Forgotten Fairy Tales of Kindness and Courage
208pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
In Children’s literature: A reader’s history from Aesop to Harry Potter. ( 2008, Chicago, IL., USA: University of Chicago Press) Seth Lerer contends that “Ever since children have learned to read, there has been children’s literature” and having children learn lessons about life through literature has been a constant thread. Didacticism has been a hallmark of children’s stories from the 18th century moral tale to the modern problem novel as using realism to instruct its readers has always been its central aim. Although this has changed from trying to inculcate better, more mature behaviour to presenting a problem without suggestion of a solution, nevertheless for generations of readers education has always been placed before entertainment.
And that is the central thread of this collection of forgotten fairytales, as common in their time as those of Snow White, Cinderella and their ilk today but lost throughout the years. With their focus on the many ways we can be courageous or kind, they feature both genders as heroes and diverse cultures demonstrating that essentially, children are the same the world over. With their message of being kind to ourselves, having the courage to stand up for what we believe in, and being compassionate towards others, even though the stories themselves are over a century old, their message today is as applicable as ever.
Fairytales remain a part of the study of literature across the age groups and this collection offers some “new” stories to compare to the more well-known ones to investigate whether they have a common structure, theme or message that children in 2021 can learn as well as those in 1821. Have things changed so much?