I love books, love the whole process of falling into a book, have lots countless nights when I couldn’t bear to sleep before I’d finished a book and like nothing more than to lose myself in someone else’s world.
I’m pleased to note that my children share this passion. Bedtime stories all snuggled up in the same bed together are my particular fave, but sometimes we split it up and read to each child individually.
Last Christmas we bought our youngest a mini anthology of abridged fairy tales. They’re very sweet, or so I thought, but it’s only as I read with my daughter recently that I became concerned. Somehow the stripped out text only serves to highlight the misogyny and I felt my feminist hackles rising. Would reading this book scar my daughter for life? Will she be leading a new generation of surrendered WAGS? Head in hands I attempted to dissect the subject matter of Rumpelstiltskin with her:
The poor miller has a very clever daughter. He boasts about her. “Sire, my daughter is so clever that she can even spin straw into gold,” he tells the King.
The King takes the daughter to his palace. He shows her a room with some straw and a spinning wheel. “Spin it into gold by morning, or you’ll die,” he says.
*Youngest child appears unconcerned by death threats*
The daughter sits down and cries. She can’t spin straw into gold. Then a little man comes in. “What will you give me if I spin it for you?” he asks. “I’ll give you my necklace.” she says.
*Youngest child looks aghast, “He’s taking her necklace!!!”
The King is pleased. He shows the daughter another room with more straw. “Spin that into gold by morning or you’ll die,” he says.
*Not so much as a flinch from youngest child*
Soon the little man comes in. “What will you give me if I spin this into gold for you?” “My ring,” says the daughter.
*Youngest child opens mouth in disbelief*
In the morning the King comes in. The little man has spun all the straw into gold. The King is very pleased. But he’s greedy and wants more gold. He take the daughter to a bigger room with a bigger pile of straw. “Spin it all by morning, or you’ll die,” he says.
Soon the little man comes in. “What will you give me now?” he asks. “I’ve nothing left.” says the daughter. “Promise to give me your first baby when you’re Queen,” says the little man.
*finally something approaching a frown from the youngest child*
In the morning, the King is delighted. “Marry me, and we’ll always be rich,” he says. Soon there’s a royal wedding and the daughter is the Queen.
At this point I stop, too distraught by the messages to continue. Fixing youngest child with a hard stare I ask: “What do you think of this story?”
Youngest child considers before answering: “He took her necklace and her ring!”
“Yes,” I say, “but what about the King? Telling someone you’ll kill them if they don’t do as you say isn’t nice is it?”
*More thinking from the youngest child, followed by vehement head shaking*
“What do you think she should do? Should she have married the king?”
*Youngest child puts on her most serious face while she considers her final verdict*
“NO, she should have poked him in the eye…..”