Posted by: Jamie Stamm | November 9, 2008

And I think I’m a bad parent …

Last week, Cera brought home a really cute book from her school library: “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Book?” by Lauren Child (for those of you who may be unfamiliar with her by name alone, she also pens the “Charlie and Lola” books).


“Who’s Afraid?” relates the story of a young boy who falls asleep while reading a book of fairy tales and ends up inside the book, which, in his younger years, he had vandalized by doing such things as drawing mustaches on the characters and cutting out parts of pages, including a king and queen’s thrones and even Prince Charming himself. Needless to say, the residents of the book aren’t too happy with him.

Cera and I loved reading this story together, but the experience also made me realize that my daughter knows nothing about fairy tales that haven’t been Disney-ized.

She pointed at the picture of two children nibbling on a house and asked, “What’s that?”

“That’s Hansel and Gretel,” I answered.

“And that?” she wondered aloud, gesturing toward the image of a man climbing up a woman’s blond hair.

“That’s Rapunzel,” I said. “You don’t know these stories?”

Wow, I thought. I’m a bad parent. My daughter doesn’t even know her basic fairy tales.

So on our weekly trip to the library, I made it my goal to begin Cera’s introduction to “Once upon a time.”

I grabbed some princess stories that haven’t hit the big screen, added an anthology of fairy tales for beginners and threw in a book of Aesop’s fables for good measure.

But the first two selections that she wanted to read were not part of collections. They were individual copies of “Hansel and Gretel” and “Rumpelstiltskin.”


I can recollect a lot of fairy tale story lines in a relative sense. But I was appalled as, on our first night of mother-daughter fairy tale bonding, I read to my 5-year-old about a father who didn’t put up much of a fight when his new wife demanded that they abandon his children in the woods because they didn’t have enough food to feed them. And then, when the children found their way back home, he consented to ditching them in the forest a second time.

What was this teaching my daughter? That if times get lean, her dad and I might have to get rid of her and her brother because it’s more important that we stuff our own fat faces than if they live?


On night No. 2, we moved on to “Rumpelstiltskin,” the tale of a miller who, for no apparent reason other than making himself look good, tells the king that his daughter can spin straw into gold. Based on this lie, the king demands to see the miller’s daughter, whom he locks in a room filled with straw and tells (at least in the version we read), “… if by dawn tomorrow you have not spun this straw into gold, you must die.”

This happens over three consecutive nights, with the hapless young woman saved each time by promising first a necklace, then a ring and finally her firstborn child to the little man we come to know as Rumpelstiltskin. And where’s Daddy Dearest through all this? Trying to rescue his daughter, maybe, or confessing to the king that he’s a liar? I don’t know … because he’s never mentioned again after his initial deceit.

And the lesson here is …?

I’m starting to wonder why I thought this was a good idea – and fearing a bit which form of parental negligence we might encounter tomorrow night.


  1. Dear Santa,

    I would like a copy of Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Book. Thanks.

  2. That is an awesome premise for a book.

    And, yes, the classic fairy tales are pretty creepy. Although actually, nowhere near as bad as the unedited Grimm tales are.

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