Friday, January 24, 2014

Ridiculous or Iconic? Classic Children's Stories through a Different Lens

I got it into my head that my kiddo should know fairy tales.  Like they are part of the canon of Western Civilization, a piece of required knowledge, background info everyone should have to successfully navigate the nuances of later literature.

Or something like that.

But as we move through these stories, I'm beginning to have my doubts.

 Take, for example, The Three Billy Goats Gruff. In the face of danger two goats essentially throw their siblings under the bus to save their own hide.  The eldest brother, with no one else to throw, resorts to brute force and rescues them all.  It's heartwarming.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears: A curious vandal escapes charges of breaking and entering, destruction and theft of personal property by fleeing the scene of the crime.  Her outraged victims never hear from her again.

The Three Little Pigs: Two lazy siblings count on one industrious brother for all the good ideas.  When their own homes are destroyed by a ferocious enemy, they run for their lives only to instantly turn in mockery of their foe as soon as they reach safety.

Little Red Riding Hood: A disobedient and scatterbrained girl mistakes a ravenous wolf for her grandmother. She is consumed in her entirety by the wolf (is he part jaw-unhinging snake?!) and is rescued by a woodsman with an ax to the wolf's belly.  The gory slashing of his belly is quickly glossed over as everyone learns a valuable lesson that mother knows best.  Or is the lesson that Little Red seriously needs glasses? Or half a wit?  

The Gingerbread Boy: An arrogant cookie-boy leans too hard on his one and only talent (running fast) and is killed by a creature who had mastered swimming, running AND cunning. Lesson: Foxes are sly.

Other authors apparently had doubts about these plots as well, which led to us finding variations.  In one, Goldilocks tries to make ammends. In another she meets three LiBEARians and learns about finding "just right" books.  The Wolf often turns out to be better than we thought.  He has allergies/a terrible cold.  He was just trying to borrow some sugar.  They start a community garden and all go vegan.  The Gingerbread Girl lassoes and captures the wolf with her long red licorice hair. The variations are all over the place.

I know these stories are iconic, and surely someone has earned a doctorate explaining what they tell us about the human condition, but I'm willing to admit that  reading five versions of each (with corresponding Venn Diagrams) is more than any well-rounded person needs.

So I am not too surprised that Landon said to me today, "I don't want any more picture books for awhile.  Let's just read true-fact books, okay?"

Yes, let's.

The chatter of talking animals quiets down for a bit and we settle down for something he chose and desperately wanted:

F/A-18 Super Hornet

Well now, doesn't this just open up a whole different can of worms?!

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