A wonderful book has reached to my hands. I had ordered a long time ago so I had no idea what it was, until I opened the package. Therefore, the surprise and the happiness were bigger: Winnie the Pooh: The Complete Collection of stories and poems. Illustrated by E.H. Shepard.
Yes, all the adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Tiger and Piglet. A classic of children’s literature, created by A. A. Milne in 1926. It was a shock for me to know that the little yellow bear wasn’t by Disney and had not been created to be a cartoon.
Just like my generation, the ones before me and the ones after me, I grew up with Disney: with its movies, its songs, its princesses, and its happy endings. I did know that mister Walt hadn’t created Little Mermaid or Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella, but it was a complete revelation to discover that original versions of this tales were completely different to the lighting scenes rounded by the songs of birdies, happy squirrels jumping into the woods, little fishes and advisor crabs, and half-sisters that become good, as if by magic. And reading the originals, plenty of cruelty, with no forced happy endings, was even more shocking.
Gian Maria Bruzzone is absolutely right: “In the beginning there were just tales. Then Walt Disney came up. A “fatal” but necessary encounter, so to speak, full of implications and mutual exchanges.” (CLIJ 15, p.24)
Unfortunately, the magical world of Disney took, broke up, maimed and transformed traditional European tales from Perrault, Grimm Brothers and Andersen, turning them into a product that has extended its pink tentacles to all imagery child, generating dependence to predictable stories, not challenging adventures nor new insights; dependence to serial and homogeneous happy endings. A “domestic ethics”, as Oreste Fornari called it, apart of any sign of inconvenient. “His draws reveal […] candid humour traces, exactly the opposite to transgression, focused to garner mass consensus to his products. This is, no stridency, no suffer, moderation and good sense distributed to full hands, some family laughs and then, all to bed, after a working day.” Context: 1930s. An American society immersed in the Great Depression, and the President Roosevelt trying to return the confidence to the people.
Traditional tales show a world that questions the ethics, with a variety of social scenarios, with situations that challenge protagonists and with unpredictable outcomes, giving richness and enhancing a development of child imagery that Disney can’t get. We must continue this discussion.
The image is from Dina Golsdtein * If you want to read the original version of The Little Mermaid, click THE LITTLE MERMAID.