With today’s post, I continue to review the ten fairy tales that parents avoid sharing with their children, deeming them too frightening or morally ambiguous, according to an online article from The Telegraph, February 12, 2012 (http://www.telegraph. co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/9078489/Fairytales-too-scary-for-modern-children-say-parents.html). Previous posts have considered the tenth most objectionable tale, “Queen Bee,” through the fourth, “Little Red Riding Hood.” Today’s post is about the third, “The Gingerbread Man,” a folk tale oft told and once recorded by the Brothers Grimm. You may read a version of the tale at http://www.storyit.com/Classics/Stories/gingerbreadman.htm.
The Gingerbread Man’s story has been told and retold many times in many ages by many authors. Some aspects of the tale are similar to the Pinocchio legend because an inanimate creature comes to life and then misbehaves. Unlike Pinocchio, at least Disney’s version of it, the Gingerbread Man does not live happily ever after, having learned his lessons the rough and tumble way.
Chaucer provided a different version of The Gingerbread Man with “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” from The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer’s protagonist is not a cookie, but a proud rooster named Chanticleer, the king in his own little garden of Eden. All the other barnyard creatures serve him, their only enemy a fox that lurks just beyond the fence. With soothing flattery, the fox lures Chanticleer to the fence and tricks the rooster into stretching his neck over the fence whereupon the fox enjoys a fowl feast.
“The Gingerbread Man” has the same elements: 1) an inanimate creature that, 2) once animated, misbehaves, and 3) falls victim to the tricks of a smarter, more patient enemy. Here is the tale in brief.
A little old woman bakes a fine gingerbread man, giving him eyes of candy and hair of icing. When he thoroughly baked, the little cookie springs to life and runs away. The woman and her husband chase him, but the gingerbread is too fast for them. He is also too fast for a cow, horse, and chicken, and to each, he taunts: "Run, run, as fast as you can! / You can't catch me! / I'm the Gingerbread Man!"
But when the Gingerbread Man meets and taunts a fox, he meets a more patient enemy, one like the first wolf that Little Red Riding Hood meets. This fox is wily and persuades the cookie that a fox would not find gingerbread tasty at all. Thus, in a state of false security, the Gingerbread Man decides to rest and then the fox pounces.
The moral of this story appears to be a simple one: never let your guard down because the world is full of hazards.
Aesop offered a fable, “Rat and the Elephant,” with some of the same ingredients as those found in “The Gingerbread Man,” but with a better outcome. Read this fable, noting the features of it that are similar and dissimilar to those found in “The Gingerbread Man.” Then, dear parents, you can
share “The Gingerbread Man” and Aesop’s fable together. Both teach the harms of being overly confident, but Aesop’s rat learns to be humble in order to live another day.
Tell a tale with a moral. Try to be as economic as Aesop is. To delight your children, pick animals or objects that are familiar to them.
GUM (Grammar, Usage and Mechanics):
The Gingerbread Man might have survived if he had been discreet (not calling attention to oneself) Indeed, if he had not taunted others, especially the fox, the Gingerbread Man might have endured as a discrete (separate and unique) creation.