Casey Baumgartner's Reflection:
The “fairy tale” has always been a genre that fascinates me, especially since underneath all the spinning wheels and glass caskets and talking cats are exceedingly relatable themes, morals, and struggles — the kinds of stories that are carried with you throughout your childhood and well on into adulthood. When I found out I had the chance to take a contemporary literature class that would focus strictly on fairy tales and fairy tale adaptations, the excitement overwhelmed me, and I immediately registered.
I had initially been planning on signing up for the fiction assignment since not only am I a creative writing major but I have also been considering the idea of writing my own fairy tale adaptation for a long time now. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, my name was the second to last one called, which meant I would be picking up scraps. Not so unfortunately, my second assignment choice had one more open spot: fairy tale adaptation analysis.
When I began going through the list of fairy tale adaptations Dr. Kate Lechler had provided for us, I was not very particular as to what I was looking for. I went through my classic favorites first, “Beauty and the Beast” and “Little Red Riding Hood,” and then I went from there. Several of the fairy tale adaptations seemed like they could be interesting, but I was not sure what I wanted to do until I came across Jane Yolen’s novel Briar Rose. Literature and creative writing are not the only things that intrigue me; I also have an appreciation for history. Jane Yolen has brilliantly interwoven both of these characteristics into a single novel, fashioning a world where the fairy tale princess Brier Rose/Sleeping Beauty becomes a part of one of history’s greatest and most heart rendering tragedies: the World War II Holocaust. I could not wait to get my hands on this book because the curiosity on exactly how Jane Yolen was able to manage such a feat had me thoroughly captivated, and I was not disappointed. Jane Yolen did such a fantastic job, and I do not think I could have chosen a more delightful fairy tale adaptation to write about.
In my paper, “Breaking the Spell: An Analysis of Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose,” I decided that I wanted to pick apart and break down all of the connections Jane Yolen had created between the original “Brier Rose” by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm and her novel’s Holocaust survivor Księźniczka (also known as Gemma). One of my favorite examples is how she was able to tie the mist from Brier Rose’s sleeping curse together with the poison gas used to massacre so much of the Jewish population. Another strong connection was how the curse was ultimately broken: true love’s kiss juxtaposed with CPR. Because the notion of “breaking the spell” became such a prominent theme in my paper, I felt inclined to title it as such.
Though I had a great time analyzing Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose, choosing images not only to appeal to my readers but also to further emphasize concepts I found to be particularly significant was probably the part I enjoyed most about this assignment. For example, finding a picture that accentuated the idea that happily-ever-after is often an ambiguous ideal was time-consuming but a lot of fun. It is also great to be able to showcase artwork produced by other extraordinary people.