Saturday, May 07, 2011

Who's afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

Here's a synopsis of a well known storybook I bought for the Little Man the other day :

'after escaping from a hot oven, our hero runs for his very life, being chased by various villagers and farm animals until he comes to a river. There he is tricked by a wily old fox who carries him across, apparently to safety, before eating him.'

Scary stuff eh? It is, of course, The Gingerbread Man and this particular version is beautifully put together by those fab people at Ladybird. The 'Well-loved Tales' collection were a big part of my childhood reading adventure and I felt it was time to get some traditional stories to balance his current 'Aliens love Underpants' obsession. This little series has been developed for little ones and is aimed at 2+ year olds. I let him choose which stories to start with and as he was already familiar with the 'Run, run as fast as you can. You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man!' line from nursery it was a dead cert he'd pick that story.

What I didn't realise was that he wasn't familiar with the ending...

He woke up around half one this morning, crying his eyes out and babbling about the fox 'eating me all up'! Now I know he's a smart lad with a very active imagination but he is at an age where his understanding of everything is very literal. 'It's only a story' just doesn't wash with him yet. The Gingerbread Man is as real to him as Mummy and Daddy, as is the threat of being eaten up by a sly old fox...

So what do I do? Shield him forever from the horrors of traditional fairy tales? Or explain that as the Gingerbread Man is made of gingerbread and, therefore, meant to be eaten, he was actually being very naughty running away...

It's a dilemma.

I am really not looking forward to explaining the other book he chose - Three Billy Goats Gruff. I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it... (pun intended)


  1. I've found that a lot of kids books, and films actually have pretty scary storlines when you think about it. Such a being put in an oven in Hansel and Gretel, being eaten by a wolf in Little Red Riding Hood.

    I think I was actaully more upset than my son at the beginning of Finding Nemo when the mother-to-be-fish and all but one of her eggs were eaten within the first few minutes of the film! I don't understand why death and violence need to be so prevalent in books/films aimed at toddlers.

  2. Tales from Mount Pleasant repliesMay 07, 2011 6:52 pm

    A lot of these tales have important lessons for children to learn - and older kids postiviely revel in gruesomness but I agree that until a child has grasped the concept of the difference between reality and fantasy we are treading on thin ice with these themes!

  3. I agree there are many lessons to be learned from traditional fairy tales but I also think children grasp onto certain aspects and completely ignore others depending on their age.

    My 3yo loves the rhyme in the Gingerbread Man but then again maybe that story isn't so shocking as he also eats gingerbread men.

    We were told these stories as children and I don't think it has done us as a generation any harm.


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