Free College Essays - The Motif of Magic in Rip van Winkle
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The Motif of Magic in Rip van Winkle
The story of Rip van Winkle is a popular folktale of the United States. Its general motif is the magical passing of many years in what seems only a few days. Japan’s popular version of this story is Urashima Taro. In addition to the common motif, the personality of the main characters, Rip van Winkle and Urashima Taro, and plot structures are similar as well.
The main characters, Rip van Winkle and Urashima Taro, in both stories are very similar. Both are simple men. One example of this is how they spend their time. For example, Urashima Taro likes to spend his days fishing, but does not really care if he catches anything, and Rip van Winkle likes to go hunting in the mountains with his dog as an excuse to get away from his duties. However, both men have social responsibilities that do not fit well with this lazy lifestyle. For example, Rip van Winkle’s short-tempered wife constantly scolds him for his lack of ambition and initiative. Taro either has a mother or a wife who depends on him for the very few fish he bothers to bring home. Although we recognize that these men are irresponsible, we sympathize with their simple desires and we understand they are very kind as well. As examples, Rip is described as a friendly and caring father and Taro saves a turtle that is being cruelly teased by a group of boys. It is easy to imagine them as basically the same man.
The first episode in both stories emphasizes these aspects of their characters and habits. The next episode involves them having experiences with magical people far away from their own communities. In one case, Rip goes hunting in the mountains and meets fairies bowling and drinking. He enjoys their company and, after drinking some magical drink, falls asleep for many, many years. In the other case, the turtle takes Taro to the Ryugu Palace at the bottom of the sea. After joining the beautiful women in a variety of fun pastimes, he too discovers that he has been gone many, many years. The third episode of both stories involves the men returning to their communities. In both cases the men find their old homes strange an very unfamiliar. They experience loneliness, isolation, and old age.
These similarities of structure and character help to make the stories almost the same.