Are Fairy Tales Too Scary?

The Daily Mail has recently conducted a survey regarding fairy tales and their reception among today’s parents. What’s interesting is that this made their top news. The article included the perception that various stories are seen to have in the mind’s of the parent.

Entitled “Are Fairy Tales too Scary for Today’s Children? Parents Admit They Refuse to Read Classics to Youngsters,” the article goes on to mention the fairy tales that are now deemed frightening, uncomfortable, or even “unrealistic.”

In the survey, conducted on 2,000 parents, they discovered that 1 in 5 favors more modern stories for their children, and that almost half of parents do not read Rumpelstiltskin or Rapunzel because of their focus on kidnapping. They viewed Goldilocks and the Three Bears as condoning stealing, and Little Red Riding Hood as too upsetting. But I have to ask, if children do not learn these lessons or hear of these occurrences, how are they to grow and accept the many disappointments and realities of life?

The survey mentions that modern tales parents read to children include The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Gruffalo. But what lesson does a child learn from the Caterpillar tale? And how is The Gruffalo any less scary than the classic tales that involve outwitting a predator?

The sidebar on the article is probably the best material, showing the Top Ten fairy tales no longer read to children. Here’s a glimpse:

1. Hansel and Gretel – Storyline about two abandoned kids is thought likely to scare children
2. Jack and the Beanstalk – Deemed too ‘unrealistic’
3. Gingerbread Man – Parents uncomfortable explaining gingerbread man gets eaten by fox
4. Little Red Riding Hood – Deemed unsuitable by parents who must explain a girl’s grandmother has been eaten by a wolf
5. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves – The term ‘dwarves’ was found to be inappropriate
6. Cinderella – Story about a young girl doing all the housework was considered outdated
7. Rapunzel – Parents were worried about the focus on a young girl being kidnapped
8. Rumpelstiltskin – Parents unhappy reading about executions and kidnapping
9. Goldilocks and the Three Bears – Parents say it sends the wrong messages about stealing
10. Queen Bee – Deemed inappropriate as the story has a character called Simpleton

This seems a bit extreme in most cases, and downright ridiculous in others. If parents are constantly bandaging wounds before there’s a scratch, and putting on safety helmets in order to prevent the world from entering children’s minds, how will kids ever learn important lessons or conquer fears?

I posted this over at my other blog, Writing in White, but wanted to share here and get feedback from both parents, and people that grew up reading fairy tales as children. How does this article affect you?

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10 Responses to Are Fairy Tales Too Scary?

  1. Jackie says:

    Well I personally think it’s a little ridiculous…I read them to my children and I look forward to reading them to my Grandchildren as well . I guess the new in thing to do as a parent is to allow your children to blow up everything in site and hunt down predators on play station complete with all the blood and gore, but allowing a child to have an imagination through a fairy tale is inappropriate. If that’s the case, then I suppose the bible is totally off limits I mean how can kids possibly handle Daniel and the Lions Den, it obviously is too graphic, as well as Joseph being thrown into a pit by his own brothers and taken into slavery. David killing Goliath with a stone and let’s not forget the terror of being eaten by a whale like Jonah… And those aren’t fairy tales!

  2. Amanda Stahnke says:

    All I could think to do was laugh. After I stopped laughing I thought about the kids of books I’m forced to read over and over to my 16 nieces and nephews. Mostly I find the newer books that are available to be dumbed down, slow, and very unimaginative and the only way I can get through reading them for the 20th time is to make it come alive with voices for each character or to simple rewrite the book as I’m reading it. I get that parents don’t want to send the wrong messages to their children and I’m on board with that, but please can we not throw out some of the amazing classics that are far better? Let kids enjoy silly and creative things too

  3. WordVixen says:

    This is just like the censoring of Bugs Bunny. Really? Bugs acts like his carrot is a cigar and suddenly everyone’s smoking? Funny, that didn’t happen with our generation, so why would we think it’ll happen to the next?

    As many performers at the Renn Faire say- “If your kids get these jokes, it’s not OUR fault.”

    • Amanda says:

      That’s so true! I don’t have children yet, but I already have all of my own books from childhood waiting. And I loved Bugs Bunny as a kid, and certainly never began smoking cigars :)

  4. Pingback: Are you a Man? It’s not your fault. « Tea at Ginger

  5. Nukiuk says:

    This seems so weird to me, I can’t even imagine what I would be if all my stories had been sugar coated world as a child. Or how I’d be able to relate to so many cultures now if I hadn’t heard stories from them. I’ve read and told a lot of stories to children (worked in a day care) and this never seemed to be a problem.
    My two year old nieces favorite film is “Tangled” and I’m glad she watches Disney’s stuff rather then things rather then most of the other things which probably rot children’s brains.
    Though this does remind me of a few years ago when some parents called Sesame Street too dark so I figure this is less a reflection on fairy tales then it is on parents trying to pretend that their children will never have to deal with life, that Grandparents, dogs, friends, and so forth will never be injured or die. That way the kids can be surprised when it does happen.

    • Amanda says:

      I completely agree! I love Disney’s movies, but also want to expose my children to more classic tales in the future, as well. Why shield children from anything dark when they are going to be thrust into reality at some point. We can’t hide our kids forever, and allowing them to see the moral in fairy tales is a great way to establish some of the issues that life will throw their way.

      I will definitely check out your book! Thanks for pointing me in that direction!

  6. Nukiuk says:

    Hello,

    I’m a folklorist who has put together a children’s book of fairy tales about fairies and I was wondering if given your interest in fairy tale you’d be interested in doing a review. My book is available as a free ebook at http://zeluna.net/fairies/, http://zeluna.net/fairies/talesoffairies.pdf.

    Thanks

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