I love fairytales. I mean I really, really love them, and I’ll readily admit that I LOVE Disney. Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast were my favorite growing up, and recently Tangled, Frozen, and Brave? (Yes I still watch them as an adult, and go around singing with great exuberance).
October, in my kindergarten school list, is marked as Hero Month. And according to the calendar, Oct. 1st is the Storytelling Festival, so I have made it Fairytale Month for my 2nd Grader.
Everyone should know the classic fairytales, and everyone should see the Disney films… I love showing them to my boys, and this year, after every movie, I asked them, “Who was the hero?” They were confused at first, and hesitantly said, “The Princess?” and I realized that boys are rarely taught about the heroes of fairytales. Fairytales are thought of as girl stories, with heroines, not heroes. But that’s not true. I want my boys to learn about courage, perseverance, bravery in the face of fear and danger, nobility, honor, and true love. So I began to talk about it, starting with Snow White, the first movie we watched…
Me: “Look at how kind those dwarves are… they are opening their home to this poor, scared girl and they are going to protect her. Look at how brave they are when the wicked queen shows up!”
Kindergartner: “Yeah, they are running as fast as they can to try and save her!”
2nd Grader: “Even though she is like a witch, she does bad powerful magic. That’s really brave.”
Me: “What about the prince?”
2nd Grader: “He’s not really the hero. He just shows up.”
Me: “But look at what it says… that when Snow White disappeared, he looked and looked and looked for her for a year. Does that show true love? How long is a year?”
2nd Grader: “But he only talked to her once.”
Me: “They show that in the movie, but he was a prince and she was a princess. Do you think they’ve met before? Do you think they spent some time talking? Would a man look for a year for a girl he didn’t love?”
2nd Grader: “You’re right… he must have been sad and worried when he couldn’t find her! And then he heard about the sleeping girl, and came to see, and it was Snow White… he must have been so sad.”
Right there we got to have a talk about bravery, about helping someone in need, about jealousy and vanity, and about love and perseverance and how love never gives up.
We watched Sleeping Beauty, and, boy, does Prince Phillip show boys what a hero is… when he falls for Aurora, he commits to her completely. He is not so enamored of palace life that he clings to it, but is willing to go from being a prince to a peasant just for her. When Maleficent captures him, you can see his distress at the thought of what’s happened to his love, and when the fairies free him and give him the Sword of Truth and the Shield of Virtue, Phillip does not hesitate to rush to Aurora’s aid. He fights through goblins. He is caught in a forest of thorns (my sons have gone blackberry picking, so they sympathized), and when he finally gets through that he has to fight Maleficent who has turned herself into a great black dragon, using the powers of Hell.
(I would like to point out that this opened a great talk about how Satan will trick us into feeling powerful, or even give power, but that the only true and good power is God’s, and anything else is evil. And with the Sword and the Shield, we were able to talk about God’s Power, how He gives us weapons to fight against wickedness… see the Armor of God.)
Prince Phillip felt fear, felt hopelessness, but he kept fighting and didn’t give up. Ever. And in the end he won, and he woke Aurora up, and they got to live happily ever after.
Fairytales are not just about the Girl or the Princess who must be brave under attack, who must be strong in bad circumstances. They are also about the Men and the Heroes, who don’t give up, who keep fighting. Fairytales are for girls and boys.
It was such a joy watching the light turn on in my boys’ eyes, watching them swell with courage and a desire to be noble and brave. After two weeks it has become second nature now for them to come to me and tell me who the heroes are. My daughter can identify with the princesses (her favorite is Rapunzel), and now my boys have characters they can identify with, too.