Children encounter problems with family, life, and love all throughout their younger years and have many questions that may be difficult to answer or discuss. In his essay The Struggle for Meaning, Bruno Bettelheim argues that the fairy-tale provides the child with information about death, aging, and poverty and many other issues that the typical safe story would never even attempt to conquer (311). By doing this fairy-tales provide the child with a good balance of morals and values that hopefully will help them to mature and solve problems of their own. The fairy-tale simplifies the situation, so that all of the elements and figures are clear (312). Three fairy-tales that provide good examples of these attributes are Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella and Hop O My Thumb.
Poverty, growth and independence are the major issues raised in the archetypal fairy-tale Hansel and Gretel. Hansel and Gretel is a typical model fairy-tale in which there is a tension raised between the security of home and the fun of adventure. Poverty creates the predicament in this tale, which cause the children to immediately grow up and become independent. The children use their quick thinking wit to overcome the evil witch in this story, which provides a good standard for any child reading this story.
The poverty dilemma is typical in fairy-tales; there is no food at all for the family so the evil parent suggests leaving the children outside in the woods. So the children are forced out of their home and left in the woods to fend for themselves. This causes the children to immediately grow-up and become independent thinkers. Hansel takes the protective role in the beginning of the story. He is the one who initially overhears his father and stepmother planning to leave them in the woods; therefore he collects rocks which he uses to follow the path home again. Unfortunately the children are left again, this time with no sense of the way home Situations in fairy-tales often come in patterns of two s or three s.
Doing this helps reinforce the problem that is affecting the characters in the story so the tale becomes more realistic and believable. Later in the story the children reach a house made of bread. Famished, they indulge themselves and the wicked witch captures them. The morals of the story are very basic such as don t talk to strangers or if it looks too good to be true it usually is but the message to the child goes deeper than that. There are messages of brotherly and sisterly love as well as female power. Gretel is the one in the end who pushes the witch into the oven and saves her life and Hansel s.
This is a very important aspect because it deals with female importance as well as the bond that exists between brother and sister. The children s dreams are fulfilled in the end: they have an adventure, they acquire wealth and food and their stepmother who showed no love towards them dies. In some sense Hansel and Gretel earned their dream because they used their wits to get them out of their situation instead of relying on luck, chance or God. Cinderella is a classic fairy-tale, which deals with female maturation as well as the death of family member. In Cinderella the female protagonist has to deal with the death of her mother and the affects of having a new family with stepsisters. In this tale the stepmother is extremely stereotyped as being the evil, vain and greedy woman who shows no love or affection for her stepdaughter because she was so loveable that she made her own children seem even more unpleasant (53).
Cinderella is a very strong character in this story who remains unchangeable in her attitude towards her family even though they mistreat her. There is also a supernatural, magical element to this story when Cinderella s fairy godmother is introduced. This element to the story could help give children a sense of God and the idea of a guardian angel watching over them. Cinderella is also a story of maturing and coming of age to be married. Cinderella goes through a transition period from the beginning of the story to the end when she is finally ready for marriage. Cinderella is told to be home at midnight and conditions such as this help teach responsibility.
Perhaps Cinderella was just not ready to stay out all night with the prince and having to come home reflects on her youthfulness and innocence. Finally when she does get back together with the prince, she is more mature and ready for the responsibility of marriage. In Hop O My Thumb issues such as sibling rivalry and poverty are raised. The character Hop O My Thumb is seen as an inconvenience and even as a nuisance to his family. He is the butt of the household, the youngest and smallest of a family of seven kids (86). He is thought to be a mute and stupid but in fact Hop o my Thumb proves himself to be quite the opposite.
This story helps children come to terms with living in a large family and helps the reader realize that everyone is important in a household. Even though he is small, Hop o my Thumb is brilliant and uses his brain to overcome the huge ogre that threatens his life. Thus proving that being small does not have anything to do with your brain or your ability to overcome problems. All of these fairy-tales provide good examples of how children are confronted by basic human predicaments and how they are viewed and solved.
Hopefully they help provide the child with answers to the questions they have been wondering or shed a little light on the problems they face in everyday life and situations. 328.