Gruesome Fairytales, Should I Read Them To My Young Children?

I have studied several classic fairytales since the birth of my eldest daughter and found them to be disturbing. Original version of fairytales usually contain elements of gruesome death (with head chopping, eyes pecking, belly slicing, throat slitting, cannibalism and such), deformed figures, extremely evil characters (witches or stepmothers), psychopathic characters (necrophiliac prince, infanticidal parents) and harsh socio-economic conditions in which the hero and heroines of the story live. 

The first question popped in my head is “should I read them to my very young children or should I not?”.  Why should I consider reading this story to my children

at all? Well, because according to some experts the moral messages in these stories (where the goods always triumph against evil) are stronger than other more modern tales. Bruno Bettelheim in his book “The Use of Enchantment” suggested that classic fairytales convey deeper meaning and serve greater purpose, and thus has better emotional impact in the children’s future live. 

Back to the question, “should I read classic version of fairytales to my children?” recent research by BBC News revealed that most parents avoid reading the classic fairytales to their young and very young offspring. As for myself, instead of putting away all books of fairytales from the shelves, I choose to read them but of course with some modifications.  Whether you want to read the fairytales to your children or not is your call. The following considerations may help you decide.

Choose the less gruesome and less fearsome fairytales first. The first fairytales for my daughters are the Ugly Duckling and the HC Andersen original version of “Little Mermaid”.  To avoid nightmares and phobias , try to read the stories early in the day (my experience is not to use it as bedtime stories unless your child is familiar with the story or when she is already older than five).

Open room for discussion. According to Professor Jack Zipes, expert on fairytales study, the key to successful reading of original fairytale is opening room for discussion. After reading “Red Little Riding Hood” for

example, parents could ask their child: what do you like about the story or what do they think about the story or why bad things happen to some characters of the story or how do they feel about the non-so-happy ending.  If your kid shows any sign of being overly scared by particular story, put it away, don’t read it again to her unless she ask for it.

Little editing won’t hurt. If you feel like sanitizing the fairytales that you are uncomfortable with, do it. Instead of saying that the wolf eats the grandmother, you can say that the grandmother manages to hide in the closet when the wolf is about to eat her. You can omit the part of the wicked Queen ordering the huntsman to bring Snow White’s heart to her.  Instead of being dumped by their parents, Hansel and Gretel can be said to have lost in the forest. If you are uncomfortable with the character of helpless princess who always have to be rescued by handsome prince, you can say that the princess fight the wicked queen with the prince.

Make sure your toddler understand the fairytale is a make believe. Very young children may not be able to distinguish between reality and imagination. It’s your job to make your child understand that the story is not real, that it is only a pretend. Explain that in reality no animals can talk and that no witches can harm her.

Source :
What to Expect the Toddler Years, author : Arlene Eisenberg , Heidi Eisenberg Murkoff, Sandee E. Hathaway


Article Written By Yovita Siswati

Yovita Siswati is a blogger at

Last updated on 26-07-2016 566 0

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