Tuesday, November 29, 2011

At NYT Blog: Are Fairy Tales Really for Children?

(discussed in linked blog, too)

There are LOTS of articles and discussions consisting "Fairy Tales: Are They For Children?" currently circling the media thanks to all the dark retellings visible right now, such as Grimm and Snow White and the Huntsman to name a few.

The latest was a blog post on the New York Times site yesterday at Are Fairy Tales Really for Children? By KJ DELLANTONIA. Of course, these are not new questions to readers here, but it is interesting to see what the mainstream world says.

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.

I didn’t. But that moment — when you turn the page of a familiar tale and find yourself saying “and presently he fell upon the good woman and ate her up in a moment” to your wide-eyed child — stirs something universal in parents just as experts say fairy tales speak to something universal in kids. It’s not that we don’t think our kids have contemplated being orphaned or eaten by beasts. It’s that we don’t want to appear to condone that kind of thing. So although I have read fairy tales aloud, many times, and I hope to read these, I have to admit that there are plenty of nights when I reach for something with a little less bite.
Nothing new, but always a hot topic, especially when the media grabs a hold of it...

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