The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: Politically Incorrect Fairy Tales

Friday, November 25, 2011

Politically Incorrect Fairy Tales

I've never been a proponent of fairy tales and nursery rhymes (Down will come come baby cradle and all - really, folks?), so when I found this marvelous tongue-in-cheek analysis of common fairy tales at, I had to share their thoughts on my blog.  The message is strong: When you read to your children or students, make sure you help them understand about sexism, ageism, sizeism, and any other assorted forms of discrimination that you find.

The famous fables and fairy tales that earlier generations of children grew up with are being re-written or are completely falling out of favor with those who aspire to “Political Correctness”. What people don’t realize is that many of these tales have been “sanitized” repeatedly over the years, having started as truly gruesome stories. In early versions of the “Cinderella” tale, the two cruel sisters mutilated themselves in order to fit into the slipper, and the two of them ended up as blind beggars when birds pecked out their eyes.

Most stories and lore evolve over time, and fairy tales are no different. Here are some examples of old stories that have come under the modern microscope.
  1. Rapunzel – This grim tale from the brothers Grimm is too dark, say many people today. They point out that this story contains violent imagery, blatant sexism, and criminal child abuse. Imagine, a little girl being given up for adoption by thieving parents, only to find that the poor child is then placed in solitary confinement, and only a man can save her.
  2. Cinderella – In a corrected version, Cinderella might not be burdened by cruel sisters and the sexist drudgery of menial housework. Instead, she might end up stuck in a dead-end office job, just like everyone else.
  3. Goldilocks and the Three Bears – Another potential “Amber Alert” situation, though there does not appear to be any great hue-and-cry over a missing girl’s whereabouts. Didn’t anyone in the olden days have any parents (historical note: when some of these tales were first written, life-expectancies were only in the 30s, so there probably were a lot of parent-less children)?
  4. Jack and the Beanstalk – Why is it never “Jane and the Beanstalk”? Well, it is probably just as well. Jack turns out to be a little thief who doesn’t follow his mother’s instructions very well. He steals from an ogre, and then kills the poor guy to boot. In today’s version, Jack might have just gone out to get a job so he could help his poor mom out, and he certainly wouldn’t have jeopardized his future by stooping to thievery and murder.
  5. Sleeping Beauty – Another motherless story, this one also involves probable nudity. When the king forbade the spinning of all materials in order to thwart a witches curse, the realm probably ran out of clothing for the citizenry. This is another one where it’s a guy rescuing a girl in trouble, instead of maybe the other way around.
  6. Hansel and Gretel – Wrong in so many ways, this tale involves child-abuse, spousal abuse, inhumane treatment of captives and poor nutrition. The modern version might have the cottage windows made of Splenda rather than clear sugar.
  7. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – The term “dwarf” has come under fire in recent years, but “Frozen Caucasian Water and the Seven Altitude Challenged People” isn’t a title the folks over in Marketing are looking for.
  8. Red Riding Hood – “Sam ‘The Sham’ and the Pharaohs” admonished Red, singing that she shouldn’t “. . .go walking in these spooky old woods alone”. Good advice for a small child who was sent, unattended by a parent, to visit an aging relative who was probably in need of 24-hour in-home care. Of course, there is also the wolf, a stalker and an abuser of the elderly.
  9. The Pied Piper – The Piper of the tale was obviously a cult-leader who had lured not only the rats, but also the children of the beleaguered township of Hamelin. The Pied Piper obviously had anger-management issues, which might have been addressed with classes and counseling in a modern version of the story.
  10. The Emperor’s New Clothes – This tale has a pair of swindling tailors hoodwinking a vain emperor into thinking that the “nothing” they have made for him is a fine suit of clothing. A little kid busts the scam wide open, but the emperor is held out as the selfish patriarch that he is.
Almost every story has elements that may not suit future generations. Who knows, in a few hundred years, Cinderella’s step-sisters may turn out to be kind and gentle care-givers.

Happy Parenting and Happy Teaching!

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