Fairy Tale Protagonists are the Real Monsters

Classic fairy tales usually involve a plucky young child taking on something dark and dangerous that represents the unknown and coming out on top. Those tales have been told, retold, and ultimately sanitized over the generations. When you go back to the source, however, a disturbing pattern emerges. While the horrors they face are immense, the fairy tale protagonists turn into horrifying monsters themselves when the tale reaches its conclusion and they embark upon the most satisfying part of their journey: revenge.

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Frog and Toad

Frog is a Dream-Stealing Monster that Must be Stopped!

My wife played a part in a community theatre production of A Year with Frog and Toad, a play based on the Frog and Toad stories written by Arnold Lobel. If you haven’t read Lobel’s books, I’m sorry your parents neglected you.

The play taught me two things. First, Arnold Lobel had a terrific wit. His simple stories about friendship are filled with wry irony and clever twists. Second, the play made a huge deviation from Lobel’s stories by turning Frog into a manipulative dream monster.

Frog is basically Freddy Kreuger meets Inception, with a little co-dependency thrown in just for fun. He uses some unexplained dream-altering magic to force Toad into a “friendship” that is entirely based on pleasing Frog.

I can tell you’re not convinced. Let me prove my point by referencing key scenes from the musical.

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Red Riding Hood

The Strange Tale of Little Red Riding Hood

Most people realize that a lot of the classic fairy tales we read today have been altered and sterilized. Many of them come from the Grimm brothers, whose first volume of fairy tales was criticized way back in 1812 for being unsuitable for children thanks to abusive parents, rape, incest, and other nasty stuff.

I recently read the story of Little Red Riding Hood as a bedtime tale for my daughter. Although this fable originated hundreds of years before the Grimm brothers were born, theirs is the version I chose to go with. The selection bothers me not because of the violence involved, but because the people in this story have such needlessly circuitous plans that they make 1960s supervillains seem downright efficient.

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Hop on Pop

Library Patron Pushes for Dr. Seuss to be Banned for Violence

I don’t generally cross-post here from my other blogs, but the response to a blog I posted in 2014 on BabyCenter.com was too good to let vanish when they reorganized their site. The comments are what really puts the whole thing over the top for me, which is why this blog entry has earned a spot over here on the Screamsheet.

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