Are Fairy Tales too Scary?

As bedtime draws near, the kids approach the bookshelf, peruse the
many choices and finally settle on two stories for mom or dad to read
to them. The routine is familiar, a comforting ritual that takes place
every night as we put the kids to bed. Stories have ranged from quick,
snappy board books, to chapter books, fairy tales and tales made up on
the spot.

But many parents are passing by the book of fairy tales in favor of happier and simpler stories. A poll conducted by TheBabyWebsite found that a quarter of the 3,00 British moms surveyed no longer read the fairy tales,
stories such as Cinderella, The Seven Swans and Little Red Riding Hood
to their kids, saying they're too dark, politically incorrect and scary.

Parents say they want to read their
children happier tales, ones they don't think are likely to contribute
nightmares. They feel the story of Rapunzel is too dark, and Cinderella
has fallen out of favor because of the gender stereotyping. All that
housework just doesn't sit well with today's moms.

Little Red Riding Hood's solo walk in the woods concerns a third of
parents, and a fifth say abandoning Hansel and Gretel in the woods is
too grim. The Gingerbread Boy's fate in the stomach of a fox is puts
that story in the banned list by another 20% of parents.

Should we be concerned about the violence, orphans, punishment, and
cruelty in so many fairy tales? How will the image of Cinderella's
stepsisters hacking away at their own feet to make them fit into the
slipper affect my child? Should I skip the part about the birds pecking
out their eye? What about poor Red Riding Hood's grandmother who gets
eaten by the wolf, and is later cut out and freed? Surely that's not an
image any child should fall asleep thinking about. Or is it? Maybe it's
not about the image at all.

Think about all the fairy tales you remember. The overall theme to
each of them is the very basic good triumphing over bad. Almost always
the main character faces a challenge, then through a series of trails,
ends up better off. Little Red learns to always follow her mother's
rules. The Gingerbread Boy learns to never trust a sly-talking fox. The
Billy Goats Gruff use their wits to get across the bridge and beat the
troll at his own game.

Fairy tales speak on a deeper level than what some graphically
worded passages may suggest. Filled with archetypal characters, the
fairy tale presents the bits and pieces within all of us. The Queen and
the wicked step-mother, the huntsmen, the dwarves, the wolf and the
trickster all play a part in us, all to varying degrees. Fairy tales
present a black-and-white version of good vs. evil.

Here's the BabyWebsite's List of the Top Bedtime Stories of 2008:

1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle (1969)
2. Mr Men, Roger Hargreaves (1971)
3. The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson (1999)
4. Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne (1926)
5. Aliens Love Underpants, Claire Freedman & Ben Cort (2007)
6. Thomas and Friends from The Railway Series, Rev.W.Awdry (1945)
7. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame (1908)
8. What a Noisy Pinky Ponk!, Andrew Davenport (2008)
9. Charlie and Lola, Lauren Child (2001)
10. Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Robert Southey (1837)

and their list of the top 10 fairy tales we no longer read:

1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
2. Hansel and Gretel
3. Cinderella
4. Little Red Riding Hood
5. The Gingerbread Man
6. Jack and the Beanstalk
7. Sleeping Beauty
8. Beauty and the Beast
9. Goldilocks and the Three Bears
10. The Emperor's New Clothes

I've read every one of those fairy tales to my children, many times
over, from it's original source The Borther's Grimm. Not once has any
of my children been scared or had nightmares after such a tale.

So what do you read to your kids? Vote in our poll and let us know at the Parenting Project (scroll to bottom of entry for the poll).


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