Fairy tales and children’s perceptions

A fairy tale is a form of storytelling that involves fantasy and forces such as fairies, wizards, and goblins in which improbable events lead to a happy ending. The name “fairy tale” (“Conte de fees” in French) was first ascribed by Madame d’Aulnoy in the late 17th century.

Photo by Birmingham Museums Trust on Unsplash

Women typically created fairy tales with a distinct purpose in mind to protest the societal constraints that were placed upon them and to emphasize their rights as women in a man’s world. In today’s world, parents love reciting their favorite fairy tales to their children, the dark and often gruesome plot lines of the original stories were intended for adult audiences, not youngsters. As these tales were passed down from one century to the next, they were often altered to remove some of the more ghastly and frightening elements and to make them more appropriate for the younger audience.

While listening to fairy tales, children are often deeply affected by their contents and simultaneously, their imagination develops and takes on new shapes. Imagination is an indispensable element of the life of every child as it allows them to cross the limitations and borders of the real world, hence to find themselves at a fantastic imaginary world assuming to be their favorite character. From each line of a fairy tale, children develop the idea of plotting an imagination based on the words they read or listen to. It acts as a practice to connect several events and develop their concentration skills and attention span, which is an essential requirement for further education and learning.

Although these fairy tales are very positive, they usually set unrealistic expectations of life which induce the children for disappointment in the future. They create false worlds where everything seems to work out perfectly and lead to the distorted ending of living ‘happily ever after’. Instead of preparing them for the messy practical life, this cliché ending often causes the children to be unaware of serious issues in life while setting up dissatisfaction with their lives.

Beyond all of that, fairy tales are not inclusive, there always is the sexism and a very utopian setup. There is always a prince charming to rescue, while fairy tales talk about only heterosexual love, there is also the narrative around women who are helpless or evil. The fairy tales that are still popular today are the ones from centuries ago. While various new ones are coming up breaking the set barriers, it is time that we rethink of the lost princess and prince in shining knight and armor, and embrace fairy tales of women being their rescue agents and fighting for what they deserve towards an equal and just storyline and inturn install in the minds of children what we want to change. Because stories shape perspectives, and they in turn build character.

Contributed by Shawgat Ashrafi content writer at Mitti Ke Rang

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