8 Reasons Why Fairy Tales Are Essential to Childhood

Not everyone believes in the importance of fairy tales for kids. In fact, 25% of parents recently surveyed said they wouldn’t read fairy tales to a child under five years old because they didn’t teach a good lesson or were too scary. Many of you shared your opinion about this on Facebook and please comment here, too – I want to hear your thoughts!

The fairy tale survey, quoted in this UK’s Telegraph article shared the top ten fairy tales parents don’t read and why. Reading through the list of reasons, I can only conclude that these parents have lost their reasoning skills –completely. For example the reason not to read Goldilocks is that sends a message to steal. Hardly. If anything, the message is don’t break into houses because a family of bears might live there.

I want to look at why fairy tales are important for kids; why they’re essential stories for childhood.

8 reasons why fairy tales (the REAL ones) are essential to childhood

The Importance of Fairy Tales

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” 
― Albert Einstein

1. Fairy Tales Show Kids How to Handle Problems

We learn from the characters in stories, even as adults. They help us because we connect to our own lives, dreams, anxieties, and consider what we would do in their shoes. Fairy tales help children learn how to navigate life. (Bettelheim, B. Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales.)

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
― G.K. Chesterton

2. Fairy Tales Build Emotional Resiliency 

Fairy tales show real life issues in a fantastical scenario where most often the hero triumphs. (Except in Grimm originals.) Children need to discover in a safe environment that bad things happen to everyone. Because guess what? No one in life is immune from challenges — so we need to build capacity in our children. Do we build emotional muscles so our children can hang on during tough times or do we shelter our kids, protecting them, leaving them so weak they can’t handle anything requiring strength?

3. Fairy Tales Give Us a Common Language (Cultural Literacy & Canon)

Neil Gaiman writes, “We encounter fairytales as kids, in retellings or panto. We breathe them. We know how they go.”

4. Fairy Tales Cross Cultural Boundaries

Many cultures share common fairy tales like Cinderella, with their own cultural flavor. We read the versions and know we all share something important, the need to make sense of life with story, and the hope for good to triumph over evil.

5. Fairy Tales Teach Story

Fairy tales are understanding the basics of story — setting, characters, and plot (rising action, climax, and resolution) as well as the difference between fiction and non-fiction. Once a child understands story, it supports his ability to make predictions and comprehend other stories he’s reading.

6. Fairy Tales Develop a Child’s Imagination 
“When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking.”
― Albert Einstein

7. Fairy Tales Give Parents Opportunities to Teach Critical Thinking Skills

I absolutely hate Disney’s The Little Mermaid. A girl abandoning her life for a boy is rubbish and no kind of role model for my daughters. Even the original version shows a weak woman who dies for the man — I don’t like it. (But at least she suffers the consequences!)


It doesn’t mean I won’t let my kids read the mermaid story. Sheltering doesn’t give my kids critical thinking skills. Exposure and guided conversation does! (Maybe with a few groans from the peanut gallery.)

8. Fairy Tales Teach Lessons

Use fairy tales to teach morals and lessons. What can you learn from Goldilocks? How about Cinderella or Jack and the Beanstalk?

So, are fairy tales too scary for kids?


You need to consider a child’s age and developmental stage. We don’t read a two-year old the original Rapunzel where the prince is blinded and bloodied because the child won’t understand it anyway. Use your judgement as a parent. Let your children use their judgement, too — they’ll be able to say if they think the story is too scary or not.

You need to consider time of day to read the fairy tales. Perhaps some fairy tales aren’t meant to be bedtime stories. So, read them at lunch!

Just don’t ban fairy tales from your child’s life forever just because some are scary or politically incorrect. You can easily find modified  versions if that works better for your child and your family.

What are your thoughts about fairy tales?

What are your favorites?

“Though now we think of fairy tales as stories intended for very young children, this is a relatively modern idea. In the oral tradition, magical stories were enjoyed by listeners young and old alike, while literary fairy tales (including most of the tales that are best known today) were published primarily for adult readers until the 19th century.(complete:http://www.endicott-studio.com/gal/galWi…)”
― Terri Windling

Read more: Fairy Tales – Recommended Books and Activities, Writing Mixed Up Fairy Tales 


  1. Anne Moore says

    HAVE YOU READ ‘The Witch Must Die’. A wonderful book telling of the joys and uses of folk and fairy tales….original versions and Disnified versions! All have a purpose and a joy to them! Read Baba Yag; a Russian fairy story (one of my favourites!).

  2. Dawn says

    I love this article and completely agree! With that said I could really use some help finding books and age appropriate stories for my almost 4 year old… Can you help? Thanks!

  3. says

    Great thoughts, Melissa and I so agree.
    This Monday we had a princess and angel party at home and incorporated some fairy tale reading. It was super duper fun and at the same time some quiet moments of engrossed reading!
    I’ll be doing that post soon.

  4. says

    Hi Melissa,
    Totally agree with what you say here about the importance of Fairy Stories. It’s a ‘safe’ way to practice a fantastic range of life-skills. Emotionally: Empathy with the character’s journey, language to be able to talk about their own feelings, so Self-Expression. Intellectually, visualise and follow something that is not in their concrete world. Spiritually/Morally looking at the choices the characters make… It’s powerful stuff!! What’s great is that as well as being ‘good for them’ it’s low cost, fun and can be a lovely sharing, connecting experience! Thanks for this great reminder :-)

  5. says

    Horaay, someone who thinks the same as me! I was so saddened to hear the negative comments about parents not sharing traditional fairytales with their youngsters. It kind of rubbished my upbringing and that of my childrens younger days as that was what I read to them too. Thank you for re- enforcing how brilliant Fairytales are!

    Tracy Roberts

  6. says

    What a travesty that the richness and magic that we were surrounded with is being denied to generations of children. Through them children learn about the power of good over evil, morality, tolerance of other cultures. Most of all fairy tales teach about hope, They also teach although life is full of difficulties and challenges , good people with good intentions do make it through.
    In a world where we are surrounded by hopelessness and violence surely these wonderful stories that have stood the test of time should be relished by young and old. Time to encourage children to value their imagination and belief that magic can and does happen. They will need those skills throughout their lives if they are to be resilient human beings who care for all creatures great and small.

  7. Windy says

    Yes! Fairy tales have so much potential to teach young children, especially when a conscientious parent or teacher is there to guide it. I like how multiple versions of fairy tales are readily available now. It’s fun to compare and contrast them with students.

  8. says

    I think fairy tales are a great way to introduce children to story and imaginary worlds. My kids loved them, especially myths from other cultures. One cautionary note is to watch out for the ones where girls are saved by a man. Most of the Disney adopted stories fall into this category and they can collectively send the wrong message to little girls. My daughter and I loved a chapter book called The Ugly Princess and the Wise Fool by Margaret Gray. It’s a story about a princess who was born “not beautiful . . . [nor] even remotely pretty.” The kingdom is in shock but everyone comes to adore the buck-toothed princess and she accepts her appearance until the handsomest prince in the world comes looking for a pride. This book turns the traditional fairy tale princess plot on its head when the princess gets her wish for beauty and then regrets her choice. Highly recommend it!

  9. says

    Absolutely. I’m always on the look out for great non-western culture stories. It’s interesting to hear the different messages shared in myths and legends from Asian, American Indian and other cultures.

  10. says

    I love this article! I completely agree that we should be reading fairy tales to our children. I learned in a psychology class that it is okay for children to be scared at a young age, when it’s age-appropriate content (read: no chainsaw massacres for 5 yr olds), and they are in a safe environment. It stimulates their brain, and they learn to recognize and regulate the emotions associated with fear in a healthy way. Parents can be far too overprotective, which I fully understand, but we’ve got to let our kids experience things! Obviously, if your kid is overly sensitive, or they get so scared they start crying, then maybe back off on the fairy tales, but not as a rule!

    Thanks for writing this.


  11. says

    Thank you Melissa. I have a 3 1/2 year old who loves dressing up as Disney princesses, loves to play with her Snow White figures and Little Mermaid toys but is absolutely petrified of the villains in all the stories. She will not watch them on DVD and we had a stand off at the Christmas pantomime when she refused to even enter the theatre to see Snow White because of the evil queen, and £25 of tickets went down the drain. (not a happy mummy!)

    So I have come close to throwing out the fairy tale books from our house, worrying about nightmares and emotional damage to my precious girl, but my husband and yourself have convinced me to stick with it. We don’t watch the movies or listen to the story tapes (scary music, scary scenes, scary voices), but we do continue to read the books, and play princesses. And yes, I do now think it is good to teach children that bad people do exist, bad things do happen, but that good does too, and that good triumphs over evil… making sure of course that she is protected from too much fear and heartache.

    • says

      I hear you, Hazel — my kids got scared at Disney on Ice b/c they’d never been exposed to the Disney versions of the fairy tales and the bad ladies are freaky! I will say that it’s curious that my kids never got scared with the fairy tales from books – could be the difference in versions or the difference in visuals / imagination. Disney doesn’t leave much too the child’s own imagination — which at a young age is much less sophisticated and scary.

      • says

        I agree with your comment about visually seeing a villain and imagining one. For example, my oldest son LOVES the first Harry Potter book and has read it several times. I was very concerned that this would be too scary for him. However he has no frame of reference to create the same images in his mind that my mind creates when I read the book. When he imagines a 3 headed dog, he does not picture the movie version, but his Nana’s dog with three heads. But he gets very frightened in most Disney movies and asks us to skip all of the intense scenes with the villains. That is the beauty of reading fairy tales. The listener filters it and creates a reality they are safely prepared to deal with, the dragon they feel able to slay.

  12. Meghan says

    I really love this, but, I have to say one little thing. I disagree about The Little Mermaid. While I completly agree that abandoning your life for a boy is just plain silly, I think the idea there goes deeper. Ariel never felt like she belonged in her world. I think her decision is less about a boy, and more about having the courage to go beyond her comfort zone, and find a place that she felt more at home. What a brave soul it takes to break out of the expectations everyone else holds you to!
    That could be the eternal optimist in me speaking, though. I guess there’s always another way to look at things!

  13. says

    thanks for writing this valuable post! As you know my whole day is spent reading Fairy Tales to kids on my website. The lessons of these age old stories stand the test of time. They present important moral lessons. I am so glad you took issue with the UK survey as I was also appalled when I read it. I love that fairy tales are about ordinary people, from boys and girls to women and men, that find themselves caught up in a magical event. And the fact that there is a strong difference between the good and evil characters. I shared your post on my Facebook Page too.

  14. Lucy Bickers says

    I had read all of Andrew Lang’s fairy tale books by the time I was 7 or 8. I believe they increase a child’s sense of wonder and imagination, and widen their worldviews beyond their immediate surroundings. “East of the Sun, West of the Moon: was always one of my favorites. Fairy tales led to science fiction and fantasy reading. No one can say that Tolkien, which I read first at 12, could do anything but expand a child’s imagination and sense of responsibility for one’s actions. This is one of the important aspects of fairy tales, in my opinion. And I cannot stand what Disney has done!

  15. says

    Thank you for writing this. I’ve been genuinely frightened – oh, not by fairy tales, but by the number of supposedly sentient adults who think their children need to be protected from them.

    I am the world’s biggest fairy tale fan – but even though I love Disney, I hate what his screenwriters did to our fairy tales. The little mermaid DIED, and Cinderella’s stepmother got a punishment appropriate to her horrendous treatment of a child. Etc.

    Unabridged fairy tales rock. The abridgements not so much.

  16. says

    Fairy tales have deeper levels than it appears. In the Emporer’s New Clothes, usually children are the ones that feel “exposed” and inferior, but innocence (a child) sees the deception. The 3 Little Pigs keep trying solutions. Goldilocks learns about boundaries/private spaces. Cinderella’s dreams are so powerful they do come true. Snow White and the dwarfs learn about friendship/service. Ali Baba discovers the power of words. Jack confronts the fear of the unknown, faces the challenge of leaving, and overcomes the ‘giant’ of greed, anger, & hoarding. Beauty/love are often disguised; we see only the Beast. Pinocchio has to learn self-control and not just to dance on the strings of impatience, jealousy, desire, approval of others. Rapunzel found both good and bad as she ventured away. And just like Sleeping Beauty, kids need time to grow and mature; quiet times to reflect are important. Kids try and figure out the ‘light of knowing’–reading, writing, numbers, etc that adults know–just like Aladdin. Fairy tales are :) enlightening (I did a whole series on my 123kindergarten blog last March. I was so delighted to see yours!!) P.S. To kids, mothers do seem wicked: we make them go to bed, eat their veggies, pick up their toys. Sigh, we’ve been getting the bad rap for centuries.

  17. Mika says

    What a lovely article – and site generally – thank you!
    Like Meghan, I also disagreed with some of your thoughts on the Little Mermaid. I also disliking the Disney versions of pretty much everything, and hate that they changed the end of that one so very much. But I don’t think Andersen’s original Mermaid was weak for choosing to die at the end. When she asked for legs, she was warned of the potential consequence: death. And at the end, she chose to accept that, rather than harm someone else to escape the consequences of her actions. That is absolutely a lesson I want my kids to know. Doing the right thing, not using someone else to shield you from what you’ve done. That’s not weak.

    Thanks for the post, it did make me think. :-)

    • says

      Thanks, Mika- I actually just hate the Disney version of the Little Mermaid but like Anderson’s for the reason you mentioned – it’s a real consequence, just like real life. Thanks for the thoughtful comment!

  18. says

    Fairy tales hold valuable lessons for us all… children and adults alike. I think that as with everything – activities, toys, movies, etc. – books, including fairy tales need to be appropriate for the child. You start at a young age with stories such as The Three Little Pigs progressing to stories such as Rapunzel.

    Overall, I much prefer the original versions to Disney because to be blunt, Disney is completely and thoroughly commercialized. They are great movies but the essence of the fairy tale has often been wiped out to cater to the masses.

  19. says

    Thank you for this! Fairy tales are not meant to be fluffy happy stories, they are cautionary tales where awful things sometimes happen, and they don’t all have happy endings. They are also not perfect. I have read some Grimm tales and said “well that was a terrible story”. But it prompted discussion.

    I was so annoyed when I read that Telegraph article last week, and like you the ‘Goldilocks promotes stealing’ comment floored me. I don’t know what version of the story they were reading. As far as the Disney fairy tales, for me they prompted me to read the original versions, and to read them to my kids. Parents have to talk to their kids, this is where they get squeamish. It is easier to put them in front of movies and tv. I believe that many people who say that they won’t read *enter story title here* to their kids probably don’t read to their children much anyway.

  20. says

    Thank you for this post. It is such a shame that some parents do not want to read fairy and folk tales to their children. I think they teach valuable lessons, and equally, expand children’s minds and imaginations by introducing them to fantasy worlds.

  21. Crystal Whimsey says

    I read the article from the UK and one in the Huffington Post, they obviously missed the real strength and heroism in Beauty and the Beast. It was Beauty who, with true strength, saved her father and ultimately freed Beast from his monstrous prison. And how did they miss the part in Hansel and Gretel where Gretel stepped up to the plate (pun intended) to save Hansel from the lunch menu at the Witches Cottage Café? In my opinion fairytales are as important to literature today as they were in the past. Modernizing them a bit to better reflect our social progress which just makes sense. We still do laundry these days but I’m not going to bang my clothes against a washboard.

  22. Grant Flint says

    Fairy tales, fiction, non-reality, teaches children (when they discover reality eventually) that adults intentionally delude them, cannot be trusted, are merely perpetuating the lies the adults themselves were taught when vulnerable: Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, God, the Devil, Heaven, Hell. Lack of reality, lack of logic, lack of truth thus handed down stupidly generation to generation, defeating any chance of improvement, hope, end of deceit.

    • says

      I totally disagree and furthermore, have never seen evidence of this grand delusion in children’s lives. It’s very important that children learn the difference between fiction and non-fiction, have the chance to develop their imagination, and are given stories to make sense of their lives.

  23. says

    I think Fairy Tales are like the Bible … you must know to understand cultural references.Plus I love the new spins on fairy tales. Some are really funny and most are great! My son loves The Princess and the Peanut, An Allergic Fairy Tale.

  24. says

    I think Fairy Tales are like the Bible … you must know to understand cultural references.Plus I love the new spins on fairy tales. Some are really funny and most are great! My son loves The Princess and the Peanut, An Allergic Fairy Tale.

  25. Furienna says

    You’ve got some points there, but I totally disagree with you about Disney’s “The little mermaid”. Where do all these Ariel haters come from? Has the writer of this article never been in love, or done something for someone they loved? I don’t see how someone, who defies her father, takes very dangerous risks and eventually helps defeating the villain, can be a “weak woman”. Ariel maybe didn’t do the smartest thing all the time. For example, she should never have trusted Ursula. But she wasn’t weak. Why would wanting to be with the man she loves make a woman weak? I can already hear people crying “But how could she love him? She didn’t even know him!” And there might be some truth in that. But this is a Disney movie based on a fairy tale. Love at first sight was only to be expected. And didn’t Ariel and Eric have to spend some time together before they could get a happy ending? So I think we should cut Disney some slack on that one.

    And the orginial version is just sick. And I don’t mean that because the mermaid wants to be with a man, but because she has to kill him or die. Hans Christian Andersen could write some weird and gruesome stories.

  26. Cheri says

    I have a giant book of fairy tales from when I was a kid, and I love reading it to my daughters, who are 5 and 8. We get to experience it all over again. Sometimes the stories are a tad gruesome, and I’m reading along and suddenly go…oh…..um, we’ll just SKIP that part. Mostly, though, I we like to read the originals of things that Disney has done, or have been “prettified” for our culture, and enjoy them like they were originally. They definitely don’t all have happy endings. Don’t get me wrong, we loved the movie Tangled, but it has absolutely nothing in common with the original story, except the tower, the long hair, and the spooky ‘mother.’ It’s nice to know how these things started – knowing the original show us not only about our cultural history, is also shines a light on our cultural present.

  27. Linda Hemry says

    So many good things here to think about! Yes, Fairy Tales can be scary (Yikes! Beauty and the Beast gave me nightmares). But don’t throw the baby out with the bath water! They teach imagination, fantasy, cause and effect and the moral code! If you do the right thing no matter what, it usually works out. Not always. Usually. And you’ll feel more victorious as a person if you stay true to the values of kindness, generosity, selflessness, industriousness, forgiveness, . . . . . the list goes on. And, as always, if parents/teachers read these books together with children, important lessons can be learned from the negative example. Yup. I’m a fan of them. But, they’re only one minutia of the vast array of books that I read to children regularly. It’s important to keep a balance. Just sayin.

  28. Linda says

    Oh, and in regards to Ariel. I left my home and my life and married the man of my dreams against my father’s wishes. I’ve been happily married for 30 years now, and my parents now love my husband. Yes, I did what Ariel did and have a fantastic happy life, and I’m a strong woman. I disagree with the negativity on this subject – marrying a man who loves and supports you is one of life’s great gifts. Just had to throw my oar in on this.

  29. Betty says

    In light of the current shooting at an Oklahoma theater…….how can there be anything scarier then reality. At least with fairy-tales, we can guide our children’s thoughts and imagination, and give them a respite from the horrors of truth…at least for a little while. (I am the mother of 3 amazing children, and grandmother to 4 wonderful little grandchildren. Nobody, at least in our family, has ever suffered ill effects from the wonder of fairy-tales).

  30. says

    Great stuff. I think the original work in this area was by Bruno Bettleheim, a book called The Uses of Enchantment which made the case for how useful the traditional very rough fairy tales were in emotionally developing the kids.

    There was also a good book that did the same analysis for the early Disney films and the superheros.

    I like your analysis of the parents who are against: “They’ve lost their basic reasoning skills.”

  31. Mrs Browns Books says

    If it encourages your child to use their imagination and stimulate conversation then it’s got to be worth something. It’s all about the dialog that follows and the questions that your child may have – how well you listen to them and how you respond. I don’t really see a need to single out fairy tales per se. I’m not particularly drawn to them, but equally most of my favorite children’s books are not rooted in reality. By this I mean that animal narrators, trips to the moon and magic purple crayons are all commonplace at my house. We’re not deluding our kids by letting them imagine that meatballs could fall from the sky or a giant jam sandwich exists. Instead, we’re letting them think about what it would mean if these things did happen and maybe in turn they can have a laugh and talk to us about it… and that’s about as real as it gets.

  32. Bethany @ No Twiddle Twaddle says

    This is such a great post, Melissa! We love fairy tales in our home, and rather than scare my preschooler, I’ve seen them actually help him deal with his fears. I think that Chesterton is right about our kids already knowing that danger exists. We need to give them the grid to know how to deal with their fear of danger.

  33. Haley @ Carrots for Michaelmas says

    I love everything Chesterton has to say about fairytales and “The Ethics of Elfland.” Great post!

  34. says

    My three year old daughter loves the big bad wolf. All the fairy tales with the wolf (or a fox) are a hit. When she tells her own stories, she loves to include him. Sometimes he is good, but most of the time he is bad!

  35. dani says

    This has really helped with my English essay topic ‘Are fairy tales still relevant in today’s society?’
    I think they are .Ever since I can remember I have read fairy tales.

  36. Jackie Higgins says

    I was just reading in Mem Fox’s book “Reading Magic”. She talks about using fairy tales. She even says there were some programs that dealt with juvenile delinquents and they found that very few of them knew any fairy tales. They actually used the stories to teach the idea of consequences. Also, in her book she explains (much like you suggested too) that fairy tales enable kids to deal with scary situations and project them onto someone else. For me, it’s WAY less scary to think about a sweet little pig getting eaten up by the big bad wolf than it is to think of ME getting eaten up by a big bad wolf! We’ve definitely introduced fairy tales– at developmentally appropriate times… oh, I and I love your comment about considering time of day too.

  37. xxx says

    Don’t you think that some of these stories over simplify life? I have recently thought about Little Red Riding Hood. Conspicuously, this story aims to convey that there are people in life that will use manipulations and schemes (and very elaborate ones) to deceive you. In the story (the movie at least), the narrator makes sure to mention that the wolf ate grandma, in every step of the way. Sadly in life, you don’t get to understand that the wolf ate grandma until you’ve been eaten – or unless you make a hard judgment call based on the information available to you – that will rarely be easy or straightforward. That sends the message that making the distinction between grandma and the wolf is a clear and obvious one – while it really isn’t. I think it would send the (hidden) message that you should never make a call based on the signs you witness – unless you are 100% sure you are right about it, which again, never happens in life.

    It is worth to mention that usually even grown ups are not able to make the distinction, and even our leaders often have no clue what’s right and wrong about questions that a 6 year old can ask.

    Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that like in every other field, humanity has most probably advanced culturally. The set of values that society holds today are completely different than the ones believed even as little as one hundred years ago. The fairy tales however originated a very long time ago (certainly over 100 years ago). There is a chance that this fact makes them obsolete just like various scientific beliefs that have been discarded along the advancement of humankind. The problem with social progress is that it is ill defined, and I highly doubt that it can ever be well defined, which makes it impossible to determine whether the direction in which we are going is really the right one. However, if you believe (like me), that our belief set today is much better than the one society held centuries ago, then I think it is very important to consider the importance of fairy tales from the perspective of the present (and not stress the tradition of the custom too much).

  38. XXX says

    I disagree with the 7 statement I think the little mermaid is a wonderful story because it is encouraging children to go out on adventures and to find true love but to still visit there parents every once in a wile. It also makes kids use there imagination like when my family went to see some beautiful caves my daughter said “I wonder if this cave once was under water if it was it could have ben carved by mermaids and the finishing touches were done by fairies” and she is 12 and she still believes in mermaids and fairies and elfs because she read and watched so many fairy tails! and now she is working fairy tails for work at school lucky she has red and watched lots of fairy tail stories or she will have been completely lost! (I believe in fairies I do I do!)

  39. says

    I don’t think I could have made it through the toughest of times without remembering what fairy tales had taught me. Keep going on, don’t give up, you always have a choice, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. I’m thrity, if I am having a hard time coping with the issues life throws me, the first thing I do is curl up in bed and watch grimms fairy tales on netflix. Then I travel into deep dreams and learn how to fix my problems.

  40. Summer says

    I knew my opinion going into this, but it just reinforces my opinion with good reasoning. I think there is NOTHING harmful in fairy tales. incorrect It teaches kids lessons. It teaches them accountability, something hugely lacking in todays POLITICALLY correct(GAG) society. I would read them to my kids BECAUSE they politically incorrect. We’ve become so afraid of not being politically correct (an oxymoron?) that we’re can’t even discuss anything with meaning. We might offend someone. Tough. Sometimes in life we get offended and offend. That’s ok. As far as scaring children? That’s ok too. It’s a scary world and it gets scarier by the day. Fairy tales teach them that even when that’s true, there IS hope. There ARE heroes to be found. There IS someone who’ll do the right thing just BECAUSE it’s the right thing, not for a self serving reason. I’m 41 and I crawl back into the book I’m reading as often as I can upon looking at our world out my window.
    As far as scaring kids? What’s scary for your kids is having to drill in school where to hide when the nutcase shooter comes! I’ll bet if you asked those psycho kids this very question..most of their moms didn’t read them fair tales!

    • Tammy says

      Wow!! Well said. I’m with you on all of that. (except the drills at school – we don’t have that yet in Australia – is it really that bad? Now that is scary!!)

  41. Lucy says

    I believe fairy tales are enchanting stories with mythical creatures that created wonder and curiosity along the way. A perfect way to start education.

  42. Jamie Wallace says

    I’m so glad my friend shared this link with me. Love your post and looking forward to exploring the site. :)

    Last fall, I wrote a piece called “Children Do Not Want Nice Stories.” (http://nhwn.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/children-do-not-want-nice-stories/ )

    Too often, we underestimate our kids. We don’t believe they have the capacity to understand or enjoy certain kinds of stories. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I said in the post, “Children use stories to learn about themselves, each other, and the world. They are naturally drawn to stories that give them a deep, truthful picture of these things. It does not matter if the story takes place on familiar city streets, in a fantasy land full of dragons, or out in darkest space. What matters is the veracity of the human element …”

    Thanks so much for bringing this issue up. Long live fairy tales!!!! :)

  43. Erin says

    I disagree about Ariel (though I heartily agree with the rest). Ariel didn’t give up everything she had because of a man. Eric was just the catalyst for something she’d been wanting for a long time; to be a human and walk on land. ‘Part of Your World’ was sung before she even MET Eric, and she’s talking about how she’s so curious about the human world and how much she wants to be a part of that. The Little Mermaid was about following your dreams, not giving up your whole life for a man.

    • says

      This makes me sad. I wrote this based on my own experience as a teacher and researcher, published it in February of 2012. The other article links to me in the second paragraph but used all my ideas and words, published it in December of 2012, as if it were their own. Not okay!

  44. karen says

    I was told fairy tales from as far back as i can remember. They are magical and life needs this kind of magic . I’m 60 yrs young and still believe in fairies!!!! I think that they all give us something to think about that affects us in life :)
    The young folks today are just a little ignorant !!!

  45. Joey Stinnett says

    Even talking about stopping fairy tales seems laughably ignorant
    would any one desire to restrict a child from enjoying them. This would
    be akin to abolishing cartoons,or movies or music. Children are not as
    concerned about any messages that the stories portray as much as they
    are enjoying the entertainment aspect and maybe just hopefully a little
    old fashioned parent child time together that makes it more special.
    It’s a sad day when we as a people fail to take a detour from the
    blandness of the everyday rat race to re-enter an imaginary realm of
    talking animals and light hearted make believe!

  46. geniigames says

    This is an insightful piece really. I develop apps around African folktales for Kids and even though these stories are drawn from a historical, moral and cultural context, I’ve received harsh criticisms from a section of my audience mainly of non-African backgrounds. I’d originally thought this was as a result of a lack of understanding of these African context from my Western audience. Alas, reading this, it turns out that it’s far more universal than I thought. Your views on the importance of fairy tales captures my very thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

  47. Summer says

    My 3 year old just read a “Little Critter” book where they went ice skating. She said, “Look! Just like Frozen!” It’s a simple text-to-text connection, but it’s important background knowledge. (We live in a locale where she will never see ice or snow.)

  48. deba says

    i dont think children are normally scared of fairytales – they are all allegories, and young children do not take fairytales as literally as adults do. they do not intellectualise the content but rather understand the story as a picture of their inner life. i think fairy tales are an amazing tool. thank you for encouraging people to read them to children!

  49. mj says

    Its funny how more people gets educated about child development… the more people say that fairy tales should not be read to children. I am a fan of fairy tales and I believe that the lesson of fairy tales is not on the surface (boy meets girl, stealing, breaking rules) but what lies within which is about believing in your dreams, working hard, having the courage to persevere… there are much more to mention that we adults tend to overlook.

  50. Sheril says

    Interesting how you understand that Goldilocks can teach kids to not break and enter but you still have a problem with the original Little Mermaid, totally ignoring that it is a great cautionary tale.

  51. AggieMama says

    I completely agree! And I, too, have a different take on the original Little Mermaid. I read it to my daughter when she was 4 and she loved it. We talked about giving up yourself for someone you love. Hopefully we never experience that extreme, but true love requires sacrifice. As an aside, my daughter watched the movie a couple of years later (and we had read the story numerous times) and, other than the music, thought the Disney version was, in her words, quite silly.

  52. Trudy says

    I think Fairy Tales are a magical part of childhood and literature. I have always enjoyed reading different versions of the same story and let the children compare them. They learn so much about characters, setting, plot, comprehension, not to mention the moral of the story. All of my students found a version they truly enjoyed. Then we would move on to another story.The beauty of this? 4 year old pre-school

  53. Alxy says

    Hi! Do you mind if I just rephrase some points in this article? Because they are really good and I need them for my speech about Fairy Tales. Thanks :)

    • Alxy says

      Oh and I forgot to mention that I will give absolute credit to you. I am thinking of mentioning this site to the professor who manages the book club I am in as there are a ton of books for young adults that we could discuss about here.

  54. Holly says

    I agree about Ariel. I have not shown that one to my children. A half naked 15 year old swimming away from home (lol) to chase after a prince who ignores her for an enchanted bad girl…no thanks. I prefer Frozen! We do read a lot of fairy tales. I love the character lessons in Narnia, The Hobbit, The Little White Horse, and the like. And of course we read Hans Christian Andersen and many more.

  55. Celoptra says

    If you guys “Fairetale theatre” Jack and the Beanstalk it shows you an early version of that story where not only is there giant/orge’s wife (who helps Jack), it also states that Jack is the rightful owner of the castle.

  56. Annise says

    Surlalune Fairy Tales: History of Beauty and the Beast, was interesting. It is my favorite “fairytale,” but perhaps for different reasons from those of others. Besides the more obvious, the obstacles to overcome and the tasks set for the characters, it has elements which remind me that God (as I have come to believe) is truly a gentle, determined lover, who wishes his beloved to truly know him, i.e., to know him as he really is; not always so easily accomplished. We must be vulnerable, and this is a love that will break our hearts, but in a good way. It is God who woos our soul, even when we fear and mistrust him. There is an intimacy that God seeks with each one of us. Although the intimacy is shared by God with each who will respond, it is unique for each of us, as we are each unique. I recommend C.S. Lewis’ only novel, which he considered his best work, “Til We Have Faces;” a retelling of Cupid and Psyche, (related to The White Bear, and the modern telling, Beauty and the Beast.) I enjoyed the many comments of others.

  57. Victoria ShaBaz Sears says

    I love the oral tradition of fairy tales. When I taught 2nd grade we had a wonderful fairy tale reader with 20 some fairy tales, kept a comparison chart of common characteristics of fairy tales, explored the image of wolves as villains in fairy tales but loyal mates and pack animals in nature, compared gender stereotypes with real capabilities. I gotten a grant & bought wonderful large sets of castle building blocks. We worked in teams designing & building self sustaining castles. What Fun!

  58. says

    Great article! I don’t think fairy tales are too scary for children, but I think people need to remember that they were never supposed to be children’s stories. And I agree with your point about how it depends on the child and it’s up to the parent to gauge what they can and can’t handle. Also that some fairy tales shouldn’t be bedtime stories!

    I was reading ‘The Wild Swans’ to my niece at bedtime, and there was a bit in it about witches digging up bodies in a graveyard and another bit at the end where the evil queen gets burnt alive. I glossed over those. For different reasons, too. The burning simply because I didn’t want her to go to sleep with the image of someone being burnt alive in her head (if it had been earlier in the day, I’m sure she wouldn’t have bothered about it!) and the graveyard bit because I felt it didn’t add anything to the story, and goes beyond being gory/scary. Sometimes kids like gory/scary things, but there’s a line between that and things which are rather disturbing. Corpses being dug up and eaten is definitely one of the latter.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *