Once upon a time...
Those tales are ever-green; they had been a part your childhood and now you read them to your kids during bedtimes. But are these really ‘fair-y’ tales? Well, you have not pointed out the darker sides of fairy tales yet, you are not the only one.
These points below will provoke you to think over the next time you read these ageless classics.
Is it all about looks? The books were full with pictures of handsome princes and princesses who were dressed in bright colorful clothes; on the other hand the witches wore black and were definitely not very pleasing to the eyes. So does that imply that only good looking, fair skinned people are nice and good at heart and people who are not handsome, dark complexioned are mean? I hope we all have met attractive impostors as well as ‘ugly’ people with kind hearts. So it’s time we tell kids that it’s the moral character of a person and not his/her physical beauty that makes him/her lovable.
Feminism: In stories like ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Rapunzel’, there is a maid in distress and then a prince comes to save her and make her his lovely wife. But why does every time, a prince has to save the girl? Can’t she save herself? Why doesn’t she fight her oppressors by herself? Why she has to wait for a man to come and rescue her and put an end to all her miseries?
In ‘The little mermaid’, the mermaid leaves her father, her home, the sea and her beautiful voice for a man she loves. She gets herself transformed to a human from a mermaid, even though she has to pay a heavy price for this. Just take a moment to think about this, though love requires compromise and sacrifices, but is it worth leaving your parents, your friends, your home and transforming yourself completely to someone else? As in ‘Cinderella’, when the king’s men arrive at Cinderella’s house with the shoe, one of her step sisters cut her feet short to fit into it. All that for marrying a prince, really?
‘Motherly’ affection: Do not trust your step-mother. She’s wicked and nothing can make her happier than your distress. Yes, this is what the fairy tales has been teaching us since ages. Whether it’s ‘Cinderella’ or ‘Snow White’, the step-mother is the cause of all miseries. She has nothing better to do than to harm you.
Physical strength is the only mean of judging a man: He was brave and strong; the hero of every novel has this thing in common. It is portrayed as if only physically strong men are worthy of wooing a beautiful girl. They fight the dragons, ride the horses and can travel miles. And those who do not match the criteria are god for nothing. This is why girls wish for knights in shining armor. Doesn’t a passionate and gentle-natured man make good husband or boyfriend too?
Child abuse and neglect: One of the darker yet common themes found in the fairy tales. Hansel and Gretel are abandoned in the forest by their mother as she could not afford to feed them. The king in ‘The Twelve Brothers’ wants her wife to bear a daughter who’ll be his heir and makes twelve coffins for his twelve sons . In stories for children, they themselves are subjected to exploitation, that is not something very wonderful, I guess.
Violence: Here’s the last thing that you want our little one to learn, ‘violence’. Most of the stories bring out or rather celebrate the idea of revenge. The villains kill the good men and women and then their son (daughters are not really capable of taking revenge, anyway) punishes the criminals in the most cruel way possible. Examples of burning them alive or burying them alive aren’t very rare either. Snow White’s step-mother asks the huntsman to bring back Snow White’s lungs and liver as a proof of her death. In the same story, the step-mother is asked to dance in red hot iron shoes as a punishment for her acts, during which she dies. In ‘The Goose maid’, the false bride is stripped naked, thrown into a barrel full of nails and is dragged around the town. Cannibalism has also made its way in the tales, when the wicked antagonists or monsters are planning or trying to eat up children.
The examples are numerous. The original version of the Grimm’s fairy tales and other classics talk about also rape, sexual abuse and unwanted pregnancies after the prince and princess spend some ‘merry’ time together which definitely doesn’t make them fit as bedtime stories for children. It is said very often that a child is the future of the society. It’s high time to reevaluate what our young ones are learning from the so called ‘innocent’ tales.