A Dangerous Trend in Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales

Nursery Rhymes and fairy tales help teach children about the world. That’s the view of many experts including June Factor who has spent many years researching childhood and school playground rhymes and writing children’s books.

However the trend at present appears to be to try and sanitize nursery rhymes, for example in England the BBC has come under fire for a rewrite of the Humpty Dumpty Nursery rhyme. Now instead of saying ‘all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again,’ the revised rhyme says they,’made Humpty happy again.’

The idea behind this sanitizing of childhood rhymes and fairy tales comes along with the whole idea of protecting children. However Jun Factor argues that rather than protecting children by sanitizing the nursery rhymes they are actually doing them a great disservice.

She believes that despite the good intention behind this sanitizing of rhymes and tales, children need to hear them. They learn about the world by exposing them to the evils and pitfalls in our world but in a way that is safe. Don’t many adults read about spies, danger, murder and horror stories for the same reason? It gives hem a buzz, scares them a little but from a safe distance. They don’t need to experience it all first hand. Think also of some of our great picture books like Where the Wild Things Are and Max’s night adventures. It’s the same idea.

If you look at fairy tales, they are filled with wicked stepparents, parents who mistreat children or abandon them, or dead parents or those who trick or endanger them. From these stories children learn about the world but through the safety net of a book or rhyme. And let’s face it, these days children regularly see a whole lot worse on television anyway. That’s just with news programs and cartoons!

Of course the other aspects they learn from fairy tales are the importance of courage, of being able to change circumstances, of hope, of being able to overcome, of the ordinary able to become extraordinary, and of the power of love. Surely we’re not going to deprive children of these aspects too!

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