Tuesday 13 January 2009

Fairy tales too scary?

The one thing that used to hit me everytime I took Advaith to storytime at the library, or even just browsed through the children's section, was how the fairy tales that we grew up with, somehow didn't seem to be as popular in America, as they were back home in India (and doubtless, in many other parts of the world). Disney has made a fortune from the Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales; but the American favourites seem to be Dr. Seuss, "Goodnight moon", "The very hungry caterpillar", the Thomas series, the Curious George series, and the Busytown tales of Richard Scarry. I had to come upto speed on these stories only after we came to the US. Having grown up on a diet of Noddy and Grimm/Andersen fairy tales myself, I had to learn all about the little engine that could and the cow that jumped over the moon.

So at one point I took it upon myself to acquaint my son with old favourites such as Cinderella, Snow White and the seven dwarfs, Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel etc. But when I started narrating the stories to him, I realized that some of them were actually quite blood-curdling. Ads didn't like all the talk about witches in gingerbread houses, blood-thirsty wolves that gulp down grandmas, beanstalk-residing ogres, evil stepmothers and the like. Present-day parenting practice seems to dictate steering away from violent themes, of which there are plenty in the fairy tales. I personally don't feel that there is anything very wrong with the stories. Yes there are gender stereotypes, and there is a certain amount of violence and evil. Why, wasn't there a big controversy about Enid Blyton and Noddy a while ago, due to their sexist and racist overyones? I find that I end up sanitizing the stories for Ads, anyway.
But then I read this. Apparently a lot of people think these fairy tales are age-inappropriate.
This begs the question: What has changed in just one generation that stories that were good enough for us are not good enough for our children? Why do we feel the need to shield our kids from the not-so-good-stuff? It all seems a little overdone. Let's loosen up a little, shall we?
But since Ads is naturally so violence-averse, I am sticking to the tame ones like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Incidentally, we were watching "Sholay" a few days ago and when one of the several fight sequences came on, he told me "Don't let him watch all the fight stuff, no?" (Note: He speaks about himself in the third person, always!)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for pointing me to this one Aparna :) I was nodding my head at every line !!

    And the article you referenced is also hilarious (in a oh my god this is what we parents have become nowadays kind of way!).


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