During this semester, I have learned a lot about fairy tales. Based upon my readings, reflections, and experiences this semester, I have been able to realize the importance of fairy tales. Fairy tales play an important role in both children’s and adult’s lives alike. They teach morals and lessons to people of all ages, and can provide a sense of comfort and imagination. Fairy tales are important to the development and support of imagination, especially in children, and can teach children important themes such as overcoming challenges. It allows for questions to be raised and answered, and provides a strong foundation for knowledge to grow upon. Fairy tales have the capability to teach such important lessons to all in a light, enjoyable way.
A theorist that helped me better understand fairy tales was Bruno Bettelheim, and his essay The Struggle for Meaning. Bettelheim wrote this essay about the strength of fairy tales and the impact they leave on children’s lives. The impact of fairy tales on children can help them find meaning in their life. Bettelheim said, “For a story truly to hold the child’s attention, it must entertain him and arouse his curiosity. But to enrich his life, it must simulate his imagination…while at the same time suggesting solutions to the problems which perturb him.” (Bettelheim 270) This quote is one of the strongest quotes that helped me better understand fairy tales. Bettelheim described a series of aspects that are needed in a story to help enrich a child’s life, and all of the aspects necessary to provide meaning are featured in fairy tales.
One of the most surprising aspects of fairy tales I discovered this semester was the violent and gory side of fairy tales. I have never heard much about the original, gruesome fairy tales, as the more child-friendly versions were more relevant to me growing up. Learning about the more gruesome versions were a surprise to me as a lot of them featured murder, rape, starvation, etc. For example, our studies of the tale Little Red Riding Hood. In the version by James Thurber, the story ends by saying “So the little girl took an automatic out of her basket and shot the wolf dead.” (Thurber 1:12 – 1:16) This story was a surprising version to me as I have never heard of the little girl shooting the wolf. Just like this version of Little Red Riding Hood, and many other stories, the violence that is present in fairy tales was very surprising to me.
Something that interested me the most about fairy tales was how they were originally made for adults. For example, Charles Perrault, who was a French aristocrat wrote many popular fairy tales that were meant for other rich French aristocrats. With writers such as the Grimm Brothers, adult content was very strong in fairy tales. These versions of fairy tales featured gore and taboos, as well as some themes for adults. As time went on, these fairy tales became more child-friendly and available to more readers.
I don’t believe we missed much in class. The information that was provided to us was strong and clear, and overall helped me gain a better understanding of fairy tales. I read fairy tales as a kid, but they didn’t leave a strong impact on me, as I have forgotten most of the stories. This class was nice to refresh those memories and help me see a different point of view of my favorite tales as a child. I did really enjoy watching Spirited Away at the end of the semester, so I think including more movies or short clips that relate to the tales we read would be great.