The oral tradition of the fairy tale
has been told since before the written page existed. The idea of stories about
fantastic forces and beings (such as fairies, wizards, and goblins), has been
instilled in us since we were children. Through these tales we have been able
to imagine, think and do the impossible. The world becomes a much more
delightful, positive and hopeful place when we believe in the logic of fairy tales.
Which little girl doesn’t dream about being Cinderella? Or conquering the
wicked witch? However there are those who feel fairy tales should remain what
they are- tales that exist only between fairies (which are non-existent).
Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist, feels that fairy tales are rather
pernicious to inculcate into a child as it creates a view of supernaturalism of
the world; also 1 in 5 parents have
decided to stop telling their children fairy tales in favour of stories that
are more modern. Many parents feel that fairy tales cause children to ask too
many questions that they are not ready to answer. They are encouraging harmful
sexist ideals for instance. Although I can very much understand these views, I
cannot see how they justify fairy tales being described as harmful to children.
For starters, fairy tales teach
children critical thinking skills. They see the consequences of characters’
decisions and learn what will happen to them as a result of the choices they
make. It is true that not all characters can be virtuous, even the “good guys”
can make questionable decisions. However the stories do teach an inevitable
motto of life, “There is a consequence for every action.” In addition more and
more children are noticing the trend of fairy tale princesses being rescued by
their handsome princes. The stereotypical attribute associated with fairy tales
is changing, and different versions are being told to suit our modern society.
Disney is a huge example of the way fairytales being told are changing. Films
like, “Frozen,” (Disney’s mega box office hit film) are not typical fairy tales,
where a flaky princess eventually marries her heroic prince. Instead it deals
with the sisterly bond between two women and how believing in yourself can help
you do the unthinkable. This is a lesson I am sure that every parent wants
children to learn. It’s in the DNA of a fairy tale to have a strong moral
lesson, a fight between good and evil, love and loss, these lessons rub off on
Nevertheless there are some who
would say that sexist values are being embedded in children at a young age due
to telling fairy tales. Stories like, “Cinderella,” keep being remade and
retold over and over again with the same principles: The prince rescues her and
everyone around her is evil- her stepmother and her stepsiblings. Cinderella
for some reason couldn’t get out of her uneasy predicament herself. She always
needs the help of a man. 52 per cent of parents say the story of
“Cinderella,”does not send a good message to their children as it portrays a
young woman doing housework all day and showing no signs of helping herself.
Also it suggests that the only way a young girl can find happiness is to find
and marry a high-status, conventionally attractive, masculine man like the
princes in fairy tales. In Fairy tales like, “Beauty and the Beast,””Snow
White” and “Rapunzel,” the princesses were not going to change their situation
until a man entered their life. Also, in most fairy tales, there are no
supportive women to turn to. Instead, fairy tale characters who are female are
in competition, whether for things like the prince in “Cinderella” or
the title of “fairest of them all” in “Snow White.” This
relates to life as it suggests that women are a threat to one another and men
are the only people who can offer anything positive to a woman’s life. Some
would argue that fairy tales are raising girls to see each other as competitors
— not for jobs or for accomplishments- but for the attention of men.
was widely reported as suggesting that
reading fairy tales encouraged children to believe too much in the supernatural.
The Telegraph quoted him telling the Cheltenham Science Festival: “Is it a
good thing to go along with the fantasies of childhood, magical as they are? Or
should we be fostering a spirit of scepticism?” But is it true? Are fairy tales
encouraging children to believe more in fiction than fact? According to Yougov,
34% of British children believe in the supernatural and this number is
increasing, causing parents to worry when being approached with questions to do
with the supernatural. Most feel that their children are drifting away from
reality and are choosing to stay in a fantasy world. The older children get,
the harder it is to accept that life isn’t a fairy tale. That imagination is
stopping children from growing up.
However on the other hand one must
understand that a child’s imagination is a powerful and unique gift.
Imagination is a key factor in creative thoughts and can define the type of
education, career and life a child could have. Imaginations’ main fuel is fairy
tales and by filling this at a young age, a child can develop into a positive
human being. Fairy tales also teach about cultural differences in the world,
gifting children with a curiosity to learn new things and experience new
places. Fairy tales teach children that good always
wins and, while this may not be true in many aspects of the real world, this
lesson is important. Be the hero, not the villain. Learn to hope for better. Fairy
tales do not only inspire kids to make moral decisions and become positive
members of society, they teach them to deal with the conflict within
themselves. Many psychologists highlight the importance of fairy tales in
childhood, most believe that “fairy tales can aid children in dealing with
anxiety.” In fairy tales children are the main characters and will always win
against the leading villain. Children are able to relate to fairy tales and
find a fairy tale hero in themselves.
Overall I believe that fairy tales
are important for a child’s development. They lead to children with good critical
reasoning skills and imagination. Children are able to tell the difference
between what is right and wrong. To say fairy tales are harmful and should not
be told to children would be disrupting the way things have been done for
centuries. The oral tradition of the fairy tale has been told since before the
written page, it can’t stop now.