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A Christmas Fairy Tale: The Shoes That Were Danced To Pieces
Tuesday, December 18, 2018 - 18:45
This delightful fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm has become a RAG tradition, told every year on the last day of the autumn term, just before Christmas. It tells of twelve princesses and their periodic trips to the underworld, the narrator treating patriarchal marriage as a cruel punishment imposed on a coalition of sisters who had previously been free to dance the nights away. This magical tale introduces us to universal mythological themes which will be explored more fully in the Spring Term. Chris Knight will show how all such tales make sense in the light of the theory that human sexual morality was initially established by women.
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In the Batek’s forest, laughter and mockery are often subject to taboo, and inappropriate laughter or mockery can cause storms, madness, ill-health, or even death. However, although these taboos are viewed and described with utmost seriousness, people also find great pleasure in laughing together and making jokes. In fact, this pleasure is often intensified when the laughter or joke is forbidden and risks catastrophe. This sets up a dynamic whereby it is largely up to individuals whether they choose to follow the taboos, or to ignore them and succumb to the pleasure of sharing in subversive laughter. Speaking to debates on power and ethics, this paper therefore both outlines the Batek’s laughter taboos, and asks how managing the conflicting demands of laughter shapes people’s ethical values, particularly in relation to power, authority, and egalitarianism.