Fairy tales are dead
About 3 months ago, during the Art Therapy course which I am attending, we learned about therapy through storytelling. We were all asked which stories we liked most as children and how we felt when we listened to them. I hadn’t thought for a very long time about fairy tales and which stories I liked most when I was a child. After finishing the course, I became nostalgic and decided to reread them in order to refresh my memory and see how I view them in the present.
So, I started to read all fairy tales starting from “The Little Red Riding Hood”, “Hansel and Gretel”, “The Little Match Girl”, “Snow white”, “Sleeping Beauty” and so on. Little did I know how shocking it would be reading these stories again as an adult. The first story that I read was “The Little Red Riding Hood”. In the version that I read, the little girl and grandmother end up being eaten by the wolf. Then, a woodsman saves them by cutting open the wolf’s belly, taking them out and then filling up its belly with heavy stones. In Hansel and Gretel, two little children get lost in the forest and find on their way a ginger bread house which belongs to a wicked witch. The children end up enslaved for some time as the witch prepares them for eating. They figure their way out and throw the witch in a fire and escape. In Snow White, the step mother asks a huntsman to kill Snow White and to bring her heart back as proof. She is finally saved by charming prince. In the Sleeping Beauty, the princess is saved from a heavy sleep by prince charming, and Cinderella who is mistreated by her step mother is saved by a prince from poverty and slavery. In the end, everyone lives happily ever after.
And this is where I stopped reading, closed the book and never opened it again. I had to shake my head several times to accept the fact that my brainwashing started at such an early age. All these stories express exactly the same thing:
1. The world is made up of black and white.
2. There is only good and bad in this world.
3. The good always suffers, but in the end they win the fight.
4. Parents are often authoritarian and if you don’t listen as a child, you will most likely be abandoned or given away.
5. Apparently, all step mothers are horrible beings.
6. Apparently, everything is solved through violence.
7. All princesses need to be saved by prince charming.
And why would I want my child to go to sleep with these thoughts? Why would I waste my time and his/her time putting these useless and damaging ideas in his/her head? Why would I fit in so many boxes in that little head of theirs when the world is already so quick to box and label everything? Why would I be the first person to put them asleep with thoughts of violence, struggle, evil and good?
I want to my child to go to sleep knowing that things are never black and white. This world is full of gray and if you don’t try to control everything, gray is actually beautiful. It gives you more options and it helps you compromise. I want my child to know that not everyone can be classified as good or bad. All persons have a bit of good and bad in them and that’s ok. I will never abandon them or push them away because they have something “bad” in them and they won’t be immediately labeled if they don’t always act according to the rules. I want my child to know that it’s ok to make mistakes sometimes and that the loved ones will give him/her many chances to find his/her way. I want him/her to know that suffering is not conditional. It happens to everyone, but with compassion and love the suffering can be mended. I want them to know that mothers or step mothers are not horrible persons that don’t accept their children. I want them to know that violence is never the solution and that every problem can be solved through communication. And I want my girl to know that she doesn’t need to be saved by anyone. That she is the only one in charge of her own destiny and her happiness. And I want my boy to know that he doesn’t need to save anyone and show that he is tough and strong. I want him to know that it’s ok to embrace his weakness and sensitivity.
Therefore, as Friedrich Nietzsche claimed that “God is dead”, I really feel the need to claim that “Fairy tales are dead”. They are old fashioned tales portraying an old and simple mentality. They do not teach children to embrace the diversity and complexity of life, they do not encourage them to feel safe, loved and protected by their parents. These tales teach girls and boys about stereotypes and don’t encourage confidence and self-sufficiency.
In my next posts, I will give plenty of other options for bedtime stories which inspire love, trust, imagination, creativity, self-awareness and confidence.
What books do you read to your children?
Artist Credits: Neal Fox
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