As anyone who has kids or works with kids will tell you, fairy tales are boring. How many versions of Cinderella have you seen/heard/read over the years? If you work in childcare, as I do, you probably can’t even count that high.
I get why kids like them. Princesses, dragons, magic spells, cackling witches, enchanted lands, animals that speak… they spark the imagination in many special ways. At least, they spark the imagination the first or second time you read them. After that you’re kind of done.
And really, the lessons learned through these repetitive stories are pretty appalling. (Have you noticed that?) Princesses are all weak and needy, princes are vain and materialistic, stepmothers are heartless, and the only way to deal with enemies is to slaughter them in violent, gruesome ways. The subject matter isn’t exactly wholesome or heartening.
Here are six of my least favorite fairy tales. I’m sorry if I’m bursting your bubble, but… these are just awful!
Not only have I read 7,934 different versions of this story in my lifetime (tomorrow it will probably be 7,950), I find the end message of this tale to be outrageous. Having a man step up to “save” you is NOT the only way a woman can make her way out of a bad situation. Cinderella didn’t NEED Prince Charming, he was just a handsome and convenient means to an end. She could have applied for housekeeping jobs elsewhere if she wanted to! How about reading your kids The Paper Bag Princess, by Robert Munsch, instead. In this book, the savior/savee relationship is reversed and Princess Elizabeth actually kicks that sniveling royal jerk out of her life. GO PRINCESSES!
This kid is the worst. When I read this one to the kids in my care, I prefaced it with “Okay, Golidlocks didn’t listen to her parents and should NOT be going into stranger’s homes.” Why DOES she just wander into random houses? Why doesn’t Goldie have some kind of back story? Maybe she got lost in the woods and was desperate, or maybe she’s being chased by the same crazy woodcutter who killed Red Riding Hood‘s wolf. Either way, she’d better have a darn good reason for trespassing. And for the stealing. And for destroying other people’s property. A lawyer could have a field day with this little delinquent.
Why does SHE have to change? Why doesn’t the prince turn into a fish? Or install a giant aquarium in his castle so she can still live with him without changing her identity? We try to teach our kids that they should never change who they are or what they believe simply to please someone else, so why the heck are we okay with reading this story? Nevermind that the Disney character has way too much cleavage for a teenager. And don’t even get me started on how this teaches girls that it’s okay to defy your parents and leave home at the age of SIXTEEN. Again, I want to see a lawyer please.
Most fairy tales, I’ve noticed, feature a female protagonist, and usually a weak one at that. This one has a brother and sister combo, which is refreshing, and they stick up for themselves as they work hard to escape danger. Have you ever noticed, though, how they find themselves in the sticky situation to begin with? Their own father abandoned them in the middle of the woods, simply because his selfish, awful wife told him to. What the heck? The evil stepmom wanted her husband to kill his own kids? Way to have a backbone, dad. How about you grow a pair, kick your wife out on her butt, report her to child services, and live happily ever after with your innocent, brave, determined little kids? Sounds like a much better, and happier, story.
Again with the evil stepmother. What does the fantasy world have against remarriage? After escaping the woodsman’s murder attempt, Snow White moves in with a group of stangers. She is the only female living with seven men, in a house located deep in a forest where nobody can find them. Does this seem inappropriate to anyone else? Sounds more like a hostage situation than a roommate agreement to me. Also, since when is it okay for our kids to refer to little people as “dwarfs”? Unless they’re descendants of Gimli from LOTR, (which I suppose they could be, considering their occupation is mining), this terminology is not okay.
I know you’re thinking “This is a good one! It teaches kids to trust their instincts and not talk to strangers.” Nope, nice try. When I read this one, all I see is death and gore. Grandma gets eaten by a wolf, and then a lumberjack brutally murders the wolf with an axe. Mr. Lumberjack, no doubt feeling like a big, strong, hero of a man, proceeds to yank grandma out of the animal’s stomach. OUT OF ITS STOMACH. Yeah, this is totally normal. Definitely read this wholesome story to your little ones when you need to lull them to sleep.
If you’re as sick as I am of reading these weird, tired stories, try picking up The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka, Don’t Kiss The Frog!: Princess Stories with Attitude by Fiona Waters, or Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl (his poem Jack and the Beanstalk is SO funny!). If you’re looking for a more serious, adult read, try Gregory Maguire’s Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Mirror Mirror, or The Wicked Years series (which inspired the musical).
What’s your least favorite fairy tale?
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