Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sanitized Fairy Tales

I liked this Boston Globe article arguing that the "glossy, sanitized new versions of fairy tales leave out what matters: the scary parts." The author points to an egregious retelling of Rapunzel, in which Rapunzel stays with a "kind witch."

One fairy tale that couldn't really be sanitized -- because there'd be nothing left -- is "The Dog and the Sparrow," which you can read online here. It's from Grimm's Fairy Tales. I hadn't ever heard of it, as it doesn't seem to be in most fairytale books. I first came across it in an old book that I was reading to my kids the other night.

The story started out nicely enough, with a sparrow helping a hungry dog to get some food. Then everything goes downhill: A surly "wagoner" runs over the dog on purpose as it sleeps in the middle of the road. For the rest of the story, the sparrow takes systematic revenge, first draining the wagoner's casks of wine, then taunting the wagoner by pecking at his horses' eyes. The wagoner kills all three of his horses accidentally when he tries to strike the sparrow with his hatchet. The sparrow follows him inside his home, and the wagoner's house gets destroyed as he keeps trying to hack at the sparrow. Finally, he catches the sparrow, and tells his wife to hit it with the hatchet. She accidentally hits him on the head instead, thereby killing him, and the sparrow flies away.

I couldn't help laughing at how morbid the story was. Anyway, it was a good lesson for the kids: Don't try to hit sparrows with a hatchet.


Blogger love the girls said...

"glossy, sanitized new versions of fairy tales leave out what matters: the scary parts."

More importantly, modern fairy tales don't distinguish good from evil where dragons and witches and the like are misunderstood good hearted creatures.

2:27 AM  

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