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Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Witches Come to an End and the Importance of Fairy Tales and Other Scary Books

We will be so sad to finish The Witches, by Roald Dahl today. The climatic conclusion was read yesterday, and the witches were turned into mice and smashed to smithereens (those who were caught, that is). The boy/mouse and his Grandmama are on their way back to Norway, and off to hatch even more brilliant and brave deeds to rid the world of witches.

Frizzled like a Fritter!
Roald Dahl was said to be a writer of fantastic and modern fairy tales. Fairy tales are often inherently scary, and The Witches was certainly no exception. Children squealed and clung to each other as I read one suspenseful chapter after another. They laughed and clapped with relief as the boy and his cigar-smoking granny outwitted the horrifyingly hideous Grand High Witch of all the World. They begged me, each and every time, to "keep reading!"

Sometimes parents ask about violence and scariness in children's books - are these acceptable to read to impressionable and sensitive children? Experts overwhelmingly say "yes".  They work through personal anxieties, in a safe way. The protagonist always survives. Good triumphs over evil. Child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim believed that stories like these are important to children's development because the main characters - often children themselves - demonstrate pluck and courage, and triumph over adversity in a world of giants, cruel adults, and - yes - even witches.


Heather Halabu said...

Thank you for this, Susan. I have often wondered about scary stories and this is really helpful!

Susan said...

This comment, taken from wonderful email:

Hi Susan,
I was delighted to read what you wrote about fairytales. In addition to what you already explained, children are filled with fantasies about their own scary impulses as well. We parents may feel somewhat uncomfortable thinking about our little angels harboring aggressive, even murderous wishes, but they do- toward parents, toward siblings they are jealous of, toward whomever they feel rageful toward for all variety of reasons. Children feel frightened of these feelings and are often too scared to talk about them or to even let others, as well as themselves, know they feel them. Consequently, it can be hugely relieving and delightful to them to watch these forbidden feelings and actions being safely and imaginatively portrayed in the form of a written story. Fantasies help to give expression to "dark" ideas, wishes and worries, and offer a safe platform onto which these unmentionable aspects of life can be thought about and worked with, with tolerable anxiety, great pleasure, and growth enhancing results.

Thanks for being the teacher you are..
Linda Young( Lily's sometime witchy mother)