When Georgia was a baby, one of the first books I bought her was a classic treasury of fairy tales.
It turned out that the stories weren’t so magical. It taught me a valuable lesson about never to judge a book by it’s cover – not even a children’s book.
Here’s the grimm story… and an update 2 years later….
The not so magical world of fairy tales
When I was a kid, I remember being drawn to the ladybird books and classic fairy tales. So, to start off Georgia’s collection, I opted for a classic treasury. This was one of the first books I EVER bought her.
The front cover pictured little red riding hood, kneeling down in the wood with a shadow of the wolf hiding in the background. Quite innocent and gave me all the feels.
All I needed was a mug of coco and some giant marshmallows and I was ready to hunker down and read a story to my new baby girl.
This particular book promised to have stories such as the little mermaid, little red riding hood and Aladdin – the classics right?
Each short story was taken as an extract or abridged version of classics with a few pages from the original stories and nice big pictures.
Sounds great, right?
But it turns out that the originals are a lot darker than the fluffed up fantasy versions of my past.
I read my daughter four of these stories as a baby before I gave up on the book.
Fairy tale meets Game of Thrones
The stories were unreasonably dark. Whoever put the book together had obviously been following suit from George R.R Martin as they weren’t afraid to kill off beloved characters. Here is a list of deaths from the first 4 stories I read:
- Peasant’s wife – unknown cause of death
- Aladdin’s father – Died due to being grieved by Aladdin’s idleness (apparently that’s a thing)
- 40 wolves – hacked apart with the tin man’s axe
- 42 crows – necks wrung by the scarecrow
- Swarm of bees (not too fussed by that one)
- Tinman dropped on sharp rocks by flying monkeys
- Scarecrow pulled apart by flying monkeys
Now come on… for a selection of children’s stories, that’s a lot of death to deal with and not all were the ‘baddies’.
It’s not only that there are a large number of deaths – as death is often an important story line as the tragedy that needs to be overcome.
It’s the way that they are dealt with in this book without providing a happy ending that has shocked me.
Even short stories should have happy endings in children’s books. Or at least a lesson to be learnt if it’s a fable, but there seem to be very few happy endings so far.
Dorothy the slave…
As an example, poor Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz is set to live out her days in slavery from where we leave her at the end of the story.
“So Dorothy became a slave for the Wicked Witch, and realized that it would be harder than ever to get back to Kansas again.”
I’m disappointed that whoever made this book didn’t think to add the happy ending parts – a vital part for any fairy tale.
The little mermaid is a crack addict
My world of The Little Mermaid before reading the short story was a singing Jamaican crab and a handsome prince Eric who ends out living happily ever after.
There was even a rainbow.
I was looking forward to reading her this happy tale of the bright red headed girl *cue the glockenspiel*.
Instead I was confronted with her tongue literally being cut out by the witch *drops glockenspiel*. The story ends with her heading to the surface to live her new life in excruciating pain from her new legs as if she were a morphine addict going cold turkey.
I have no idea if the classic version of the little mermaid leads her to meet the handsome Eric, but I was shocked by this stark contrast from my Disney-tinged expectations.
Maybe children are being brought up with less rose-tinting and more Grimm nowadays, but I’d rather keep a bit of innocence for as long as possible.
Happily ever after…?
Okay, so after I published the above story 2.5 years ago, I sent a strongly worded email to the publishers, Miles Kelly.
I wasn’t happy.
They agreed to look at the book and after having a meeting to talk about it decided to PULL THE BOOK!
I’m now really happy to confirm that the book is no longer available on their website and instead it looks as though they’ve moved in a happier direction.
They also sent me a couple of books as an apology and I have to admit that we’re still reading those ones.
So although this particular book didn’t reach a happy ending, our tale does.
And they all lived happily ever after…