Do fairy tales set up false expectations for adulthood?

Children’s Literature is becoming an increasingly popular branch in English departments with many courses run in universities colleges and online, teaching the art of understanding the discipline. The significance of stories and the effect they have on a growing child in terms of helping to shape their norms and values is now understood and parents now know that reading to a child is a lot more than a dull speech, or reading and writing session. Instead the stories we are told as children have a direct influence on the way we view the world and ourselves.

Today was a long and hard day for me and I to encourage myself I think about how I will re – tell the story of the day and learn lessons from my experience. When things are hard it is human instinct to wish they were easier but I went one step further by thinking right back to being a child. I longed for the days when I could curl up in my bed reading and let myself get lost in the stories of unicorns, hens and elephants taking long baths. It was instinct for me to think back to my childhood book reading days because books were my safe place.

The great thing about being a child is that it should be a time of relative ‘carefree – ness’ and exploring. The world is a lot more forgiving of wrongs and we grow in to who we are largely through trial and error. However when things get hard as an adult I sometimes wish I was more prepared for it as a child.

This leads me to a thought I had that inspired this blog post… Should we start rewriting our preschool and school books to align more closely with true life experience? If in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ we learn our norms and values, aren’t we ill equipping generations to come with false notions. Times are changing and ‘they lived happily ever after’ sets up false hopes. I look at my peers out of work following graduation, bitter that a jobless economy has no room for them, and the teens rioting because they have nothing better to do and am forced to question if we ought to rewrite our fairytales. Clinging to the safe place of childhood can sometimes be a trap by setting up false expectations…

Then again I am tired and slightly overwhelmed… it’s just a thought.



About Plantain Periodicals

Hello! Welcome to the Plantain Periodicals blogs. The name stems from the kitchen moments I had with my friends at university cooking plantain and planning our lives together. I have used this space as a window into my mind and the way I make sense of all my experiences through writing.This is where I share those conversations and moments that happen inside my head as a young woman growing up in 21st century London. Hopefully you'll be entertained and also learn a thing or two. My main blog ad: My literature blog: NMx
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10 Responses to Do fairy tales set up false expectations for adulthood?

  1. Maggie says:

    I have had similar thoughts. Fairy tales, especially ones where the girl meets Prince Charming and lives happily ever after are nothing more than lies. Children don’t necessarily have the life experience to know that fiction isn’t real and sometimes is totally unrealistic. That’s what’s dangerous about it.

    • Definitely agree with you Maggie! As children we are taught that life works out in certain ways and in actual fact it really doesn’t. Although there has been a slight move by including single parents or children who go against the gender stereotypes there is still a lot of work to be done.

  2. namsta says:

    What a great thought provoking piece! On one hand it’s like we’re keen to protect kids from the ‘big bad world’ but on the other hand, we’ve also got to be careful not to wrap them up cotton wool and fairy tales…Hmmm a very thin line indeed.

  3. eritta says:

    I don’t believe that it’s the story’s fault in most of these cases, but rather the emphasis which adults who are reading the tales to children put on them. It doesn’t even have to be the parents – it can be other children’s parents, people who market the story to the children, etc. In the end, a child’s tendencies are shaped by the adults they interact with – directly or indirectly.

    I do think that there is work to be done there, but happily ever afters definitely have their place. I think that what they’re *meant* to say is that with perseverance through hard times you can live happily, but it’s rare a child is given the framework of “happy” other than rich, skinny, and popular.

  4. scatterwords says:

    ‘The prince and princess didn’t live happily ever after because, quite frankly, the marriage was a sham from the start. He was in love with an older woman and she never quite came to terms with becoming a member of the royal family. So they divorced. Then the princess died in a car crash with her new lover and the prince married the woman he loved all along.’

    The truth can perhaps introduce concepts too complicated or even disturbing for a child to cope with? Fairy tales, however far fetched and divorced from reality, at best introduce ideas in a simple and entertaining way. We tell lies to children all the time. Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, God (if you’re an atheist). We don’t do it to delude them. We do it because many concepts have to be introduced as simply as possible. And because we need to work with their imaginations. Children have a habit of taking a fact and adding a huge dollop of fantasy to it, and there’s nothing we can do about that.

    It’s not stories that prepare children for life. It’s life itself, each new experience, every day. Stories perhaps help children, and adults too, escape from life. Sometimes we need a break from reality.

    • Wow you make some great points. I agree that we tell lies to children because the reality in its darkness would not be appropriate. However I do also believe that as writers we have taken the easy way out by shoving a magical world in their faces, surely their must be a better way to marry real life and children’s fiction a little better?

  5. jcnierad says:

    Thought provoking post and comments! I read a lot of children’s stories to my young daughter – running the gamut from the most stereotypical fairytales (prince/princess) and sing song nonsensical language (Dr. Seuss and Sandra Boynton) to stories that do have reality presented in a format appropriate for young children. A favorite in our household is “One” by Kathryn Otoshi – a clever book about bullying, simple but powerful. I think there is room for all of these different books for children – for me, I like to focus on teaching my child about language – the power and the fun of it!

    • Thanks for stopping by! I think it is great that you focus on teaching your children about language, a lot of parents/ people do not do that and simply take language for granted. I have never heard of the Otshi book so I am definitely going to look into that! Thanks again 😀

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