Are classic fairy tales too scary? Some parents say yes

March 7, 2012

The Huffington Post reports that some parents are chucking fairy tales altogether, says a new study conducted by British TV channel, Watch.

“The Daily Mail reports that some of the books most commonly left on the shelves include Rumpelstiltskin and Rapunzel because kidnapping is the centerpiece of their storylines. And, Little Red Riding Hood — that Big Bad Wolf is too gruesome when he gobbles up Red’s grandma. A staggering one-third of parents reported that their children were actually brought to tears by the scene.

“This year’s rash of television series and movies riffing on fairy tales further supports them being more grown-up than kid-friendly. The police procedural drama “Grimm,” which premiered this season on NBC, centers each of its eerie episodes on a different Brothers Grimm story, and last year’s PG-13 “Red Riding Hood” brought a similarly dark tone to the big screen. This spring’s “Snow White and the Huntsman” and “Mirror, Mirror,” also seem to be geared toward more adult audiences.

“There has been a move toward seeing fairy tales as an adult, or at any rate, a young adult dark sort of genre,” children’s author Diane Purkiss told the BBC. “In the past, fairy tales were told by adults to adults, in William Shakespeare’s time. It’s only in the Victorian era that they’ve become moral children’s tales and it looks like we’re going back to the inception of fairy stories now with a more adult take on them.”

“Yet, as The Telegraph reported, parents aren’t turning down fairy tales just because they’re “scary.” Over 50 percent of parents surveyed said that they didn’t read their kids Cinderella because the heroine spends her days doing housework. Many felt that this theme of female domesticity didn’t send a good message. HuffPost blogger Amy Fox recently wrote about a Cinderella book that she wishes didn’t exist at all.

Other parents felt that many fairy tales simply brought up questions that they weren’t prepared to answer. Steve Hornsey, General Manager of Watch told The Telegraph: “As adults we can see the innocence in fairytales, but a five year old with an overactive imagination could take things too literally.”

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  • Michelle G

    We were discussing this very subject last night with regards to how scary story tales can be.

    I think to myself that I was brought up on these tales but reading them to my own kids, invokes serious concerns for me.

    Have you tried reading Hansel and Gretel of late? The evil step-mother, child abandonement, hunger, child slavery, cannibalism, murder …..not for the faint hearted and not what I will be reading to my kids in the forseeable future again.

    I dont know if you Tanya or any of the blog readers have ever read “The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christiann Andersen?

    It is beautifully written for that time, realistic of the circumstances that met most of the population (i.e. poverty) and is just the most moving and saddest children’s story I have ever read.

    I actually started crying while reading it to my daughter. While I enjoyed it for its symbolism I dont know if the story was a bit advanced for my daughter who was 4 years at the time. Death and heaven should never be shyed upon by parents with their kids but all within context and without opening a can of worms to have to explain to them.

    March 7, 2012 at 6:44 am Reply
    • Tanya

      I haven’t read it, but I’m going to do so. You’re right – some of these things aren’t for the fainthearted.

      March 7, 2012 at 7:11 am Reply
  • Michelle G

    Let me know when youre done Tanya!

    March 7, 2012 at 7:46 am Reply
  • Andrea

    “Happily ever after” is something every little girl wishes for, and often believes, I did, then reality kicked in!
    Load of croc I tell you…

    March 7, 2012 at 8:52 am Reply
  • Michelle G

    I agree with Andrea!

    Too often we romanticise life and expect it to have a wonderful ending when in fact we know it doesnt always happen that way or in a particular way.

    March 7, 2012 at 8:56 am Reply
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