In fairy tales, dangerous creatures live in the forest and children can get in trouble there. In Grimm Tales’ “Snow-White and Rose-Red,” the sisters are safe in their forest, collecting flowers and berries and “nothing ever harmed them.” The hares, deer, goats and birds love their company. As the story goes, “Because they were good and kind, all things loved and trusted them.”
The girls’ mother is also a trusting soul and welcomes a frostbitten bear indoors, to warm himself by their fire. Yes, this raises a red flag for me, too. But the bear does not eat them or their pets. He becomes a regular houseguest that winter.
As it turns out, he’s actually a prince in bear’s clothing. You saw that coming, didn’t you? This is a fairy tale, after all. Even though the sisters unwittingly help elves escape with his gold, the prince has a forgiving nature. For their hospitality, the sisters and their mother live with the prince in his palace. The Grimms don’t tell us if the prince marries either girl, or even their mother. Maybe he can’t decide.
In fairy tales, parents are often jealous, greedy, desperate or naive and place children at the mercy of dwarfs, animals, stepmothers and witches. So why do children love fairy tales? Because even if parents are sometimes selfish or stupid or wrong, if a child is good and kind, things can turn out well. Even if a girl or boy is confused and makes mistakes, like “Hans in Luck,” who started with lump of gold and ended up with nothing, he or she can still be happy.
Parents love fairy tales, in part, because we once were children with imperfect parents. All grown up, we still have our vulnerable centers. Fairy tales also remind us to do our best, because there are wild things in the forests where our children play. Then they reassure us that even in our imperfection, on days when we think our parenting licenses should be revoked, we may accidentally do something right. You probably don’t want to let that bear into your house, but you can teach your children to be kind and safe. There is grace in the universe, so be loving and generous with a child today. Maybe even read a fairy tale, together.
*Snow White & Rose Red image in public domain, via Wikipedia