Why are the fairy tales written in 1812 by the Grimm brothers still relevant today?
Perhaps, because although penned more than two hundred years ago, they impart a universal message - a message that is relevant for all time. That danger lurks everywhere. In all shapes and sizes. One just has to be vigilant and have one's antennae up at all times.
In the original story of Hansel and Gretel, the two children driven out of their home by their step-mother are lost in the forest. Suddenly, they see a sumptuous candy house and begin to devour the goodies. The owner of the house, a cannibalistic witch, appears and pretending to be their benefactor, takes them under her wing. However, she has a diabolic plan. She wants to fatten them up for her meal! Gretel, the little sister, discovers her plan and devices a plan to save her brother.
Now let's interpret this story for contemporary times. We often find that poverty drives young children or gullible girls, enticed by goodies – in the form of money, affection, job security and so on - into a trap from which it is very difficult to escape. Unless, like Gretel they see through the game plan and escape the clutches of their ‘captor’.
In the popular fairy tale, Red Riding Hood, we see an innocent girl getting into a conversation with a total stranger – the wolf! She trustingly telling him her destination with near disastrous consequences.
Through reading and discussing these stories one can help children realise the dangers of trusting strangers and/or getting swayed by ‘sweet’ offers. Hopefully, these early warnings will be internalised and make them wary of lurking predators. Educators, parents and care-givers can invite a discussion with kids on the message of the story. Here are a list of questions and discussion points to get you started.
1) Should Hansel and Gretel have entered the gingerbread house?
2) Why did they trust the witch?
3) Should Red Riding Hood have chatted with the wolf?
4) Do you think it is safe to chat with strangers?
5) How important is it not to give your personal information to people?
Whilst it is important to have these discussions it is also important to not to alarm the child. One can reassure the child that just as one looks carefully both to the right and the left before crossing a street in case of speeding cars, similarly one has to be cautious, especially when one is alone.