Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, Lochinvar, Alladin are few of the characters that we grew up with. Fairy tales, fables and folk-lore are store houses of imagination and creativity and moral values. Fairy tales are not just bedtime stories for kids, they are in fact the carriers of culture. They are a source of inspiration. They set the values, expectations and the moral right and wrong. They have a deep impact on us during our formative years. The have a big role in shaping us into who we are, our attitudes and beliefs.
I happened to attend a session by Laura Liswood this week and found a new perspective on the fairy tales. She categorizes the fairy tales in two categories
- Hero’s Journey - The hero has to slay a dragon, save the kingdom,…., overcome great odds in spite of a powerful enemy and in return when he comes back he gets a part of the gold, keys to the kingdom or the fair maidens hand in marriage. Most Hollywood and almost all Bollywood movies use this theme. I am sure you will come up with n number of examples for this. These are the ones preferred from a leadership perspective since they inspire and teach you perseverance, fighting against odds and the like
- “Rescue Me” Story – Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel. In all these stories it is the beautiful maiden who is in trouble (evil step mother, evil step sisters….) and rescued later by her prince charming.
Turns out these fables also set perceptions of gender appropriate behavior within society apart from other morals. This shows how girls are acted upon rather than active. Beauty seems to be the key factor for girls as opposed to boys where power, strength, and wit are the key factors.The rescuer or hero is always the white Knight.To be found by your prince charming/getting married to your prince is the only way to salvation for a girl. Beauty and ghar ka kaam kaaj(household work) seem to the defining factors.
These stories reinforce the gender stereotypes and it conditions children to think of the world thus.This way we are giving a very subtle message to the children on the accepted behavior for one self and also what to expect from others. One may say that these had been written long time ago. Nevertheless they still have a profound impact on the young minds.
I guess we need some new fairy tales for the modern times. Time to let go of a few Cinderellas and find new ones.
Link for ABC Wednesday here