Fairy tales have always been introduced to children at a very young age, regarding to their cultural background. An example of a Western fairy tale would be the famous Three Little Pigs, while an example of an Arabic fairy tale would be the One Thousand and One Nights.
Most fairy tales are focused on stories between positively represented characters; ‘The nice and loving characters and the negatively represent characters; ‘The Villains’.’ Most of the plots are ended with the villains getting punished, as a consequence for their bad deeds. However, some of the endings are brutal and violent, and it can be seen from the older version of Three Little Pigs;
‘When the little pig saw what he was about, he hung on the pot full of water, and made up a blazing fire, and, just as the wolf was coming down, took off the cover, and in fell the wolf; so the little pig put on the cover again in an instant, boiled him up, and ate him for supper, and lived happy ever afterwards.’ (Joseph Jacobs, 1890)
Some caregivers are concerned about the possible negative effects the brutal ending of some fairy tales could have on children, and they think a more gentle ending should be appropriate. This leads to writers to edit the older versions of fairy tales, which can also be seen from the newer version of Three Little Pigs;
‘With a yelp of pain he sprang straight up the chimney again, and raced away into the woods. The three little pigs never saw him again, and spent their time in the strong little brick houses singing and dancing merrily.’ (Disney Book Club, 1972).
Despite many caretakers would believe the more gentle ending will be beneficial to the children, Ann Trousdale (1989) has reported that ‘two-and-a-half-year-old Christie,, had had several nightmares in which she saw the Big Bad Wolf , or the Big Bad Wolf had come to her house’, after reading the gentle ending Disney Version. Trousdale then conducted a study with two fairy tales on a little girl called Rebecca, and her respond has suggested that ‘she had a strong need to see these dangerous impulses brought under control at the end of the story.’ This provided an implication in which Christie’s fear for the Wolf returning can be resolved by exposing to an ending which the treat gets eliminated. Later on, Trousdale introduced the original version’s ending of the Three Little Pigs, and the removal of the villain character had ‘put the Big Bad Wolf to rest. When asked, she says he’s not going to come back- but retells the story without the [first two] pigs getting eaten’. The changes of Christie’s behavior supports the research.
The research has demonstrated that the violent nature of fairy tales do not negatively affect children. However, it is important that any dangerous impulses at the end of story must be eliminated, as children are vulnerable to believe in the treat returning back to them some point of their lives. The study involves with ‘Christie’ provided valuable ideas in dealing with children feeling threatening after reading fairy tales, however it can be argued that child at that age would not be aware of the experimental settings she was going through. The consent was however given by her parents, and this allowed them to pull Christie out of the study if they feel not comfortable about it.
Jacobs, J., (1890). Three Little Pigs. English Fairy Tales.no 14, page 68-72.
Walt Disney’s (1972). Walt Disney’s Three Little Pigs (Disney’s Wonderful World of Reading).
Trousdale, A., (1989). Who’s Afraid of The Big, Bad Wolf? Children’s Literature in Education, Vol 20, No 2.