why fairy tales are really scary tales

Why Fairy Tales are Really Scary Tales?

Fairy tales are stories that we often associate with childhood, magic, and happy endings. They are stories that teach us about good and evil, love and courage, and the power of imagination. But are fairy tales really as innocent and harmless as they seem? In this article, I will argue that fairy tales are actually scary tales, that have dark origins, psychological themes, and cautionary messages. I will also explore how fairy tales have influenced pop culture and how they still fascinate us today.

The Dark Origins of Fairy Tales

Fairy tales have a long and complex history that dates back to ancient times. They were originally oral stories that were passed down from generation to generation, often reflecting the culture, values, and beliefs of the people who told them. They were also used as a way of entertaining, educating, and warning the listeners about the dangers and challenges of life.

However, the original versions of many popular fairy tales were not as sweet and sanitized as the ones we know today. They were often violent, gruesome, and disturbing, featuring themes such as murder, cannibalism, incest, rape, and torture. For example, in the original version of Cinderella by the Brothers Grimm, the stepsisters cut off parts of their feet to fit into the glass slipper, and their eyes are pecked out by birds at the end. In the original version of Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault, the prince does not kiss the princess to wake her up, but rapes her while she is asleep and impregnates her with twins. In the original version of Little Red Riding Hood by Perrault, there is no woodsman to save the girl and her grandmother from the wolf; instead, the wolf eats them both and gets away with it.

The purpose of these stories in ancient times was not to sugarcoat reality or to provide escapism, but to reflect it and to prepare the listeners for it. They were also a way of expressing the fears, anxieties, and desires of the human psyche in a symbolic and metaphorical way.

Psychological Themes in Fairy Tales

Fairy tales are rich in psychological themes that can be analyzed from different perspectives. One of the most influential theories is that of Carl Jung, who proposed that fairy tales contain archetypes: universal symbols that represent aspects of the human personality and experience. According to Jung, fairy tales help us to explore our own unconscious mind and to achieve psychological balance and integration.

Some examples of archetypes in fairy tales are:

  • The hero: The protagonist who goes on a quest or a journey to overcome a challenge or an enemy. The hero represents our ego or conscious self that seeks to achieve our goals and aspirations. Examples of heroes in fairy tales are Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk, Aladdin in Aladdin, and Rapunzel in Rapunzel.
  • The shadow: The antagonist who opposes or threatens the hero. The shadow represents our dark side or unconscious self that contains our repressed fears, anger, jealousy, or guilt. Examples of shadows in fairy tales are the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk, Jafar in Aladdin, and Mother Gothel in Rapunzel.
  • The anima/animus: The opposite-sex figure who attracts or complements the hero. The anima/animus represents our inner feminine or masculine qualities that we need to balance our personality. Examples of anima/animus in fairy tales are the princess in Jack and the Beanstalk, Jasmine in Aladdin, and Flynn Rider in Rapunzel.
  • The wise old man/woman: The mentor or guide who helps or advises the hero. The wise old man/woman represents our higher wisdom or spiritual self that provides us with insight and direction. Examples of wise old men/women in fairy tales are the fairy godmother in Cinderella, the genie in Aladdin, and Pascal in Rapunzel.

These archetypes can be interpreted in different ways depending on the context and perspective of the reader or listener. They can also help us to understand ourselves better and to relate to others more empathetically.

Fairy Tales as Cautionary Tales

Another way of looking at fairy tales is as cautionary tales for children. Fairy tales often contain moral lessons or warnings about what can happen if one does not follow certain rules or values. They also teach children about the consequences of their actions and choices.

Some examples of fairy tales as cautionary tales are:

  • Hansel and Gretel: This story warns children about the dangers of wandering off into unknown places without parental supervision. It also warns them about trusting strangers who may have ulterior motives or malicious intentions.
  • The Three Little Pigs: This story teaches children about the importance of hard work, planning ahead, and being prepared for potential disasters. It also warns them about the consequences of laziness and taking shortcuts.
  • Little Red Riding Hood: This story warns children about the dangers of talking to strangers and about being naive or gullible. It also teaches them about the importance of being alert and cautious.

These cautionary messages are still relevant today and can be applied to different situations and contexts, such as online safety, bullying, and peer pressure.

Fairy Tales in Pop Culture

Fairy tales have had a significant influence on pop culture, from literature to movies to TV shows to video games. Many modern adaptations of fairy tales have changed the original stories to make them more suitable for contemporary audiences, but they still retain the core elements and themes of the original tales.

Some examples of modern adaptations of fairy tales are:

  • Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: This movie, released in 1937, was the first full-length animated feature film and the beginning of Disney’s dominance in the animation industry. It adapted the Grimm Brothers’ version of Snow White and made it more family-friendly and romantic.
  • Shrek: This movie, released in 2001, was a satirical take on fairy tales, subverting the traditional tropes and archetypes of the genre. It featured a grumpy ogre named Shrek who falls in love with a feisty princess named Fiona, who is not the typical damsel in distress.
  • Once Upon a Time: This TV show, which aired from 2011 to 2018, was a popular drama series that brought together various fairy tale characters in a contemporary setting. It explored the complex relationships and backstories of these characters and added new twists and interpretations to their original tales.

These modern adaptations show how fairy tales continue to captivate and inspire audiences of all ages and backgrounds, and how they can be adapted and reimagined to reflect changing cultural values and beliefs.

Fairy tales are not just simple stories for children, but complex and multifaceted narratives that contain dark origins, psychological themes, and cautionary messages. They have influenced and continue to influence our culture and imagination, and they offer us insights into the human condition and the human psyche. By understanding the deeper meanings and messages of fairy tales, we can gain a deeper appreciation of their enduring appeal and relevance.

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