Over the past few years quite a few of my friends have had children who are now all at pre to post primary school age. As the adopted ‘Aunty Pam’ (I have tried on so many occasions to teach them to call me Aunty Nasty so they grow up scared of me but to no avail) I have had to sit down and watch, listen to and read numerous fairy stories. One thing that has struck me over the past 12 months is just how properly scary some of them are and how naughty the heroines seem to be.
As an example let’s look at Snow White. Leaving aside the fact, that is pretty disturbing, that her step-mother wants to kill her, Snow White not only talks to a stranger in the woods (the murderous queen disguised as an old hag) but accepts an offer of a bite of a poisoned apple. Why would she do that? Aren’t all children taught from infancy not to talk to strangers and never, ever to accept any proffered sweet thing from someone you don’t know. Prime example of wilful disobedience if ever I heard one.
Then there is Hansel & Gretel. OK the parents in this one are not too edifying as they think it perfectly acceptable to take the children into the woods to abandon them in an effort to make their own lives easier. But then the children come across a gingerbread house which they feel is OK to start eating! With this pure act of vandalism they then wonder why the house owner (another old hag) imprisons them and wants to eat them in return.
Red-riding Hood must have been myopic to mistake a flea bitten wolf as her grandmother and definitely should have gone to Specsavers. Sleeping Beauty should have known the dangers of touching sharp objects and Cinderella was told to be home by mid-night but was enjoying herself too much at the party to obey simple instructions.
And then we get to Goldilocks. She comes across the bear’s cottage and feels free to enter where she finds 3 bowls of porridge which she samples. She tries out the 3 chairs, breaking one in the process and finally goes to have nap in one the beds, having already sullied the other two and not finding them to her liking. Well where to start…..! Breaking and entering first off, theft, vandalism and sheer audacity (though the last one is not a crime I concede). She should have been shipped straight off to the nearest young offenders institute when the 3 bears discovered her.
And finally there seems to be an inordinate supply of young princes who seem to have nothing better to do than to prance around on their ponies in the forest waiting to fall in love with the first woman with a pulse that they come across and then steal kisses from them when they are unconscious. All very suspicious if you ask me. Why aren’t they out looking for a job to support said love of their life? And I get the impression that it is down to these ne’er-do-well youths that a whole species of animal (dragons) were wiped off the face of this earth.
One thing I will give these tales is the power they have in sparking young imaginations and the mixture of emotions I see flit across the faces of the children in front of me. Ranging from enjoyment, horror, bordering on tearfulness and then the final exquisite joy that everything has turned out alright in the end.
I take my hat off to fairy stories and yes, OK, I may secretly enjoy them myself……..
And with that I wish you all a very happy-ending Christmas and New Year. May you all ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.