Friday, March 30, 2012

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs


The Grimm brothers recorded a folktale about a beautiful maiden, a wicked stepmother, a magical talking mirror, seven fortunate Good Samaritans, and love. Most of us are familiar with the story, probably through Disney’s 1937 animated film that recounts Snow White’s journey from a princess forlorn to a princess restored. Allow me to review it, but if you wish to read the tale yourself, you may at http://ivyjoy.com/ fables/snowwhite.html.

Every day, a vain, selfish stepmother asks her mirror to affirm her beauty, and it does, assuring her that she is the loveliest in the land until Snow White grows into her beauty. Then the mirror, a thing that cannot tell a lie apparently, spits out Snow White’s name. The stepmother conspires to eliminate her competition. She bribes a servant to lead Snow White into the forest, where Nature’s verdant screens will hide his dark deed, the slaughter of an innocent.

The servant takes pity upon the girl and abandons her in the forest. She may be lost, but she has her life, and she survives her first night alone in a strange place. In the morning, she follows a path to an undersized home. Like Goldilocks, Snow White enters when no one is at home; unlike Goldilocks, Snow White does not take and break others’ belongings without remorse. Snow White has a good heart and good intentions. She cleans for the inhabitants and prepares a hot soup for them upon their return.

Her night and day in foreign places exhaust Snow. She falls asleep before the homeowners, seven dwarfs, return. They are pleased to find a clean home and a hot dinner so when they find Snow White, asleep upstairs, they are predisposed to like her, and when she tells them of her sorrows, they weep and profess instant love for her. They insist that she stay and live with them. They ask her not to admit anyone to the home or venture out so that she will be safe from harm.

The stepmother’s servant presents the wicked Queen with the heart of a deer, letting her believe that the heart is Snow White’s, but the mirror blurts out the truth soon enough. It announces that Snow White is still the loveliest in the land and where she can be found so the stepmother transforms an apple with poison and herself into an old crone.

In this disguise, with the means of Snow White’s destruction in hand, she crosses through a swamp, the most direct route, we’re told, into the forest and knocks on the dwarfs’ door. Snow White is true to the dwarfs’ advice; she does not admit the crone and doesn’t even open the door until the crone offers a parting token, one apple. Snow White opens the door to receive the apple, takes a bite, and succumbs. To onlookers, she appears dead and so upon the dwarfs' return, they place her in a crystal coffin and leave her in the forest.

The stepmother retraces her steps, becomes bogged down in the swamp, and is never seen again by anyone. Snow White lies in state until a Prince sees her. The dwarfs find him looking upon her longingly and accept his offer to let the Prince carry her to his kingdom in the hope that doctors there can restore her to health. He cannot resist kissing her though, a kiss that resurrects Snow White.

The two fall in love, both at first sight, and Snow White has a kingdom once more, this time shared with her beloved instead of a vain, envious woman. Still, Snow White cannot forgetthe dwarfs who cared for her .  She returns to visit them, further proving what a good heart she has.

The morals or themes of this tale should be easy for you to state by now for this story’s themes are similar to the others in this series.

·      From “Queen Bee:” Live well, devoid of cruelty, asking for nothing in return, and you may receive untold reward in exchange for a good, well-intentioned life. This could describe Snow White and the outcome in her life.
·      From “Goldilocks (or the Old Hag) and the Three Bears:” Respect the property and privacy of others to live amicably. Snow White may trespass without permission, but she gives the gifts of her time and labor to the dwarfs who reward her by giving her safe haven.
·      From “Rumplestiltskin:” Our own desires, especially if they cause harm to others, deliver even greater harm to ourselves.  The wicked stepmother should not desire the death of anyone, especially her stepdaughter’s. When the older woman’s vanity leads her to plot against poor Snow White, the one who loses her life is the stepmother. She drowns in a swamp, a setting just right for the stepmother’s fetid heart.
·      From “Rapunzel:” Be wary of giving in to cravings and whims for they may lead us to sorrow. The stepmother’s desire to be the loveliest in the land led directly to her death.
·      Also from “Rapunzel:” Love conquers all. Love’s first gesture, a kiss, overcomes death itself for the lovers to live together happily thereafter.
·      From “Cinderella:” Human beings have within them the power to shape their lives. The stepmother chooses vanity over all else, and this choice leads to her death. Snow White never chooses despair, bitterness, or sorrow; this leaves her heart and brow unmarked by Tragedy, and this choice leads to an everlasting love.

Reading Challenge:

Two new films about Snow White are due in theaters soon. The first, due June 1, 2012, is Snow White and the Huntsman, starring Kristen Stewart as Snow White and Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen. You can read about it and watch at trailer at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1735898.

The other is Mirror, Mirror, due March 30, 2012, stars Julia Roberts. Its trailer can be seen at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1667353.

Writing Challenge:

The trailers of the two new film interpretations of the old fairy tale will provide you with plenty of ideas to write a brief commentary contrasting the two adaptations.

GUM (Grammar, Usage and Mechanics): Commonly Confused Words, Defuse and Diffuse

In Hurt Locker, soldiers in cumbersome, padded suits labor in the heat to defuse explosive devices so that they will also defuse the threat and tension, but not diffuse the suit, padding, and man over a wide area.

Defuse, with two e’s and one f, means to remove the fuse from a bomb or make a situation less tense and harmful.

Diffuse, with one i and two f’s, means to spread something, like the protective suit, its padding, and one man.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cinderella and Her Just Rewards



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) reported the top ten fairy tales that parents avoid sharing with their children. Previous posts have considered the tenth most objectionable tale through the seventh. Today’s post is about the sixth, “Cinderella.”

Grimm’s version is a dark tale of trial and tribulation, of good and evil, characteristics that put it on par with grand epics and classic literature. From Genesis to the Hunger Games, story-tellers have explored man’s selfishness and his angelic promise fulfilled in selflessness. These features are what make Cinderella a great story and one worth sharing with your children.

First, allow me to review Grimm’s version of the tale, available for you to read at http://www.literaturecollection.com/a/grimm-brothers/546.

            Cinderella, already a good and pious child, is at her mother’s bedside as she dies, her last words admonishing Cinderella to live life as a good and pious person and with the promise that she will be watching from above. Cinderella mourns her mother’s loss all her days, often returning to her mother’s grave to weep. She even asks her father to bring her the branch of the first tree that brushes against his hat when he travels so that she can plant this branch on her mother’s grave. From it and with Cinderella’s tears, a lovely tree takes root and flourishes.

Cinderella’s father, as was common in years gone by, takes another wife within the first year of his first wife’s death. She brings two daughters of her own to the marriage. All three are full of pride and carry hearts of stone within their breasts. They bully Cinderella, making her wear common, old clothes and forcing her to do the labor. They even assign her fruitless chores such as picking bowls of lentils out of the ashes of the kitchen fire.

This is the stepmother’s cruel joke when Cinderella begs for permission to attend the King’s three-day festival. First, Cinderella must pick one bowl of lentils from the ashes in one hour, and when she succeeds, two bowls. Cinderella succeeds each time because Nature is kind to her, sending birds to assist her in separating the good lentils from the debris. Still, the stepmother refuses to allow her to go because, she says, Cinderella will shame them.

To console herself, Cinderella goes to the tree at her mother’s grave and prays that Nature befriend her again by providing beautiful clothes. Like the warmth of the sun, an elegant gown falls upon her shoulders and thus, with her wishes fulfilled, Cinderella joins the festivities where, you may remember, she becomes the center of the Prince’s universe. He wants to escort her home so that he can know her circumstances, but Cinderella flees each day, first to her father’s pigeon-house and second to a pear tree. Both times, Cinderella is so agile and quick-thinking that she escapes without being identified, even after the Prince asks her father, the owner of the pigeon house and tree, to help him search.

Cinderella’s father doesn’t even recognize his own daughter, but he does wonder if it could be she. Still, when he searches for her, he finds her in her old dirty clothes asleep on the ashy hearth.

The Prince is driven to learn who Cinderella is. He orders that the staircase leading to and from his estate be painted with tar, and when Cinderella tries to flee on the third day, one slipper remains behind, stuck in the tar. With this shoe, the Prince tries to identify his one true love. The first stepsister’s foot is much too big so her mother advises her to cut off her toe, trusting that she will not need to walk when she becomes the Prince’s bride. The blood, of course, betrays the stepsister when Nature’s messengers, the birds, call the Prince’s attention to it. Similarly, the second stepsister fails after she cuts off her heel at her mother’s suggestion and leaves a blood trail.

No one, neither Cinderella’s father nor her hard-hearted stepmother, supports the Prince’s request to try the shoe on Cinderella. When they relent, they see that she is indeed the beauty and object of the Prince’s affection.

When Cinderella marries, the stepsisters ask to be part of the processional. One walks on each side of the bride, and on their shoulders light birds that pluck out their eyes before ceremony’s end. Thus, the stepsisters are forever punished for their cruelty. They were blind to Cinderella’s goodness and must live their lives without sight for never having learned humility or begging forgiveness for their wickedness. They simply wanted to share in Cinderella’s good fortune.

Cinderella, as you can infer, is very moral tale. Good and evil face off, and good wins. Nature itself takes a side in the battle, helping good and punishing bad. The big ideas within this tale include:

·      A mother’s love endures beyond the grave. From the tree planted on her grave come the birds that blind the step-sisters and the birds that grace Cinderella as she rides beside her Prince for the first time. In addition, from that tree comes the beautiful clothing that shows Cinderella's beauty.
·      Nature’s bounty is a blessing to those deserving. Cinderella might never have overcome without the help and support of nature, especially the birds that render aid when she must pick lentils from ash and deliver punishments to the vain, fickle stepsisters.
·      Life may try us, but it need not destroy us. Cinderella endures her mother’s death, her father’s neglect, her step-mother’s cruelty, and her step-sisters’ bullying, but she remains good and pious. And life rewards her as her mother promised. She finds love, wealth, security, and status.
·      Human beings have within them the power to shape their lives. Cinderella chooses to honor her mother’s advice, and in so doing, she bypasses bitterness and regret.
·      The choices we make can restore us to well-being or jeopardize our happiness. All the other adults in Cinderella’s household lose their happiness to pride and envy, but Cinderella remains loyal and lovely inside and out.

Even though there are few role models in Grimm’s version of “Cinderella,” there is still much to be gained by sharing the story with children. They will read about a hero who overcame hardship, sorrow, and cruelty.

Reading Challenge:

Find a copy of Cinder-Edna, a modern spin on the old tale. In this version, Cinder-Edna does not adore girly things. She wants to be resourceful and capable, and she succeeds.

An alternate or additional reading is the online article “Cinderella Fairy Tales: Online Resources” by Elizabeth Kennedy for About .com (http://childrensbooks. about.com/cs/fairytales/a/cinderella.htm). You will discover that many cultures in many ages have told and retold versions of the Cinderella story. Sometimes she is unattractive; sometimes she is even a boy. Follow the links in the article and learn more about Cinderella’s appeal.

Writing Challenge:

Like many romance tales, Cinderella stories include magical elements that help the protagonist survive and succeed. Most of the Cinderella stories feature an oppressed protagonist who is good, so good, in fact, that he or she escapes a life of poverty and sorrow, lifted from lowly circumstances into an idealized existence, loved for character rather than birthright.

Write your own version of a Cinderella tale, using the traits noted above.

GUM (Grammar, Usage and Mechanics): Commonly Confused Words, Pour and Pore

The hard-hearted stepmother poured a bowl of lentils in the ashes of a kitchen fire, demanding that Cinderella separate them from the ashes in one hour. Cinderella succeeded because the birds came to help her. Together they pored over the debris and plucked the lentils from the ash.

Pour, spelled with the vowels “ou,” means that something, like lentils, flows from the bowl or someone, like the stepmother, causes the lentils to flow by tilting the bowl so that they spill into the ashes.

Pore, spelled with an “o” and an “e” at the end of the word, means to examine or study something as Cinderella and the birds did while trying to pick out the lentils from the ash.

Pore is also a noun, and every teenager is familiar with its meaning. It’s a small opening like those that gather dirt in your skin and make life miserable when you want to look your best.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Rapunzel, Rapunzel: Love Triumphs!


My adult daughter and I sat among parents and their children to see Tangled, an animated musical version of the Rapunzel tale, another story that parents rank among those that they do not share with their children today. Granted, Grimm's versions of these tales can be dark, but I’ll let you be the judge, and I invite you to consider the lessons that children and adults can glean from this story.

As always, I encourage you to read Grimm’s version in its entirety. You can find it at http://www.familymanagement.com/literacy/grimms/grimms09.html.

After rereading the story, I thought of a young boy who often comes to our front door, asking us to retrieve a ball from our back yard. Usually, he blames his playmate who, according to the neighbor child, makes “poor decisions.” Rapunzel’s story is the accumulation of one poor decision after another.

Once upon a time, a king and his wife longed for a child, and when at last she conceives, she craves what does not belong to her: rampion, also known as rapunzel, a plant that flourishes in the garden next door on grounds that belong to a wicked enchantress. The king, fearing that his wife will perish if her craving cannot be satisfied, steals rampion from the garden, but a little rampion only urges the queen to ask for more. When the king tries to steal again, the enchantress meets and threatens him until the king agrees to give her the child that the queen will bear.

The enchantress imprisons the baby in a high tower where she grows beautiful, her hair longer and longer with each year. The child knows no one but the enchantress and spends some of her time singing songs of solace to herself. A prince passing by hears Rapunzel’s exquisite song and tries to find entry to the tower. None exists. Only through his daily vigil does the prince learn how to see Rapunzel. He sees the enchantress call out to Rapunzel and climb up her long tresses to the only window so he imitates the action at the next opportunity.

In time, Rapunzel believes in the prince’s love and agrees to marry him. She asks him to bring silk that she can weave as a means of escape, but the enchantress learns of Rapunzel’s other visitor when Rapunzel errs, asking why the enchantress is so much heavier than the young man she lifts to her tower. Furious, the enchantress cuts Rapunzel's hair and casts her out, leaving her forlorn and desperate in a desert. Then she sets a trap for the prince who, when confronted with evil, throws himself from the tower. Though he survives, thorns below destroy his sight. He wanders friendless and lost until he walks upon the same desert sand as Rapunzel. She goes to him immediately, and her tears make him whole. He sees once more when her tears fall upon his damaged eyes. Then the couple, reunited, returns to his kingdom where they live happily ever after.

To summarize those poor decisions, the king is two for two in making bad decisions. First, he is an opportunist, taking from the nearest, most dangerous garden instead of seeking rampion elsewhere, and he enters into an unthinkable bargain for the rampion, selling his baby cheaply. The enchantress exceeds the king’s bad decisions. First, she  desires the child of another, then makes her a prisoner and deceives her. Worse, the enchantress casts the child out when Rapunzel learns to love another, a prince. Finally, the wicked enchantress harms the prince.

So one big idea or theme gleaned from this tale is one that shows itself in many works of literature, including fairy tales: Hasty, poorly considered decisions jeopardize and may even destroy our happiness.

In addition, this tale confirms that love conquers all. Rapunzel and the prince are lost in wildernesses. She is miserable in a desert; he is blind and unsure of his whereabouts. Still, love hurdles all obstacles and brings true lovers together again.

Finally, we mustn’t ignore the queen. From her, we could derive another truth: be wary of giving in to cravings and whims for they may lead us to sorrow.

Some children may fear their own safety in a world of adults revealed to be unreliable through Rapunzel’s tale, but more likely, they will discover that the most perfect love, the one that Rapunzel and the Prince find, is selfless, especially if Mom and Dad read Rapunzel to their children and guide them in interpreting it.

Reading Challenge:

“Read” the 2010 Disney animated film “Tangled.” Share it with your children after reading “Rapunzel” to them. Let them tell you what they like and enjoy. Have fun talking about how the two works are different.

Writing Challenge:

After reading Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 and I Corinthians 13: 4-13, write your own description or definition of true love.

GUM (Grammar, Usage and Mechanics): More Commonly Confused Words, Council and Counsel

My friend asked for advice about her new boyfriend. I decided to heed my mother’s counsel and offer no counsel to my friend for Mother taught me that meddling in affairs of the heart will surely break someone’s hearts. I wonder if any of us would be better off if a Council of Mended and Broken Hearts existed so that the members could arbitrate our demands in love.

Counsel spelled with an “s” and “e” means to advise when it works as a verb; as a noun, it means advice.

Council spelled with a “c” and an “i” denotes a group of people who oversee, manage, or advise others.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Rumplestiltskin



If you are reading this blog for the first time, you should be aware that I am in the process of drawing big ideas, also known as literary themes, from fairy tales that are in disfavor right now. According to an online article 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), many parents omit fairy tales, especially those gathered and told by the brothers Grimm from the German oral tradition. In fact, parents participated in a survey and created a top ten of tales that are either too frightening or politically incorrect. In two earlier posts, I discussed story ten, “Queen Bee,” and nine, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” Story eight, the topic for today’s post, is Grimms’ “Rumplestiltskin.” If you wish to read their version, you can find it at http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/ grimm055.html.

I must confess that this tale is alarming. I remember taking my young daughter to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs performed on ice for the Ice Capades. As the intermission ended and the lights dimmed, an announcer revealed that the dwarfs would be collecting small children and giving them rides in their minecarts. Far below our seats in the upper regions of a huge arena, dwarfs skated to the boxed seats just beyond the rink’s enclosure. They lifted children over the low wall and placed them in the cart, then gave them a treat, skating round once before returning them safely to their parents.

My daughter watched, horrified. She began telling me, at first softly, but soon in tones loud, bordering on a wail, that she did not wish to go with the dwarfs. I told her that they would not come for her, that even if they did, I would not let her go, but nothing I said comforted her. She had decided that the whole affair was one long ruse to kidnap children, and we finally had to escape the arena before the second act was underway. I remember her fear as she clung to me, looking back to be sure that no dwarfs or carts pursued us, and I imagine that Rumplestiltskin's tale would have terrified her then.

But let me tell the tale so you can decide:

            Once upon a time, a father boasts to a greedy king that his daughter can spin straw into gold. The king requires that the girl prove her skill on penalty of death if she fails. Locked inside a room in the castle with only straw and a spinning wheel, she fears for her life and cries. Soon, a little man comes to her rescue. He barters with her, trading his ability to spin straw into gold for her necklace, and thus he saves her life.
            The king’s greed grows when he sees the gold, confines the girl to a larger room with more straw, and tells her to spin through the night or lose her life. Again the little man comes to her aid and trades her ring for his labor.
            On the third night, the girl now in a largest room of the three, with even more straw to spin, has nothing left with which to barter so the little man proposes that he save her life if she will give him her first born once she marries the king and conceives. The girl, having no knowledge of her future, agrees in order to save her life.
            The king chooses her for his wife, reasoning, we are told, that a girl of lowly birth is acceptable if she can create wealth. In a year, the girl, now queen, bears a child, and the little man comes to collect. Again, the girl wails until the little man gives her another three-day test: if she can guess his true name, he will relent and she can keep her child.
            The queen uses all her resources to gather as many names as possible. Each day she lists names, and the little man tells her that she is wrong. But on the eve of the final day, another man reports that he overheard a little man in his cabin speak his own name after revealing that he would soon claim the queen’s infant. With this information, the queen saves her child and herself, but the little man named Rumplestiltskin, like Roger Chillingworth so many years later, in a fit of temper, destroys himself.

The lessons of this tale are many. They include

·      Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive (Sir Walter Scott). The father’s deception puts his daughter in jeopardy. The daughter’s deception endangers her happiness.
·      The love of gold is the cause of much evil. The king’s lust for gold leads him to abuse his power. He threatens to kill the girl if she fails to produce gold.
·      Be careful what you agree to for the finest of fine print may cause you great sorrow. The daughter agrees to sacrifice her first-born child and then regrets her contract.
·      Good fortune sometimes rescues us from our own traps. The daughter learns, quite by accident, what Rumplestiltskin’s name is.
·      Our own desires, especially if they cause harm to others, deliver even greater harm to ourselves. Rumplestiltskin believes he has made a fair trade and boasts about it, but if he takes the child, the queen will mourn forever. When Rumplestiltskin’s designs upon the child fail, he cannot tolerate loss.

Still, as a story for small children, I warn that small children may feel fear if they hear this story before that can judge its themes. Like my own daughter who had never imagined that children might be plucked from their seats at a performance and taken off by costumed performers, children hearing this tale may grow suspicious about parents. After all, the queen’s father is the one who hands her over to a greedy king.

I suggest using this tale much later--as an exercise in writing literary themes.

Reading Challenge:

Read a different analysis of Rumplestiltskin and enjoy the literary analysis offered at “World Rise: Stories are Beautiful.” (http://fairies.zeluna.net/2011/11/analysis-of-rumpelstiltskin_06.html)

Writing Analysis:

Write Rumplestiltskin’s story. Where did he come from? What does he look like? What motivates him to help the girl and raise a child?

GUM (Grammar, Usage and Mechanics): Born and Borne

Women bear children, and they may bear water from the well to the home.

But children are born, and water is borne.

Born, without an “e,” means to begin life outside the womb.

Borne, with an “e,” means carry something on one’s shoulders, in one’s hand, on one’s back. A woman has borne a fetus for 39 weeks until it’s born.

Friday, March 2, 2012

An Old Hag in Goldilocks and The Three Bears


Last week, I told you that fairy tales have fallen into disfavor because they are just so grim, especially those recorded by Grimm. Moreover, parents worry that the tales are politically incorrect or reveal some of the worst aspects of human nature.

I countered by reminding you that fairy tales offer excellent insight into the human experience and fine opportunities for parents to teach children the sometimes tricky distinctions that exist in ethical and moral dilemmas. Today’s tale, number nine on a list of ten objectionable fairy tales, according to a February 12, 2012 article from The Telegraph, is “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” a story so troubling that it has been revised through the years, making it less violent and the ending less final.

First, allow me to summarize an older version of the tale. For a fuller account, you will find a text that tells one of the original versions at http://www. mythfolklore.net/andrewlang/378.htm.

            Once upon a time, an old woman lacking honesty and good intentions, stopped at the home of three bears: a tiny, wee bear, a middle-sized bear, and a large bear. The three were away, walking in the forest while their three bowls of porridge cooled.

            The old woman looked in the windows, peeped through the keyhole, and tried the latch. Finding the house unlocked, she entered and first tasted the bowls of porridge. The first was too hot, the second too cool, and the third, the wee bear’s bowl, was just right so she ate all the porridge. After eating, however, the old woman curses each bowl, especially the smallest one because it did not hold enough porridge to satisfy her.

            Next the old woman tries out three seats. Only the wee bear’s seat is soft and comfortable but the old woman’s weight is too great. The seat breaks, and the old woman falls. She speaks a naughty word again.

            Finally, the old woman goes upstairs into the bear bedroom. She finds the large and middle-sized bears’ beds uncomfortable, but the wee bear’s bed is just right. She falls into a deep sleep, so deep that when the bears return and discover her intrusion, she does not awaken until the wee bear objects. Its voice is so shrill that she wakes, screams, and jumps from the window that, we’re told, is open because the bears are good housekeepers and let in the fresh air each morning.

            The old woman may have broken her back, might have escaped into the forest, or could have been arrested for vagrancy. The narrator doesn’t know; he’s only sure that the bears were never troubled by her again.


Little moral or ethical ambiguity exists in this old version. The old woman is a vagrant who does not respect the privacy or rights of others. The bears are good housekeepers and never threaten the old hag except by virtue of their proximity. But the bears never try to harm the old woman; she is the one who does harm.

Even if you read the newer version to your children, the one with the fair-haired, blue-eyed child, you can still discuss with them Goldilocks’ failure to respect the boundaries between public and private places and property. She escapes, and, we hope, has learned a valuable lesson.

So whether using the old or new version of this tale, the big idea is that good citizens should honor the line between appropriate and inappropriate actions, between private and public places. Goldilocks or her ancestor, the old vagrant, can stand as an early civics lesson so read and talk with your children.

Reading Challenge:

Read and consider the following excerpt from a post on Digital Bits Skeptic, November 17, 2008, by Andy Kaiser (http://www.dbskeptic.com/2008/11/17/ more-original-versions-of-classic-fairy-tales).

In the telling of fairy tales, it’s critical to know that the horrible things described are not always meant to be literally true. Frequent descriptions of blindness are symbolic of a lack of spiritual awareness. Evil stepmothers are symbolic of a child’s need to emotionally mature, enough to live independently of parents. Times of perceived death (like the long sleep of Sleeping Beauty and the poisoned-apple “death” of Snow White) are symbolic of physical and emotional growth, of waiting for the right time to emerge out of childhood into an adult.

Children can revel in or be scared by the blood-and-guts aspect of some stories. It’s up to the parent or teacher to properly present the material. A classic fairy tale is pervasive and long-lasting because it can be appreciated in many ways. It can be educational, teaching children simple concepts of right and wrong. It can illustrate proper social behavior, and how to live with the consequences of one’s actions. It can be analyzed for symbolism of complex psychological themes, like the emotional growth of an innocent child into a sexually-aware adult. Finally, a classic fairy tale can be simply enjoyed, as we have memorable characters with exciting and creative adventures.

So you have options. Read and appreciate fairy tales in whatever way you’d like. But whatever you do, don’t stop.


Indeed, fairy tales are part of our cultural heritage, contributors to the moral and ethical standards by which we live.

Writing Challenge:

In one version of this tale, Goldilocks runs away, never to be seen again. In other versions, the intruder suffers deadly punishments. Write the ending that satisfies you.

GUM (Grammar, Usage and Mechanics): Amoral and Immoral

Today’s post is a good opportunity to review two more commonly confused words: amoral and immoral. The old hag appears to be amoral; i.e., she is not at all concerned with right and wrong. She spies upon a house, enters it, eats the food, breaks a chair, and lies down in the beds of the owners. She never apologizes or expresses doubt and regret. She just curses.

If the old hag had a moment of doubt or regret, we could characterize her as immoral because an immoral person is one who seems to know but does not follow accepted moral standards. The distinction between the two words is that an amoral person defies standards of right and wrong while an immoral person ignores them.

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary (http://www.merriam-webster.com/ dictionary) offers these definitions and examples:

Amoral

·      being neither moral nor immoral; specifically : lying outside the sphere to which moral judgments apply
·      lacking moral sensibility
·      being outside or beyond the moral order or a particular code of morals; e.g., He is an amoral, selfish person pursuing his own goals

Immoral

·      not moral; broadly : conflicting with generally or traditionally held moral principles; e.g., It was immoral of her to tell lies like that.