Some fairy tales (both old and new) simply have terrible messages for kids. Luckily they’re young enough to not completely understand the underlying meanings, but as adults we have to wonder “Why do we read these to our kids?”
Here are a few of the fairy tales with terrible messages.
1. Goldilocks And The Three Bears
Breaking and entering, destruction of private property, and theft are the central theme of this particular fairy tale. Now, depending on which version you read, Goldilocks is either a young girl breaking into the home of a family of bears, or an old woman breaking into the home of three male bears. In both stories, Goldilocks helped herself to the porridge of the bears, sat in their chairs (breaking one,) and then decided to lie down in their beds. The bears came home, assessed the damage, and then found the woman in one of the beds. Upon awakening, the woman is so frightened that she bolts out of the house and gets away.
The Lesson: You can get away with anything if you can escape the scene of the crime.
2. Little Red Riding Hood
Little Red Riding Hood (or as the Grimm’s Fairy Tale dubbed her, “Little Red-Cap”) traverses the forest to find her grandmother’s cottage and deliver a basket of food to her grandmother. In the Grimm’s Fairy Tales version, Little Red-Cap is told by her mother to take the cake and wine straight to her grandmother – who lives “a good quarter of a league farther on in the wood”– and not to stray from the path. Upon entering the wood, the little girl runs into a talking wolf, who finds out where the girl’s grandmother lives. He then convinced the girl to disregard her mother’s orders and stray from the path to pick flowers, and he ran to the grandmother’s cottage to gobble her up.
Shortly after, Little Red-Cap arrives at her grandmother’s house to find the door open. She felt uneasy about going into the house, but did it anyway. The wolf consumed her as well and fell asleep on the bed, not waking up even when a woodsman cut his stomach open with scissors. Upon rescuing the grandmother and the granddaughter, they filled the wolf’s body up with stones so when he tried to chase the group, he fell down dead.
The Lesson: Sure you can ignore your parents’ wishes and screw up, because there will always be someone to save you from the mess you made.
Cinderella is the tale of a young girl whose father lost his wife and re-married the “evil step-mother.” The evil step mother and her two little brats tortured Cinderella day in and day out, yet suspiciously, her father never did or said anything about it. Depending on which story you know most about (Disney or Grimm’s) Cinderella either had a fairy god mother or a magical tree that she would wish under and receive whatever she pleased. Upon hearing that the King was having a party to find a wife for the Prince, Cinderella begged her evil step mother to go, but she didn’t let her. It was just as well, as the young girl had nothing to wear. Several pages of torture or magic later (again depending on the story you know best) Cinderella is all decked out, gorgeous, and ready to turn heads. Long story short Cinderella runs away from the Prince who has to find her again based on the shoe she leaves behind. Once he does, they live happily ever after.
The Lesson: It’s okay to allow yourself to be abused because some day a guy will come to take you away.
4. Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty (or Brier Rose, by Grimm’s) is a story about a scorned witch sentencing the King’s daughter to death because the old crone didn’t get invited to dinner. (All of this because the King didn’t have enough golden plates.) The witch comes in, curses Sleeping Beauty with death by spindle prick, and leaves. Luckily there was a nice witch left who made it so that she wouldn’t die, but would instead fall into a 100-year-long sleep which is basically the same thing because I’m assuming that back then, people didn’t live to be 115.
Anyway, the Princess pricks her finger, falls into a deep sleep, and caused the deaths of many princes who attempted to break into the thorn-covered castle in an attempt to rescue her. Finally, one Prince was allowed into the castle by the thorns, and he awakened Sleeping Beauty and indeed the entire kingdom by simply kissing her. They then got married and lived happily ever after.
The Lesson: If a man saves you from a crisis, you are supposed to spend the rest of your life with him. Even if he kisses you without your permission.
Rumpelstiltskin is the story of a poor miller who lied about his daughter’s ability to spin straw into gold so he could impress the King, who wanted to see this magic for himself. When the miller brought his daughter to the King, he locked her in a room with a spinning wheel and straw. If she could not turn spin all of the straw into gold by the morning, she would be executed.
Because she couldn’t actually do what her father promised, the girl began to weep. Upon hearing her tears, Rumpelstilskin enters the room and offers to do it for her, if she would give him something in return. Initially she offers him her necklace, and he accepts, spinning the roomful of straw in to gold before morning. Instead of letting her go, the greedy King took her to a larger room of straw and threatened her with her life again. Once again Rumpelstilskin spun the straw into gold in exchange for the ring on the young girl’s finger. Finally, the King locked her in the largest room yet and told her that if she could turn all of the straw into gold by dawn, she would be his wife. Yet again Rumpelstilskin entered the room, but she had nothing more to offer him. In lieu of an immediate gift, the little man made her promise to give him her first born child when she becomes Queen. Not entirely sure she would have children, she quickly made the promise.
One year after their marriage, she had a child. Rumpelstilskin came to collect what he was promised. The Queen couldn’t even think of giving up her child, and instead offered the little man all of the riches in the kingdom, which he refused. Instead of taking the child, he made the Queen a deal, if she could guess his name in three days, she could keep her child. Eventually she did guess his name, and he became so enraged that “he plunged his right foot so deep into the earth that his whole leg went in; and then in rage he pulled at his left leg so hard with both hands that he tore himself in two.”
The Lesson: It’s okay to lie to gain favor with the rich and famous, as long as you never have to face the consequences for it yourself. Additionally, it’s okay to break your promises if you made them out of desperation.
Ah, Rapunzel. The story of a man who stole from the neighbor’s garden because his wife had cravings so bad that she thought she would die if she didn’t get what she wanted. The owner of the garden – an enchantress – caught him stealing in instead of punishing him, she decided the he could have the plant he desired if he promised her his first born child. He was so scared that he consented to whatever she said, and their first daughter, named Rapunzel, belonged to the enchantress.
Once the young girl was 12, she was locked in a tall tower by the enchantress, who made sure that the only way to the window out of which Rapunzel looked was the girl’s hair. Soon, a Prince came by and began talking with Rapunzel, who agreed to go away with him once they had a way down. Unfortunately, she mentioned this to the evil enchantress who quickly cut off her hair and whisked her away to the desert to live out a life of misery. That same day, she tricked the Prince into coming into the tower. Upon being threatened, he jumped out of the tower window. While he lived, the thorns pierced his eyes, causing him to go blind.
He wandered in the desert until he miraculously stumbled across Rapunzel and her children (twins) and when she cried on his eyes he could see again. Then they lived happily ever after.
The Lesson: It’s okay to give away your child after you were caught stealing for your selfish partner. Nothing bad could possibly come of that, right?
7. Snow White
Snow White is the story of a young Princess whose evil step-mother wished her dead simply for being the most beautiful woman in the land. First she demands that a huntsman takes her into the forest to kill her, but he can’t do it. After learning that he failed, she tries three different times to kill Snow White. The first, she attempts to cut off her air flow by lacing her up too tight into her clothes. The second time, she created a poisoned comb, and the third time was a poisoned apple. Finally, upon eating the apple, Snow White falls down dead and the dwarves that she is living with are unable to revive her. (Keep in mind that this entire time, they have repeatedly explained to her that her evil step mother is still trying to kill her, and Snow White shouldn’t allow anyone in for that purpose.) They place her in a glass coffin and keep watch over it until a Prince rides buy and offers to buy it from them because he wants to “treasure” Snow White, even though she’s dead. (Yeah, it’s pretty creepy.) He has his men carry her to the castle, but during the trip the stumble and jar the coffin. This is enough to dislodge the piece of cursed apple from Snow White’s throat, whereupon she is brought back to life and agrees to marry the Prince who inadvertently saved her life. The evil step-mother is invited to the wedding and after she figures out who the Queen is (Snow White) she is angered beyond belief. However, she is forced to dance in hot iron shoes until she drops dead, meaning Snow White is safe for the rest of her life.
The Lesson: Having zero regard for your own personal safety is totally okay because someone else will come along and save you from your own stupidity.