I adore fairy tales. I love the mystery, the supernatural, the happily ever afters. They are full of virtue and strength. I even like the ones that don't end so well, like the Little Mermaid. (What's that?) No, it's not a happily ever after story. It's actually rather tragic. If you think it's not a cautionary tale, you've been fed a diet of Disney fairy tales, which are pretty dumbed down.
I've been fairly disenchanted with Disney for a while. My disgust started years ago with The Hunchback and Pocahontas. Miserable. Simply awful.
Now I have a daughter who adores fantasies more than I do! When we go to the library she loads up on fairy tales and fantasies. She devours George MacDonald and has read all of Narnia more than once. And we are reading Lord of the Rings together.
I'm always looking to pick up more great tales for her.
The week before Father's Day we were at the library and I took a look at the books the librarians recommended for Father's Day reading. There was a Fathers and Sons Tales and a Fathers and Daughters Tales. I grabbed both.
A few days later Meg says, "This book is weird." And she proceeds to tell me the story of a Shah who is disgusted with his wife for "betraying" him. So he has her killed. Then he takes a virgin maiden from the kingdom--a new one each night. After "enjoying her company" he chops her head off in the morning. He does this until he has "enjoyed" every maiden in the kingdom except the daughter of his grand vizier. She goes into him and he "enjoys" her, too. Then she says, "Since I'm dying tomorrow can I tell stories tonight?" So, she spends the evening telling stories and the Shah loves to listen to her stories. So, he demands another one the next night. After she bears him three children she begs for her life. And all his anger has gone out of him and he pardons her (excuse me???? pardons her????) and decides since he has three kids with her he may as well marry her. The tale ends with "May Allah bless us all with good stories."
The librarian heard from me, I assure you.
I don't want a book burning. But, I would certainly hope for better from a recommended reading list!
Meg and I had a long talk about women's roles in stories.
So, then yesterday at the library I was looking for a different book--one that would be uplifting and empowering. I got one on African American Folk Tales For Girls. Another dismal failure. So many of the stories are downright demonic and the illustrations actually scare ME, let alone the children. It's not so much full of girl power as it is full of the glorification of evil.
Thankfully I had learned my lesson from the Shah and didn't let the kids read it until I had!
All I want are some books that are beautiful, rich in imagery and rhythm that are not anti-woman, demonic or stoopid. Is that too much to ask??????