Children reading a storybook in the classroom

Classroom fairy tales or horror stories?

Fairy tales can be great ways of engaging children, but must be approached with caution, says deputy headteacher, Caroline Ash. 

A few weeks ago, after reading the story of Rumplestiltskin, a child asked me, "What does 'happily ever after' mean?" 

The class discussed it and came to the conclusion it meant "happily forever after that moment".

But, of course, that’s not actually possible, to be forever happy, and we discussed that, too. We also discussed the fact that no one would really want to marry someone who had locked them in a room for weeks on end and that perhaps she felt that she didn’t have a choice – the King was, after all, very powerful.

It also made me wonder why Sleeping Beauty and Snow White were happy to wake up and marry the men who kissed them while they were in drug-induced comas. At a time when we are hearing more and more of powerful, rich men taking advantage of women, this is an uncomfortable storyline.

Fairy tales, and their origins in folk tales, have been part of our culture and heritage for hundreds of years. They are tales of morality, there to teach us about good and evil, fairness, honesty, kindness and courage. They are familiar and a joy to tell, but they haven’t evolved to teach lessons that are important today and they perpetuate gender stereotypes. Improvements in gender equality across the globe have a long way to go – women still earn less than men in every Western society.

Continue reading Why fairy tales are horror stories we need to be more wary of in schools.

This blog was first featured on the Learning together... blog.