Why Fairy Tales Matter

Fairy tales are just as important today as they were hundreds of years ago. From generation to generation, these tales have transformed the minds of children and taught them incredible life lessons. Ranging from “stranger-danger” to proper behavior, these tales provide ways to educate the youth in fun, interactive ways. They also help ignite imaginations and creativity. For example, almost every little girl dreams of becoming a princess, and tales like these help create this fantasy land where anything is possible. Contrary to popular belief though, fairytales are just as important to adults as they are to children. They portray societal expectations and reinforce gender roles. In most tales, women were depicted as weak, passive individuals who needed men to interfere in their lives in order for their problems to go away. This was evident in Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Rapunzel, and numerous others, and ultimately made women think they needed men to take control of their lives. Additionally, women were taught to be obedient, whether it be to their mothers by staying on the path or to their husbands like in Bluebeard, and to always follow directions. However, aside from women, even men were reinforced with their roles in society. They’re portrayed as protectors with wealth and power, and teach men that should have this sense of dominance in society. While these might not be the same values we expect of men and women today, these tales enforced these expectations of past societies and changed the way we think. Modern writers have changed the endings of tales to adapt to our current values, and I find it extremely fascinating to see how they keep evolving even to this day. Fairy tales appeal to both children and adults because we can understand them in complex ways as we get older, but can also still use them as a source of entertainment. Disney has definitely played a major role in how I think of fairytales nowadays, but through this course it was interesting to see how they changed into these forms and why they did. I’ve come to realize how much Disney actually took out of the original stories and how they weren’t always as child friendly as you’d think they’d be. I was most interested by the more violent sides of these tales because it was totally unexpected to hear when you expect them all to end “happily ever after”. These differences portray how versatile these tales really are and their abilities to attract diverse audiences. I don’t think much was missed throughout the course, but I think it would be helpful to continue using visuals (art) and films to highlight the major distinctions between versions.

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