10 Reasons Why Kids Need to Read Non-Disney Fairy Tales
by Melissa Taylor
Say “fairy tales” and your mind likely flashes to Disney and its animated versions of children’s classics. But old-school fairy tales — stories by authors such as Hans Christian Andersen, Oscar Wilde, Sophie, Comtesse de Ségur, or Andrew Lang — are filled with a richness and complexity that is often missing from their big-screen renderings. Here are ten reasons it’s worth reading the original stories with your young reader.
1. Life Lessons
Remember the line from The Princess Bride: “I do not think it means what you think it means”? Many of the moral lessons in the original stories are quite different from the Disney versions. Hans Christian Andersen didn’t write “The Little Mermaid” to teach us how to marry a prince, but to warn us that our actions have consequences. As Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller explained, “Deeper meaning resides in the fairytales told me in my childhood than in any truth that is taught in life.”
Many fairy tales offer hope — hope of redemption, hope that good can conquer evil, hope that our enemies will be vanquished. G.K. Chesterton said it best, “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
3. Shared Mythology
When kids know a familiar canon of stories — such as “Goldilocks and The Three Bears” or “Rapunzel” — they have a shared foundation, a common mythology. From an educator’s perspective, this is invaluable.
What’s more, this background knowledge helps us to have a richer, more fulfilling literary experience. For example, last year my kids and I read several books about fairy tale lands (The Land of Stories, Ever After High, and Storybound). To fully enjoy each of these books, we needed knowledge of the original fairy tale stories that they reference.