Poverty and Humility Lead to Heaven: From Asking for Food to Asking for Money

While the rich are getting richer, the “poor” are getting richer too.

The Grimms included a story called “Poverty and Humility Lead to Heaven” in their collection of tales. In the story, a prince searches for a way to enter heaven. Upon the advice of a poor beggar, the prince puts on tattered dirty clothes and lives as the most poor and humble man on the streets for seven years. He does not ask for money, rather he only asks for morsels of food from kind people. Once seven years have passed, the prince, unrecognizable at this point, returns to his family. He requests that the servants tell his parents of his arrival, but they refuse. The prince tells the queen that he is poor and hungry, upon which she takes pity on him and allows him to stay in the castle. The prince is fed very little by the servant who believes a beggar does not deserve such fine food, choosing to keep it for himself or feed it to the dogs. Eventually, the prince dies from starvation.

Although one would think that the story would have ended with the cruel servant dying rather than the humble prince, most fairy tales in the Grimms’ collection have unfulfilling, dissatisfying endings. However, the point is that beggars back then truly asked for the bare minimum amount of food needed to survive. The idea of humility of the poor seems to elude today’s society, especially in New York.

Case-in-point, the panhandlers of New York City’s trains seem to be very capitalistic beggars. Rather than ask for food, most panhandlers today ask for money and only money. On rare occasions, a New Yorker will encounter that one panhandler that asks for food in addition to money. The sincerity of their request for the consumable rather than the monetary, however, is questionable.

One day, while riding the L train, I was approached by one elderly panhandler. The man looked sincerely hungry and desperate. He had given the usual panhandler’s speech to the train car, except he insisted that even the smallest amount, or even a donation of food, could make a difference in his day. I had no cash on me on that particular day, but I did have a few granola bars in my bag. I decided to give the panhandler one of the bars when he headed in my direction, to which he gave me the greatest look of disappointment and shook his head, choosing to toss the granola carelessly into his pocket and move on to thank those handing him money. I was angered yet amused by the transgression. It made me realize that even in the most dire of situations, within the U.S., namely New York, money reigns over all, even the vital necessities for life like food.  Humility like that of the prince in the tale does not exist among most panhandlers in New York.

Although many may think that my experience with that particular panhandler was unique, I have seen similar situations unfold before me numerous times both in the subway and on the streets. One particular man stood on the stairs leading to the Hunter College campus daily asking for money. One day, he pulled out a Blackberry from his pocket, leaving me completely astonished to see that the supposed beggar who claimed he had no money and needed monetary help had a better phone than I did.

Although this viewpoint may seem cynical, it is worthy to note that in an increasingly superficial world, looks can be very deceiving.

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The Brothers Grimms: From Brothers Who Worked Together to Collect Tales to Brothers Who Work Together to Terrorize People

In light of the recent bombings in Boston, I’ve chosen to dedicate this post to discuss the collaborations of the two brothers suspected to be behind the bombings in comparison to the collaborations of the brothers Grimm.

Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm (the brothers Grimm) were forced to grow up and take on adult responsibility at a very young age. The two siblings, born and raised in Germany, were the eldest in a family of  six. Philipp Grimm died unexpectedly of pneumonia when the boys were 11 and 10 years of age. The entire family found themselves facing economic difficulties afterwards and depended on their extended family for support. Wilhelm and Jacob immediately took charge of the family as the two eldest men in the household.

If taking on the responsibilities of their father at such a young age weren’t challenging enough, the two brothers also faced harsh discrimination from the prestigious school they attended due to their difference in economic status from fellow peers. The boys, who were very studious and intelligent, managed to graduate at the head of their classes despite the odds.They went on to attend and graduate college, which is where their passion for German culture and the folklore that came with it was ignited.

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From thereon out, the brothers chose to collect tales from housewives and working women and publish them into a series of books. They wanted to be sure to reconnect the general public to their roots and culture through these tales to reinforce a strong sense of patriotism and cultural pride in their readers, namely children.

Despite the hardships and obstacles that were placed in their way, Wilhelm and Jacob chose to work harder and reach their goals and dreams rather than wither away in self pity and anger. They also chose to combine their genius and collaboratively create publications of tales that are still part of popular culture all around the world today.

Unfortunately, genius siblings today have put their intelligence to bad use. Case-in-point, the two brothers who are suspected of having bombed the Boston marathon on April 15, 2013, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Though little is known of the two brothers’ familial background, it has been made clear that, like the Grimms, they excelled intellectually and in extracurriculars despite their hardships.

The Tsarnaev brothers were not native to the United States. Both were of Chechnyan descent but fled to the U.S. with their family in 2002. Their native Chechnya was war-racked and the family was unable to resettle in the country. Coming from a war-torn country and suddenly being thrust into an entirely different culture in the United States, the two brothers faced the hardships of being immigrants trying to make their way in a foreign country. Both, however, managed to make great achievements. The eldest of the two, Tamerlan, was a boxing champion. He expressed interest in joining the U.S. Olympics boxing team. Dzhokhar was attending university in Massachusetts and described by his classmates as having been a funny, athletic and smart man.

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Although nothing has been confirmed yet, the two suspects have been tied to the bombings in the Boston marathon, where they are suspected of having placed a bombs near the finish line, killing three and injuring over 100 people. Tamerlan was killed during a shoot out with police while Dzhokhar was found severely injured and in critical condition recently and is being treated. It is believed that the eldest of the two brothers was an Islamic extremist.

If the suspects are truly the terrorists behind the bombings, then the world will have seen sibling intelligence put together to harm rather than help people. They may have ultimately been similar to the brothers Grimm in personalities (one of the brothers Grimm was more outgoing while the other was an introvert; Dzhokhar was considered more social and outgoing by friends and family while Tamerlan was considered a loner) and intellect, yet they chose to work together to hurt people at a large scale rather than inform them and culturally influence them like the two writers did.

Unfortunately, this is the world we all live in today.

 

 

 

The Prince Who Feared Nothing: From Tale of Gainful Fearlessness to Film of…Gainful Fearlessness

There is nothing to fear but fear itself.

Somehow, that wise phrase seemed to evade the minds of the tall-tale tellers during the lifetime of the Brothers Grimm. In their recounting of the tale “The Prince Who Feared Nothing”, fearlessness doesn’t come from simply overcoming the feeling of fear itself, rather it is innate. The Disney film Girl vs. Monster (2013) employs such an idea, recognizing that fear is a natural human characteristic and facing your fears is what truly engenders fearlessness. Both mediums, however, recognize the triumph and gains of being fearless over cowardice.

The Grimms’ tale follows the trek of one fearless prince. Born fearless, the prince chooses to leave his parents’ home and travel the outside world in order to find some form of excitement. He soon falls upon a game of ninepins that belonged to a giant (likewise, the pins were giant-sized), and decides to play with the objects (respect for private property went out the window). The giant, surprised to see how a mere human could play with such big and heavy objects, challenges him to retrieve an apple from the Tree of Life. The giant knew that the prince would have to get past many obstacles, including wild animals guarding the tree in order to reach the tree. If he managed to do that, he would have to get his hand through a ring, which would attach itself to his arm, in order to get the apple.

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The prince, being the fearless and strong man he was (and quite cocky), accepted the challenge. He managed to get past the wild animals who were all sleeping and reach the tree from which he proceeded to stick his hand through the ring and grab the apple. A lion catches the prince in the act and chooses him as his master.

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The giant, impressed by the prince, takes the apple from him and presents it to his bride. Unfortunately for him, his bride knew he had not taken the apple because he did not have the ring from the Tree of Life. The giant then tries to unsuccessfully trick the prince by getting him to take the ring off. He then blinds the prince and later gets killed by the prince’s faithful lion. The prince gets his sight back by the magic water from a nearby brook (these tales are so abundant with logic).

The prince continued on his way through the world and falls upon a castle with a beautiful maiden who is trapped under a spell. In order to free her, he must spend three nights in the castle and survive the haunts and tortures of demons that inhabited it. The prince successfully does so, never showing a single ounce of fear, and frees the princess.

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The theme of the story: if you fear nothing, you get a princess (everyone else is screwed).

In Girl vs. Monster, Skylar is a fearless girl who gets the guy in the end as well, however, her approach to fearlessness takes a turn for the realistic (well, as realistic as it gets when there are monsters involved). Skylar is known by her friends as literally having no fear. As unnatural as it seems, it is discovered that it really is unnatural. Skylar’s parents, who are monster hunters, trapped a monster that fed off her fear when she was an infant, trapping away all of her fears as well. However, on Halloween, all of the monsters become unleashed, releasing 15 years of fear into Skylar. Overwhelmed by the fright of having discovered a new and seemingly unrealistic side to her parents and the surrounding thousands of monsters trying to take the souls of all the fearful humans, Skylar realizes that fear is a human feeling. With the help of her friends, however, she soon learns that the key to becoming fearless and getting rid of the monsters that feed on fear is to stand up to your own fears. Essentially, the way to get rid of fear is to stop being afraid of being afraid (it’s not as confusing as it seems at first). Of course, after saving the lives of her parents and all her friends from the treacherous monsters, she gets the guy of her dreams who (playing along very well with the theme of the film), works up the courage to finally ask her out.

 girl vs monsterDisney Channel's "Girl Vs. Monster"
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Although there were fantastical elements to both the tale and the film, Girl vs. Monster seems to offer children a much more realistic and useful lesson. Acknowledging the existence of fear is probably a safer route to go for children who don’t understand why they are scared of the Boogey man hiding in their closet and want to find out how to get rid of him. Although (and not surprisingly) the film included a string of musical numbers sung by the protagonist Olivia Holt, most likely as another marketing ploy, it gave viewers something much more useful and valuable than the tale recounted by the Grimms did. The tale simply told kids that if you’re not fearless, you get nothing and are ultimately a zero; if you’re fearless you get everything and you’re the hero.

The most important factor in these two: fearlessness always gets you the guy/girl of your dreams in the end.

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Freddy and Katy: From Wives That Are Dumb Yet Obedient To Wives That Are Intelligent Yet Unfaithful

The brothers Grimm sure knew how to shine a light on marriage. In one of their recorded tales “Freddy and Katy”, they recount the story of a simpleton wife who is too gullible and too obedient to her husband and receives punishment after punishment, ending up as a homeless victim of rape. The concept of women receiving the short end of the stick is still one highly renowned in today’s society, despite the movement to empower females. In the recent film, Temptation (2013), directed by Tyler Perry, a strong, intelligent, and fairly independent woman becomes unfaithful to her inattentive husband, resulting in her assault and eventual downfall with AIDS.

In “Freddy and Katy”, Katy is the most humble and innocent wife a man could ever ask for. Being the idyllic attentive and caring wife that society then (even now, unfortunately) encouraged in a marriage, she catered to her husband’s every whim and need. However, Katy was very dimwitted and gave away her husband’s “yellow chips” (which were actually pieces of gold), which she was not allowed to touch, to a sly group of scoundrels looking to barter items. Once Freddy discovers the tragic exchange, he scolds Katy, who suggests they go after the bandits and retrieve their gold.

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On their journey, Katy slowly loses her husband’s food, but manages to outwit the bandits with her dimwittedness. The couple retrieves their gold and head back home. Freddy, being quite upset by the entire incident, tells Katy she must work harder in the fields. Katy does as her husband says. In the spirit of censorship, the Grimms disguise a rape scene as a simple daydream where Katy “accidentally” cuts her clothing off while “daydreaming” and does not recognize herself once she snaps out of it (from a psychological standpoint, “daydreaming” and lack of recognition are ways rape victims would disconnect themselves from the criminal actions being performed on them). Katy then runs to her house and asks her husband if she is indoors, to which a supposedly sleepy Freddy confirms  (so, basically, she gets rejected by her husband after being raped). Katy leaves and joins a pack of thieves, scares two old men away from a turnip patch, and the story ends. The wife is left as dimwitted as before, but now she is a victim of rape, a thief, and homeless.

In Tyler Perry’s film, Temptation, Judith is a smart and independent woman who marries her first and only love, Brice. She moves to D.C. and lives happily with her husband. She cooks for him, cleans their home, and performs any sexual acts he desires (the perfect wife). However, upon coming to work one day, she receives a new client, handsome and wealthy Harley, who is immediately drawn to her. As Brice becomes less and less attentive to his wife, even forgetting her birthday for a second year in a row, Judith finds herself growing more and more attracted to Harley, who constantly drowns her in compliments and romantic gestures. Eventually, Judith becomes sexually and romantically involved with Harley, leading her to a life of drugs, alcohol, and hard partying. Harley eventually becomes physically aggressive with Judith, beating her to a pulp one night. Brice comes to the rescue, however, he no longer wants his wife back. At the end of the film, Judith is a marriage counselor living by herself and with AIDS.

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Somehow, in both the tale and the current film, the concept of women taking the fall for every man’s shortcomings and receiving the short end of the stick is a theme that resonates loudly. Freddy wasn’t the perfect husband. He constantly reprimanded his wife for simply trying her best to do all that he asked and caring about him. He sends her off in a time of need when she has been a victim of sexual assault rather than help her. Likewise, Brice becomes completely inattentive, taking all that Judith does for him for granted. Once she is down in the dumps, he rescues from the scene, but altogether abandons her afterwards. Somehow, the male’s blame in the situations are completely overlooked, so that responsibility for all that goes wrong falls solely on the female.

It is a scary thing to see that despite the supposed progress that females have made in gaining equality in today’s society, they are still second rate citizens to men. Such a concept has transcended centuries and is unfortunately common in many cultures across the globe. Although no marriage is ever ideal, the Grimms and Tyler Perry’s film play with the idea that the perfect wife takes care of her husband no matter what character flaws he may have, and must remain completely faithful to him, taking full responsibility for her actions even if they were not premeditated or consensual (like rape).

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Now who wants to get married?