2 Mar 2012


Today I bring you a Folk Lore post with a bit of a difference.

Cinderella, Snow White, The Ginger Bread Man, Puss-In-Boots ....... as I child I had just about every Fairy Tale book there was and I loved them all though I seem to remember Thumberlina and, The Princess And The Pea being amongst my favourites.

Now I admit that I can't remember just how old I was when I was first read these books but I was certainly only a little girl, the question being was I scared by them?

Hmm. I can't remember them giving me nightmares though I confess that as an adult I'm still not too happy in a darkened room. Oh, and then there's my phobia of my house being blown down by a huffing and puffing wolf OR my grandmother being swallowed whole by one who then pretends to be her albeit it with big eyes, hands and teeth - only joking.

Why then does research show that one in five of today's parents prefer to read more modern stories as opposed to these traditional ones?

Well, it seems there are a variety of reasons but many parents seem to simply believe they are too scary with a third of them claiming their 'little darlings' have been left in tears after being read certain tales.

Then, of course, there are the stories .....

  • Of kidnapping and execution
  • Condoning stealing 
  • Portraying young girls doing housework all day 
  • Suggesting young woman cannot be happy until they marry their 'Prince Charming'
  • Being eaten
What then are the top ten stories that are thought to be no longer commonly read to children?

1. Hansel and Gretel - Details two kids abandoned in the forest and likely to scare young children
2. Jack and the Beanstalk - Deemed too 'unrealistic'.
3. Gingerbread Man - Would be uncomfortable explaining gingerbread man gets eaten by a fox
4. Little Red Riding Hood - Deemed unsuitable by parents who have to explain a young girl's grandmother has been eaten by a wolf.
5. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves - the term dwarves was found to be inappropriate
6. Cinderella - Story about a young girl doing all the housework was outdated.
7.Rapunzel - Parents were worried about the focus on a young girl being kidnapped.
8.Rumplestiltskin - Wouldn't be happy reading about executions and kidnapping
9.Goldilocks and the Three Bears - Sends the wrong messages about stealing
10.Queen Bee - Inappropriate as the story has a character called Simpleton.
Interesting that I was read all of these as a girl apart from Queen Bee which I'll now have to Google.

Any alternatives then?

Tim Dowling, writing in the Guardian's G2 supplement suggests the following re-tellings .......

  • Goldilocks.  Three bears return home to find their house occupied by a squatter called Goldilocks. A full and frank discussion follows, in which the bears express their unhappiness in no uncertain terms, and Goldilocks makes it clear that she has problems of her own. Eventually Goldilocks leaves by mutual consent, which is good because pursuing repossession through the courts could take weeks.
  • Hansel and Gretel. Hansel and Gretel6 become seperated from their father in a wood. As darkness falls they discover a house made of sweets. "Hey!" shouts Hansel. "I forgot I had my phone with me!" Using Google Maps they find their way home.
  • Little Red Riding Hood. Little Red Riding Hood goes to visit her grandmother, an easily manipulated old woman who sometimes doesn't make the greatest choices friend-wise. When her friend the wolf drops by, grandma asks him to wait in for Red while she pops to the shops. Once alone the wolf sneaks upstairs and starts trying on clothes. Red finds him lying in bed pretending to be her grandmother. "I'm not comfortable with this," says Red. She returns home, where everyone agrees that grandma's living situation might have to change.
Just two of the recent adverts to use children's book characters, I wonder why the Little Pigs have become so popular?

Anyway, what about you ....... did the stories you were read as a child have a lasting effect on you as an adult? At what age did/would you read such books to your child/children?


Suko said...

Great post! These stories do have a dark side. My kids loved hearing Hansel and Gretel read to them when they were younger, over and over again.

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

I didn't get the original Grimm tellings in which I think should be told a bit later in childhood then have been. I did get the retellings but I can tell you that Cinderella did scare me when the queen became a monster. I also was terrified of Sleepy Hollow. Perhaps that is why I never warmed to horror books. :)

Kelly said...

I was read the traditional stories from a young age and shared them with my kids early on, too. Maybe we're all a bit warped, but none of them bothered us. I guess we just saw them for what they were - stories. Sometimes real life is scarier!

NRIGirl said...

As a child I have enjoyed a lot of king stories mostly in comic version; recently picked up a few and was horror struck with a lot of words like 'boil alive', 'beheaded' etc I ended up disposing the books before children got to read them. Something has changed in us for sure!

BookQuoter said...

Why are ALL these books from our childhood actually really scary???

Princess and the Pea is my absolute favorite.

Kimberly @ On the Wings of Books said...

I never read Grimm's fairy tales (though I plan on doing so) but I do know all the traditional (common) verisons, except Queen Bee. They are just stories and each parent needs to decide if their child is ready for them and understand that they are not real.

The retelling's are lame.

I loves these kind of posts. I learn such interesting info!

naida said...

Great post :) I remember all those too, except for Queen Bee.
I mostly read Dr. Suess to my kids when they were little, and Berenstein Bears. The also loved Good Night, Moon.
I also read them spanish children's poems, which they thought were funny and odd.

anilkurup said...

Grim stories are no stories for children. And I have not read stories, but told the kids some anecdotes and fables.which I found would help them think and have a positive formative effect.
Jack and the Bean stalk - too unrealistic? then aren't all the fairy tales so?

Thumbliena was a fascinating one of all.

Certainly , these stories have influenced me. and will all.

tattytiara said...

I remember crying my eyes out over the Little Match Girl. Literature is supposed to provide us with a full range of emotions, including sadness and fear. As far as burying historic works that don't share our modern morality, well, those who don't know the past...

Betty Manousos@ Cut and Dry said...

i do remebber some of these.

hansel and gretel, ah, an all-time favourite, and grim stories, aw!

great post!

Betty Manousos@ Cut and Dry said...

oops! i re-write: remember.

Dorte H said...

Yes, they left a lasting impression - I have a vivid imagination and love a good, scary (crime) story :)

Alexia561 said...

Fairy tales shouldn't be changed because parents are afraid their children will be traumatized. Maybe it's the parents who are scaring the children by coddling them? I loved the old fairy tales as a child!

Jenners said...

I think the scary factor is what makes the fairy tales so fun and fantastical. I remember hearing them and never feeling scared as much as excited. IT didn't seem like something that would actually HAPPEN.

carol said...

I love fairy tales, but the ones that were read to me when I was a kid were the more Disneyfied versions.