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  • Adapting the Fairy Tale for Hawaii's Children
  • Cristina Bacchilega (bio)

How many people today live in a language that is not their own? Or no longer, or not yet, even know their own and know poorly the major language that they are forced to serve? This is the problem of immigrants, and especially of their children, the problem of minorities, the problem of a minor literature, but also a problem for all of us: how to tear a minority literature away from its own language, allowing it to challenge the language and making it follow a sober revolutionary path?

(Deleuze & Guattari)

Among other things, the following poem written by John Ayau (Kalakaua Intermediate School, Grade 9) during an April 1988 Poets-in-the-Schools workshop points to the problematic status of classic fairy tales in modern Hawaii:

Three Bears

Once upon a time was 3 bearsMommy Bear, Papa Bear and thelittle self absorb stink rottenbear. They were walking in theforest very happily and they cameupon the national park. Therethey saw the Japanese touristwith about 500 cameras and theysaid "Bear could we take your picture"and the Papa Bear said you cantake my picture and the Mama Bearsaid you can take my pictureand the baby bear saidyou can take my picture. Thenthe tourist said "You know weonly need 2 bears lets get ridof the baby bear." After theirtremendous photo session theywent back to their little hutand the Papa Bear notice thathis little bear was gone. Hewas so happy because he's been [End Page 121] trying to lose the Baby Bearbefore he even had it and sothey had a very big party.They brought Bambi over andshe got drunk running throughthe forest yelling Fire! Andthe Three Blind Mice came andthey got drunk running all overthe place and got their tailscut off with the carving knifeand the party went on for days.A door poof out of the sky andthe Papa Bear open the door andguess who's waiting thereCLINT EASTWOOD. He killed everyonewith his gun then shot himselfin the head and everyone was deadand was lying on the ground.The End1

Tales like "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" are as "alien" to Hawaii's lore as Japanese tourists, Walt Disney's characters, and macho movie stars are; nevertheless, mostly because of multi-national, media-strengthened capitalism, they are all part of Hawaii's present reality. Or as the poet Juliet S. Kono puts it in "Gang Rape: A Fairy Tale?" (a retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood"): "Even far off / as in sleepy / territorial HiIo town. / isolated by miles of ocean, / we were not immune / to the effects of Walt Disney, / of fairy tales, / which quickened / our young girls' hearts." What part do Western fairy tales play in Hawaii's multi-ethnic culture? And, more specifically, what do Hawaii's children learn from them? How are these tales presented to them? And to what purposes and effects? To help answer these questions, I will not rely on nationally distributed versions of fairy tales, be they available through the media or published by the larger children's literature industry, but on local adaptations of fairy tales in order to identify their specific strategies and concerns as applied to Hawaii's communities and children.

While the fairy tale is only relatively a newcomer to Hawaii (translations of the Grimms into Hawaiian appeared as early as 1861; see Schweizer, who does a close reading of some of them published in Ka Nupepa Ku'oko'a (by a mysterious J. W.), there are remarkably few Hawaiian adaptations of these tales and only some of them are specifically for children. This should come as no surprise given, on the one hand, the power of the national book and media industry and, on the other hand, [End Page 122] Hawaii's own rich and fascinating body of lore, which would seem to counteract the homogenizing force of Western classics. And, to some extent, when Hawaiian myths and legends are being...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6563
Print ISSN
0147-2593
Pages
pp. 121-134
Launched on MUSE
2009-01-01
Open Access
No
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