Why Are Fairy Tales So Scary?

/3 min read

Ever thought about it? If you read them back as an adult, they are really quite frightful affairs of child abandonment, monsters, hunger poverty and wickedness.

The moral of each tale are usually sound but, Lord, how the journey to the end is full of twists and turns that would make modern-day child services frown. Trying to remember fairy tales is not a simple task. Although not yet plagued by early onset dementia, I find recalling the stories of woe a piecemeal exercise that, like most memory work, is better done in the company of others.

As a visual person, I remember the Ladybird books that brought the tales to life with some very potent imagery. I remember mostly the Brothers Grimm, stories like ‘The Three Billy Goats Gruff’ - that troll under the bridge. It’s the pictures that help to trigger the memory, help to give me a more complete version of the story.

Bit by bit I can match Jack with the cow and the golden goose, Hansel & Gretel with the chicken bone sticking out the cage and the breadcrumbs and the Gingerbread house. Now that I am thinking, I remember one, in particular, that was not scary but quite amusing.

It’s the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes. The one where the little boy showed up the courtiers and ministers for the suck-ups and idiots that they really were. Perhaps I can write an updated version of this story, relate it to modern day global politics. I think we in Britain suffered from a little new clothes-itis in the lead up to the Iraq War. Can’t tell you the number of politicians, radio hosts, tv presenters and people in the street that claim to have been ‘duped’ into believing the war was about the search for weapons of mass destruction.

I personally believe those that thought this was the case willfully closed their eyes and ears to the truth about the costs and the benefits of this war. This has been shown in the subsequent inquiries and reports including the one out this week in Washington by the Iraq Study Group. We are blinded by people telling us what we want to hear and showing us what we want to see, not what we should listen to or should see.

These people cater for needs we don’t even know we have according to their promotional materials. Everything becomes available ‘due to customer demand’ and is justified by ‘if the public didn’t want to see it, we wouldn’t publish it’. Where’s our little boy? The one who shouts above the cheering, admiring, suck-up crowd ‘The Emperor’s got no clothes on’. In truth, we could all do with a bit of his courage. We need to open our mouths and use our voices to speak out when we don’t agree with what is effectively being pushed at us.