Obedience, Evil and Resistance

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“…deeper meaning lies in the fairy tales of my childhood than in the truth that life teaches.” —Schiller

A poor miller, his virginal daughter, a lovelorn King, and the Devil – all are recurring archetypes in the fairy tale realm and main characters of the Grimm fairy tale, The Girl Without Hands. The story ostensibly speaks to enduring themes of family, morality, repentance, and true love; yet like all others in its genre, it is rife with atrocities – mutilation, murder, deception, and even implications of incest and rape.

Through an interactive re-imagining of The Girl Without Hands, we seek to investigate the underbelly of the human psyche where static definitions of good and bad are tested and blurred. The allegorical framework of the fairy tale allows us to explore the dynamic interactions among our three topics of interest: obedience, evil, and resistance.

In this module, students will delve into a curriculum of interdisciplinary analysis, live testimony, and artistic representations of key themes and questions as they manifest in the fairy tale.  For example, when the user reads about the King’s mother resisting oppression, the key work ‘resist’ is highlighted in the text. Upon clicking the right arrow, the users are then taken to a clip of Uyghur rights activist, Rebiya Kadeer, who describes her own story of resistance against the Chinese government.

The following clips are embedded in the fairy tale:

  • Pray– Professor Wesley Kort laments negative perceptions of obedience in Religion
  • Obey– Professor Dan Ariely explains the dark side of man revealed in social experiments
  • Spell– Magician Josh Lozoff demonstrates the power of manipulation and awe
  • Resist– Human Rights Activist Rebiya Kadeer tells her story about facing oppression
  • Song– Rapper Hasan Salam tells a story about music’s role in fighting oppression
  • Happily Ever After– Professor Cathy Davidson highlights the good in human Nature
  • Duke-Encourage tumblr Showcases random acts of kindness around Duke’s Campus

Check out our Youtube Channel below for all interviews.





With special thanks to:

Instructors: Dr. Dan Ariely and Dr. Cathy Davidson

Guest Lecturers: Colonel Morris Davis, Dr. Lasana Harris, Mr. Joshua Lozoff, Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, Dr. Wesley Kort, Mr. Hasan Salaam

Narrator: Tafadzwa Matika

Illustrators: Judith Leng and Jenny Ni

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