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InkGypsy
Registered User
(8/24/06 5:08 pm)

How to Raise Boys w/ Fairytales?
Just weeks after being married we found out I was (surprise!) pregnant and ever since then I've been wondering how I would share my love of fairytales with the child if it happened to be a boy.

Well it's confirmed today that it is indeed a boy and I'm definitely in the minority in the local area which is rampant with surburban American soccer moms who decorate like Martha Stewart and all seem to run the PTA (not that there's anything wrong with that - it's just not how I am). This is completely different from my upbringing and I'm the only one in my immediate vicinity who has a Celtic background (which seems to be a natural way to pass on the power of storytelling) and who has a strong love of fairytales. It will be up to me to pass them along and while I certainly don't want to force anything on a child I would still like him to grow up with respect and appreciation for these stories.

Does anyone have any suggestions of ways to go about this? How do you share a love of the old tales and Faeryland with a little boy that would fit with a family that is more cartoon and sports oriented? Not that I object to Captain Underpants and Harry Potter and whatever sports team is currently the family favors being in the mix - just the opposite - but I would love to share the wonder of Faery, the stories from the Lang collections and more with him.

Apart from planning to read to him the multiple books I have in my collection I have the Henson Storyteller series on DVD and few specific father and son story books that I've found. I've looked into children's theater but there doesn't seem to be very much around for that either. Any additional ideas would be welcome. I've just started introducing my husband to the ideas and concepts in fairytales and why they have had such an impact on my life but it's always a very 'grown up' discussion and deals with the darker nature of the stories and how such stories can really help someone find their way through life (for example why Donkeyskin resonates so much with many women). He's well read and open minded and yet only thought of fairy tales as the fluffy-er Disney types until very recently.

How did/do the mothers & fathers on this board raise your boys to appreciate fairytales and fantasy beyond wizards, dragons and Peter Pan only?

I'd love to hear your opinions/ideas/experiences as well as any nursery ideas to incorporate this beyond Peter Pan and Benjamin Bunny!

Thanks!

DerekJ
Unregistered User
(8/24/06 6:35 pm)



Re: How to Raise Boys w/ Fairytales?
And what's WRONG with Peter Pan?
(Speaking as one whose first exposure was the relatively plot/action-oriented Disney version, which also left no ambiguity as to Peter's gender?...And before anyone chimes in with that recent live-action mess, no, we're talking about actual versions of the story.)

As to Henson's Storyteller...eek. NO.
These were not told with a love of fairytales, but an overly personal search for something "really dark and cutting-edge" after having overdosed on too much bad Maurice Sendak.
That's an adult mistake; let them make that mistake later or, better yet, not at all.

Grumble about individual episodes if you like, but Shelley Duvall still managed to give some of the basic stories their due for cable, and managed to play them for the balanced plot stories they were, before 50's and 90's Disney could corrupt any "It's all princesses" negative stereotypes into their heads later.
Tested it on our family's own next-generation, with success--One good version, and you're hooked on a story for life.

dlee10
Registered User
(8/24/06 6:36 pm)

Re: How to Raise Boys w/ Fairytales?
I always read, watched and told fairy tales to my kids. At 16 my son thinks I'm a bit weird but underneath I still think he enjoys it. I am willing to bet he will be sharing the old tales with his kids when the time comes. I agree that it is much easier with girls. My daughter is in an oral storytelling group that is exclusive to females only because no males join. I would just share the tales and have a full bookshelf (shelves!). By the time outside influences try to convince your son that folklore is not cool he will already know better! Congratulations!

Rosemary Lake
Registered User
(8/24/06 7:44 pm)

Re: How to Raise Boys w/ Fairytales?
Mm ... for a boy, what's the matter with dragons? :-) For older, uncensored tales, look at old Russian tales of dragon fighting.

InkGypsy
Registered User
(8/24/06 9:03 pm)

Re: How to Raise Boys w/ Fairytales?
LOL - I feel I must clarify - Nothing wrong with Peter Pan OR dragons! In fact I have perhaps 20 amazing dragon books and various illustrated versions of the classic text of Peter Pan - my favorite being the illustrations of Robert Ingpen - have a look if you haven't seen it www.peterpanandwendy.com/
- it's gorgeous and easily appropriate for both sexes :) . The challenge I'm finding is going BEYOND Peter Pan and dragons and further into fairytales... eg how do you help a boy find as much appreciation for tales typically thought to be 'feminine' like Sleeping Beauty & Red Riding Hood as for the 'considered acceptable for boys stories' such as Jack & the Beanstalk & Tom Thumb?

The point about one good version making a difference has me thinking about artwork - perhaps that's a way to approach it too - being particular about the images I'm putting in front of him. I know when I think of a story the immediate association is still the images I first connected with that story.. hmmm..

DerekJ - thanks for the concern over the Storyteller Series. I will have to have a closer look at that (it's been a while and while I liked them I was older and I think I liked the concept of the silhouettes being used in story as much as the creature shop creations.)
dlee10 - that sounds like a good approach - luckily my husband is as happy to tell these stories as I am so I know that will help too.
Re Russian dragon fighting - I do have a few Russian tale collections - guess it's time to do a whole lot of reading!

DerekJ
Unregistered User
(8/25/06 4:53 am)

Re: How to Raise Boys w/ Fairytales?
Quote:
LOL - I feel I must clarify - Nothing wrong with Peter Pan OR dragons! In fact I have perhaps 20 amazing dragon books and various illustrated versions of the classic text of Peter Pan - my favorite being the illustrations of Robert Ingpen - have a look if you haven't seen it


...Nothing will beat the Trina Schart Hyman version, for me. :)

Quote:
DerekJ - thanks for the concern over the Storyteller Series. I will have to have a closer look at that (it's been a while and while I liked them I was older and I think I liked the concept of the silhouettes being used in story as much as the creature shop creations.)


This was right around the '86 time when Jim Henson was artistically obsessed--and I'm not just throwing the term around, here, obsessed--with Ridley Scott's "Legend", and wanted all his own fantasy films to look exactly like it...Even went out and hired the same cinematographer for "Labyrinth".

For the rest of his career, anything Henson produced involving fantasy had to have fuzzy gold-filters, swirling leaves all over the place, and haunted-gloomy performances by dark-haired Mia Sara lookalikes....
Me, I didn't think Scott's movie was all that great organized shakes, m'self (seemed like the author had just piled fantasy characters in a room at random and let them figure out the plot), would rather see something a little less fanboy from Jim, and knew a real fairytale when I saw one.

Writerpatrick
Registered User
(8/25/06 7:06 am)

Re: How to Raise Boys w/ Fairytales?
Henson did a great job with his series and it's a great way to get boys interested in fairy tales. In fact it's probably more of a boy's approach to fairy tales than Shelly Duval's series, whose episodes were only as good as thier creators. (And if you want to talk about filters, check out Duvall's Twilight of the Ice Nymphs.) It should be noted that Henson wasn't going for accuracy but entertainment. However, it could be a little scary for small children.

As the child is young you could read some stories to him and let him read them on his own as he gets older.

AliceCEB
Registered User
(8/25/06 8:28 am)

Re: How to Raise Boys w/ Fairytales?
It'll be a while before your child is ready for picture books--or for videos with story lines for that matter. But every child loves a story from his or her parents--well into reading/video watching stages. If you start as soon as he's able to understand bits and pieces, you'll have him hooked on your stories by the time he's able to read. And then he'll discover them elsewhere. Plagiarize: this isn't you trying to tell stories to the public, but you teaching your son about what's out there. If there's a story you love, translate it into words he'll understand.

But remember, it's hard to get a child to like something just because you do. The best you can do is provide lots of material. Leave stuff around for him to discover--maybe he'll pick it up, and maybe he won't. His first loves may end up being football and racecars after all, but he'll know that there's other things out there, and as he grows, he may come back to them.

Congratulations! It's an exciting adventure.

Alice

DividedSelf
Registered User
(8/25/06 9:58 am)

Re: How to Raise Boys w/ Fairytales?
I think this might be a really important question actually. From personal experience, the classic fairy tales had an impact on me when I was really small, but as soon as I was old enough to understand the gender split - which for me was mostly associated with Disney and girls' comics - they were a total turn off.

I agree in the immediate term, it won't matter. To encourage a love of fairy tales beyond the age of about 5 probably depends on what he feels he can get from them, and what he needs. But an infancy steeped in them would serve anyone well, as something to revisit if needs be in adult life.

Don't want to get into what does/doesn't count as masculine. I think there are probably as many or more differences within the sexes as there are between. BUT suppose we're talking getting through to "a male stereotype older child"... object- rather than person-focused... I would maybe stress connections to gothic horror, fantasy and the comic potential of stories like "the boy who set out to learn how to shudder" or the Dummling/ Ivan the Fool type characters... and con trick type stories like "The Shifty Lad". Also, for adolescents, things which suggest "adult secrets" - the darker variants of the classic stories always have that frisson.

Also I think the (alleged) gender split in fairy tales might have something to do with a classical/romantic split in the way we look at them. The classical/mathematical apect of these stories may be more likely to appeal to a someone who is not especially person-focused (as well as those who are!). In any case, if the romance of fairy tales is off-putting, it might be worth stressing the opposite... and vice versa...

I hope people don't take this as provocative, because it isn't meant as such - but I'm all for fairy tales having more male-appeal. I think any culture steeped in this stuff - in an at least partly non-ironic way - is bound to be a healthier one. If half a culture (as represented by men) is alienated by it, so much the worse for them, and for the culture as a whole.

DerekJ
Unregistered User
(8/25/06 2:57 pm)

Re: How to Raise Boys w/ Fairytales?
Quote:
Henson did a great job with his series and it's a great way to get boys interested in fairy tales. In fact it's probably more of a boy's approach to fairy tales than Shelly Duval's series, whose episodes were only as good as thier creators.

And when those creators were Tim Burton, Roger Vadim and Francis Ford Coppola, they could be pretty darn good. :D

Yes, the Duvall's are a mixed bag (ie., yes, they really bit the pooch on their "Sleeping Beauty", and any version of "Snow White" will necessarily suffer from legal-department redundancy). But, considering that some of the stories--Aladdin, Little Mermaid and Beauty/Beast, for ex.--were produced in the 80's before 90's Disney could get their hands on them, it's sort of a preserved big-budget artifact of the "true" version of the stories, before we had any programmed pre-conceived notions.
Quote:
It should be noted that Henson wasn't going for accuracy but entertainment. However, it could be a little scary for small children.

For most of his career, Henson had done what any grownup does when he "discovers" fairytales in college--Overcompensates, gets an unshakable case of Sendak-on-the-brain, and wants to spend the rest of his career showing how Really Dark and Complex the stories are. (Oh, yeah, show your kids his "Roald Dahl's 'The Witches'" sometime, if you want some almost intentionally anti-kid trauma-fodder...)

Which's okay if you like Sendak-on-the-brain (me, I tend to think Maurice's a major horse's-patoot)--But problem is, Henson personally sets out so hard to show us Dark and Complex that he destroys the whole entertainment value of the stories:
The funny punchline of "Boy Who Set Out to Learn Fear" is removed completely, and "Devil and His Three Golden Hairs" is played almost at the level of Greek tragedy.

...Duvall may be occasionally silly, but so were the stories sometimes, in a good way. Another point to not leave out of the education. :)

Erica Carlson
Registered User
(8/25/06 4:00 pm)

Re: How to Raise Boys w/ Fairytales?
Congrats on your impending motherhood.

Don't forget about storytelling and your options as a teller. If you have favorite stories, I'm guessing you have your own take on how you like to hear or see them told, and you can work that into your own versions for your son. You may want to investigate different variants of your favorite tales and come up with tellings that reflect your take on the stories, and you may change your tellings depending on how he responds. He'll doubtless come up with his own favorite variations as well. My brother was happily playing "Big Bad Wolf" when he was 2, chasing me and my cousin (the 2 little pigs) while hiking up his diaper every now and then. In his version, the wolf won.

I appreciate the overtones of sadness in many of Henson's stories, although I wouldn't classify them as edgy, or even (most of them) as trying to be edgy. I found the poignancy of the "wish gone wrong" in Hans My Hedghog to be especially resonant, for example. Of course, I also enjoy Sendak (though for different reasons than I enjoy Henson's Storyteller series), and practically never agree with Derek J, so feel free to take this with a grain of salt.

Erica

Monika
Registered User
(8/25/06 9:27 pm)


Re: How to Raise Boys w/ Fairytales?
What an interesting question...

I think that the stories I chose, and my approach to them, would be pretty much the same whether I was sharing them with a boy or a girl. Of course what boys respond to, and what they take away from a story, will be different than what girls take from the same story, especially as they get older. Boys (and girls) may or may not reach an age where they no longer appreciate fairytales, and they may or may not come back to them again eventually. But I don't think that realizing all that should necessarily affect the exposure to and grounding in fairytales that you give your child. And, as Erica said above, you are the one doing the telling - whether or not you make a decision to adapt or alter them, your personal interpretation and what you love about the stories is going to come through. (Just my opinion - hope I'm not sounding didactic).

I do think that old school, unbowdlerized (within reason), non-Disney-princessy versions of the stories are a much more positive and appealing thing to give to boys, and also to girls.


May
Unregistered User
(8/29/06 6:59 am)


Boys and Fairytales
I haven't read everything thats been posted on this thread but I noticed you mentioned your celtic background. If you're looking for something which will fit in with a cartoon loving family then this might interest you: Theres an Irish animation company currently in production with a script called Brendan and the Secret of Kells, its not strictly a 'fairytale' but will (I think anyway) be loved by anyone who enjoys fairytales. Not sure how you'd access it outside ireland or if its for release in the states but their website is www.cartoonsaloon.ie might be worth a look

Also much of the Irish (celtic) folklore has strong male heros. some names to start you hunting are Setanta, Fionn Mic Cul, Oisin and Tir na nOg in general. Actually the story of Setanta is great for little boys I think-full of honor and strength, he's probably better known as Cuculainn, if your looking it up, search terms could include words like sliotar (the ball used in hurling) and caman (stick used in hurling)
Hope this helps...oh, and congrats by the way!

korin
Unregistered User
(8/29/06 2:54 pm)

boys and fairytales
You mentioned theatre -- the things that immediately comes to mind is Stephen Sondheim's award-winning musical, 'Into the Woods'. It's a clever retelling and intertwining of several different fairy tales, including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel. The first act takes you to 'happily ever after' -- the second act explores what happens after the traditional stories end. There is a version available on video at Amazon featuring the original Broadway cast. The show is hilarious, but also deep and occasionally tragic (i.e. if you don't think your child is ready to watch Bambi's mother die, then don't show him this), since it uses fairy tales to explore the way people mature and make choices. It's definitely worth watching.
Once your child is familiar with the original fairy tales, they might be interested in reading humorous retellings of 'fractured fairy tales'. Vivian Vande Velde wrote an imaginative and enjoyable collection for children called 'Tales from the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird', where Rapunzel is an advertisement for haircare products, Hansel and Gretel are horrible children who deserve to get baked, and Chicken Little starts a religious movement when the sky does fall.
If you are interested in introducing your child to myths as well as fairy tales, Marcia Williams wrote and illustrated some comic-book-like picture books for Candlewick Press featuring classic myths and legends. One book is of 'Greek Myths' such as Orpheus and Eurydice and the Twelve Labours of Heracles, while another retells 'The Iliad and the Odyssey'. There is also a volume of Shakespearean tales.
For history that is accessible to young readers, Candlewick Press also has a series of historical 'News' picture books (i.e. 'The Greek News', 'The Aztec News', 'The Egyptian News' etc.) These books are formatted like imaginary newspapers from ancient civilizations, with articles about 'current events' (that is, famous historical events), daily life, entertainment, and more. You might also want to look at the 'Horrible History' series of books by Terry Deary, which are suitable for grade-school children. They tell about periods in history, such as the 'Measly Middle Ages', with lots of humour and gross facts to make the stories interesting.

DerekJ
Unregistered User
(8/29/06 6:26 pm)



Re: boys and fairytales
Quote:
Once your child is familiar with the original fairy tales, they might be interested in reading humorous retellings of 'fractured fairy tales'. Vivian Vande Velde wrote an imaginative and enjoyable collection for children called 'Tales from the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird', where Rapunzel is an advertisement for haircare products, Hansel and Gretel are horrible children who deserve to get baked, and Chicken Little starts a religious movement when the sky does fall.


I think a culture ten times besotted with "fracturing" fairy tales with the exact same jokes over and over--for a variety of unrelated personal-demon agenda reasons ranging from Corporate, to Feminism, to Just Plain Being a Jackass About It--was what the OP was hoping to protect her future reader from...
Given that most children see some library-rented copy of "Shrek" long before they encounter a well-told and non-snotty version of the original stories.

It's okay to parody, but too often I see examples of how "fracturing" is still an act of violence, if not indeed a bigoted and premeditated Hate Crime--
Or, as I like to put it, "There's a difference between 'fracturing' a fairytale, and going after it at the knees with a lead pipe." :b

virtuesummer
Unregistered User
(8/29/06 11:02 pm)

Boys and Fairy Tales
I think fairy tales can be pretty gender neutral. I mean, some children might stress different aspects, such as the violence more than the romance, but there's nothing wrong with that. In any case, all you can do is introduce your son to the stories. If he grows up liking them, he does. If he loses interest, he does. Or it may just look like he does.

My father used to read fairy tales to my brother and I. My brother doesn't read them anymore, and yet in a recent discussion when I mentioned tracking down a second copy of our childhood fairy tale book, he immediately said that when he has children I have to give him one of the copies so he can read it to them. He was adamant about it and it surprised me. It also proved that, despite surface appearances, those stories did have an effect on him.

On a side note, my brother's kind of an interesting case. While we were growing up he always complained that he hated to read. He's twenty now and in the service and he devours books like crazy, both fiction and non fiction. Life's full of surprises.

darklingthrush
Registered User
(8/30/06 8:38 am)


Re: Boys and Fairy Tales
This is an interesting question. I think a majority of gender assignments come from environmental concerns (media, parents, friends, teachers.) So I think as long as Mom is ok with it your son will be too. My nephew, who is five and does love Spongebob, but also adores nature programs especially ones about marine life, does like fairy tales. He always frowns a bit whenever anyone says he must go to bed but whenever aunty is reading to him he insists on more and more stories (I'm sure part of this is the staving off tactic.) He doesn't even quite mind that the pictures are few and far between as long as I stop to explain what exactly a giant and beanstalk would look like. He loves Goldilocks and the Three Bears, he frowns a bit over Red Riding Hood but has requested it several times (because he loves wolves and bears I think), and likes The Emperor's New Clothes b/c the silly man is naked in it!

I do find that I have to simplify a bit and my parent's collection they recently picked up does have some gruesome outcomes which I still find a bit hard to read to a five-year old. So I tend to not mention hot tar and barrels of vipers.

As for Henson's Storyteller, my nephew is still a bit young for many of the episodes. I personally was a child when they appeared on tv and they did entrance me...much more so than Shelley Duvall's series, but I did love things dark and strange. I had been especially fond of Hans my Hedgehog. My mother showed my nephew an episode of The Greek myths from Henson as well...the episode about Icarus...and he was captured by it. He truly loved it even if he did not understand all of the bits and pieces.

korin
Unregistered User
(9/1/06 5:12 pm)


fracturing fairytales
I definitely agree that in some cases, authors or storytellers like to use classic fairytales and parody them in order to serve an agenda of their own, and in many cases their retelling doesn't add much to the original story -- it can even cheapen the original. However, a defining element of fairytales is that they are retold and reworked many times, with variations that are culture-specific -- many of the classic eighteenth-century versions of the fairytales, such as the Madame leprince de Beaumont version of Beauty and the Beast, were written for a specific audience, and adjusted accordingly to communicate certain ideas and fit in with the social mores of the era. Rewriting or fracturing fairytales just for the sake of changing them is akin to pointlessly renovating a heritage house, but if done with insight it can make you think about classic tales from different perspectives, and can highlight elements of the tales not usually considered. To clarify, I don't recommend reading reworked fairytales just for the sake of variety or laughs, but I believe that reading a wide range of variations -- including, on occasion, those that deliberately reinvent or even reverse accepted elements of the story -- can give you a better idea of cultural (or personal) attitudes towards the story, and the way it communicates itself in the modern age.

Tim
Registered User
(9/23/06 4:18 pm)


Re: How to Raise Boys w/ Fairytales?
It never occured to me that my sons wouldn't be interested in fairy tales. (It never occured to me that my sons wouldn't be interested in any of my interests, except for vegetables, which I knew would be an uphill battle). My sons are interested in my worm bin, Bollywood dance numbers, and farmer's markets simply because I make it a point to include them in my interests. Sure, they are developing their own interests, and have the entire kid's culture to deal with from their peers and the media they consume.... but they are growing up in a family where storytelling is a regular part of life.

Long before you introduce your son to any video versions of these stories, I'd suggest imprinting him with oral versions.

For me, my sons get stories on long car rides, waiting in line, whenever there's time. My two year old really doesn't care what the content of the stories are, and I don't make them particularly gender specific. With my five year old, I started out telling familiar repetitive tales (when he was about two) such as the Little Red Hen, the Gingerbread Man. At the age of three, because of a long car ride, I introduced him to Jack tales (I know the Appalachian versions collected by Richard Chase... but I wasn't reading them, I was telling them). His mother told him Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella, and he was equally enchanted. At about the age of four, he was able to really listen to "chapter books" (non-illustrated)-- we haven't introduced the Lang books yet, but we could.

We also have a large collection of tapes and CDs of stories and storytellers. At the age of three, my eldest son was fascinated by a collection of African folktales, and still enjoys Anansi stories (we have Bobby Norfolk's CD). True, we have fractured tales in the mix (I can't help it but I enjoy hearing Willie Claflin fracture tales more than my kids do).

So I would really recommend orality. I love storytelling for the active imaging I as a listener have to engage in-- and video versions of even the same stories require none. (My family loves reading, but I shy away from picture books of fairy tales for the same reason). (Audio versions of stories also avoid all the sniping on message boards over which video versions are superior ;) )

My five year old loves to watch videos. He loves football, and baseball, and running. He's very much into trucks and airplanes and mechanical items and computer games. But he also know that this is a storytelling family, and he knows how to listen to (and how to tell) stories. If you want fairy tales to be a part of your family, your son will absorb them.

midori snyder
Registered User
(9/23/06 4:31 pm)

Re: How to Raise Boys w/ Fairytales?
Having raised a son who enjoyed mightily myth and fairytale, I would suggest a great place to start is with the Norse myths and tales (those heoric figures and epic monsters) as well as Greek mythology (one of my son's favorite books for years was the D'Aularie version of the Greek myths with their fabulous illustrations. We had multiple versions of Beowulf, and after that it was very easy to slip in fairytales as well: Russian tales, Irish tales (especially "The Black Horse") and Native American stories. Trina Schart Hyman's illustrated St George and the Dragon, as well as her illustrated "Magic in the Midst."

It was a lot of fun to share all that literature and oral narratives with both my son and daughter.

janeyolen
Registered User
(9/24/06 4:59 am)


Boys Toys
Congrats on the baby to come.And the interesting question.

Age appropriateness is the clue, of course. I wouldn't start with the Henson series. They are really for ages no younger than about 7 or 8, but I think they are brilliant. Anthony Minghella, wrote them and he is also the author of two of my favorite movies,: "Truly, Madly, Deeply" and "The English Patient" adaptation. (Of course I always am at odds with Derek and his declarations, so put that in the mix as well.) The writing is sensational.

Not much of a fan of the Shelley Duval series, though they are younger. If you want to talk about fracturing till the knee caps break. . .

I have a book (for boys 5 and up) you might want to look at: MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD: World folktales for strong boys.

Jane

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