17 December 2014
Not So Happily Ever After
“Once upon a time” and “Happily ever after” are phrases that people often associate with the fairytales that they heard and read throughout their early childhood. These fairytales often feature a beautiful princess, an ugly, evil witch, and a brave, handsome prince. The archaic contents of these stories conflicts with the modern, progressive society in which we live in today because these stories encompass ideals from a time where women did not work and where it was not acceptable for them to be independent. This fact has led to parents being wary about allowing their children to read fairytales. The conflicts between these classic stories and today’s society are not the only reasons for parent’s wariness in allowing their children to read them; other reasons for this include the fact that they exhibit strict gender roles, create a false sense of reality, and promote low self-esteem in young girls. Before fairytales were written by The Brothers Grimm, they were told orally by German women in the 19th century while they spun (Neikirk). They did this to both “…keep themselves and their company awake as they spun [at night]” and “[preserve] the oral traditions of Germany” (qtd. in Neikirk). As time went on, after these stories were first written and published, these stories went through some changes after the death of Whilhelm Grimm (Neikirk). These changes were seen as “[the stories] moved away from the original source, women, and into the greater realm of patriarchal Germany” (Neikirk). The changes that these stories underwent as they were adapted into patriarchal society can be seen in the way women are portrayed in these stories and the culmination of fairytales in marriage (Neikirk). These changes in the Brothers Grimm fairytales were used to teach central European children what roles should be played by the different genders, “as well as what it meant to be good and bad” (“Experts say"). The existence of these lessons in the fairytales and the effects that these lessons may have are warned upon by this statement made by Liz Grauerholz, an associate professor of sociology, “Parents need to be aware that some stories tell children that unattractive people are more likely to be evil and reinforce traditional gender roles that maybe confusing for today’s young women.” (qtd. in “Experts say”).
The first reason as to why parents should be wary about allowing their children to read fairytales is that they establish and maintain specific gender roles. It is common for the male characters to go on a “hero’s journey” with some kind of magical weapon and on this jour...