Monday, October 24, 2011

Fairy Tales vs. Legends

What do Cinderella, Snow White, and Ariel have in common? They have NOTHING on our Polynesian legends. Take for instance:

Ariel. Fish chick. Correction, fish princess. Defiant. Doesn't listen to her dad. Where's mom, by the way? Decides it's better for her to have legs to capture some hot guy on land. Disney version: She gets the guy and saves the sea (that SHE endangered). Hans Christian Andersen version: She saves the prince, he falls in love with another princess (whom he thought saved him), dances around with pain and bleeding in her feet, and evetually turns into sea foam because she doesn't get the guy to fall in love with her.

Samoa's "The Turtle and the Shark": Fonuea (Mom) and Salofa (Daughter)-(or the husband/wife version)-choose to become a turtle and shark (human to fish) to protect a village because that village took care of them in their time of need. Selfless love given of their own accord.

Snow White. Beautiful. Naive. Evil Step-Mother tries to kill her. Hangs out in the woods with the animals and 7 dwarves. Becomes a home body until evil step-mother finds her and poisons her. The prince's kiss revives her. Relies on a man (and some dwarves) to take care of her.

Hawai'i's Hi'iaka: Pele's favorite and most loyal sister. Is sent by Pele to retrieve her love. He's dead from longing and Hi'iaka revives him. Pele thinks she's tyring to steal him and kills him again. Hi'iaka revives him, again. Hugs him to make Pele jealous. Different endings including the guy hooking up with Pele, hooking up with Hi'iaka, hooking up with both, or going back to his island by himself. The women move on with their powers and pride.

Rumpelstiltskin. German tale retold by the Brothers Grimm. Crazy little guy. Spins wool into gold. Demands first born as payment. (Uh, get a girlfriend???) Lady becomes queen and refuses to give up first born. She has to guess his name. She sends spies and finally wins. He stomps (major hissy fit) and eventually stomps himself into oblivion.

Tonga's Maui: Trickster. In other versions has the ability to move the sun or god of the ocean. Wants a magic fishhook to pull up land out of the ocean. Is told he can IF he can pick the right hook. His wife cheats and finds out which hook is the real one, thus giving him the ability to pull up a coral island out of the ocean. At least he was smart (with the help of his wife) and doesn't go into a hissy fit.

Goldilocks. Breaking and entering. Basic stalker. Selfish. Breaks into a stranger's home, eats their food, breaks their chairs, messes up their beds. Gets caught and runs off. No apology, nothing.

Samoa's "Sina and the eel": Another stalker but begins as a cute little eel. Sina loves the little guy until he gets bigger. When he's full grown, she runs from village to village as he calls her name and follows her. She finally stops, he confronts her, dies, and he becomes a coconut tree. At least he apologized and left her with a timeless gift.

Polynesian legends are stories that reflect our culture, woven with truths and myths, gods and goddesses, and teaches us life lessons. Since the Polynesian languages were translated into written word, our story telling has diminished leaving us lacking in legends. How many Disney stories do our children know versus their own Polynesian legends? How many of us will begin telling the legends again and revive hundreds of years of culture?

Face of the eel in "Sina and the eel"

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I tell children's stories on a little radio station in Brookings Oregon and am always looking for good stories. I'm hoping to do a half hour show on stories from Samoa and that general area. How can I get some copies of these to tell?