Contes? Count Me Out! Or: Why I Hate Fairytales

A conte is a fairy tale. Now, I have never liked fairy tales, ever. As a girl growing up in the 1960s, the only things to read were class-riddled and Golliwog infested Enid Blyton stories, the Swallows and Amazons saga featuring a girl called Titty, Tintin books with their white colonialist overtones (and anti-llama propaganda) – and of course fairy tales. So sadly I was forced to read a lot of the latter.

And I will be again this year. Ruadhri’s class is doing a year-long project on contes. Yet another reason to dislike his new teacher, whom I haven’t got off to a very good start with due to pochettes plastiques. Back in June, Rors and the rest of CM1 were presented with a book of fairytales by Perrault. I blogged about it here as I was unimpressed at the time. I hoped the book might get forgotten about, but no, it’s at the centre of the fairy tale project. Uh oh.

This week is Cinderalla week, or Cendrillon, as she is in French. Rors and I nobly ploughed through Perrault’s garrulous version, and it nearly killed me.  And then Rors brought home another version of the tale to read and compare with Perrault’s. This one was even more ridiculous, involving Cinderella’s dying mother at the outset, the fairy godmother being replaced by a bird and the ball going on for three days, as if one wasn’t enough.

Fairy tales are just plain dreadful, let’s face it. Each one is an example of bad parenting, ranging from the negligent to the criminally insane. Red Riding Hood’s mother sends RRH off through a wood full of wolves, and this is a child who can’t tell the difference between her grandmother and a wolf. She clearly shouldn’t be let out at all. Sleeping Beauty – if you happen to have a wicked witch knocking around your castle, then you should be damned careful about making sure you do remember to invite her to your daughter’s christening. Such an oversight is simply asking for trouble. The mother of the Three Little Pigs simple throws her children out into the cold without making sure they are even vaguely prepared for the real world. That’s akin to me sending Benj off to Uni without a supply of pasta. And as for Cinderella’s father, who firstly marries a truly ghastly replacement to his previous paragon of virtue and then gives up on his beloved daughter altogether, well, he is simply too pathetic for words and doesn’t deserve to be a father. Ditto Snow White. And the tales are all written by men who are hung up on dorky, endlessly patient and forgiving women who are sucker enough to fall for the first empty-headed prince that they encounter.

Nursery rhymes, mini-fairy tales, are even worse. I refused to sing any  to my children when they were little. I made do with Nelly the Elephant and a few other numbers from Junior Choice (remember that?) plus a good helping of Guide and Scout campfire songs. ‘I’m going down the garden to eat worms’ is far healthier than ‘Rockabye baby’ with its cradles plummeting from treetops.

OK. Deep breath and calm down. So, it’s going to be an aggravating year reading fairy tales with Ruadhri, but at least it will help my French I suppose. And amazingly, Rors seems to quite enjoy them. We discuss their hideous non-PCness since I don’t want my youngest growing up thinking that all women are doormats and that fairy godmothers will actually fulfil all your material desires and that the only decent husband is a handsome prince. But I really think it’s time we moved on from fairytales. Like the printed book, they’ve had their day.

0 Replies to “Contes? Count Me Out! Or: Why I Hate Fairytales”

  1. Oh you made me laugh Steph!
    When my children were very small, their paternal grandmother (aka the wicked witch) gave them a book of German fairy tales – I was so shocked at how completely unsuitable it was for children of any age that I refused to give it house room. It had to stay at her house, where I hope it got forgotten about (yes, that was another reason that she hated me!). Unbelievable! There were stories about children pushing their enemies into a bread oven (which looked suspiciously like my aga) – awful! So I’m right with you! There you are….from one Nellie the Elephant afficionado to another!

    1. Most fairy tales are violent, macabre and, as you say, really awful stories for kids! I had fun writing that post today! And I’m so glad you love Nellie the Elephant too – one of my all-time favourite songs!

  2. Oh Steph. Sorry but I loved Swallows and Amazons. …..and I gasped when you said the printed book has had it’s day!!!! Please no!! We did sing Nellie to our two and now to Fred and Joe as well.

    1. I liked them too, well, some of them! I was being mean! I was just trying to show that there was relatively little exciting literature around in those days, whereas now kids have an amazing selection of books to choose from.

  3. I was never a great fan of traditional fairy tales. I much preferred stories about Greek and Norse myths and legends – although they were pretty bloodthirsty too. All of them are very un-PC, however you look at them. Some of the Ladybird books were quite good – my mother used to read them to me before I went to sleep. All terribly romanticised, of course – Robin Hood, Richard the Lionheart etc. Very little was actually based on historical fact, but they were rattling good stories.

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