What about fairy tales?
Do you think they are ok for Christians to read to their kids?
And if so, how do we get the most out of them?
Once upon a time, in faraway lands, long before there were any printing presses, typewriters, or computers, people told stories to each other. Gathered together around the open hearth, these stories were passed down from generation to generation, sometimes being recorded in writing. These stories often changed to reflect the cultures of the various people who recorder them. No matter where they were told, fairy tales usually contained certain story elements.
1. Fairy tales frequently take place “long ago” and have special beginning words such as “Once upon a time”, and ending words such as “lived happily ever after”.
2. Fairy Tales generally have both a good character and an evil character, and the good character as a rule wins in the end.
3. There are almost always royalty and castles present in a fairy tale, and sometimes magic.
4. Fairy tales often contain a problem, and by the end, a solution.
5. Fairy tales generally make heroes of the humble.
6. Things seem to happen in “threes,” “sevens,” or “twelves” in fairy tales.
7. Lastly, fairy tales do what good literature should…move us in profound ways.
There are many views about the appropriateness of fairy tales. Nobody else can be your conscience, so you’ll need to prayerfully decide whether or not they are ok for your family.
Some choose not to read fairy tales to their young children because they think they are nightmarishly scary. This is a valid concern. Literature is for enjoyment and edification, not to traumatize. I’m of the opinion that fairy tales are best saved for children 7 years or older, unless that parent can fluently edit out any scary parts without detracting from the overall message of the story. If you choose to read them with younger children, they may enjoy Homeschool Share’s FREE Fairy Tale Kindergarten Kit.
Some parents are concerned that their children won’t be able to separate the fantasy from reality. This could be the case if children don’t first have a firm grasp on tangible and spiritual reality. But fairy tales reinforce the realities of everyday living, while helping to keep open the door to a world much larger than the one they are living in. There are, of course, those children with easily stimulated imaginations that will blend fantasy and reality in their minds, and the parents should use their own discernment as to acceptable limits of fantasy play.
Some Christians believe that they are precluded from any use of fairy tales because Deuteronomy 18:10-12 indicates that anything to do with enchantment, witches, wizards, or charmers is an abomination to God. This is a valid concern. There is no doubt that God hates all types of sorceries. Children should be closely watched, and corrected when need be, if they start emulating the acts of the deceivers. But His Word still contains accounts of witches, sorcerers, and magic. We can’t appreciate what is good if we don’t have evil to compare it to. What we need to be concerned about in fairy tales is that these evil doers do not triumph. The stories should put the evil doers in their proper places, as miserably failing deceivers that should be ostracized from society. The tales can’t glamorize or glorify evil doers, calling what’s bad good. And the feigned powers of the evil doers should be exposed as smoke and mirrors, if not directly, then indirectly. But the fact remains, fairy tales contain many themes and symbols that are directly from the Bible.
For instance, in some versions of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Snow White represents Israel’s sins (Isaiah 1:18), the seven dwarfs were carrying seven candlesticks, symbolic of the Seven Churches(Revelations 1:20), and the poison apple is symbolic of the fruit eaten by Eve in the Garden. And of course, the faithful and true Prince rescues the sleeping Snow White, marries her, and they live happily ever after. (Revelations 19).
Or how about Sleeping Beauty, with its twelve golden plates to serve the Fairies, symbolic of the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve disciples. And not to disappoint, the Prince that again saves the day. (Rev 19).
Cinderella is a prime example of how God has “has lifted up the humble” (Luke 1:52), and the dove-like bird that comforts and blesses her is symbolic of the Holy Ghost (Luke 3:22).
Other common themes are:
– sleeping (Isaiah 56:9; Mark 13:36; Luke 22:45; 1 Corinthians 15:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:13)
– awaking (Isaiah 52:1; Romans 13:11; 1 Corinthians 15:34; Ephesians 5:14)
– staying on the path (Job 24:13; Psalm 23:3; Proverbs 2:20; Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3)
– fleeing through the wilderness (much of Old Testament)
– ravenous wolves (Genesis 49:27; Ezekiel 22:27; Matthew 7:15; John 10:12)
– sacrificing for others (Psalm 54:6; Romans 12:1; Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 2:17)
– forgiveness (Acts 5:31; Colossians 3:13; Ephesians 4:32; 2 Corinthians 2:10; Luke 17:3)
– faithfulness (Psalm 36:5; Lamentations 3:23)
After careful consideration and prayer, if you are still in doubt, for conscience’s sake, maybe you should not read fairy tales to your children. If however, you decide that you’d like to include fairy tales as part of your homeschool curriculum, please visit Homeschool Share’s Fairy Tales Connections Page, with links to oodles of FREE Unit Studies, Lapbooks, and Notebooking Pages.
Here are some tried and true tips for reading Fairy Tales to and with your children:
1. While lavishly illustrated fairy tales can be quite beautiful, they have a tendency to stifle the imagination and cloud the mind’s eye. I recommend just reading the story aloud the first time, encouraging the child to envision the characters and setting. Then, on a second reading, look at the pictures together to compare how the author saw the story to how the child saw the story.
2. Fairy tales were originally told, not read, and a good storyteller should use much voice inflection and enthusiasm.
3. Allow the children, on their own, to discover the allegories and lessons entwined in the fairy tales. They will find out what they are capable of finding, and we should not overload them with information they aren’t ready for.
4. After reading, listen to your children’s interpretations without correcting them. You will learn much about their concerns and discoveries.
5. Don’t leave the fairy tales as childhood memories. Reintroduce them in the upper grades, enjoying how much your children have grown, intellectually and spiritually.