Several months ago I came across an old copy of Hansel and Gretel and I found I could remember the story vividly even though I had not read the tale since I was a small child.
I remembered the dad abandoning the children in the woods and the despair of them being lost and cast out by the very person who’s job it was to protect them. I remembered the gingerbread house and the witch fattening up Hansel ready for eating… oh and the oven of course.
I decided to re-read the classic fairy tale and it was fascinating. I hadn’t remembered the happy ending involving the death of the wicked witch at all. I had no recollection of Hansel and Gretel and their father ending up safe and together again in the end. It felt to me like someone had added the last two pages of the book I’d owned as a child. Perhaps it was a new edition commissioned by the same killjoys that had ordered the nursery rhyme Bar Bar Black Sheep to be renamed Bar Bar Rainbow Sheep!
Occasionally I’ll hear a song or smell a fragrance and it will bring back a happy memory of my childhood. Amazingly, when I re read Hansel and Gretel it had a similar affect – the only difference was the fact that the memories and emotions it brought up were all negative. I can honestly say I experienced an irrational, yet very real sensation of worry and fear. It fascinated me that something I haven’t thought in over 26 years obviously still carried such an intense emotional charge. I wondered what else was buried in this obscure, dusty old part of my brain waiting to be discovered?
It got me thinking about how suitable these classic fairy tales really are for young children. Debate this with others and you’ll likely hear such pearls of wisdom such as ‘…they never did me any harm’ and ‘…there’s far worse things to worry about.’ Whilst the latter statement maybe true, how can we be sure of the validity of the former? Psychologists know that a large part our character is defined by the experiences we had as adolescents. I’m sure you can consciously recall a few troubling experiences from your youth. If you start examining these experiences honestly and objectively, you’ll probably be able to see how they affect the way you are today. It’s not much of a stretch then to believe that something as seemingly harmless as a scary bedtime story might actually have a lasting psychological impact on a young child.
It got me thinking that rather than debate this issue I should come up with an alternative. I decided to commission a new collection of fairy stories that had interesting story lines but nothing that would cause fear or concern for young children. I decided to set them to high quality, soporific background music and release the collection as a CD and Mp3 audio product. I’m really pleased with the result and I personally feel they are far more suitable for the bedtime enjoyment of young children than the Big Bad Wolf and co!
Fairy Tales Audio
Take a listen and tell me what you think.
[mp3player width=300 height=140 config=pers_lul_full.xml playlist=snoozy.xml]
The collection can be downloaded from iTunes here
Or purchased on CD here- Bedtime Stories and Lullabies CD
Why don’t you try reading a few old Fairy Tales yourself and see if you experience the same kind of negative reaction that I did.