Am I the only parent shocked at how violent and heart-breakingly sad many classic fairy tales are? I didn’t realise this until I had my son and started reading him my old ‘favourites’ that I recalled from childhood.
What I didn’t recall, however, were the painful deaths and sad lives so many characters endured for my amusement. How on earth did we have ‘sweet dreams’ after hearing these stories before bedtime?
1. The Little Mermaid – gets her tongue cut out by the mean Mer-Witch in exchange for human legs so she can marry the prince she loves. But the prince marries a real princess. So our mute, rejected Little Mermaid with no tail jumps off a ship to her death. (all this after her beloved sisters sacrifice their beautiful hair to the Mer-Witch to get their sisters tail back – but it’s too late)
2. Three Little Pigs – when the Big Bag Wolf finally figures out a way to get inside the third brick house containing all three little pigs by sliding down the chimney, the pigs have a pot of boiling water ready for him. So they boil him alive. What’s wrong with him going home hungry?
3. The Match Stick Girl – Her parents are so mean and cruel she is not allowed to return home until she has sold all her matches. It’s winter and she has no shoes. The rich people ignore her. She stares longingly through the windows of families with delicious Christmas feasts. She sits down in a doorway, too cold to go on and too scared to return home, dreaming of her kind grandmother who has passed. And freezes to death. (I literally could not sleep after this one)
4. Little Red Riding Hood – Although I thought I knew this story well, I didn’t realise that after the wolf eats both the grandmother and Red Riding Hood, and huntsman slices his stomach open and they leap out, still alive and well. What kind of freak show is this?
5. Hansel and Gretel – Do you remember how this story starts? (Even if we skip the ending where they push the old woman into a stove and cook her alive) Hansel and Gretel had a happy family until their mother died. And they were all sad, especially their Dad. Then he re-married but their stepmother ‘was not kind and she was not motherly’ and begrudged spending what little money they had on food for the children.
(Anyone else read a children’s story lately that shocked them? It must be noted that most of these stories have much nicer modern versions with no death/torture/suicide/murder/cruelty)
This topic brought up a conversation about banned children’s stories like Punch and Judy (violence against women / crocodiles / dogs / policeman) and Noddy (racist) You’ve got to wonder how such remaining stories impact our children’s view of the world.
Right now I am super grateful for The Gruffalow.