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Registered User
(3/26/07 12:33 am)

Are Fairy Tales Bad for Children?
This it for my speech by the way. im trying to proove that fairy tales are bad for children and they expose them to such images like child abuse in hansel and gretel, horror themes in little red riding hood and making them sexist as the villians are normaly females in cinderella, snow white etc. i hav heard of books like "the trials and tribulations of little red riding hood" and looked fir not only this book ut many others yet hav not found them at our library. please help give me some more points on why fairy tales are bad. pwease... lol. thanks xox

(03/26/07 06:05:07)

Re: Are Fairy Tales Bad for Children?
I would disagree with your thesis, that fairy tales are bad for children. But I understand that when writing a speech for a class, you sometimes have to take positions you do not agree with.

I would start by looking at the resources offered by this site, in particular here:

Good luck.

(03/26/07 08:32:18)

Re: Are Fairy Tales Bad for Children?
I believe there's been a great number of self-help books and the like published on those lines, the Cinderella complex or something like that? There's also that study that came up on the board a couple of years ago on fairy tales drawing women to abusive relationships; I think a site search would turn it up.
aka Greensleeves
(03/26/07 16:10:50)

Re: Are Fairy Tales Bad for Children?
Likewise, your library should be able to order any book for you through interlibrary loan. Ask the librarians.
(03/27/07 14:41:49)

Re: Are Fairy Tales Bad for Children?
I was going to point to you to an article I linked once about how fairy tales encourage women to fall into bad relationships, but unfortunately the story has expired. The general thrust was that a romantic ideal eclipses the reality of imperfect relationships that require day-to-day work and compromise to work, that fairy tales encourage passivity in young women and make them more likely to fall in with the wrong guys, endure mistreatment, abuse, etc.

You could also take the tack that fairy tales are bad for children because they were not originally meant for children at all, as their frequently dark and bawdy nature reveals; they used to be entertainment for peasants, often at evening gatherings, sometimes in mixed groups, but mostly for an adult audience. (There's that oft-quoted, because wonderful, observation of John Updike that fairy tales were "the television and pornography of the day, the life-lightening trash of preliterate peoples.") Of course, in those days, they didn't really distinguish between adults and children, there was no notion of child innocence or the need to keep certain things away from young ears, so if the young'uns were also present, sitting on the floor carding the wool while Grandma spun and spun, no harm done. That happened later, during the Victorian era, which is when the idea of "childhood" emerged, and, contemporaneously, the idea of fairy tales as an expressly juvenile genre. The fairy tales as reinvented by the French, delicate, charming, and precious (for and by the delicate, charming, and precious salon ladies, who pretty much behaved and were treated like children themselves), seemed a perfect way of entertaining and instilling morals in (more of the latter) the newly conceived nursery tots without offending or compromising their newly conceived innocence. But the dark roots of the tales were never entirely expunged, leading us to this current hand-wringing (whether in fretfulness or wicked delight) over the tales today.

Is that too much? I should probably be more restrained when helping with school assignments...I just can't help myself.

(03/27/07 15:12:32)

Fairy tales were certainly considered bad for children by some commentators in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Cinderella, for instance, instilled "a love of dress" and a failure to show proper respect to step relations (important when frequent maternal deaths might easily leave a child having to deal with a step mother and step sisters). Also fantasy was deeply suspect because it was not "true" and children were not supposed to be able to distinguish between fact and fantasy sufficiently.
Also, fairy tales, with their youngest sons, and downtrodden daughters achieving success tended towards the subersive. In an ideal world Cinderella would have KNOWN HER PLACE, tidied the kitchen, been grateful, and not have wanted to go to the ball with her betters.

(03/27/07 19:12:15)

Re: Fairytales
Fascinating question and thread.

I really find myself torn about this. ... I grew up with fairy tales from a young age. (I'm a guy.) Just loved and devoured and absorbed them. And I think I turned out OK, relatively speaking, in terms of social adjustment, etc.

Now I'm doing some writing. I'm currently working on my own version of "The Three Little Men in the Wood," following the plot of the tale pretty closely. ... I'd eventually like to finish my own compilation of retellings of some of the "less-famous" fairy tales, as a gift for my daughter and other friends' children. But as I work on "The Three Little Men in the Wood," I find myself thinking, "My god, no child should read this. I can't give my daughter or my friends a *children's* book filed with evil stepmothers and abused children and other horrors. It's not proper, really, for anyone under age 12 or 13."

And so I find myself trying to soften some of the horrors and questionable attributes of these tales. In the aforementioned tale, for example, I'm not so much worried about softening the stepmother, because she's evil incarnate. But I'm trying to figure out some sort of justification or excuse for why the protagonist girl's OWN FATHER would allow the stepmother to perpetrate such horrors. It might seem a minor and silly thing, and maybe I'm going to just bloat and ruin the tale by updating that father character, but I feel it's just not right for today's audience to present such a woeful father figure.

(03/27/07 21:09:13)

Re: Fairytales

Anything without the correct context could be considered bad for children (or adults for that matter).

Educate on the meaning behind most stories or even current events as to the why's and wherefore's of the events that lead to the conclusions in any story, real or imagined.

Fairy tales as others in the thread have said were not meant soley for children per'se in the past as the current society seems to label them.

There's good and bad in most things if you wish to look for it. Don't, even if under direction only to do so, ignore one side of any argument without due consideration to what the other holds.

There's more bad from my pov in trying to explain something like a J.B Ramsey that my kids would see on the evening news than in explaning why a wicked old witch wants to eat Hansel and Gretel.

Veronica Schanoes
(04/14/07 10:28:34)


A bit off-topic, but I always find this interesting:

when frequent maternal deaths might easily leave a child having to deal with a step mother and step sisters

If this historicist argument is true, it would follow that that there would be an equal number of stepfathers, in order to give all those women with daughters someone to marry. But we don't have similar numbers of stories (if any, really) about wicked stepfathers. And it seems to me that the stepsisters' experience would be equally traumatic, if not more so, in that they have to uproot their entire lives and go live somewhere else, in someone else's house.


(04/23/07 12:35:45)

Re: Are Fairy Tales Bad for Children?
I had this conversation with a friend who happens to be Bulgarian, and teaches at a weekend Bulgarian children's school (here in the US).

She was reading a group of girls a story in which there is the familiar wicked stepmother, but it is the girl's own *father* who puts her out of the house. An ogre takes the girl in and has her tend her pets -- which are snakes, reptiles, etc., and then has the girl braid the ogre's disgusting hair. At one point, the ogre takes the girl by the hair and dips her in the river.

There are a lot of other awful details, and my friend had a lot of qualms about reading the nine-year-olds this stuff, but when it was over, the girls began saying, "If that lady tried to dip ME in the river, I'd throw her in," and such things. In other words, their reactions weren't fear or horror or disgust. It was obviously "just a story" and the answer to "What would you do in that situation?" was generally some sort of active resistance and taking the situation into their own hands.

Kaleigh Way

Rosemary Lake
(04/25/07 00:44:36)

Susan Darker-Smith

I don't know whether the actual paper is available, but the author was Susan Darker-Smith and there might be some leads here.

I do remember thinking at the time that most of those stories rather distorted her actual research.

(05/15/07 18:51:56)

Re: Are Fairy Tales Bad for Children?
Moonway, I like your reply. Most kids are more sophisticated than we give them credit for. Of course there are exceptions; always have been, but generally they "get it." They watch splatter movies, which are nothing more than fairy tales set to film. Also, different age groups can handle or not handle different things. Being aware of your kid's sensetivities is a good thing, but exposing them to the realities of the world through reading is better than keeping them in a padded cell until they're a teenager. I have generally found people living in rural areas have a better handle on this, and urbanites tend to be overprotective.

Also, there is nothing wrong with romance, as long as expectation doesn't exceed common sense. One doesn't have to be jaded and cynical in their approach to relationships, just smart.


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