The Oddity Of Fairy Tales

Lately, I was invited to dinner at a friends’ house. Dinner was at 8 pm, and before dinner, she made sure her kids were in bed. She’s an amazing mother and told me, after their good night story they fell asleep quite quickly.

When I hear “good night story,” all alarms are ringing and shrilling in my head, remembering the stories I heard when I was a kid. So I asked her if she tells her kids Grimm’s fairy tales. Her facial expression was priceless. She swallowed her food and asked back: “Do I look sadistic?” I had to laugh… To us, this subject was over and out.

But in my head, I tried to recap what I remember from the fairy tales our parents read to us when we were little.

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The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids

Picture courtesy of: http://www.goethezeitportal.de

The wolf not only threatens the seven little goats but also eats six of them alive since the youngest could get away and tell their mother what happened. The mother grieved but then got the wolf who was too full to do much. While he was sleeping she cut his stomach open and let her six kids out (who were alive!), filled his belly with stones, stitched him up and he drowned when he wanted to drink. – What a happy end.

Holy Smokes: One wolf, swallowing six young goats – whole?

He doesn’t wake up when he’s cut open? And wolves are dangerous. I know, it’s a fairy tale and no reality show.

But hell we were scared to death from wolves. (And for some reason I don’t like goats either – I think they’re kind of dumb, standing there in a row waiting until the wolf swallowed the brother is a little weird). I can’t help myself, to me this doesn’t make sense.

 

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Little Red Riding Hood

Picture courtesy of: http://www.google.com

The girl’s grandmother lives in the woods, right? And she’s sick. What daughter leaves her sick mother in some wooden box out in the forest? And not only that: She sends her young daughter all by herself to visit her grandmother and bring her food! And a wolf eats an entire grandmother. Hungry Beast.
A mother who knows this is a deep dark forest, and there are all kinds of animals and seriously? You are sending your kid out there, all by yourself?

Are you out of your mind?

Worse is that there are mothers telling their kids this fairy tale. Why? In preparation of sending them around, all by themselves? GREAT!

 

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Hansel and Gretel

Picture courtesy of: http://www.goethezeitportal.de

Dear parents, think about it – do you ever want to tell your kids that you could be too poor to feed them? With this fairy tale, you more or less inform them that, in case money gets rare it could happen you’ll take them into the deepest forest and leave them there!

Additionally, you do tell them that there are really, REALLY ugly old women practicing black magic and threaten to stuff them in preparation to enjoy them as a meal! (I wonder why only the boys, but that’s a detail).

Be prepared that kids think about all kinds of things and the thought will occur that you might not wait until money is rare but try to get rid of them the next chance.

What should I say? At least this time there’s no wolf involved.

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Little Brother and Little Sister

Picture courtesy of: http://www.goethezeitportal.de

This is probably one of the weirdest fairy tales existing. Siblings who escape from their stepmother and ugly step-sister because they are fed poorly. They run away and go into hiding. Unfortunately, the stepmother has overheard their plans of running away and, being a witch, has bewitched all water holes in the forest. Soon the brother drinks from one and turns into a deer. You get the feeling they’re like six and seven years old when they take off.

But with what happens then I have to admit, I must have been wrong.

The king goes hunting and when the deer/brother hears that he wants to go out. (why in all the world is this dummy going outside in hunting season?) – However, the third day the wounded brother runs back to the hut they’re hiding, followed by the king, who sees the sister, falls in love within a Nano-second and gets married to her.

And then, two sentences later she all of a sudden becomes a mother, then ill, and then stepmother and stepsister become involved again somehow – until the happy end.

Which means, when the siblings took off, they must have been far over 17. And they can’t feed themselves? In the woods, they live off nuts and berries, and there it works? And she says yes to a man who just walked in the door for the first time? She must have been really hungry.

I wouldn’t want to tell this fairy tale to a child. It’s odd and confusing and doesn’t make the slightest sense.

But again: At least this time there’s no wolf involved.

 

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Sleeping Beauty

Picture courtesy of: http://www.google.com

A young princess who had a bad fairy wishing her that she’d die when turning sixteen, by stinging herself on a golden spindle. Three other fairies, the good ones, can turn death into a 100-year-sleep. That spell can only be broken by either the 100 years or a kiss of true love.

So far so good.

Now: be realistic, a spindle belongs to a spinning wheel. When in all the world does a princess EVER get close to a spinning wheel? She’s a princess; she’s got nothing to do there. For a while I considered my mother planned to sell me as a slave to a wool company. But at the time I grew up machines had largely replaced the common spinning wheel I doubt I was in real danger.

I was told that this poor girl, turning sixteen, fell asleep for – forever. And the castle was closed down and locked in by thorn bushes. Many men have cut and stung themselves to death by trying to get through and to the princess.

No wonder I’m completely screwed up when it comes to men! When hearing this fairy tale, I must have gotten the impression a man would give his life to get to a woman. I could think a guy would really fighting his way through thorn bushes but losing his life trying. And then I thought a man is walking into a room seeing a woman sleeping there and kissing her awake could really offer her a kiss of true love!? No wonder I got a completely surrealistic ‘enemy-image.’

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Cinderella

Picture courtesy of: http://www.google.com

Even when I was little, I had problems to believe parts of that story. A fairy? Birds? Doves? A tree? Gold and silver? And how on Earth can anyone walk in a glass shoe?

To match the shoe, both stepsisters cut parts of their feet off. I mean: can anyone really be this hell-bent on getting a prince? (Let’s say: remember Prince Charles? Thinking about him really make me feel the need of cutting of something – but I guarantee, that aren’t parts of me.) And how can any mother tell her little daughter that there are women cutting parts of their own body off to get married? Would I consider this teaching your little girl the total self-abandonment?

I’m not really sure where this story came from, but it seemed around the time brothers Grimm were alive, women did whatever necessary to lay hands on a man.

A very similar fairy tale exists in the Czech Republic, Tři oříšky pro Popelku (Three hazelnuts for Cinderella), written originally by Božena Němcová. In the 70s this fairy tale was turned into a movie, and I like it by far better than the Grimm-version. And just in case you’re curious: It does exist in English and does not scare children to death. Just click here

 

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Snow White

Picture courtesy of: http://www.goethezeitportal.de

A poor princess girl, treated badly? – Check. A bad, horrible stepmother being a terrible witch and queen? – Check. Magic? – Check. A prince trying to save the princess? – Check. All there for a horribly great fairy tale. I just think there are a few odd things in this story. Let’s start with the name of the main character. Who in all the world names her daughter “Snow White”? That’s not a name; it’s a color.

Second: The description of the princess: skin as white as snow, hair as black as ebony, lips as red as rose. This description scared me as a child already! It’s unnatural. Nowadays I suspect the girl must have been a vampire. But that’s only a detail. (The story does not say she sparkled in the sun though.)
Third: You tell your kid about that poisonous fruit, and you guarantee your daughter or son are making sure they steer clear of apples from that moment on. – Hey – you never know, right?

And last but not least: Are you going to tell your child it’s not only ‘okay’ to run off from home, but then you move in with seven single guys? Nice role model, I have to say.

 

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I know there are so many more fairy tales. But I figure I just picked the best known here not to end up writing a 6 feet blog post.

Are there any oddities in fairy tales you know – or heard as a child? Please, share them with us.

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Modernizing Brother Grimm’s Fairy Tales

Today I’ve been cleaning and found an old book with Grimm’s fairy tales, a memory of my childhood. I opened it and read a bit, trying to remember each fairy tale.

 

Later while continuing to clean up I was trying to figure out whether these fairy tales still would work with today’s children. And I concluded with a clear “no”.

Why not?

Well, because of today’s children and their attitude, technical progress, beauty makeovers etc.

 

  

Let me explain: 

Hansel and Gretel find themselves in the middle of a forest with no cell phones and GPS and are stumbling around. Do you actually believe they’d get trapped in a gingerbread house? I personally would expect they’d rather be tempted by a drive-in with burgers and fries.

 

Or Red Riding Hood? Helloooo!! Mom asks: “Please, daughter, go and bring your sick grandma that cake and wine.” The girl would answer: “No way, Mom. I’ve got a Facebook Party this afternoon.”

The poor wolf is very likely to wait forever…

Nowadays Teenagers don’t move their butt anymore to visit their grandmother (unless to get money for their latest iTunes-order… but that’s another story…)

 

How about Rapunzel? The prince climbing up to her would fall down and break his neck. Why? She’s got extensions…

 

The Sleeping Beauty? She’s sleeping for years! I doubt a prince would take the effort and fight through everything protecting her just for a kiss? I don’t think so. Not after he’s got dating sites to get his dream girl. I guess it’s more likely the IRS is kissing her awake to ask why she stopped paying taxes!

 

I really like the idea of modernizing Grimm’s fairy tales somehow. Any ideas? Let me hear them, please.