Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Children and Fairy Tale Monsters

I was sorting through my favorite quotes tonight, and this one floated to the top:

"Fairy tales don't teach children that monsters exist. Children already know that monsters exist. Fairy tales teach children that monsters can be killed" - G K. Chesterton

I am reminded of the hours spent reading stories of the brothers Grimm , Hans Christian Anderson and Aesop . I remember well my budding political awakening as I realized that Aesop's moral tales could reverse themselves depending on circumstance. At twelve, I realized I was reading a court advisor! I'd think we had done our children a disfavor by sanitizing these old tales; with poisoned apples, imprisonments and beheaded trolls, but then I realized we now have video action games that do the same thing.

I think also of what I've seen in my years as a Sunday School teacher, as toddlers mature to school age. The little children are not quite sure about the shadows behind the puppet. Is it real or not? But by about four or five, the children are well in on the joke and readily approach mascots, puppets, santas, clowns, and other imaginary monsters we foist on our children for entertainment.

Don't be fooled, our children are sophisticated social beings. They know a tall tale when they hear one. The longevity of our tall tales through the ages suggests that our children need to hear them, if only to suggest, by proxy, that the scary adult world can be navigated with wit and spunk.