Subliminal Lessons in Fairy Tales 05-05-2011

I have never much cared for fairy tales. As a child, I thought that they were boring. These days I tend to agree with my younger self. As a result, I never really think about them, especially on a conceptual level. But that changed in the past few days. You see, I thought that the pomp and circumstance surrounding the Royal Wedding was one of the most enormous wastes of time and effort that had ever existed. And my complete disdain for the entire Royal Wedding bonanza that everyone went through was amplified when I read opinions rationalizing that the frenzy over the wedding was an attraction to the fairy tale-like splendor of it all; a Prince found his Princess and, oh, it's just so magical. Putting aside the relatively obvious 21st Century fact that celebrating the wedding of a monarch with months of 24/7 media bombardment and the shutting down of an entire nation for a day is preposterous, it just seems remarkably inane for anyone to care.

But that is all irrelevant to what is at hand. The point is that it got me to thinking about fairy tales again and, being the person that I am, my mind instantly went to the sorts of messages that these stories spread into the minds of children. The sponge-like impressionability of children explains a great many of the ills that have befallen modern society, so it is something that I pay attention to. And the fact of the matter is that many fairy tales, be it by design or by simple accident, are poisonous for the youngest of minds.

So, the following is a list of my readings of some of the most popular, wide spread fairy tales:

The Princess and the Pea

Description: A woman is determined by a Prince to be worthy of being his Princess because she can feel a pea through several mattresses and blankets and whatnot.

Message for Children: Women should be super sensitive and fragile if they want to grow up and be chosen by a rich man as a bride; also, the royal elite deserve more luxuries by virtue of being royal and are overall superior to the people that they govern.

Humpty Dumpty

Description: An egg or a drunk or a short, clumsy person or something sits on a large wall, falls down, shatters and cannot be repaired by the military.

Message for Children: No one should try to achieve greatness or to reach for the stars because they will inevitably fall and be broken beyond repair, so much so that not even military force or government welfare programs will be able to help. Thus, the best course is to be mediocre and to stay in line.


Description: A woman is made a slave by the King with the threat of execution because her father lied that she could make gold out of straw, and when she inevitably fails to do so, a gnome saves her by performing the feat on her behalf and demands her first born child as payment. The King then married the woman and she bore his child. She then escaped having to give this child to the gnome by figuring out and subsequently uttering his name. The gnome then rips himself in half and dies.

Message for Children: Don't be mad at the King (an authority figure) who forces you into slavery and threatens to kill you for failing to do the impossible and then marries you against your will and don't be mad at your parent (another authority figure) for ruining your life for his own selfish gain. Instead, be mad at the merchant who saves your life and then allows you to renege on your promise in the name of a childish game. Authority is always correct. Do as they say and everything will work out alright. Accept your place in life.

The Frog Prince

Description: A spoiled, ill-tempered Princess meets a frog and dislikes him until he shape-shifts into a Prince, either by way of kiss, violence or gold, depending on whose version is being told.

Message for Children: Attractive and rich is better than ugly and destitute. Also, all it takes to find the right person is to put out or commit spontaneous acts of violence or throw money at the issue. These destructive acts will make you a better person.

Hansel and Gretel

Description: A boy and girl are left to die by their somewhat loving father and hateful stepmother, only to be kidnapped with the intent of cannibalistic consumption by a witch. When the witch tries to eat the children, Gretel pushes her into the oven and she dies; the children then pilfer her fortune and return home to live with their father (but not their stepmother who has since died somehow).

Message for Children: Women are evil and will either attempt to or succeed in killing you. Also, it is better to be thin than fat because fat people are more likely to lose out in life.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Description: A small, blonde, white girl goes exploring and stumbles upon a house owned by three bears which contains a bowl of porridge, a chair and a bed belonging to each bear. The girl samples each of these items and selects the middle of each set as her favorite. When the bears return home, the girls runs away. The end.

Message for Children: Never accept extremes; always opt for the happy medium, the average and mediocre in order to ensure safety and stability. Also, don't waste your time exploring your curiosities because you will encounter something scary and threatening. But if you do, make sure you are a pretty white girl because then you can get away with it.

The Three Little Pigs

Description: Three pigs with increasingly sturdy and well-constructed homes are assailed by a wolf who attempts to destroy each home by blowing it down. The first two pigs, whose homes are destroyed, are arrogant and unintelligent. The third pig, whose home is made of significantly more expensive materials, is tranquil and brave. When the wolf attempts to climb in through the chimney of the third home, the wolf is tricked into falling into a pot of hot water and is boiled alive.

Message for Children: Those who are of poor bank accounts are also of poor character. Also, if someone threatening trespasses on your property, kill them on sight and eat them.

The Gingerbread Man

Description: An elderly woman creates a gingerbread cookie in the shape of a man who then becomes animate and runs away with great speed. The gingerbread man outruns all creatures he encounters, taunting each of them in turn, until he is eaten by a fox.

Message for Children: Accept whatever fate your parents and authority figures design for you because if you attempt to become your own person you will be devoured by a large, uncaring world.

Little Red Riding Good

Description: A little girl (wearing a red hood and cape for some inexplicable reason) travels through the woods to take food to her sick grandmother and encounters a wolf who convinces her to tell him where she is going. He then goes to the grandmother's house, swallows the grandmother and dresses in her clothes to trick the little girl upon her arrival. When she does arrive, he swallows her whole. But then a hunter arrives, cuts the wolf open, pulls out the grandmother and little girl, who had not been damaged by the corrosive stomach acid, and they all put stones inside of the wolf's stomach. The wolf wakes up, goes to a stream to get a drink and then sinks and drowns.

Message for Children: All strangers are determined to cannibalize you and your grandmother so never trust anyone. Similarly, never leave the security of your home because the parts of the world that have not been suburbanized are inherently dangerous and probably lethal. And make sure not to stand out, such as by wearing vibrant clothes or by being a different person than your peers, because it is much safer to just be a face in the crowd and to go through the motions of the daily mundane.


Description: A tiny girl is born from a flower and is kidnapped by an ugly toad who forces her to become his bride. She is then rescued by an elegant butterfly, only to again be kidnapped by a hideous beetle. She escapes but almost dies when the harsh Winter comes, instead being saved by a kindly old field mouse. However, the mouse wants her to marry his neighbor, a mole, and the girl refuses because the mole is unattractive. She escapes and is carried off to a meadow by a beautiful bird, where she then meets a tiny Prince who was born from a flower like her. They marry and she gets wings.

Message for Children: Those who are unattractive and ugly are to be feared and avoided, especially those which are interested in you. Those who are beautiful will inevitably be friendly and kind to you, so you should always trust them to do the right thing. No matter what though, girls should always remember that their ultimate goal in life is to marry a handsome Prince because the key to happiness is a husband. Make this the primary concern of your life.

This is just a sampling. A quick glance over Grimm's Fairy Tales will find even more stories with similarly ridiculous moralities. Children who read these stories are being slowly transformed into shallow, elitist, entitled jerks, which can be verified by a cursory look around the middle schools and high schools.

But I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine which of these I was actually serious about (I really was serious about at least three of these!).