Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Happily Ever After? Yeah-Good Luck with That.

The kids’ school here has an excellent library. Supposedly it is the best children’s collection in all of South America. And the kids get to use it a lot; they go at least twice a week and sometimes 3 times a week to check out new books to bring home. Today Juan Carlos (4 years old) brought home “Hansel and Gretel”.

When I saw it I gave him the Brazilian thumbs up and thought, “Cool-what a fun story!”

OK. Have you read the story of Hansel and Gretel lately?

It is disturbing with a Capital "D".

Disturbing Part #1
Right off the bat we’ve got the wicked step-mother’s solution to their lack of funds: just “ditch the kids in the woods” (Juan Carlos won't be letting go of my leg at the beach anytime soon.)

DP #2
The father agrees with, and helps execute, this plan. (Show some spine man!)

DP #3
The cannibal witch is planning to EAT them. (Can this get any scarier for a little kid?)

Said witch puts Hansel in a cage for apparently several days at least… (Good times, good times)

…And makes Gretel slave away in the kitchen preparing food to fatten up her soon-to-be-food brother. (this has got to be more than a little girl can handle-both the cooking and the guilt)

Poor, sweet, innocent Gretel ends up KILLING the witch by pushing her into a stove and shutting the door. (Have fun carrying around that baggage the rest of your life, Gretel.)

Our hero and heroine loot the home of the witch (OK, so this isn't really scary, but is it really a message we want to instill in our innocent youth?).

DP #8
They run back into the arms of their father who got them in this predicament in the first place. (Does anyone else feel so sad for those kids at this point?)

And supposedly they live “happily ever after”?

It’s a good thing they took the loot because there’re certainly going to need it to pay for all of the therapy.

Whew! So why did I have fond, happy memories of this story? What’s changed? Is it because I am a parent now and the thought of hungry children lost in the woods is very unsettling? Or because there are such heinous crimes these days that it sounds more like a CSI plot than a so-far-fetched-it’s-ridiculous fairy tale? I’m thinking maybe my sweet-toothed-self focused in on the gingerbread house and unlimited goodies the kids were allowed to eat and blocked out all the scariness.

I don’t know. Does this story bother anyone else, or am I nuts?

P.S. Just so you know- I am not one of those people who's anti-fairy-tale. I think I might just be anti-Hansel-and-Gretel. Or maybe just really, really tired.


Janice said...

A lot of those Fairy Tales are scary. Even the song, "Rock A Bye Baby" is bad--"When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall and down will come baby, cradle and all." Yep. Great stuff Grim!

Super Happy Girl said...

I think that as a kid I thought it was a bit weird that the parents worked so hard at getting rid of the kids...but then again, I used to watch Bugs Bunny cartoons, which now I see are not only violent but have really weird messages (suicide, cross-dressing come to mind).
A lot of those fairy tales are very creepy. I agree with you, I'm not anti-fairy tale but c'mon, those are nightmare inducing.

Anonymous said...

I agree. I think that I subconciously steered away from reading our "traditional" fairy tales to my kids for this reason. I got as far as the Three Little Pigs with my eldest and decided that it's too violent for a toddler! I've been making up stories since they were little. I don't know if I am alienating my kids for later on from their lack of fairy tale knowledge but they are creepy (esp H & G ).

You are absolutely right! As a kid, all I saw was the gingerbread house. But when I became a parent, my mindset changed into "where's the evil/danger in this situation". Oh well.....

nikko said...

A lot of those "fairy tales" are pretty warped and violent. My kids don't really know many of them, and I'm fine with it. I think we have a copy of the Three Billy Goats Gruff and the Three Little Pigs, but that's about it.

Lei said...

It's a wonder our generation isn't more messed up than it is! Lol!

Sketchy said...

I think as a kid you see it as kids overcome all and your parents really do love you even if they are after all spineless jerks.

As a parent, yeah, different story all together.

Anonymous said...

The Grimm brothers traveled around Germany and collected stories from different parts of Germany which became known as Grimm's tales. The original forms are very gruesome and graphic. Juan Carlos picked up an uneditted version. They were originally intended for adults, morality tales, and eventually became associated with children, primarily to scare them into doing the right things. This all took place in the early 1800's. Then in the mid 1900's Walt Disney had this dream. He is, I believe, the person most directly responsible for transforming these stories into the soft fluffy, feel good stories I grew up with.

Unknown said...

Wow, I forgot about this story and it is proving to be a good thing! I'm sure as parents we are more aware of the disturbing parts than our children, but why take that chance??

momofalltrades said...

Dude, your anonymous poster is right...up to a point. Walt Disney came far short of getting objectionable content out. Think about it, Cinderella? Evil Step-mother. Little Mermaid? Kid ignores her dad and lives happily ever after...not to mention all the symbolism hidden within. Snow White? Evil Step-mother. Aladin? Ignoring dad...where's mom? Did Walt kill her off too and some editor decided the pattern was too revealing? MANY Disney shows on Disney channel revolve primarily around children not respecting their parents and being portrayed as knowing better than their parents. And what are my kids watching right now? The Suite Life of Zach and Cody. It's a conspiracy. LOL

Bright One said...

I don't think I ever really read a lot of traditional fairy tales to my kids....and to tell you the truth I don't think I really thought about this story as much until you re-told it! (How SAD is that!) My grandma used to sing a song to us called "Two Babes in the Woods" When I sang it to my kids they cried!

Oh don't you remember a long time ago,
There were two little babies their names I don't know
They were stolen away, on a bright summer day
And lost in the woods I've heard people say
And when it was night, so sad was their plight
The sun it went down and the moon gave no light
They sobbed and they sighed, and they bitterly cried, poor babes in the woods, they lay down and died.
And when they were dead
the robins so red
Brought strawberry leaves and over
them spread
And all the day long
They sang them this song
Poor Babes in the Woods, Poor babes in the woods!

Now that's creepy but I used to beg grandma for it and my kids all had it memorized by the time they were three. I can't explain it.....just disturbing now that you think of it!

Kristine said...

And they are "classics", right?
Doesn't it make you wonder what the writers had in mind?
Interesting information from your other commenters...I've learned something about fairy tales today.

Blackeyedsue said...

Whoa! I haven't read Hansel and Gretel to my kids. I don't think I will be anytime soon. If I ask them to help in the kitchen, they may think I am up to something. I don't want to be harmed in my sleep.

Nettie said...

I think the appeal of scary fairy tales to kids is that they bring out the fears that the kids already are thinking about in their heads. So, when Hansel and Gretal manage to defeat the cannibalistic witch, they feel empowered to defeat their own fears. Well, that's my humble theory.

I have to say I am glad there is so many more non-scary storybooks out there than when I was a child!

Special K ~Toni said...

This is why we behaved so well as children- we feared what our parents would do to us! ;)