Are Fairy Tales Really for Children?

29th Nov

The realities of fairy tales are they suitable for children. If not, what exactly is the story each book is portraying?


Are Fairy Tales Really for Children?

Would you buy your children a beautiful new volume of classic fairy tales this season? And having bought it, would you read it to them?

As many have said before me, the tales of the Brothers Grimm are indeed grim. Pamela Paul noted in the Times Book Review that although the stories live happily ever after in this collection, not all the characters do. A classic fairy tale is dark, implacable in matters of life and death, and above all politically incorrect, and children (including my childhood self) love them anyway. Parents are the ones who struggle.

We do not want to read of how the father of Hansel and Gretel abandons them in the woods at the behest of his new wife with scarcely a backward glance. We balk at the description of Sleeping Beauty, who has “all the perfections imaginable,” which is to say that she is beautiful, witty, graceful, and sings, dances and plays music “perfectly well” but has apparently no need of brains, ambition or strength. As for “Little Red Riding Hood,” who never returns from her trip to Grandma’s in the version told in “The Blue Fairy Book,” Andrew Lang’s classic compilation? It was all I could do, reading it when my kids were younger, to keep from tacking on a different ending myself.

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