Fairy Tales. This is how many of them start and while we all grew up listening to these fabulous tales, I'm willing to wager that the ones I learned are a little different than yours, But all fairy tales have a central or common theme to them. Usually this theme is about coming of age, transformation (frogs becoming princes, etc.), loyalty vs. disloyalty, or beauty vs, evil. There are other themes, too, but these are some of the most common ones.
February 26th each year is set aside as National Tell A Fairy Tale Day.And since I am a writer of books for children, this is a day that's extra-special to me.
Fairy tales started off as oral histories, myths, and legends that were told around the fire, usually by traveling storytellers. They have since been standardized, written down, and are now know as fairy tales. Some of the earliest stories were written in a Neapolitan dialect by Giambattista Basile in the early 17th century Italy. The original versions of stories like Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Little Red Riding Hood were far more adult than than the stories of today. The Brothers Grimm of Germany retold these tales, making them more respectable but still the tales favored the adult audience. Charles Perrault of France, around this same time, created his Mother Goose stories that were aimed at young children. But what is it about these stories that makes them relevant even today?
Although often fairly violent, these stories are told in a structured way and they always have the requisite happy ending. Good and evil are completely separate, with no overlapping grey areas. "The appearance of the villain allows the child to freely project his own violent feelings onto these separate and satisfyingly wicked beings. Unable to express anger or hatred directly toward those adults on whom the child depends, he/she can displace this natural aggression and give free reign to it personified by the villain: the step-mother, the wicked wolf or the witch," says one expert, And with good and evil so precisely and "satisfyingly" split, the child can easily identify with the hero or heroine. They can project their feelings of anger or hatred for the despicable beings onto the wicked witch or hungry wolf. Fairy tales give children the opportunity to see themselves as the hero or heroine...battling their way through the forest to save the princess or "magically acquire the carriage, dress, and glass slippers to enchant the handsome prince. At times, in other stories, the reverse can also be true. The child can, through the main character, triumph over the large, and often and dangerous adults that surround him. Here, the child holds real power which, sadly, is often lacking in real life.
What may be even more important, is that these tales and stories are often told by the very same adults that the child both loves and fears. This makes the fairy tales ever so comforting, again and again...each time the story is told. There is something soothing and comforting in hearing fairy tales over and over, they nurture the imagination, and help to make childhood fears less intense. Hans Christian Andersen first published written versions of The Princess and the Pea, The Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid and many other stories in 1829. While Grimm's tales still were told with a slant towards the adult, Andersen"s version are specifically written with the young child in mind.
Celebrate today by reading a favorite fairy tale to a young child. Or make up a new story that can be passed on to their children. Fairy tales are so important to kids, even today, and are often the first books and tales they encounter. I have my favorite froggy stories...the ones my mother read to me and to little brother, Quigley. Even though he's getting a bit too old to appreciate them, I am happy that every so often he indulges me by sitting still long enough for me to read to one of the classic fairy tales to him. It does us both good, I suspect.
After you've spent some time reading a story to your favorite little one, don't forget to post it to your social media using #TellAFairyTaleDay.