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Copyright by Flora Breen Robison 

The Fairy Tale as Read in Today’s World

Note: This is an article meant to be about the fairy tale of Cinderella itself, not the Disney film based upon the fairy tale. However, they are not mutually exclusive. The article is instead meant to be about the original purpose of the fairy tale as it was written by the Grimms Brothers, not as it was cleaned up to make them rated G for children to read. 

I am not discussing the motivation Walt Disney had in making the film, how people viewed the film when it was first released vs. today, or how closely the film follows the original fairy tale. Instead, I’m writing about the underlying morale of the fairy tale for today’s society. Again, I am not tryin gto ignore these things, just that i find people have a tendency to misunderstand your original intention was, based upon their own belief and lack of tone of voice or facial expression online.


Beauty vs. Evil and the Important of Age

Cinderella is not unique among fairy tales in general. It is a fairy tale with the standard format of girl meets prince, falls for prince, prince falls for princess-all with the typical problems with evil that befall their relationship in the middle of the story. The title character is beautiful and her love is handsome. Evil characters tend to be ugly and old.

And that is the whole problem with Cinderella.

It is not unique to fairy tales, let alone to Cinderella, that beauty is virtue and ugly is evil. When writers want to describe a person as evil or virtuous, they use physical characteristics to distinguish these two extremes and everything in between. Chaucer used this exact technique in THE CANTERBURY TALES.

n the historical context in which it was written, this long literary work does exactly what is meant to accomplish. Chaucer lets readers know which members of the pilgrimage are evil, which are virtuous, and which are somewhere in between. In turn, each of their tales reflect their characters.

Similarly, fairy tales were designed to demonstrate in the descriptions of their characters virtue and evil. In this, Cinderella is no different than Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, or any other story that Walt Disney made into an animated classic. All of them are guilty of this prejudice. And I not suggesting that this isn’t a problem with these other stories.

The reason why Cinderella deserves special attention is that unlike in the other stories of beautiful girl marries handsome princess, not everyone who is evil is depicted as being old as well as ugly. Why is this an important distinction?

Cinderella as Read by Girls in the 21st Century

Fairy tales are read by children. Childhood is an extremely impressionable age. They learn everything by reading, watching others, and listening to others-how to behave, what is right vs. wrong, what beliefs to have- and, unfortunately, that looks are important beyond just dressing neatly.

Children may not see themselves as they really are reflected in Sleeping Beauty or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. None of the bad people are their age or young in general. But what if you are not physically beautiful and you read Cinderella? The Ugly Stepsisters are around the same age as Cinderella. We know they are, because they are competing for the same prince to marry. They are *young.*They are also ugly and evil.

This is teaching a very bad morale to children on an instinctive level that they will carry on through to their teen years and beyond. Beautiful people are good. Ugly people are bad. Always. Therefore, if you are an ugly child or even a plain child, you must be a bad person. As adults, we know this isn’t true. But fairy tales are read to children. Not adults.

In Conclusion:

Fairy tales can fun to read and dream about what might be if we met a prince. But it is important to remember that there is more to fairy tales than what is seen on the surface. Sometimes the deeper meanings can be painful and even dangerous to the reader. Be careful what you let your children read. Just because something is aimed at children, doesn’t mean that children should read it. The original fairy tales as written by the Brothers Grimm, were never meant to be read by children.They were written for *adults.* They were later adapted to more gentle behaviour so that children could read them.


Where the Grimm Brothers Are Buried -Their Cinderella was quite adult in nature

Source: Public Domain