Tag Archives: fairy tales are important

When Beauty Destroys the Beast: “Uprooted” Book Review

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Before I began Uprooted by Naomi Novik I had high expectations. With over 50,000 ratings and nearly 9,500 reviews, this young adult novel has over a 4 star rating (out of 5). This book had to be phenomenal! At least, that’s what the overwhelming majority of the reviews indicated.

The first pages—almost the entire first chapter—grabbed my attention. This book is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, where the Beast is a magician known as the Dragon and Beauty is a village girl about to discover that she has a much larger role to play than she’d ever imagined.

However, after the first pages, I had a difficult time reading the first third of the book. It didn’t seem any different than most of the young adult books out there. The protagonist Agnieszka is a seventeen-year-old brown haired, clumsy girl, whose best friend is beautiful and talented and brave. The Dragon is a one hundred fifty year old guy, who looks like he’s not much older than Agnieszka and is a jerk. (Where have we heard that scenario before?)

In the original Beauty and the Beast, the Beast was also a jerk, but I felt that there was a reason behind it. (He did look like a monster, after all.) The Dragon seemed to be a jerk just for the sake of being a jerk.

I felt like the Dragon being terrible and incredibly rude to Agnieszka for no reason, and she reacting like some exceedingly self-conscious, mumbling, and messy girl, was a story plot I’d seen before. One where the jerk of a guy was going to be the love interest. A story plot I’ve never liked.

But that all changed when I entered the second half of the book. Basically, I liked the book better when the Beauty and the Beast retelling ended and the story took on a life of it’s own.

Agnieszka started growing as a character. She began standing on her own two feet. As the world, characters, and plot built layers and layers on itself, I was pulled back into the story. I ended up not being able to put the book down. Some of the my favorite scenes were when Agnieszka and the Dragon were separated, because then I got to see what Agnieszka could do and what her personality was truly like, without the Dragon’s shadow looming over her.

While the final third of the book made me late a few mornings to work—I ended up reading longer than I should have—there was one scene that chucked me headfirst out of the story. Normally, a scene like this one wouldn’t have bothered me, if it were in an adult novel. However, this scene was in a young adult book that is intended for thirteen to seventeen year olds. This scene is a detailed sex scene between the Dragon and Agnieszka. Detailed enough that I could picture everything that was happening. I wouldn’t have wanted my fifteen-year-old cousin reading this scene. When I was fifteen, I read books that had sexual content, but never anything that I’d describe as soft Harlequin.

Other than that scene, the final section of the novel was extraordinary. The creativity and imagination fueling the rising action, climax, and resolution was brimming with excitement and depth. When the ending finally came, it was satisfying, mature, and realistic. It was a perfect ending to a book that turned out to be an incredible fairy tale.

Have you read any good books lately?

(Photo courtesy of Chris Alcoran.)

Toads and Diamonds: Why Fairy Tales are Essential to Childhood

 
More and more I’m finding that traditional fairy tales aren’t being read to children. In fact, almost half of parents won’t read Rumpelstiltskin to their children. They consider the kidnapping and execution themes in the story too gruesome for kids.

5220792492_faaf941f9b_oAs for Cinderella, fifty-two percent of parents believe that the fairy tale’s protagonist doesn’t present a good message to children, since the protagonist is a young woman, who does housework all day long.

I grew up on fairy tales, from the happily ever after Disney versions to the traditional Grimm Brothers’ Tales and stories by Hans Christian Andersen. One of my favorites of Andersen’s stories is The Little Mermaid. This version diverges greatly from the Disney version, and brings with it a much deeper meaning.

Realizing how many parents refuse to read traditional fairy tales to their children is surprising and saddening. Fairy tales present hard truths. In many traditional fairy tales, there is no happily ever after. Horrible things happen to good people. People make mistakes and aren’t always forgiven. The princess doesn’t always get the prince. I believe that by either not reading fairy tales to kids at all or by only sharing the Disney versions, kids may be developing a lopsided view of the world. They start to think that their lives will turn out perfectly. Everything will work out in the end. While this is a wonderful belief, it can help prevent kids from learning how to prepare for and negotiate the real world. C.S. Lewis stated, “Sometimes fairy stories may say the best what’s to be said.”

Fairy tales distill complex worldly truths down to their most raw form. They give kids insight and help them better prepare for reality. They open the door for kids to ask their parents and other adults questions. A fourth of parents won’t read fairy tales to their children because the tales encourage uncomfortable questions. While two-thirds of parents won’t read fairy tales that could give their kids nightmares, half of parents believe that traditional fairy tales present a stronger moral message than modern fairy tales.

Fairy tales not only present hard truths; they also show children how to handle problems. Kids read fairy tales and learn from what the protagonist did. They take what they read and implement it into their lives. Fairy tales are vital to helping kids learn how to navigate life. G.K. Chesterton stated, “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

So much in today’s society is focused on sheltering children, protecting them from every little perceived harm, no matter how far-fetched that harm may be, such as the instances where parents are seen as endangering their kids “in a manner that is totally disconnected from any statistical realities about the actual dangers faced.” It’s to the point where some parents are shielding their kids from the hardships on Sesame Street. In Jennifer Senior’s TED Talk, “Why Is Parenthood Filled with So Much Anxiety,” she states that while purchasing a DVD of the first few Sesame Street episodes, the DVD came with the warning “that the content is not suitable for children.”

If we don’t give children a chance to ask the hard questions, if we keep them from the uglier parts of reality, how are they going to end up healthy, intelligent, independent individuals?

As Albert Einstein said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

What do you think about reading fairy tales to children?

(Photo courtesy of chiaralily.)