In his evaluation of Little Red Riding Hood, Bill Delaney states, “In analyzing a story . . . it is often the most incongruous element that can be the most revealing.” To Delaney, the most revealing element in Little Red Riding Hood is the protagonist’s scarlet cloak. Delaney wonders how a peasant girl could own such a luxurious item. First, he speculates that a “Lady Bountiful” gave her the cloak, which had belonged to her daughter. Later, however, Delaney suggests that the cloak is merely symbolic, perhaps representing a fantasy world in which she lives.
In his analysis of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Richard Kelly describes Wonderland as a nonsensical place where Alice is “treated rudely, bullied, asked questions with no answers, and denied answers to asked questions.” Kelly gives special attention to the “dream garden.” Kelly equates the dream garden with the Garden of Eden, “a longing for lost innocence.” Alice peers through a passage and sees the “beautiful garden with bright flowers and cool fountains.” Unfortunately, she is too large to fit through the door, so she can only ponder its significance. When Alice shrinks to the proper size and finally enters the garden, however, she finds that it is not what she thought it would be. According to Kelly, “it proves to be a parodic Garden of Life, for the roses are painted, the people are playing cards, and the death-cry “Off with her head!” echoes throughout the croquet grounds. Kelly later implies that Alice’s dream garden represents Carroll’s “romantic vision of an Edinic childhood” but which is “corrupted by adult sin and sexuality.” The “hope and joy” that fills Alice lasts for a short time and then is “trampled . . . with the hatred and fury of the beheading Queen and the artificiality of the flowers and inhabitants.”
According to the reviewer, Bambi is unlike most other fairy tales in that it “is a story of neither comfortable sentimentality nor whimsical humor.” It treats life experiences—”growing up, attaining independence, enduring the sorrows of loss, and meeting the challenges of change, from youth to maturity”—as natural, and it solves its problems “without the interference of magic or chance.” The reviewer calls Bambi an animal fable that deals with human experiences.
McGovern’s evaluation of The Emperor’s New Clothes begins with a brief history, in which she describes how the story originated in Spain in the fourteenth century and was later adapted by Hans Christian Andersen. She states that “it is still cited as an example of the foolish behavior of those in authority.” After telling of the child who points out that the emperor in fact does not have anything on, McGovern declares “It is only the child who has not yet become corrupted by the world who will tell what he or she sees.” Another moral, McGovern says, lies in the fact that although the emperor knows he is not wearing any clothes, his pride prevents him from admitting it.
As McGovern explains in her synopsis of The Little Mermaid, a mermaid falls in love with a prince and makes a deal with a witch: She will trade her speech for legs, and if the prince marries her, she will get a soul. If he marries someone else, “she will turn to foam on the sea.” The prince does marry someone else, but the mermaid’s sisters save her by giving their hair to the witch. There is one caveat though: The mermaid must plunge a knife through the prince’s heart while he sleeps. She refuses, and as she throws herself into the foam she is rescued by the “daughters of the air” and receives a soul for her good deed. McGovern suggests that Hans Christian Andersen’s religious views may have kept him from condemning the “loving mermaid” without an immortal soul.
Thomas Murray asserts that Peter Pan is enriched with psychological elements. According to Murray, “Peter Pan represents the tension between the civilizing forces of responsible adulthood and the untamed freedom of adolescence.” Motherhood is a recurring theme in Peter Pan, and Murray attributes this to Sir James Barrie’s feelings about his own mother. Barrie was “extremely devoted to his mother,” who had taken the role of a mother as a child, much as Wendy did for Peter and the Lost Boys, though Murray makes it clear that Wendy’s mother role was just play, whereas Barrie’s mother had real parenting duties. Murray also postulates that Barrie identified with Peter because he too was “a boy who would not grow up,” for his relationship with his mother had “stunted his adult personality.”
The reviewer begins his analysis of Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle by providing a brief synopsis. To escape his “henpecking” wife, Rip goes on an excursion in the mountains. While there, Rip encounters a man who, “without speaking asks Rip to help him with a keg he is carrying.” Rip agrees and follows the man to a valley where other men are bowling. Rip partakes in the festivities and eventually falls asleep and does not wake up until the American Revolution is over. The experience does not seem to affect him much; save for being happy that his wife is now dead, he “goes back to his old idle ways and is ‘reverenced as one of the patriarchs of the village.'” The reviewer suggests that Rip Van Winkle is a satirical take on politics, although he does not state what exactly the story is satirizing. He suggests that freedom from his nagging wife is akin to the freedom of the United States from England.
Salwak describes Pinocchio as a “series of parables dramatizing the trouble a boy can get into when he fails to obey his parents and teachers, avoid irresponsible companions, go to school, work hard, restrict his play time, and accept adult responsibilities.” He suggests that Pinocchio’s message coincides with the conservative view of human nature popular at the time, which holds that “a person is born predisposed to disobedience and folly, and that only through stern education will he find his way to decency.” Salwak infuses religious meaning in his interpretation. He compares Pinocchio’s entrapment in the belly of a mammoth fish to Jonah’s similar experience in the bible. Pinocchio’s transformation into a real boy after he starts caring about others signifies rebirth, and the wood from which Pinocchio was carved implies animism.
Weigel’s interpretation of Mary’s Child by the brothers Grimm parallels the biblical story of the Fall: Before leaving on a tip, Mary gives her daughter the keys to thirteen rooms in heaven, which she may use to open all the doors except the thirteenth door. Curiosity gets the better of the girl, and she opens the forbidden door. When Mary confronts her about it, she denies it, so Mary banishes her from heaven and makes her live in a forest on Earth. The girl eventually marries a king and has three children, but she still will not admit her guilt. Mary takes her daughter’s children to heaven and she is sentenced to burn at the stake. As the flames rise higher, she finally confesses, and Mary stops the execution and returns her children and grants her happiness. Weigel states that Mary’s Child symbolizes adolescence, “a loss of innocence and being cared for by adults.” Religion underscores the meaning of Mary’s Child for Weigel, as he suggests that the moral is that “forgiveness is gained only by repentance and confession” and that the “real miracle is that God is humble enough to accept last-minute repentance.”
James Weigel Jr. starts his analysis of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s The Water of Life by explaining the story, which is about three princes who search for the “water of life” to give to their dying father. Weigel tells of a dwarf that sent the two older brothers up a ravine because they were rude to him, and states, “Arrogance itself is a trap, and the ravines are symbolic of the older brothers’ hard pride that keeps them from progressing.” The youngest brother, who treats the dwarf respectfully, gains necessary information and supplies. According to Weigel, The Water of Life is highly symbolic: The wand and two loaves of bread that the dwarf gave him, which allowed him to enter the castle, “become, magically, the sword and loaf by which he saves three kingdoms.”