Classic Fairy Tales

>A point that caught my attention from the introduction of Classic Fairy Tales by Maria Tatar came from the Brother’s Grimm discussion of why they wrote the stories they wrote. They are quoted in Tatar as saying that their tales “tried to capture the pure, artless simplicity of people not yet tainted by the corrupting influences of civilization” (Tatar, 1999, p. xi). It seems as if the brothers are arguing for nurture over nature, like children are blank slates and the stories are written to shield them from the harsh reality that exists outside the walls of their parents’ house.

The brothers, when writing, however, “must have recognized that fairy tales were far from culturally innocent, for they extolled the ‘civilizing’ power of the tales and conceived of their collection as ‘manual of manners’ for children” (Tatar, 1999, p. xi). While these fairy tales were exalted, the brothers took the main points of the stories and recrafted the tales into a handbook of sorts for children, guiding them to be moral citizens. The question is, who defined those morals the brothers were trying to ingrain in children? Were they determined by the brothers themselves, or are they extending morality based upon the morals with which they were raised, those determined by a particular class as important to be a productive member of the social structure?

The conversation about how children are influenced before they have a chance to truly interact within society makes me wonder about children today, so many of whom are not read to, be it fairy tales, Mother Goose Rhymes, or the newspaper. How are the morals and ideas children are inculcated with in the present due to their preoccupation with electronics and reality television? When I wonder about how fairy tales have changed with the present time, the first thought I have is of Neal Shusterman’s Dark Fusion series. Shusterman fuses the Medusa myth with “The Three Little Bears” in Dread Locks, fuses werewolf and vampire mythology with “Little Red Riding Hood” in Red Rider’s Hood and the legend of the Fountain of Youth with “The Ugly Duckling.” Many of the themes are the same, but Shusterman adds discussion of self-sacrifice, family values and revenge to his mix.

Shusterman, N. (2005). Dread Locks. New York, Speak.
Shusterman, N. (2005). Red Rider’s Hood. New York, Speak.
Shusterman, N. (2006). Duckling Ugly. New York, Speak.
Tatar, M., ed. (1999). The Classic Fairy Tales. New York: W. W. Norton & Co

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