Friday, June 23, 2006

Brothers Grimm + Misogyny. Murderous Bedtime Stories.

Wicked Stepmothers
I've been reading Elliot stories from the Juniper Tree and Other Tales from Grimm. It was illustrated by Maurice Sendak and translated by Lore Segal. It's never his first choice, but because he gets really into them and because I'm interested in them, we read them every night (I selectively edit out anything too horrible).

After reading the title story, a very gruesome tale in which a wicked stepmother becomes jealous of her stepson, chops off his head and then tricks her young daughter to believe that it was her fault because she boxed his ears (I synopsized that paragraph as he died under her watch), I started to worry about the message it sends to him about women. The daughter in the story is sweet and innocent, the father is loving and kind. They are both rewarded by the spirit of the dead son who transformed himself into a beautiful bird. The boy/ bird drops a millers stone on the stepmother in a revenge killing.

Out of Control Women - Greed, Vanity
A story about a very stupid woman. An obstinate little girl disobeys her parents and heads straight to a witches den and dies. The other jealous stepmother in snow white. A good man makes a deal with the devil, his soul is safe and he marries a woman who loves him for who he is, but the devil gets the soul of two sisters who killed themselves for his love. A princess who breaks her promise to the frog who rescues her ball. A stepmother who burns her stepson's new wife to death.

Darkside of the Magic Years
I don't know, is this bad for him to hear? There are positive (non-murderous) female characters whose traits are loyalty, honesty, kindness, innocence, resourcefulness, cleanliness..... The male characters aren't especially virtuous either. Many of them are slight and passive. Why am I reading him these stories? The dark side is a part of childhood. He doesn't need to hear anything gory. But I don't want to shield him from dark things. He loves it. He always asks for scary stories. He loves ghosts, monsters, witches, knights, dragons, halloween. I have a feeling he's going to be a dungeons and dragons nerd or a goth. It's part of childhood to strengthen your psyche by working out fears through symbolic play / dreams / stories. "muscle man" "spiderman" "dragonslayer"

3 is the Magic Number
There are so many fears. Who will take care of me? What happens if I'm left alone? What will happen in the future? Fear of losing your parents. Fear of interruption of the holy trinity - mother, father, child. 3 is the magic number. Fairy tales may be especially important to the first born child. Few stories feature a large family. Singletons are common. One other sibling, usually the opposite sex is standard. Goldilocks and the 3 bears is a perfect example of interruption of the holy trinity. The interloper is the new sibling. 3 little pigs and the big bad wolf. The irritating new sibling? a new parental figure?

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