Obedience, Evil & Resistance

Rachel Anderson, Abdul Latif, Kanya Kumar, and Natalia Gordienko

“…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 Girl Without Hands

The Girl Without Hands

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

The Youtube Channel contains 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

9 responses to “Obedience, Evil & Resistance

  1. Dear Rachel, Abdul, Kanya, and Natalia,

    This is marvelously rich and meaningful. My one question: did you do all this or capture it all? Meaning, did you write this fairy tale? (The narrator is quite impressive—is he a Duke student?) And did you do all the interviews, including from Human Rights Activist Rebiya Kadeer and Rapper Hasan Salam? What about the DukeEncourage posts around campus? This is very impressive. I hope you feel very proud of this project. It is deep and important. Thank you! Best of luck to all of you and stay in touch!

    • Thanks for writing, Rachel, to let us know that you did indeed do ALL of this work. It is so impressive. Nice work, Abdul, in turning the Grimm Fairy Tale into a modern version and into poetry (and for finding such a beautiful narrator, a first-year student I understand, from Africa: he reads beautifully, such a pleasure). The interviews are just marvelous and I was surprised to hear you did even more than we have here and that you uploaded them all to the hard drive so we will be able to “remix” them when we make this a more outward-facing course. It is all very impressive. Congratulations!

  2. Peter Lisignoli

    This is truly exemplary of the interdisciplinary work we academics love to talk about but rarely achieve. In the case of this course, literature and social sciences were brought together in the form of a fairy tale. Superb. You might want to watch this classic silent film, “The Thieving Hand.”

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