I recently encountered a young mother who wants to ban fairy tales.
“Such stories are full of harmful gender stereotypes,” she said. “I don’t want my little girl growing up with the notion that a prince in shining armour will one day whisk her away from a life of drudgery, and all she has to do in return is look beautiful.”
Some people seem to be taking political correctness to an extreme. I grew up on fairy tales and not once did I think I would meet a real person who would one day rescue me from my less than perfect life. I’ve always known that I would have to work hard if I wanted to get on in life.
When my children were little, I would read to them every night before they went to sleep. One of their favourite books, for a while at least, was a compilation of traditional fairy tales. They enjoyed the struggle between good and evil that is at the heart of most fairy tales, probably because they knew that the protagonist would eventually overcome the perilous obstacles that lay ahead and go on to “live happily ever after”.
Fairy tales are a great way to teach children the difference between right and wrong.
When I first heard the story of Cinderella, I fell in love with the girl who was kind to everyone. I was happy that her ugly stepsisters got what they deserved in the end.
It was the same thing with Snow White and her cruel stepmother, who got her comeuppance in the last chapter.
And what about those poor little pigs who were terrorised by a pork-loving wolf? It’s a good thing that the three brothers stuck by each other and were able, working as a team, to make sure their nemesis would never huff and puff at anything ever again.
You could argue that these tales are all very karma-ish, and don’t reflect modern day life, where good doesn’t always triumph over evil. But you could say the same about most Hollywood movies and the vast majority of novels being sold these days.
So what if there are dragons, handsome princes, evil women and giants liberally dotted over the landscape of most fairy tales. Such stories also teach children about the virtues of courage, patience and humility. Plus, they can be a lot of fun, while encouraging children to read.
As much as my children loved fairy tales, there was one story I couldn’t bring myself to read to them: Goldilocks And The Three Bears.
When I first read Goldilocks, I was about eight years old. Despite her delightful appearance, I took an instant dislike to her.
“How could she just wander into someone’s house uninvited?” I asked myself, as she entered the cottage where a family of bears lived. “Where were her parents? Wouldn’t she be missed?”
I was horrified when she tasted each of the bowls of porridge sitting on the table, finally settling for the small bowl and greedily devouring its contents.
“Didn’t her parents teach her it was wrong to steal?” I wondered.
After sitting on the smallest chair and breaking it, I was convinced she would run out the door and head for home, but she didn’t. All that porridge, along with her furniture-breaking activities, had obviously worn the poor thing out, so she did the only thing she could do under the circumstances: went into the bedroom, tested out the beds (as if she were in a furniture outlet when the mattresses were on special), chose the one that suited her best and fell fast asleep.
I won’t go into the problems I have with a story that has a little girl sleeping in a stranger’s bed.
When the bears returned to find that someone had been in their house during their absence, they were most upset, especially the poor baby bear whose porridge is gone, not to mention his chair lying on the floor like a pile of giant matchsticks.
When they enter the bedroom, they see Goldilocks lying on a bed. She wakes up, escapes by jumping out the window and then runs home, where her parents are possibly occupied watching re-runs of The Bold And The Beautiful.
If a bear found you in its home, it would take several swipes at you, slashing you with its sharp claws until you looked like a pile of bloody matchsticks. It wouldn’t let you get away unharmed.
Goldilocks is not a good role model for anyone’s child. Maybe she went on to marry toad and is now living in a swamp.
Now that’s what I call Karma.
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