Are There Child-Appropriate Tales for Children?

I had a small debate with my English Professor last week about a story we were assigned to read: A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings: A Tale For Children by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The debate was whether it trully was appropriate for children or whether he was being sarcastic. I loved the tale, and said yes, I would say it would be good for children to read because of the message it relays. She thought it was a good story but a horrible, graphic thing for children.

To read the story (which is short) please go here: http://salvoblue.homestead.com/wings.html

Our debate kept bothering me on the way home from class. If you think about what is considered appropriate for children, it’s a little frightening. Hansel And Gretel– a witch who throws children into an oven and cooks and eats them. Little Red Riding Hood– a wolf who eats the girl’s grandmother. Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves….I just saw a pretty erotic book of Goldilocks in a threesome, which kinda explains both of those.

Then there’s everyone’s favorite, Disney- our declared children’s movie maker. Why do we automatically accept them as appropriate? Have parents been paying any attention? Have mothers been paying any attention? The bad guys die some pretty graphic deaths, which make me cringe! In Tarzan, you see him hung to his death in some sinister looking shadows. Lion King, he’s trampled to death. Princess and the Frog– need I describe that? In Tangled, villian falls several stories to her death. Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid? Graphic. Then there’s the comment Disney consistently makes on mothers .

Absolutely no Disney movie has a good, strongly present and influential mother. They are all evil (stepmothers), or completely absent, where the heros/heroines are raised by single fathers. Or, as in the case with Dumbo, his was made out to be insane, and Bambi‘s mom was shot and killed very early on. What does this tell our daughters who may become mothers? What does this tell our sons about us, or about how to regard the future mothers of their children?

Then there’s our nursery rhymes: Ring Around The Rosey was about the plague. And I absolutely refused to sing Rock A Bye Baby to my children after paying close attention to the lyrics, which couldn’t lull adults into sound sleep and peaceful dreams: “When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall, and down will come baby, cradle and all”. Ahh! I wrote and sang my own.

Nothing in Garcia Marquez’s story was graphic, it showed a side to human nature that children would see through more than adults do, or at the very least, need to see through early on, and I liked its moral. My biggest fear was that I would have children who’d have a lack of compassion. How do you teach that? By stories like these.  Absolutely not Disney.

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