Tuesday, December 30, 2014


 I won't dive in to the deep waters of the discussion over whether to censor traditional fairy tales for young readers---whether to take out the gruesome or scary parts, whether to make sure they have morally correct endings, and so on. That discussion has been carried on by life-long students of literature, child development, mythologies, and the like; and it began with the very first publication of the Grimm's brothers collection in 1812---or even earlier. I would be in way over my head if I joined this group.
from "Grimm's Fairy Tales, Complete Edition, illustrated by Josef Scharl"
But I can dabble here in the shallows, and talk about my own experiences with fairy tales. 
from "Andersen's Fairy Tales", illustrated by Arthur Szyk

As a child, I read voraciously. I took armfuls of the books I had chosen out of the public library; and I read and re-read the volumes that filled the bookshelves and cluttered the rooms in our home. Fairy tales were one of my main staples.
from "Grimm's Fairy Tales," illustrated by Fritz Kredel
As a child, life could be bewildering, confusing, hurtful; even terrifying. I didn't consciously realize it then, but I know now that immersing myself in fairy tales helped me to navigate the turbulent parts of my days---to integrate all those contradictory parts into a cohesive whole.
Paper Sculpture, by Su Blackwell http://www.sublackwell.co.uk/#
I am glad that my parents did not try to control what I read. I am glad that I had access to the magic, symbolism, metaphor, and mythology of uncensored fairy tales. I was too young to understand logical and intellectual explanations about life, but I could understand the messages embedded in fairy tales. Fairy tales: for me, a treasure-house of wisdom. 


  1. (Hoping this is not redundant) The first fairy tale I remember (trying to read, studying the illustration) was Andersen's Little Match Girl.It made me terribly sad, and ever afterward have pity on orphans, but I knew that my parents would care for and protect me. I am grateful to them and their parents for all the books, the bed time or snow-time reading, and by their total lack of censorship.

  2. Oh, I SO agree that fairy tales are the best! In fact, I recently picked up a copy of Grimm's fairy tales at a thrift store and have been reading them again! This edition is illustrated by Lily Owens.

    I have a memory of when our mother, Nancy D. Watson, was writing The Birthday Goat, and her editor (or publisher) wanted her to omit some of the fiercer/scarier parts about the infamous Pig family. I wrote an incensed letter to the person in charge, saying how Mom's story was very tame compared to fairy tales by the Brother's Grimm! I don't think I won my case, though! :-)

  3. I'm happy to have found your blog! My children and I are a fan of your books. And your post here illustrates one of the biggest reasons childrens' stories are so important: fairy tales aren't unnecessary nonsense, but tools that children can grasp as they learn to navigate life.

    1. So glad you discovered my blog---and very happy indeed to hear from a fan. Thank you!