The Ryan Report—Episode 417 "Once Upon a Crime"
I know you're supposed to look back on fairy tales with nostalgia for a simpler, more innocent time, but not me. It's probably because when most people think of those stories, they think of princesses, frogs and castles (no, not Castle, castles), whereas I think of deranged tailors, starvation and children catching on fire. Why is that? Struwwelpeter.
Don't worry, you don't need to start furiously Googling or anything, I'll explain. Struwwelpeter is a collection of German children's stories from way back in the day that my sisters used to torment me with. I'm not usually one for book banning, but I honestly think the world would be a better place without this one in it.
Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about. In one story, told in a bouncy, fun little rhyme, a boy is left alone for the day and his parents tell him that he shouldn't suck his thumb while they're gone. Then, the moment he's by himself, he starts sucking. I'll admit, he probably shouldn't have done that, but the punishment put forth here doesn't exactly fit the crime. As soon as the little tot starts sucking, this guy with an enormous pair of scissors bounds through the door and cuts both of his thumbs off! C'mon! He was just sucking his thumb!
Now imagine an entire book of stories like this. In one, a girl gets burnt alive for playing with matches. In another, a kid refuses to eat dinner and four days later he starves to death. I really question the mental stability of whoever put this collection together.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to say we should only have children's stories about lambs and puppies sitting around in meadows, being nice to each other. And I know these are not the only stories with violence in them - in the older versions of Goldilocks she gets eaten by the three bears at the end - but at least there is a message there. Don't break into people's house and steal from them. The moral here is that "You shouldn't suck your thumb" or "You should eat your dinner". It seems to me that suggesting death and dismemberment are a little excessive for those indiscretions.
That being said, I didn't play with matches when I was a kid, I didn't suck my thumb and I always ate my dinner (though that last one could be because I was little bit of a fatty). Still, even if they are effective, I think Jenny and I'll stick with the good old-fashioned fairy tales for our kids. And not the kinds where the bears eat Goldilocks, the ones that end happily ever after.