The fairytale is often an entertaining story of miraculous and supernatural happenings. Its purpose is to galvanize the depths of our minds in such a way as to make us a part of the landscape, bound only by the limits of our own imaginations. However, it is this very ‘free-for-all’ fantasy land that poses a very real threat to its intended audience – children. Both traditional and contemporary fairytales experienced by children can have harmful effects on a child’s psyche. This is especially true when children are exposed to these fairytales during the early stages of psychological development.
When do we most often expose children to the fairytale? More likely than not, we use the tales to ‘comfort’ our children, perhaps to calm them down, in the form of bedtime stories. But, have you ever really thought about the messages we give to a child through the words of these fairytales? ‘Snow White’ advocates divorce and black magic. There’s justified homicide and cannibalism in ‘Hansel & Gretel’, mass murder in ‘Blue Beard’, as well as betrayal and pre-meditated murder in the ‘Lion King’. Is it any wonder, then, that the child comes running or sits screaming and crying because he’s afraid to be baked in the oven - or maybe he feared that since Cruella DeVille is so persistent to skin those little puppies, that she might be apt to do the same to little boys! We try to reassure them that it was just a fairytale – that it was just make-believe. But how can we expect a child to take our word that it’s not real? Especially since we constantly portray ourselves as hypocrites when we threaten that we will “get the boogie man after you if you don’t eat all of your peas, young man!”
Since the early 19th century, many fairytales have been the center of stark criticism causing heated discussion among the world’s leading personalities of the time. Each having opposing views, Dr. Karl Oppel, a German psychologist, and Dr. Bruno Bettelheim, a child psychologist from the United States, were two of the most voiced fairytale experts. Though theses two men were three generations from each other, Dr. Bettelheim drew most of his protests from Dr. Oppel’s most publicized findings and opinions in a 1903 debate. In his book, The Parent’s Book:...
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... of 11 or 12, then should he decide to experience the numerous fairytales available, that right would be his. I feel however, that in this case, the child will see how silly and strange the stories are and would dismiss the tales. In any case, the fairytales would be taken as just that…a fairytale.
Brice, Sandra P. “Child Psychology 101.” Pullox Press. London.1996.73-75
Bettelhiem, Bruno Dr. “The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales.” Alfred A Knopf, Inc. New York. 1975. 9, 117, 123-135.
Dion, Celine. “Le Fils de Superman.” Dion Chante Plamondon. CD. Sony 1991.
King, Stephen. “Now You Take Bambi or Snow White – That’s Scary!” Elements of Literature(fouth course). Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. Austin. 1997. 483.
Nakayama, Rie. “Our World: Part Seven.” 1998 URL:<a href="http://www.netlaputa.ne.jp/~gaigo/ourworld98p7.htm">http://www.netlaputa.ne.jp/~gaigo/ourworld98p7.htm
Oppel, Karl Dr. “Should children be told fairy tales?” Summer 1998. URL:<a href="http://www.socsci.kun.nl/ped/wbp/histeduc/disc01.html">http://www.socsci.kun.nl/ped/wbp/histeduc/disc01.html
Simpson, Erik. “Re: Blue Beard.” E-mail. 7 February 2001.
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