I recently read an article about a mum in the UK wanting to ban the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty from her children’s school. Apparently, it contains an underlying theme of sexual assault as the princess did not consent to being kissed in the first place. When I was a child, what I took from the tale was that the princess fell in love and got to wake up. I’d be pretty happy about that, to be honest. As much as I enjoy sleeping. Should we ban fairy tales?
Most children don’t associate fairy tales with real life, they are not developmentally able to see the theme adults pick apart the stories for. Is it just me or has the world gone PC mad? Should we ban fairy tales, is that the answer? If we run with this, let’s explore some other fairy tales with adult eyes and with children’s eyes.
Adult eyes: Snow White has a kiss that was nonconsenting, she also lived with seven men she did not know. Not only that, but she happily spent her days cooking and cleaning for them. Very unfeminist and stereotypical. Her stepmother tried to kill her and the Huntsman abandoned her in the woods. Should children of divorced parents not be allowed to read this story in case they start fearing their stepmother?
Children eyes: Snow White is kind and good. The stepmother is evil and wicked. Snow White is very trusting, probably a bit too trusting. She takes the apple from the wicked stepmother and falls into a deep slumber. The handsome prince comes along, thinks she is very beautiful and wants to marry her one day. He saves her, they then live happily ever after.
The intended moral: Vanity leads to destruction and real beauty comes from within. Also, don’t take things (especially food) from strangers.
Alice in Wonderland
Adult eyes: If you look at Alice on a surface level it seems to be about a whole lotta drugs and she goes on one big trip. This is clearly not setting a very good example for children. I mean, who doesn’t want to go to Wonderland to meet the Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter and other fascinating characters? It does look like rather a lot of fun. And children are impressionable after all.
Children eyes: Alice got very bored listening to a story with only words and no pictures. She is a very curious girl and followed the rabbit. She had a really cool adventure.
The intended morals: Feed your curiosity, it is ok to grow and change and everyone is a little quirky in their own ways.
Adult eyes: Aladdin is a pathological liar who changes himself completely to be with Princess Jasmine then lies to her. Surely, this is teaching children that it is ok to lie, as long as you get the girl? Or is it saying that you have to change to get the girl, coz she won’t like you otherwise?
Children eyes: Aladdin fell in love with Princess Jasmine, her father only wanted her to marry a prince so he would do anything to be with the Princess. Eventually, he realises that he should just be himself and Princess Jasmine falls in love with the true Aladdin. Plus, Genie is pretty cool.
The intended moral: it is best to be yourself and that honesty and integrity trump wealth. Greatness and strength come from within, not from without. In other words, it’s what’s inside that counts, not what is on the outside.
Beauty and the Beast
Adult eyes: Stockholm syndrome central here. C’mon she falls in love with her captor, that’s clearly not healthy. Also, there’s the bestiality thing.
Children eyes: Belle is bullied in her village, they all think that she’s a bit odd and she doesn’t really fit in. She comes to see the Beast for the person he is on the inside and falls in love with him. He doesn’t judge her or think that she is weird because she gets lost in books and wants to be more than just another village wife.
The intended moral: Don’t judge people by their looks, inner beauty is much more powerful. Remember Gaston? Yeah, he was a douche. Pretty, but still a douche.
Here are some more examples why we should ban fairy tales
If we are jumping on the PC bandwagon and make mountains out of molehills, we should ban fairy tales, all of them:
- Pinnochio is also a liar, he drinks and does drugs too. Very naughty
- Hansel and Gretel get abandoned by their folks
- Cinderella gets abused by her stepmother and stepsisters and ends up with a man with a foot fetish
- Pocahontas = slavery
- The Little Mermaid is another one who has to change herself to be with the man she falls in love with
- Goldilocks and the three bears = white privilege
- Shoemaker and the elves = more slavery
- Ugly duckling is steeped in prejudice
- Rumplestiltskin shows greed and that its ok to blackmail people
- Thumbelina was nearly forced into an arranged marriage
- Peter Pan kidnapped the Darling children
In contrast, fairy tales have underlying morals that are intended to teach children that:
- Beauty comes from within
- It is ok to be different
- Curiosity is a wonderful thing to embrace
- Bad things often happen, it is how we react that is the most important
- Be kind and good
- Wealth is not the most important attribute to strive for
- Sometimes you have to go through bad times to reach the light at the end of the tunnel
- Dream of impossible things
- Everyone is a little mad
- It is ok to ask for help
- Actions speak louder than words
- It is ok to not know your way in life
- Appearances can be deceiving
- Time works in mysterious ways
- Everyone can be a hero
- Love is a wonderful thing
These are wonderful things to teach children and make up the bulk of why I don’t think we should ban fairy tales. Fairy tales can teach children traits that will serve them well into adulthood, who doesn’t want their child to grow up to become a kind, curious, well-rounded adult, comfortable in their own skin and accepting of others?
While I agree there are some dodgy underlying themes to some fairy tales, they are essentially just children’s stories. If we try to sexualise or place adult themes in them then we are taking away the innocence of children. Let them enjoy the whimsy and naivety of being children. The big bad world will still be there waiting for them when they are older.
One thing I do think that should be made more aware of in fairy tales is the gender roles they portray. As these tales are mostly from generations past, when the gender roles were more uneven they are true to their time. However, I do think that we need some modern fairy tales that portray a more even gender gap. Tales that show that if you are a woman you don’t need to be rescued by a man.
If we look at the origins of fairy tales, they were told as cautionary tales in days where people lived in very different worlds. Today, they are whimsical and enchanting for young children who enjoy being taken out of their own worlds for a short period of time. They are simply stories that young children enjoy with innocent eyes. I personally don’t believe that we should ban fairy tales.
Below are some original and modern fairy tales for more reading
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- The original Grimm Brother’s Fairy Tales are a great read, some of the tales are quite different from their modern versions. They are a wonderful talking point with children to discuss the differences in modern life to the life that these tales are set in. Many of the Disney versions are taken from the Grimms Brother’s, including Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel and Snow White
- Hans Christian Anderson wrote the original Little Mermaid and Snow Queen. One of my favourite Anderson tales is the Little Match Girl.
- Fairy Tales for the Disillusioned: Enchanted Stories from the French Decadent Tradition (Oddly Modern Fairy Tales). Subverting the conventions of the traditional fairy tale, these old tales made new will entertain and startle even the most disenchanted readers.
- Fairy Tales from Around the World has over 100 fairy tales from more than 50 nations taken from The Blue Fairy Book and eleven other collections compiled by Andrew Lang.
- Psyche’s Stories: Modern Jungian Interpretations of Fairy Tales. Fairy tales can reveal a hidden side of our lives, our unconscious, and our interrelationship with others. Each of these essays provides a Jungian interpretation of a well known or rare tale to reveal the universal psychic dynamics that affect us in our lives and collectively in the world around us. (Synopsis taken from Amazon)
- The Oxford Book of Modern Fairy Tales is a collection of stories from the 19th century to the present. These stories include the trolls, fairies, princes and princesses we all expect from fairy tales but with a more modern point of view.
- Princess Smartypants is a modern alternative to old-fashioned fairy tales. Princess Smartypants is enjoying single life too much to want to settle down, much to her fathers disgust. He insists she gets married to sets suiters impossible tasks….
- The Paperbag Princess is another modern alternative that children enjoy reading. The Princess has to throw on a paper bag as a dragon smashes her castle and burns her clothing. She outwits the dragon and attempts to save the prince who looks down at her and tells her to come back when she looks like a real princess….
At the end of the day, it is up to individual parents to make the choice whether or not to ban fairy tales for their children. Enforcing a blanket ban is not the answer. Children learn from real life experiences through friends, play, school and family members. Stories do not play the sole role in teaching children right from wrong.
What are your thoughts? Do you think we should ban fairy tales?
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