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Fairy Tales and Children's Literature


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Have you ever noticed the level of darker movites, or sexual suggestion for example, in fairy tales?

As people (or parents) we would have all at some point in our lives been read fairy tales, or read them to others.

Little Red Riddinghood, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel and so on.

There are numerous.

But as a literature student, and daughter of a childminder, i have started noticing the odd insinuation when reading them.

As a result, i have decided to write a thesis of sorts on the topic, and so, for once i am creating a thread for.....ready?......serious discussion :P

When discussing it with others ive worked out that you have to have a bit of a weird mind or viewpoint to be able to see any of this, and ofcourse the mfc and its vast level of sanity came to mind ;)

Obviously there is something very wrong with teaching sexuality for example at a young age - no matter what medium it comes by.

But there are lots of little things, and i suppose they can only really be seen if you are looking for them, but for some examples:

- The parents always seem to need to be absent for the adventure to begin

- The parents leave their children at risk through their own fecklessness or obsession with their own gratification

- Red riddinghood's going in the path of the wolves with goodies

- Snow white with proposed polygamy and alongside sleeping beauty with 'true love's first kiss' and thus arranged marriage

- Beauty and the Beast has an abundance of symbolism in the 'deflowering' rose for starters

- Rumplestiltskin maybe

- Roald Dahl has been manipulating the genre and making parental fecklessness a bit more explicit in the way in which he mocks reality making it less dark

And lets not forget The Brothers Grimm...


Just subtexts really. The way out of terror is through the male solution, the problem often created by women. Metaphors for female sexual awakening and discovering bodies, corruption, etc.


And i am talking about the originals, or as far back as they can be traced as the majority of fairy tales were created when printing presses didnt exist ofcourse. With a large percentage of their audience being illiterate, these stories were passed by word of mouth and their depiction changes with the teller.

But i am also looking at how the originals differ from the more modern version due to the subject matter and political/moral correctness these days.

By sexual references i am not limiting to purely intercourse itself but anything related as well as general oddities not necessarily related to 'the act'; such as parental irresponsibility, cannibalism, bestiality, violence etc. What ever seems inappropriate to be educating children with.

Again, contrasting what was socially acceptable during the era, to what is now and following the timeline of codification and amendment in relation to this.

Oh and I am not calling snow white i polygamist, it was just a suggestion brought up when discussing it earlier today as something which would not happen in this day and age, and if it did, it would not be so public. I am also not suggesting that the BFG visits children in beds for any illicit reason, that all parents sacrifice their children to beasts and so on and I don't have a dirty mind, i am just very intrigued by subplots and subtexts in stories. What interests me most is the degree of change over the time in which these stories have been passed on. I chose the word 'sexual' is it is the subtext most people can 'see' in these stories, specifically red riddinghood.

I don't know, what do you think?


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Hello CrazyMoose



There are examples of "political correctness" affecting our view of classic children's stories in Enid Blyton. I'm thinking of Noddy and Big Ears - a perfectly innocent pairing at the time it was written, but now an old guy with a young boy, not related, seems to provoke comment. Also, I think there was a gollywog in the original stories somewhere - I think he's been written out of recent versions of the stories.


Also - There was a fuss recently about a Tintin story where he goes to Africa and is politically incorrect about the natives -Here is the story http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/6902195.stm


I hope that helps


Its a fascinating subject you have chosen - good luck with it :thumb_yello:

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Then again, as far as we know, Noddy is parentless. Mentorships and adoptions arent as risque then you think about it.

And yes, the gollywog was removed.

But i also love the old versions of the fairy tales - much darker and less sanitised and definately tales to scare the family (not just the kids). However, I always thought it was a method of discussing and analysing these subjects in a 'safe' environment. In a way we have similar ideas today with horror films about cannibalism and incest etc etc - a way to think and promote discussion without having to actually go through these things ourselves. horror movies are not always putting people off doing the horror stuff. However, is this because of the mostly visual nature whereas fairy tales were mostly written or told, so the horror you experience from them is from your own imagination anyway?


Also, I still think most of us won't go out and recreate the types of things we seen on the screen! We (most of us) like a good scare to consider how we would manage in these situations. Also, life was much more diffulcult in those days and women did die in childbirth more readily which is where there are there evil step mother figures, child abuse and paedophiles have always been there and kids need to learn to be careful. Another thing is i think in the really old tales the females were a lot more powerful and in control of their own destiny than the sanitised versions would have us think. I agree that there are probably a lot of sexualised themes in the stories but surely this was because they were not just for children?

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  • 2 months later...

Is this the thread you PM'd me about?

Either way - the topic is very interesting and something I also learned about when doing A-Level English Literature and Language Combined. Have you read "The Bloody Chamber" by Angela Carter? It's a book full of short fairy tale stories that are pretty sick. Red Riding Hood and the wolf getting it on and all that jazz - it's pretty hardcore.


One thing I found interesting was how Disney takes on these fairytales. Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Snow White, Cinderella etc...


Have you noticed that none of the characters in these films have mothers, or if they do they're step mothers and they're evil?

*reads above post*

Oh, you have. Haha!


I kind of like the idea how women were in control or had power, we weren't all seen as simpletons lol okay that's kinda harsh...erm, not all seen as a "Damsel In Distress" (Snow White immediately comes to mind) just a shame they were evil and out to get someone LOL.


Ariel and Belle were quite independent characters though, which I have always liked. Same as Jasmine from Aladdin (which is actually a Chinese tale, not Arabian) - none of these girls had mothers or a mother figure.

Snow White and Cinderella on the other hand were your basic Damsel in Distresses and look at what parent figures THEY had...

Edited by CazGirl
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