. This is the narrative thread that runs through the story, the driving force of all the action. The first third deals with the Wolf defending himself against the Grandmother, while the second third is his defence against Little Red Riding Hood. This ties into the departure, where the hero leaves and faces many trials on their journey. During the departure part of the tale the hero encounters beings who are opposing them and works out a way of getting out of the danger. In this case the person opposing our hero is Little Red Riding Hood and her testimony. He speaks the truth throughout the trial, whereas Little Red Riding Hood lies. He does not succumb to the temptation offered to him, choosing instead to admit his wrongdoings. By sticking by the moral, the Wolf comes back from this trial a stronger character. The final third of Propp’s analysis deals with the villain from the departure-return section coming back to enact their final plan. In this instance the formula is played with slightly. Rather than having Little Red Riding Hood or the Huntsman, the villain of the final third is the Third Little Pig. This is because the Wolf’s motivations against the Three Little Pigs is purely of animalistic, his only desire being a desire to eat. This is an understandable desire, painting the Wolf in a better light. Now while the Huntsman would have been the more obvious character, the Third Little Pig was chosen for a few reasons. Firstly, the Huntsman appearing would be too predictable. Secondly, the Huntsman is not a character that consistently appears in all adaptations of the story. Since he was a character added in later to give the story a happy ending, it seemed more appropriate to stick to the original three characters of the fairytale. Finally, the Third Little Pig is deliberately set up to be the ‘false hero’. In Propp’s breakdown, the hero usually returns home to find their achievements have been claimed by someone else. It is then the hero’s job to prove the treachery in the false hero’s actions. In the fairytale, the false hero is the Third Little Pig. He is attributing the death of his brothers onto the Wolf to escape punishment. However, it is proven that the Third Little Pig is lying and that he committed the crimes. This is both a twist in Propp’s breakdown and in the original fairytale. By having the Third Little Pig commit the crime (or at least be accused of it), it further illustrates how the Wolf is a good character. As such, the story ends with an apology to him, this being a ‘transfiguration’ of sorts. In turn, those that broke the interdiction are punished. Overall, the fairytale takes a lot of inspiration from Vladimir Propp’s work.

The fairytale also takes inspiration from Vladimir Propp’s seven character types. The villains are the three accusers: the Grandmother, Little Red Riding Hood and the Third Little Pig. They stand in the way of the Wolf, the hero of the story, by constantly bringing up obstacles he must overcome. The Wolf could also be seen as the dispatcher, since he is the one that undertakes the incentive to clear his name. The Old Woman can be classified as the helper, since it is her primary duty to help the Wolf in his quest. The false hero, as previously mentioned, is the Third Little Pig. Finally the Judge best fits into the role of the father. In fairytales such as Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, it is the princess who gives the hero an incentive as well as helping him on the quest. The princess is often seen as being the prize as well. However, it can be argued that the father is a more important character in some fairytales. Without the need for a physical prize, nor a love interest, the father takes on the role as the metaphorical prize/prize giver. Since the prize in this story is being declared innocent, the Judge is the one that is able to grant this prize. The only character from Propp’s breakdown not to appear is the donor, since the quest the Wolf goes on is a metaphorical one. As such, there would be no need for a magical object to exist. The six characters all work together to bring the motif of ‘three’ to the forefront. Traditionally fairytales often deal with threes: Three little pigs, three questions the Wolf asks Little Red Riding Hood etc. It is a motif that is common enough within fairytale, so that the audience almost instantly recognizes it. Each witness is introduced in almost the exact same way every time. Each witness lies a minimum of three times, with the Wolf or Old Woman objecting to the lies three times. This recurrence of the number three reflects what is found in many traditional fairytales. It also exists to serve the same purpose, a way of helping people remember the morals of the story. This repetition of three allows the story to stay in the audience’s mind, but without it becoming too over-bearing. So, when the characters state nine times that lying is bad, it makes it apparent that the moral of the fairytale is ‘lying is wrong’. While it may seem unsubtle, it is another satirical jab at modern children’s fiction. Since most modern works tend to be over-bearing with their message, this story copies that sentiment to parody the idea. It hyperbolically reinforces the message with the same reoccurring patterns, in order for it to becoming incredibly clear to the reader. However, the second moral is hidden below the surface of the first. The moral there is that we should not judge people based on appearances. This moral applies more towards adults than it does children, due to the fact that racial and sexual prejudices are still a big problem in society. By showing that the Wolf is a victim of slander, or is simply acting within its nature, the goal is to make the reader understand how prejudice works. While the audience is meant to laugh at the absurdity of the fairytale, it is also meant to make them think and question whether the Wolf really is as bad as he is made out to be. Overall, the characters and motifs found within the story are designed to further emphasis the morals.

“The Wolf in the Courtroom” is a fairytale that takes a lot of its structure and character design from “Morphology of the Folk Tale”, a book by Vladimir Propp. Elements discussed in the book are used to within the fairytale. The primary purpose of the fairytale is to entertain via the use of satire. However, there is also content that aims to teach the reader about fairytales, as well as providing morals good for everyday life as well.

So there you have it, an analysis of my self-penned fairytale. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.

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