Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Fairy Tales and Children

This one came up in my searches yesterday despite a very slow fairy tale news week: Fairy Tales, Child Development, And Unconscious Learning by Susan Kim, author of Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation with Elissa Stein.

Most of the fairy tale referencing is in conjunction to Bettelheim, whom folklorists all take with a big salt lick. The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales is currently out-of-print which shocks me no end considering its classroom use, but is still available in many used editions. It won't be out-of-print for much longer since a new edition is due out in May 2010.

And here's an excerpt from the article, too:

This doesn't mean it's overt; trust me, you'll be searching the Brothers Grimm until hell freezes over if you're looking for specific references to the endometrium, follicle-stimulating hormones, or Fallopian tubes. But even the most metaphor-challenged can't help but notice how many times the color red plays an important role in a fairy tale involving a young girl, or how often blood is a significant part of the plot: Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty ... even Cinderella and that weird little bird singing "there's blood in the shoe".

Fairy tales communicate strong, unconscious messages to children in terms they can grasp and even carry into adulthood. This is because these stories possess genuine resonance and dreamlike power, the kind you're just not going to find, say, on your average TV sitcom. As for sitcoms, I've found that literal references to menstruation in film and on television, while more common than you might think, are singularly underwhelming. Even when a woman's period isn't treated as the eye-rolling punchline to another sophomoric joke, the best-intentioned references tend to be bland and safe, with a distinct lack of resonance or importance attached to the process. Nothing I've seen as an adult even hints at the mystery and potential psychological power of menstruation the way fairy tales do... with the possible exception of one movie.

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