Building Book Towers - Fairy Tales!

June 09, 2018

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.” 
G.K. Chesterton

There is the great lesson of 'Beauty and the Beast,' that a thing must be loved before it is lovable.” 

Our summer reading program, the Tower of Books Challenge, has begun, and every challenge for every grade includes reading fairy tales. Now, that may seem like a throwaway category of sorts, or redundant at the very least, because we're all familiar with the basics of the major fairy tales - Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and the like. But it's very likely that our familiarity is with the Disney-fied or diluted versions of those tales, so this isn't a category to take lightly!

As it happens, fairy tales are some of the oldest stories in our history, and as such, are primary structures in the foundation for all of storytelling. Fairytales give us the story archetypes (the Hero, the Villain, the Quest, etc), and offer deep moral truths and lessons that appear to be woven into almost every culture. The story of Cinderella, for instance, is one of the oldest fairy tales, and has numerous versions the world over, many of which are quite a bit darker and more intense than the Disney versions we have grown to love. 

And I do love those movies! But they bear only a passing resemblance to the tale that is vital to a good literary education. Disney's Cinderella, incidentally, is far from the worst offender. Tangled is another of my favorite Disney movies...but it isn't really the story of Rapunzel. And Frozen might be fun, but the only thing it has in common with The Snow Queen is...well, snow. While they are often as enjoyable as movies, they have an unfortunate effect on literature, seriously diluting our fairy tale knowledge.

So. Our kids need to read fairy tales - the real, rich, layered, gruesome, and beautiful fairy tales. Watch Disney movies if you like, but skip the books that tell their versions of the story. For some excellent versions, check out our fairy tale wish list. We now carry many of these in the library, thanks to our Spring Read-a-Thon fundraiser, but you may also find them in your local library. 

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