Are classic tales cruel?

At present, we are experiencing an upheaval of educational pedagogy and this fact causes that, without a doubt, and with somewhat artificial excess, certain values considered positive for the development of childhood in children’s stories are sought. This trend tends to avoid complicated vocabulary in children’s stories , as well as convoluted plots or with sad endings.

This fact completely distances the classic tales of authors such as Charles Perrault or the Brothers Grimm . Although belonging to very different centuries (seventeenth and eighteenth centuries respectively), all of them worked around a childhood that is not at all like the concept of childhood today, since the latter did not begin to develop until the nineteenth century with the industrial revolution and the struggle for labor rights . Let us remember that even in the 19th century it was considered normal and necessary for children to collaborate in work tasks alongside adults , and it goes without saying that in previous centuries.

Consequently, there was not all the attention, pampering, and whims that are now given to the little ones. Let us remember the story of The Match Girl, by Andersen, and its terribly bitter end, a reflection of the harsh life situation that millions of children experienced and suffered in the past.

The importance of context

For all this, it is essential that when evaluating a story, or any type of literary work or historical event, we keep in mind the context in which they were developed to avoid vehement and poorly argued reflections . Bearing this in mind, surely we can reread all the classic tales, and reach conclusions much more accurate and closer to the position of their writers at the time of writing, such as, for example, how Little Red Riding Hood taught that to achieve happiness the shortest path should not always be sought, or that a child should always distrust strangers and excessively kind people because of the dangers that this could entail. Seen in this way, we would be able to see in these classic writers authentic defenders of the child in times in which few people considered them, as well as great social philosophers.

Articles have been published trying to scandalize, at this point, about the cruelty apparently existing in the stories of Charles Perrault and the rest of the classic authors, applauding the Disney factory for the feat of sweetening them and making them “suitable” for our children of today. It would be good to polish our critical thinking and realize that, sweetening the lives of children without limits, distances us all from reality.

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