February 26 has been designated National Fairy Tale Day. That’s as good a reason as any to read some and reminisce how much you loved them as a child.
The timeless tales began as oral histories, myths and legends told around the campfire by traveling story tellers. Nineteenth century German scholars, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, culled about 200 traditional tales of Northern Europe and published them.
The brothers Grimm.
These early tales would not have led to “sweet dreams.” For example, in the currently popular version of Cinderella, her two ugly stepsisters make her do all the housework and chores, until her fairy godmother appears, dresses her up and sends her to the ball where she dances with the prince. As the clock strikes midnight, she rushes away, stepping out of a glass slipper in her haste. Smitten with Cinderella, the prince travels from house to house throughout his kingdom to find the woman whose foot fits the delicate slipper.
In early versions the stepsisters cut off their toes to fit the slipper. The prince noticed the blood and realized the slipper belonged to Cinderella. At their wedding, two doves swoop down and peck out the evil stepsisters’ eyes, leaving them blind and lame.
Fairy tales offer kids the opportunity to let their imaginations soar. Imagination fosters critical thinking and cultivates the ability to solve problems. That teaches kids how to deal with basic relationships and conflicts. The stories can even instill bravery, kindness and patience.
There is always a problem that is solved in the end. Remember “Little Red Riding Hood?” Little Red is devoured by a wolf, but a woodsman chopped open the wolf and rescued her.
Collections of fairy tales are published in age-appropriate editions. Among those easily available:
A First Book of Fairy Tales by Mary Hoffman and Julie Downing, is suggested for ages 2 to 4, it includes14 tales ranging from classics to lesser-known stories.
Illustrated Fairy Tales, written by Sarah Courtauld and Rosie Dickins, retells 10 classic tales. It’s suitable for five- to nine-year-olds.
Far Out Fairy Tales reworks classic fairy tales, as a graphic novel with lots of new twists and turns. In this version, by authors Sean Tulien and Louise Simonson, Snow White is raised by robots, and the three billy goats get stuck inside a video game.
Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist who also writes children’s stories.