Sunday, February 17, 2013

It's a bird! It's a boy! It's fairy tale heroes!

Children as heroes is a common theme throughout fairy tales, since children are so often the target audience for fairy tales. Bettelheim explains, "the child of school age cannot yet believe that he ever will be able to meet the world without his parents; that is why he wishes to hold onto them beyond the necessary point." It is a scary world out there, and children often have a hard time seeing the things that scare them as they are, and instead their imaginations run wild and personify their fears into things they think can actually hurt them.

In Hansel and Gretel,  the story tells of a brother and sister who have to work together to first outsmart their parents who try to leave them in the forest to die, and then to escape from the evil witch who is trying to eat them. In defeating the evil witch, Hansel and Gretel are able to show children reading the story that it is possible to defeat even the evilest of monsters, and that if they can kill the witch by tricking her into the oven and burning her, then any problem that the children reading the story may have will certainly be able to be overcome.

As Bettelheim says, "fairly tales give him confidence that he can master not only the real dangers which his parents told him about, but even those vastly exaggerated ones which he fears exist." Fairy tales give children hope that there is no monster too big to stop them.

The story of The Juniper Tree tells of an evil stepmother who was jealous of the inheritance that her stepson would get that her daughter wouldn't, so she kills him and chops him up into a stew which she then feeds to her husband. The daughter, crying, buries the bones of her stepbrother under the Juniper tree, where he is magically transformed into a beautiful bird with a voice just as beautiful. The story ends when the bird drops a millstone onto the stepmother, killing her, and then the bird transforms back into the little boy, who goes off with his father and stepsister where they live happily.

This story is important to children, because it teaches them that people will get jealous at times, but that the jealousy of others doesn't have to bring you down.

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