Childhood stories…then, and now

Some of my favorites books from my childhood were contained within a set my brother received in 1974, which I held onto and now claim as my own. They were titled, “The Bookshelf for Boys and Girls.”

In all, I believe my set included approximately ten books, on all manner of subjects, art, science, etc.; but, my favorites were the stories. These, along with another book of Fairy Tales, kept me reading whenever my brother would run off with his friends, or when I just needed some alone time.

Nursery Rhymes and Stories

We’ve recently started reading them to MLI, because his imagination is finally outgrowing Curious George and Dingo…sorry, I mean Diego. And he seems to like them a lot; although I had forgotten how violent some of them were.

Just last night, I was reading the story about the little Tin Soldier. You’ll recall, he only had one leg and he fell in love with a little paper ballerina. But, fate stole him away from her where he then rode a paper boat into the sewers, only to be eaten by a fish, and finally returned back home when someone in the house went to the local market and purchased the fish that ate him. Unfortunately, just as the Tin Soldier and his lady were to be reunited, the Tin Man was blown into the fire where he melted.

Yeah…I had gotten too far into the ending before I realized his fate. I had forgotten that, like many REAL fairy tales, the Tin Soldier was not to have a happy ending.

This got me to thinking about how parenting has changed and I was delighted to find, in the preface of the book titled, “Folk and Fairy Tales” from my set, a forward by one of the editors. It was delightfully candid (if a tad sexist), but I found the honesty of yesterday refreshing:

“Once upon a time parents had to bring up their children without graded reading plans. The children got either little sermons with the moral sticking out like a red flag or the fairy and folk tales that have come down to us from the feudal Middle Ages. Many children had these stories read to them, together with Mother Goose, while they were still in their perambulators.

Some of today’s psychologists shake their heads over the effect this literary diet may have had on the children too young to cope with such strong doses of morality and immortality.

But most children can stand a good deal more than adults think they can. Besides, some mothers have always been blessed with common sense. If they saw that some gruesome tale induced nightmares, they stopped reading it and made up, instead, little stories about ordinary children and animals within a child’s understanding.”

The normal healthy-minded child is not harmed by fairy tales, but it is unwise indeed to expose a child to them before he is emotionally ready to accept them as fantasy. The child whose life is generally satisfying and secure, and who is mature enough, will take the most gruesome fairy tales in his stride, as he does the blood-and-thunder shows he sees on television.”

Isn’t that great! Imagine, parents—not organizations or the government—deciding what is best for their children. Wow.

But see…a tad sexist…but not surprising considering the gender roles at play. I wonder what they would have thought about today’s video games?

8 thoughts on “Childhood stories…then, and now

  1. “But see…a tad sexist…but not surprising considering the gender roles at play.”

    What’s wrong with being sexy? (Name the movie.)

    And yes, your excerpt does seem a little out of touch with reality. Everyone knows it’s the NANNY that reads to the kids, not the mother.

    RE: Pfff, of course! I don’t think my folks EVER read a book to me. I expect that’s why they worked so hard to teach me to read on my own. HA!

  2. romi41

    Oh my gosh!!! I can’t believe that Tin Soldier melted in the fire! 😦 I’m STILL not old enough to deal with an unhappy ending like that! Only endings that end in love please…

    RE: Yeah, he melts; she flames up and turns to ash, it’s all very “real.” But then, that WAS a “Grimm” fairy tale. The name should tell you enough.

  3. Not that I’m trying to rush the growing up process…but I’m looking forward to pulling out my old Trixie Belden and Chronicles of Narnia books instead of the usual ‘Rooster Can’t Cock-a-doodle-doo’ selection.

    RE: We actually started “The Lion the Witch…” about a month ago with MLI because he was so enamored of the movie. But it really is a bit old for him yet. He really just wants to skip to the part where they cut off Aslan’s hair and then he comes back to life.

  4. Oh man, I had those same exact books when I was a kid.

    Yes, that might be a warning to you – these books might make your kids turn out LIKE ME!

    RE: OR Me! Oh wait, too late. Mine are already sarcastic pessimists who constantly question everything anyone tells them.

  5. Postulates and Pasttimes AND AtHomeDaddy had these books????

    I am beginning to wonder if the government placed these books into cirulation as a sort of covert experiment… That was until they started seeing the results…

    RE: An interesting Postulate. I wonder what the ultimate goal was…perhaps to desensitize young children to violence to make them more pliable for the Special Forces when they got older?

    Yeah, that’s a stretch.

  6. Wow, I butchered that.

    O= I, as in ME

    And Special Ed Ops was supposed to = Special Ed Forces.

    But you get the idea, right?

    RE: No worries. I’m fully fluent in late night, tired incoherency. I’ve had it a time or two myself :)!

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