Saturday, November 30, 2013

Enchanted Hunters

The Academy for Teachers ushered me Into the Woods recently where I spent a magical afternoon getting to know Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty and Hansel and Gretel.

Our select group of elementary school teachers was guided by the brilliant Maria Tatar.

Maria teaches at Harvard University, where she chairs the Program in Folklore and Mythology.  She is also the author of Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood (she generously gave a copy to each of us and even signed mine!) and Off with Their Heads! Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood.  In addition, she is the editor and translator of annotated versions of Peter Pan, Hans Christian Andersen, Brothers Grimm and others.

The event was hosted by the New York Public Library at their main branch on 5th Avenue at 42nd Street.  It was a day to "honor and support" teachers and that mission was evident in every aspect of the day, starting with breakfast.  There were 17 of us, Academy Fellows, and after introductions one of us was chosen at random to receive a gorgeous copy of The Princess and the Goblin published by The Folio Society (with an introduction by Maria Tatar).  As luck would have it, I was selected!  The day was off to a good start - breakfast and two extraordinary books!

Sleeping Beauty by Edward Frederick Brewtnall
One aspect of the presentation I found particularity intriguing was the focus on the depiction of fairy tales in art.  In this time of "close reading" and "text-based evidence" it was refreshing to realize that it is possible to achieve those standards in creative ways.

Though art we explored Sleeping Beauty in various states, from slumbering tranquility to deathlike repose, studied variations on this theme with Sleeping Handsome (the male version), examined how Hansel loved and protected his sister and how clever Gretel ultimately saved the day and wondered about the sexual, and sexist, overtones in Little Red Riding Hood (actually we did that with all of them).

It was a brilliant day!

I thank The Academy for Teachers for reigniting my passion and reminding me that, somewhere out there, teachers are appreciated and respected.  I have been walking on sunshine ever since!


Pauline said...

Who better than you! Sounds like a fabulous experience. Aren't those the best?

Gary said...

That's what I think Pauline, who better? It was a perfect fit for my sensibilities. I am loving the Princess and the Goblin too.


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