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Ostheimer Children, witch and farmhouse

Are traditional tales still relevant?

Alexis Ralphs Jun 25 • 7 min read
They can be frightening and out of step with modern values but - if used carefully - can convey important truths.

Where do you stand on traditional tales?

They often contain a kernel of truth that's important for our children to hear.

But the message is often delivered via a story that, as modern parents, we feel is inappropriate for young children.

I have strong reservations about Hansel and Gretel. The abandonment, the witch, the oven. Not something I want to share with my young children.

But traditional tales are a great source of cultural capital for those children who know them, in the same way that adults benefit from a bit of Shakespeare and the classics. Everyday speech and writing is peppered with references to them.

So what to do?

Despite my concerns, we have read the story of Hansel and Gretel, but with some heavy editing. The children get lost, rather than abandoned. And there is definitely no mention of an oven. Instead we focus on how it's important not to wander off from adults and to be wary of strangers. Like us, children don't like being told what to do but they're happy to internalise messages they learn from stories.

We got to the story's central idea but skipped the unnecessary and frightening details.

How about you? Are traditional tales still relevant?

And if so, how do you tackle them?


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