My youngest daughter asked me to read some fairy tales to her this evening. She found a book entitled, “The World’s Best Fairy Tales” that was published in the late 1960’s. As I began reading aloud, my oldest daughter found her way into the room, too. The first tale was called “The Golden-Headed Fish.” It became clear to me that many parts of the story sounded very familiar. Then I realized that the Book of Tobit in the Bible seemed to share certain themes with this fairy tale: an elderly person suffering from blindness, a fish that could help cure this, a servant who had amazing abilities to help, and even a beautiful, young lady whose husbands had all died on their wedding night. Although the Book of Tobit was written in the 2nd Century B.C., the Golden-Headed Fish is an Armenian fairy tale that was translated into English then published in the late 1800’s. The date of origin seems to be unknown.
The next tale was the well-known “Hansel and Gretel.” Both girls knew this story but had forgotten certain parts of it. As I read to them the beginning part of the story where the father is worrying because he cannot provide their daily bread, I said to them both, “Well, I guess he didn’t have a very strong faith in God.” My youngest said, “Mom, they don’t seem to believe in God in a lot of these fairy tales.”
Both of my girls had read more recent, revised versions of Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales from the library. In this 1960’s version, the step-mother was wanting to abandon the children. The new version didn’t show this ugly side of human nature. As we moved through the story, and we arrived at the section where Hansel and Gretel are alone deep in the forest by themselves at night, Hansel said to Gretel that they should rely on God. This also struck my daughters’ ears. “Mom, they never mention God in the new version at all. Hansel and Gretel never even say anything like that.”
Well, why do I find this surprising? To sum up: the most recent revisionist fairy tales present a milk toast version that is politically correct and has not only made human nature remarkably unspoiled, but it has also nixed the idea of needing to rely on God for anything. And we wonder why our children and our world have troubles? You will have to wait for my future post when I tell you what they have done to “The Little Red Hen.”