Bring Back the Bad Guy!
(The forgotten power of the traditional tale)
I have been entertaining children for over 17 years and I have noticed a very interesting thing: children have often been denied the delicious safe scare that the bad guy in fairy stories brings. Today’s very well meaning parents have not wanted to expose their little ones to the Big Bad Wolf or the Wicked Witch because they don’t want their child to be frightened or traumatised. Up to the age of 2, I recommend staying safe and sticking to a non scary show such as my Bobby Bunny Show which is specifically designed for the very young realists that are the under 2’s, as an eminent American child specialist, Dr Robert Needlman explains:
Even though the roots of fantasy stretch back into early childhood, children begin life as realists. Infants only view objects for what they are: a block is a block, a stick is a stick. Give a one-year-old a telephone and he might babble into it, but he won't talk into a toy car or a shoe. It's only later, between about 18 and 24 months that children start to understand symbolism--that is, that one thing can stand for something else. Symbolic thinking sparks an explosion of language development as children realize that every object and action is connected to a word or phrase.
Robert Needlman M.D F. A . A. P
For confident children of two and above, traditional fairy tales can bring a wealth of wonder , providing a rich source of fantasy, spectacular visual imagery and a less obvious and fairly serious bonus. I’m soon to offer traditional story telling sessions with puppets and props from my story telling apron series starting with the stunningly beautiful Thumbelina.
Children’s literature has been largely sanitised (with the notable exception of the ever popular Harry Potter) to reflect the real world around us rather than the fantasy presented in traditional tales. As interesting as real life can be, it can also be very cruel and unforgiving. How do we prepare our children for the harshness of real life experiences that they are bound one day to face in a manner that they can digest and assimilate?
The telling of fairy tales, complete with heroes, villains and happy ever afters can provide children with a framework of preparedness in symbolic form.
Consider the story of Hansel and Gretel where a small boy and his sister are abandoned by their mother and father. The children use their resourcefulness to outwit an old hag and find their way back to the father and restore the relationship to a happy ever after. This story reflects the struggle that all children face, to feel powerful in a big, often scary world. So, fantasy speaks to us on a very basic level, about what it means to become powerful, that is, to grow up.