If you think that the hero or heroine in children story book always end up living a happy live, you better think again. These characters certainly never have a happily-ever-after ending. Tragic things in children story books usually happen to the antagonist character, the one who is bad and naughty. However, in these stories tragic things happen to the hero or heroine, the one who is good and beautiful. They have to deal with poverty, face horror and agony, sacrifice everything they have and undergone so many misfortunes.
I have a very interesting discussion with several friends lately on whether suchstories are appropriate for young readers. Some said that the stories are so sad and dark and they will not induce their children to read them. On the other hand, there are always moral lessons learned from these stories. This kind of story may perhaps useful for our children’s life as in real life bad things often happen to good people. Thus, this story can teach our children on how to survive in life and how sometimes we need to make sacrifices for good cause. Here is the list of those characters.
The story tells a tale of a young mermaid named Ariel who falls in love with human prince named Eric. She saves Prince Eric through a thunderstorm at the sea. Her love made her sacrifice everything. She leaves her family who loves her very much and asks Ursula, the witch, to exchange her tail for pair of feet. She has her feet and human appearance but has to loose her beautiful voice, and has to suffer pain each time she move her feet as if she is walking on knife. She meet Prince Eric on the land, but the irony is that without her beautiful voice, Prince Eric does not recognized her as the beautiful lady who saves him from the storm. Ariel lives in the castle with Prince Eric but never get his love. Instead the prince fall in love and marries Frieda. Ariel’s sisters inform Ariel after the Prince’s wedding that she could get her tail back and going back home again if she kills Prince Eric with a knife. Ariel, though heartbroken still love Prince Eric very much and instead of killing the prince, she throws herself into the sea and turn into foams, however, her spirit lives on eternally as the daughter of the air. What could be more tragic than that?
Little Match Girl
This story is also written by Hans Christian Andersen. It tells a story of a young girl without a name who suffer from poverty and never been loved by his father, her only family left. She was forced to sell matches on a cold Christmas Eve. No one buy her matches. Cold, she takes shelter in a nook and begins to light her matches. She sees beautiful vision in the light: beautiful Christmas tree, delicious holiday feast and finally she sees vision of her deceased grandmother, the only person in her life who love her. Her grandmother stretches her arms and takes the girl into Heaven where there is no pain and sorrow. The next Christmas morning, passers by finds the little girl, dead with a smile on her face. What kind of agony to experienced Christmas Eve in this way and what a way to die, even though she dies happily.
The Steadfast Tin Soldier
Again, this story is written by Hans Christian Andersen. The Danish writer seems to have
This story tells a tale of a handicapped tin soldier who falls in love with a paper ballerina. The tin soldier, the paper ballerina and other toys are placed on the table in a little boy’s house. Other toys who get jealous throw the tin soldier out of the window and from here his adventure begins. The tin soldier has to sail in the gutter, face the rat and eventually swallowed by fish. He has only one goal, to find his way to see the paper ballerina again. He shows courage and persistence along the way. His adventure eventually ends up on the table where the paper ballerina was placed. Ironically when he was just about to embrace her, a little boy throws him to a fireplace. The fire soon consumes him. Suddenly the wind blow and the paper ballerina is push to the fireplace and burned with him. The tin soldier melts and re-forms into the shape of a heart.
How could he go through so many misfortunes, showing courage and steadfastness along the way with unwavering sense of duty only to find tragedy and death? Andersen summarizes the story in his ending note: ‘throughout the sufferings and difficulty of life, only love is eternal’.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
There are 13 books of this ‘Unfortunate Events’ series written by Daniel Handler under the pseudonym of Lemony Snicket. It tells a story of Baudelaire kids, 1 girl, 1 boy and 1 little baby girl: Violet, Klaus and Sunny. The kids have to face the tragic death of their parents at a very young age and have to deal with the mean, cruel, scheming Count Olaf who aims to steal the Baudelaire’s fortune, all through the end. The scene was set in a Gothic manner where all are dark and grey. The kids have to face so many horror and cruel death of kind characters in the book.
The story was told in the narration of Lemony Snicket. The narration is often cynical and sometimes with dark humor in it. The style of narration is unique and very interesting. There is moral lesson too of courage and learning through misfortune but the dark aspect of the book make me think that the book is more appropriate for adults.
Peter Pan, a character invented by J.M Barrie is a traumatic child. He leaves his home as his parents urge him to grow up and when he returns and looking inside his parent’s home he sees another baby replacing him. He feels unwanted. He flees to Neverland and then refuses to grow up. Poor boy! He often goes to real life and leads groups of children who lost by their parents to Neverland. He will not allow the children who follow him to grow up either. He befriended Wendy, John and Michael Darling and they all have a great adventure in Neverland. Only then the Darling kids finally return to their home and grow up, leaving the poor Peter Pan alone forever as a child.