I am, amongst other things, a storyteller.
This year sees the 200th anniversary of the first edition of Children’s and Household Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Their monumental tomb of tales, some of which lay ingrained within the fibre of our childhoods. As with whispers and gossip, tales told time and time over often end up not really resembling their true form. Today saw a story in the Telegraph which made me feel all shades of opinion. You can read the full article here .
The headline reads “Fairytales too scary for modern children, say parents.” It is the result of an American TV channel’s survey who’s results, issued as a press release, gives their new ultra-adult retelling of classic Grimm tales heaps of promotion. I realise I am playing into their hands, but I could not lessen my grip on this.
2000 parents were surveyed; 50% refused to read their children Rumplstiltskin or Rapunzel because of unsavory issues raised such as the threat of kidnap and execution. A third of parents report that the eating of the grandmother in Little Red Riding Hood by the wolf left their children in tears. 52% feel Cinderella is outdated as it sees a young girl left carrying out household chores all day.
Oh my…… where to begin?
Yes, if you tell the original version of Cinderella it will be outdated, the story is over 200 years old. However, you will also learn that the two step-sisters are punished for their wickedness with blindness by having their eyes pecked out by two pigeons.
It is a moralistic tale; if you chose to do bad things to good people, that badness will eventually return to you. It is a simple and exceptionally relevant lesson. Surely it is the parent’s responsibility to unpack this moral to those little ones too small to understand themselves and not just leave them reeling and in tears??
Secondly, children like to be scared …as long as it’s within a safe environment. That’s why theme parks are so successful, why playing peek-a-boo is so hilarious. It’s positively beneficial for their health and well-being, if we do not let children explore the boundaries of their emotions, how on earth do we expect them to become grounded, level-headed adults? If we wrap them in cotton wool, we run the very real risk of creating a generation of adults who are risk adverse, overly cautious and full, full of fear. The very thing we are trying to protect them from.
The world is a place of undefinable beauty, inexplicable wonders but there is also darkness beyond the very depths of our imaginings, there has to be, as one cannot exist without the other. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction (Newtons Third Law of Motion physics fans) (For fellow Brian Cox fans, here’s a pic of our Bri looking like a sexy physics angel, .. any excuse)
It may be that the survey was weighted towards providing a negative outcome for our friend Fairytale, you can prove almost anything with the right statistic.
I really could go on, but I feel I’ve ranted enough. Before I go though, I’d just like to ponder where the notion has come from that stories are just for children?
The utterly fantastic Rachel Rose Reid is a flying example of a contemporary adult storyteller. We all have a heart, we all have a soul, those souls need sustenance and watering so they can grow. So here we are, have a nibble on some soul food…