Most of us will have grown up listening to classic fairy tales – the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, Lewis Carroll to name but a few of the authors of the much loved traditional tales. There’s been a movement in recent years to condemn these classic fairy tales as gruesome stories that give children nightmares and cause them to worry about events and situations that just don’t happen in this modern day and age. However, these classic tales started out as stories that were passed down from one generation to the next.
Every culture has a tradition of oral storytelling and each has its own fairy tales. Before the advent of the printing press, stories were not written down, but told by older members of the family or community so that the youngsters could learn the story and pass it on to their own children. People in those days lived in fairly small social groups and this type of storytelling was how the customs, beliefs and cautionary tales were passed on and kept alive throughout the ages. By telling and re-telling their stories, the leaders could reinforce the community‘s expectations and rules, this promoted a sense of belonging and harmony to the group. The feeling of belonging promotes commitment to the beliefs and aims of the community and was an important factor for everybody’s wellbeing and, ultimately, for the survival of the group.
It’s tempting to think that in this digital age there is no longer any need for fairy tales – that they are old-fashioned, outdated and not worth passing on to today’s generation of children. There are some who claim that most classic fairy tales have a spooky undercurrent that is too scary for children. Nonsense! Roald Dahl books are pretty scary – you just have to make sure the child is old enough for the story before reading it. There are still plenty of valid reasons for passing on these stories to a new generation.
Reading a story at bedtime is a great way to wind down at the end of a busy day. If your little one is old enough, why not start tonight with one of the good old-fashioned fairy tales?