Fairies - Popular Children's Books Genre
Not Just For Kids
There's no doubt about it - kids love fairy tales, and why wouldn't they? Disney has made it possible for children (and adults) to enjoy their favorite characters in books and movies, and each story has a perfect ending. But, fairy tales, when they were first on the scene, were meant as much for adults as they were for children, and the endings weren't always happy ones. Today there is a huge following of readers, writers, teachers, and others who spend a lot of time researching, reading, and writing about fairies and fairy tales for adults as well as children.
So, then, what exactly is a fairy tale? One author and researcher of fairy tales says this about them:
"My own definition of fairy tale goes something like this: A fairy tale is a story-literary or folk - that has a sense of the numinous, the feeling or sensation of the supernatural or the mysterious. But, and this is crucial, it is a story that happens in the past tense, and a story that is not tied to any specifics. If it happens "at the beginning of the world," then it is a myth. A story that names a specific "real" person is a legend (even if it contains a magical occurrence). A story that happens in the future is a fantasy. Fairy tales are sometimes spiritual but never religious." Marcia Lane from her book Picturing a Rose: A Way of Looking at Fairy Tales.
Classic Fairy Tales
Now that we know what it is, is the genre still alive and well in the lives of our children? Indeed it is. It may be surprising to know that among the top selling children's fairy tale books, you will still find Pinocchio, the story of the puppet who became a little boy - one that lied too much, close to the top of the list. There are many of the classic fairy tales that remain best-sellers, such as the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen's tales of the Norwegian Wood. Lewis Carroll and Through the Looking Glass with Alice in Wonderland, continues to excite the imagination of children worldwide. We must not forget Mother Goose, who supplied us with nursery rhymes galore to grow up on and raise our children on. Fairies abound in children's books. There's the famous fairies, The Fairy Godmother of Cinderella, and Peter Pan's sidekick Tinkerbell. There are good fairies and bad fairies, and we can read about them in The Violet Fairy Book, a recent collection of stories about fairies, or in books that have been around for centuries.
Mermaids, Unicorns, And Dragons...
Many children's books in this genre involve mythical beasts, although we wouldn't call them that today. Such creatures as mermaids and mermen, unicorns, and dragons are the dangers or delights of many stories. The tales of King Arthur slaying the dragon, and mermaids wooing young sailors, live on. The unicorn, that lovely creature, continues to be and do good, and can only be caught by treachery. Today, books about mermaids, unicorns, and dragons, continue, but they are tamer than the originals.
Many parents continue to give their children the gift of imagination and literacy through fairy stories and tales of enchantment, including the new variations on the old themes. By acting the fairy tale out and using imaginative play, children can make sense of their world. The child's sense of wonder is something adults need more of, and by doing activities with children based on fairy tales, everyone benefits. For instance, "The Three Bears" can teach children about weights and measurements; big, medium, small and heavy, not-too-heavy, and very light. Dress-up and creating costumes is another way fairy tales enhances play and activities for children (and adults).
A Parting Thought
Bruno Bettelheim, an American child psychologist and writer who gained international repute for work he did on Freud, psychoanalysis and emotionally disturbed children, argued that you should never explain the meaning of a fairy tale to a child, as the meaning they take away from it may be entirely different than your adult interpretation. Sage advice.
Isn't imagination wonderful?