The Wisdom of Fairytales

“Parents frequently express concern about violent, even bloody incidents that occur in Grimm’s fairy tales. Today, we often see these tales edited to remove or soften these aspects. This results in a kind of deprivation of our children’s sense of life that is similar to the effects of painkillers and can dull that sense. At a Waldorf School, these unedited fairy tales are an important part of the curriculum of early childhood and first grade.

In a true fairy tale, such as those collected by the Brothers Grimm, human beings undergo trials and suffering and accept that deeds are a part of proving oneself worthy of the reward at the end of the path, whether the reward is the hand of the princess or a kingdom. They confront evil and overcome it.

Children experience the greed of the wolf and the evil of the witch quite differently than we adults do. They experience these qualities more as archetypal pictures about life, but do not yet identify themselves personally with the suffering. They trust that there will be a happy ending or that good will triumph over evil. Such stories strengthen the moral lives of children, so that later, after these pictures have lived in them for many years as seeds, this strength and guidance will help them to deal with the challenges life brings to them.”

Many stories are classic tales for children that we already have memorized for easy telling such as: The Princess and the Pea, The Three Billy Goat’s Gruff, The Three Bears, etc…you can also branch out and tell local folktales (Arab, Indian, Australian, African, European, Native American, etc.) or some of the rarer tales that you can find in fairy tale books. There are complete works of Hans Christian Anderson and The Brother’s Grimm available in magazines.

However, keep in mind that these collected tales were collected from oral tradition. They were actually not meant to be written down. Oral traditions are meant to be adapted to their audience and told in a way that is most suitable to the person the story is being told to. As you relate these stories to your child remember the reasons we tell them (that we talked about above) are the most important part of the story and not the exact words that are written in the book. Don’t forget that the stories should be told in a way you are comfortable with and in a way that is suitable for your student(s).

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