The Importance of (Unsanitized) Fairy Tales

Don’t we all love a good fairy tale?  

Who doesn’t enjoy reading about daring adventures, surprising transformations, true love, (usually) happy endings, and good old-fashioned justice for the villains?  

Fairy tales have survived with us for many centuries, being tweaked slightly from era to era, country to country. The appeal is unmistakable.  

But recently, there has been a move to sanitize fairy tales. Their contents are no longer acceptable for children in our modern society. What has changed?  

The big bad wolf no longer gets boiled in a pot of water. Now he becomes friends with the three little pigs.   

Cinderella‘s sisters no longer cut parts of their feet off in order to fit into the glass slipper and get their eyes plucked out by birds.  

The wolf in Little Red Riding Hood doesn’t even get a chance to eat grandma nowadays, much less get his stomach chopped open by the woodcutter.  

Modern parents firmly believe that children need to be protected (Source: Institute for Family Studies). This shows up in many different ways, several of which I’ve touched on in this blog before: 

  • Childproofing 
  • Helicopter parenting 
  • Fairytale sanitization 

Here is my question, modern day parents. At what point do you allow your children to experience the real world? 

I’ve heard many parents say that they just want their kids to be kids. To play, and to laugh, and to be blissfully unaware of all things evil. They have to spend the rest of their life dealing with the real world. Why let it ruin their childhood? 

I understand this mindset. I also like the idea of allowing kids to be kids and enjoy their childhood while it lasts. But what happens when these children do meet the real world and are woefully unprepared for it’s harsh realities?  

This is what happens: 

Safe spaces’ balloon on college campuses following Donald Trump win

Survey: Most freshmen are not emotionally prepared for college

The scary truth about millennials and student loan debt  

So how do we teach children real world lessons in a way that they can understand? That’s where stories come in.  

Consider what fairy tales teach us about life. 

Cinderella encourages us to persevere, maintaining hope that good will be rewarded even during times of trouble.  

Little Red Riding Hood teaches us to listen carefully to instructions and be wary of those who would try to lead us astray.  

The Three Billy Goats Gruff teaches us to think on our feet.   

The Ugly Duckling and Beauty and the Beast show us that beauty can be found in unexpected places. Every person is valuable, despite their appearance.  

Children live in a black and white world. Either they are allowed to do something, or they aren’t. Either they like something or they don’t. Something is either good or it’s bad. 

When we distort fairy tales, they actually become more difficult for children to understand. Is the wolf bad or good? Did Little Red Riding Hood do the right thing or the wrong thing?  

Sanitized versions of fairy tales often tell a different story than the original, and children get very different morals out of the stories. Is The Little Mermaid a story about love, or a warning to think before we act rashly (Source: Read Brightly)? 

The Importance of Unsanitized Fairy Tales | Mom but not a Mom

When you read fairy tales to your child (as I hope you do regularly!), consider the meaning they convey. Ask yourself, what is my child going to get out of this story?  

Sometimes children need the happy ending, the beautiful princess, the easy read. Sometimes life is wonderful and everything is going great. But sometimes children may need the scary story, the tragic truth, the hard lesson. Because that’s part of life as well.  

Whatever you choose to read to your child, talk to them about it. Inquire as to what they got out of the story. Their answers may surprise you and give you insight into their thought process! Remember, children don’t think the same way we do. They are viewing the world through a different lens.  


What's the value in unsanitized fairy tales? | Mom but not a Mom

What is your position in the debate of unsanitized fairy tales? I would love to hear your perspective!

2 thoughts on “The Importance of (Unsanitized) Fairy Tales

  1. I am very much a “helicopter mom” but I also believe in my kids learning life lessons. That is how we prepare them for life! I loved fairy tales as a child and never read a one that scared me – and I was a very nervous child. 😉 I think the traditional fairly tales in their “original” form are the best.

    1. I think sometimes parents have different ideas of what is scary than kids actually do. I remember being scared of the most random things as a child, but not necessarily what adults expected me to be afraid of.

      Thanks for stopping by and reading my post! Good to hear an amen every now and again. 🙂

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