Taylor Duhe Dr. James F. Smith English 102-034 November 10, 2009 Fairytales: Friend or Foe? For centuries, fairy tales have been used to entertain audiences of all ages, children in particular. They have been used as entertainment and learning tools in daycares and classrooms across the country for some time. But, there are some people who think that the same fairy tales, more specifically the famous Grimm brothers’ fairy tales, they grew up on are too gruesome for such a young audience.
The Grimm brothers’ fairy tales have been known to contain some violent and very disturbing content within them, and were not intended for children at first.
For these reasons, classrooms and parents should refrain from telling the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales to children because of the fact they contain content that is suitable for more mature audiences. In Thomas O’Neill’s article “Guardians of the Fairy Tale: The Brothers Grimm”, he explains the early goals of the Grimm brothers’ work.
“The early editions were not even aimed at children. (O’Neill 2) This explains why the content of the original Grimms’ fairy tales seemed to fit a more mature audience. An example of the content that makes their tales unfit for children would be, “In the original “Snow White” the evil stepmother is forced to dance in red-hot iron shoes until she falls down dead. ”(O’Neill 3) Forcing someone to suffer like the evil stepmother in “Snow White” is cruel and unusual punishment, which the young developing minds in our society should not be exposed to.
The way the evil stepmother was punished shows that torture and even death are suitable consequences for inappropriate actions. The type of punishment that the evil stepmother received is not what protective parents want their children to learn about. Instead a punishment with more lenient consequences could have been used, so that the fairy tale could be suitable for people of all ages. Some of the Grimm brothers’ original fairy tales, such as Rapunzel, contain sexual content. Again, protective parents probably would not find this suitable for their children under any circumstances.
Although Rapunzel has been edited, “‘Yet despite all Wilhelm’s additions,’ Rolleke said, ‘the cores of the stories were left untouched. ’”(quoted in O’Neill 12) This statement by Rolleke claims, although the fairy tales have been altered they still carry the same message as decades before. Furthermore, instead of inappropriate actions, like sex, being directly portrayed in the fairy tale, the characters’ actions hint that inappropriate actions would have occurred. Sexual content may have been suitable for the children of the time that the Grimms were writing their fairy tales.
But, if the Grimms would have released their fairy tales in this day and age, they probably would have ended up with a lawsuit from some upset parents. This is because overprotective parents believe that some things, such as fairy tales, which could spoil their children’s mind, should be reprimanded so it does not happen again. Even though sex is a part of life, and children should have some type of knowledge of sex once they mature, it should not be portrayed in a children’s fairy tale.
Another disturbing feature of the Grimms’ fairy tales is that many of their characters have some type of intimidating characteristics. For example in the fairy tale “Little Red Cap”, Little Red Cap encounters a Wolf who is large enough to eat Little Red Cap and her grandmother. Now, a child who is easily frightened would probably believe that something like this could happen in real life. The child’s fears of such a creature could also lead to nightmares which could leave an everlasting mark in their mind. Another example of a serious character flaw is that of the stepmother and stepsisters in “Cinderella”.
The stepmother in “Cinderella” is so cruel that she makes poor Cinderella clean from the time the sun came up until it set. Lisa Belkin, in “Are Fairytales Too Scary for Children? ” describes just how intimidating the Grimms’ characters can get: the nasty step-sisters cut off parts of their own feet in order to fit them into the glass slipper—hoping to fool the prince. The prince is alerted to the trickery by two pigeons who peck out the step sister’s eyes. They end up spending the rest of their lives as blind beggars while Cinderella gets to lounge about in the luxury at the prince’s castle. 3) Such actions could cause a fear of stepsiblings in children who do not know any better, and since the actions occurred in a fairy tale it may be harder to remind the child of reality. Some people say that the gloomy characters of the Grimms’ fairy tales help children better deal with their fears. “By confronting fears and phobias, symbolized by witches, heartless stepmothers, and hungry wolves, children find they can master their anxieties. ”(O’Neill 13) Also in O’Neill’s article he quotes Bruno Bettelheim by saying that fairy tales are “great comforters. (13) Sure, this may be true for some children, but stories that revolve around hungry wolves and witches would not be the most ideal way to help children conquer their anxieties. With such a scary lineup of characters, a logical idea would be that anxiety would increase because of the frightening cast. Instead a less frightening cast and a pleasant theme would be better to soothe a young child’s anxiety and make reading the tales a pleasant experience. Having said these, continuing to use Grimm fairy tales would be quite illogical.
A less violent and sex oriented storyline would definitely be a more positive way to teach lessons to children whose minds are still developing. Also, a cast of unfrightening characters would make reading such tales a more pleasant experience. Now is the time to start using a different line of fairy tales for children which exhibit the same lessons as the Grimms’ tales, but in a more appropriate manner. Works Cited Belkin, Lisa. “Are Fairtytales Too Scary for Children? – Motherlode Blog – NYTimes. com. ” Parenting , Children and Parents – Motherlode Blog – NYTimes. om. The New York Times, 12 Jan. 2009. Web. 2 Nov. 2009. Grimm, Jacob, Wilhelm Grimm, and Margaret Hunt. “Cinderella. ” Grimm’s Fairy Tales. N. p. , n. d. Web. 8 Nov. 2009. . Grimm, Jacob , Wilhelm Grimm, and Margaret Hunt. “Little Red-Cap. ” Grimm’s Fairy Tales. N. p. , n. d. Web. 8 Nov. 2009. . Grimm, Jacob , Wilhelm Grimm, and Margaret Hunt. “Rapunzel. ” Grimm’s Fairy Tales. N. p. , n. d. Web. 8 Nov. 2009. . O’Neill, Thomas. “Grimm Brothers @ nationalgeographic. com” National Geographic – Inspiring People to Care About the Planet. N. p. , n. d. Web. 27 Oct. 2009..
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