Violence in Fairy Tales: Just or Unjust Desserts?
The role of violence in children’s entertainment remains controversial. While studies have extensively charted the negative impact of exposure to violent imagery in video games and television programming, specialists in the field of fairy tale literature — from the Brothers Grimm to contemporary critics — have been relatively reluctant to censure acts of scenes of cruelty, even when they are not justified on cathartic or moral grounds.
After decades of research, it is now widely accepted that children who watch televised or cinematic depictions of violence are more likely to engage in violent behavior themselves. As Anderson et al. put it in 2003, “the scientific debate over whether media violence increases aggression and violence is essentially over” (81). As a newer medium, video games have been less comprehensively examined as a cause of increased aggression, but violent acts (from firefights and martial arts encounters to more localized punching and slapping) appear to be prevalent in several genres, even those marketed to and explicitly rated as being suitable for children (Thompson and Haninger 591). Because the video game experience encourages players to go beyond the role of passive observer and actively participate in aggressive displays, some research suggests that this medium sets up a “continuous cycle of reward” (Funk et al. 24) that children in particular may be tempted to repeat with siblings or playmates.
However, fairy tale criticism often chooses to celebrate the violent content of its subject matter, even in contexts where the primary audience is composed of children. In his epochal Uses of Enchantment, Bruno Bettelheim acknowledges that a story like “Little Red Riding Hood” is quite gruesome in its original form — girl and grandmother are devoured, the wolf is cut open and skinned — but praises its very violence for providing a memorable demonstration of consequences and responsibility:
With its violence, including that which saves the two females and destroys the wolf by cutting open its belly and then putting stones into it, the fairy tale does not show the world in a rosy light. [â€¦] the girl has learned her lesson (182).
Compared to this bloody lesson, Bettelheim dismisses explicitly non-violent children’s literature as “shallow” and relatively unmemorable.
Other critics have likewise argued that violence is an intrinsic part of the fairy tale tradition, but take pains to note differentiate between “folk” literature aimed at primarily adult audiences and its adaptation as entertainment for children. Jack Zipes notes that the original stories that the Brothers Grimm and others collected presented the stark realities of power politics without disguising the violence and brutality of everyday life. Starvation and abandonment of children, rape, corporeal punishment, ruthless exploitation — these were some of the conditions that are at the root of the folktale, conditions that were so overwhelming that they demanded symbolic abstraction (7-8).
Adult aficionados like Zipes and his readership may appreciate these “stark realities,” but as the tales were edited and revised for a juvenile audience, their brutality becomes much more problemmatic. Maria Tatar confesses after rehearsing the self-explanatory plot of a relatively obscure story, “How Children Played Butcher With Each Other,” (Grimm 650-1) that “much of the material that came into the Grimms’ hands was hardly suited for children” (181), and would likely disturb many adults.
There is some evidence that parents have always censored the worst incidents from the stories they tell or read their children. In a discussion of Taiwanese variants of a “Little Red Riding Hood”-like tale involving a tiger, Wolfram Eberhard notes that relatively few oral accounts linger on the tiger actually devouring people: “Perhaps mothers did not want to frighten their children by telling this detail, an additional violence in a violent story” (31). Most commercial adaptations for juvenile markets have adopted a similar approach; in some versions of “Little Red Riding Hood,” for example, nobody is eaten and even the wolf simply runs away when his scheme fails (Shavit 155).
For their part, the Brothers Grimm eliminated some violent imagery from their “nursery” tales as the primary market for their work evolved from adult folklorists to bourgeois families. However, while many of the gorier stories disappeared outright, the Grimms opted to retain much of what modern readers would consider “cruelty” as long as it could be justified as retribution (often “poetic”) for a deliberate crime:
A woman who proposes to abandon her stepdaughter in the woods is torn to pieces by wild animals. There is no casual capriciousness in the selection of appropriate punishments or in the means of establishing justice. This is the Old Testament logic of an eye for an eye. In fairy tales, getting even is the best revenge (Tatar 182-3).
Thus, in a story like “Aschenputtel” (Cinderella, Grimm 86-92), the Grimms preserve the sequence in which the stepsisters mutilate themselves in order to fit into the glass slipper, ostensibly because they deserve to be punished for their “foolishness” and, implicitly, their abuse and exploitation of Cinderella. (the more gruesome punishment of having their eyes pecked out by pigeons was removed from late editions.) by establishing a punitive, moralizing context for violence, the Grimms allayed criticism that their work was not fit for children (Tatar 15).
However, there is still a great deal of what could be considered “gratuitous” violence in the Grimm tales in particular. In the name of justice, witches are burned alive (“Brother and Sister,” Grimm 41-6), false brides dragged in barrels studded with nails (“The Goose-Girl,” Grimm 322-7), wicked brothers sewn up in sacks and drowned (“The Singing Bone,” Grimm 88-9). These are baroque punishments for gruesome crimes — cannibalism, murder — and as such are unlikely to encourage children to imitate them in the way that they might be encouraged to imitate violent game behavior.
Bettelheim would argue that these bloody lessons teach responsibility and discourage immoral behavior: The wolf’s punishment demonstrates the consequences of wickedness, and so on. But it is striking that the punishments sometimes persist even when the “crimes” have been de-emphasized. Attempts to reconstruct an original Chinese (and global) Cinderella narrative concede that at its basis, the story begins with abuse: “Once upon a time, there was a little girl who suffered. Her sufferings were various and terrible” (Jameson 73). In the ballad tradition, for example, proto-Cinderella may well have been murdered (“Twa Sisters,” Child 141-69). However, by the time the story reaches the Grimms in the form of “Aschenputtel,” the cruelties the stepsisters commit become relatively petty exaggerations of normal sibling relationships, and the extent of their punishment (whether blindness or mutilation) seems curiously outsized.
Furthermore, in most other “traditional” versions of the story — including Perrault’s “Cendrillon” (60-9) and the various “Native American” and “African Cinderellas” (Bascom 154-6) — no violent punitive episode is necessary at all. The rivals do not mutilate themselves in their attempts to pass the test; confirmation that their neglected sibling was the most “beautiful” of all is punishment enough. Even by Bettelheim’s standards, the “blood in the shoe” sequence is inarguably striking (memorable) but in the absence of a transgression of equal weight, it simply seems both confused from a didactic perspective and, more importantly, potentially disturbing to a juvenile audience.
At best, it is simply gratuitous, and while children love the slapstick or “preposterous” violence of cartoons and some fairy tales (Twitchell 23), gratuitous violence also leads children to consider violent behavior normative. While they might not actively imitate the dream-like pranks the inanimate world plays on a “Herr Korbes” (Grimm 157-8), for example, evidence shows that they will still be desensitized to it. Fairy tales may or may not operate on something like the level of a dream, but so do modern video games, and here the literature is unambivalent:
If the viewer develops the attitude that violence is normative, they may become desensitized and callous to violence in real life. Media presentations of justified violencemay also change the belief that violent behavior is wrong, encouraging the development of pro-violence attitudes. [â€¦] Violence is acceptable because it is not real, therefore “victims” do not really suffer (Funk et al. 26).
Given this serious — and well-documented — consequence of even imaginary violence, writers and readers of fairy tales should exercise care that their depictions of violence are truly relevant to the moralistic issues at stake. The “blood in the shoe” must be justified; otherwise, it simply desensitizes the (often juvenile) reader to no real advantage.
Anderson, Craig a., Leonard Berkowitz, Edward Donnerstein, L. Rowell Huesmann, James D. Johnson, Daniel Linz, Neil M. Malamuth, and Ellen Wartella. “The Influence of Media Violence on Youth.” Psychological Science in the Public Interest 4.3 (2003): 81-110. Print.
Bascom, William. “Cinderella in Africa.” Cinderella: A Casebook. Ed. Alan Dundes. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982. Print.
Bettelheim, Bruno. The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. New York: Alfred a. Knopf, 1977. Print.
Funk, Jeanne B., Heidi Bechtoldt Baldacci, Tracie Pasold, and Jennifer Baumgardner. “Violence Exposure in Real Life, Videogames, Television, Movies, and the Internet: Is There Desensitization?” Journal of Adolescence 27 (2004): 23-39. Print.
Grimm, Jacob, and Wilhelm Grimm. Complete Fairy Tales. Trans. Jack Zipes. New York: Bantam Books, 1987. Print.
Jameson, R.D. “Cinderella in China.” Cinderella: A Casebook. Ed. Alan Dundes. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982. Print.
Perrault, Charles. Complete Fairy Tales. Trans. Neil Philip and Nicoletta Simborowski. New York: Clarion books, 1993. Print.
Shavit, Zohar. “The Concept of Childhood and Children’s Folktales: Test Case — ‘Little Red Riding Hood.'” Little Red Riding Hood: A Casebook. Ed. Alan Dundes. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989. Print.
Tatar, Maria. The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales. 2nd ed. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003. Print.
Thompson, Kimberly M. And Kevin Haninger. “Violence in E-Rated Video Games.” Journal of the American Medical Association 286.5 (2001): 591-598. Print.
Twitchell, James B. Preposterous Violence: Fables of Aggression in Modern Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. Print.
Zipes, Jack David. Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion: The Classical Genre for Children and the Process of Civilization. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.
Get Professional Assignment Help Cheaply
Are you busy and do not have time to handle your assignment? Are you scared that your paper will not make the grade? Do you have responsibilities that may hinder you from turning in your assignment on time? Are you tired and can barely handle your assignment? Are your grades inconsistent?
Whichever your reason is, it is valid! You can get professional academic help from our service at affordable rates. We have a team of professional academic writers who can handle all your assignments.
Why Choose Our Academic Writing Service?
- Plagiarism free papers
- Timely delivery
- Any deadline
- Skilled, Experienced Native English Writers
- Subject-relevant academic writer
- Adherence to paper instructions
- Ability to tackle bulk assignments
- Reasonable prices
- 24/7 Customer Support
- Get superb grades consistently
Online Academic Help With Different Subjects
Students barely have time to read. We got you! Have your literature essay or book review written without having the hassle of reading the book. You can get your literature paper custom-written for you by our literature specialists.
Do you struggle with finance? No need to torture yourself if finance is not your cup of tea. You can order your finance paper from our academic writing service and get 100% original work from competent finance experts.
While psychology may be an interesting subject, you may lack sufficient time to handle your assignments. Don’t despair; by using our academic writing service, you can be assured of perfect grades. Moreover, your grades will be consistent.
Engineering is quite a demanding subject. Students face a lot of pressure and barely have enough time to do what they love to do. Our academic writing service got you covered! Our engineering specialists follow the paper instructions and ensure timely delivery of the paper.
In the nursing course, you may have difficulties with literature reviews, annotated bibliographies, critical essays, and other assignments. Our nursing assignment writers will offer you professional nursing paper help at low prices.
Truth be told, sociology papers can be quite exhausting. Our academic writing service relieves you of fatigue, pressure, and stress. You can relax and have peace of mind as our academic writers handle your sociology assignment.
We take pride in having some of the best business writers in the industry. Our business writers have a lot of experience in the field. They are reliable, and you can be assured of a high-grade paper. They are able to handle business papers of any subject, length, deadline, and difficulty!
We boast of having some of the most experienced statistics experts in the industry. Our statistics experts have diverse skills, expertise, and knowledge to handle any kind of assignment. They have access to all kinds of software to get your assignment done.
Writing a law essay may prove to be an insurmountable obstacle, especially when you need to know the peculiarities of the legislative framework. Take advantage of our top-notch law specialists and get superb grades and 100% satisfaction.
What discipline/subjects do you deal in?
We have highlighted some of the most popular subjects we handle above. Those are just a tip of the iceberg. We deal in all academic disciplines since our writers are as diverse. They have been drawn from across all disciplines, and orders are assigned to those writers believed to be the best in the field. In a nutshell, there is no task we cannot handle; all you need to do is place your order with us. As long as your instructions are clear, just trust we shall deliver irrespective of the discipline.
Are your writers competent enough to handle my paper?
Our essay writers are graduates with bachelor's, masters, Ph.D., and doctorate degrees in various subjects. The minimum requirement to be an essay writer with our essay writing service is to have a college degree. All our academic writers have a minimum of two years of academic writing. We have a stringent recruitment process to ensure that we get only the most competent essay writers in the industry. We also ensure that the writers are handsomely compensated for their value. The majority of our writers are native English speakers. As such, the fluency of language and grammar is impeccable.
What if I don’t like the paper?
There is a very low likelihood that you won’t like the paper.
- When assigning your order, we match the paper’s discipline with the writer’s field/specialization. Since all our writers are graduates, we match the paper’s subject with the field the writer studied. For instance, if it’s a nursing paper, only a nursing graduate and writer will handle it. Furthermore, all our writers have academic writing experience and top-notch research skills.
- We have a quality assurance that reviews the paper before it gets to you. As such, we ensure that you get a paper that meets the required standard and will most definitely make the grade.
In the event that you don’t like your paper:
- The writer will revise the paper up to your pleasing. You have unlimited revisions. You simply need to highlight what specifically you don’t like about the paper, and the writer will make the amendments. The paper will be revised until you are satisfied. Revisions are free of charge
- We will have a different writer write the paper from scratch.
- Last resort, if the above does not work, we will refund your money.
Will the professor find out I didn’t write the paper myself?
Not at all. All papers are written from scratch. There is no way your tutor or instructor will realize that you did not write the paper yourself. In fact, we recommend using our assignment help services for consistent results.
What if the paper is plagiarized?
We check all papers for plagiarism before we submit them. We use powerful plagiarism checking software such as SafeAssign, LopesWrite, and Turnitin. We also upload the plagiarism report so that you can review it. We understand that plagiarism is academic suicide. We would not take the risk of submitting plagiarized work and jeopardize your academic journey. Furthermore, we do not sell or use prewritten papers, and each paper is written from scratch.
When will I get my paper?
You determine when you get the paper by setting the deadline when placing the order. All papers are delivered within the deadline. We are well aware that we operate in a time-sensitive industry. As such, we have laid out strategies to ensure that the client receives the paper on time and they never miss the deadline. We understand that papers that are submitted late have some points deducted. We do not want you to miss any points due to late submission. We work on beating deadlines by huge margins in order to ensure that you have ample time to review the paper before you submit it.
Will anyone find out that I used your services?
We have a privacy and confidentiality policy that guides our work. We NEVER share any customer information with third parties. Noone will ever know that you used our assignment help services. It’s only between you and us. We are bound by our policies to protect the customer’s identity and information. All your information, such as your names, phone number, email, order information, and so on, are protected. We have robust security systems that ensure that your data is protected. Hacking our systems is close to impossible, and it has never happened.
How our Assignment Help Service Works
1. Place an order
You fill all the paper instructions in the order form. Make sure you include all the helpful materials so that our academic writers can deliver the perfect paper. It will also help to eliminate unnecessary revisions.
2. Pay for the order
Proceed to pay for the paper so that it can be assigned to one of our expert academic writers. The paper subject is matched with the writer’s area of specialization.
3. Track the progress
You communicate with the writer and know about the progress of the paper. The client can ask the writer for drafts of the paper. The client can upload extra material and include additional instructions from the lecturer. Receive a paper.
4. Download the paper
The paper is sent to your email and uploaded to your personal account. You also get a plagiarism report attached to your paper.
PLACE THIS ORDER OR A SIMILAR ORDER WITH US TODAY AND GET A PERFECT SCORE!!!