“Do you mean Pirates of the Caribbean or Beverly Hills Chihuahua?” asked Simplia.
“Neither. This writer is talking about Snow White and Rapunzel and Belle from ‘Beauty and the Beast.’”
“Right here,” said Sagacia, tilting her Kindle in Simplia’s direction. “Libby Copeland in Slate magazine. She says she doesn’t want to read fairy tales to her 2 1/2-year-old daughter.”
“Isn’t that a little young for fairy tales?” asked Simplia.
“Indeed,” said Sagacia, “And she actually agrees with you–based on personal experience! I was thinking that what she has to say feeds into that question someone sent to our syndicated Dear Vasalisa the Wise column last week. Remember? About the teacher who thought fairy tales were too adult for her 6th graders, and the producer who thought they were too unsophisticated for her adult listeners? That letter from At A Loss in Altoona?
“Which reminds me: has the postman come yet today?” she added. “Will you check, Simplia, Dear?”
“Hmmph! ‘Simplia, Dear!’” Simplia thought to herself as she stomped to the stoop. She opened the door just as Courier Hedgehog’s magic carpet came to a landing on the walk.
“Here you go,” he chirped, handing her a package and a handful of letters and leaping back onto his transport.
“Thanks!” Simplia said. She walked back into the parlor. “Two for Vasilisa, and…”
“..And that must be my copy of Aus der Oberpfalz – Sitten und Sagen,” Sagacia exclaimed, leaping from her chair.
Simplia handed over the package and broke the seal on one of the letters. “Listen to this,” she said. “It’s from Fairy Bard.”
As a storyteller, the idea that fairy tales are being considered too scary to tell children (especially twelve year olds!) is scary to me. Without knowing their fairy tales these kids will grow up not understanding important cultural references – and fairy tales are used to convey messages and open discussions everywhere (just look at the recent open journalism ad from the Guardian.) Not to mention missing out on an endlessly rich resource of wisdom, insight and guidance.
As a folklorist, I fight to reclaim fairy tales for adult audiences – as they were originally meant. Before all the spice was taken out and they were sugar coated, fairy tales were very adult and most adult audiences are fascinated to hear those early (or renewed) versions.
To the teacher I would say this: Children experience dysfunction, abandonment and insensitivity, whether you coddle them or not, and fairy tales offer a safe place for them to explore these issues in depth. G.K. Chesterton said it best “Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
To the producer I would say: When was the last time you heard a fairy tale?
I think these powerful magical stories are starting to reclaim their place. So I suggest you find another teacher and another producer and wow your young and old audiences!
“We do need to send that to At A Loss!” agreed Sagacia.
She had the string and paper off the box and when she opened it, the book plunked right out onto the chesterfield.
“What?” she exclaimed, flipping through the pages. “The whole thing is in German! Ach du lieber! Five hundred new fairy tales, and I can’t read them!”
“Then read this!” Simplia admonished, handing her a letter from Tarkabarka.
Sagacia put down her book, sighed, and picked up the letter. Her eyes jumped to the line…
Any child who only finds out about family problems from a fairy tale is EXTREMELY lucky. Let’s leave it at that.
She read it again, aloud, to Simplia.
“If only it were not so!” Simplia agreed. She leaned across to see Tarkabarka’s letter for herself and what caught her eye was,
…when people complain about the genre of the stories I tell – I tell them anyway. Because 99% of people can’t tell Grimm apart from Andersen, and that’s the least of their problems. Tell them fairy tales, and they won’t even notice.
“If only that were not so,” Sagacia exclaimed. “Most don’t know one kind of tale from another,” she sighed, her glance falling to her new book. “Especially if they are in a language they don’t even speak!”
Simplia scooted nearer and gave her friend’s shoulder a comforting squeeze. “There, there,” she said. “Say, I have an idea! How would you like to walk over to the Fairy Tale Lobby and see if some of our magical friends are there discussing At-A-Loss’s Letter!”
“Yes!” Sagacia responded brightly. “Where’s my linsey-woolsey jacket?”