on 29 December 2005
Bedtime stories are probably among the oldest forms of tale-telling there is in human history. Before epic poetry, before political speeches, before religious tales of awe, there were people sitting around campfires and living in caves, caring for their young, speaking soothing sounds to their young.
Bedtime stories were quickly discerned to be an excellent way in which to reinforce not only language skills, but culture and accepted morality, too.
So, why is it that fairy tales, the more-modern equivalent of these stories, became canonised and thus immutable by the likes of the Brothers Grimm, etc.? Just what does Hansel & Gretel or the Little Red Riding Hood mean for us today, beyond being good stories?
And, are they good stories? Should we teach children there are houses made of candy and cookies out in the woods? This is the kind of question addressed in this delightful little collection, Politically Correct Bedtime Stories
Now, before you get your knickers in a twist, realise that this is all in fun, but, as it is fun, highlights certain important points nonetheless. Political correctness can be stretched to the limits of absurdity, like almost anything carried to and beyond its logical limits. That is not to say that political correctness is all bad. But, we do approach a time when nothing can be said for fear of offending someone somewhere at some time.
James Finn Garner highlights this in his introduction, by saying if he has inadvertently displayed any sexist, racist, culturalist, nationalist, regionalist, ageist, lookist, ableist, sizeist, speciesist, intellectualist, socioeconomicist, ethnocentrist, phallocentrist, heteropatriarchalist, or other type of bias as yet unnamed, he apologizes and encourages your suggestions for rectification.
In this volume, we have the following stories, revised and updated for the modern reader:
- Little Red Riding Hood
- The Emperor's New Clothes
- The Three Little Pigs
- The Three Codependent Goats Gruff
- Snow White
- Chicken Little
- The Frog Prince
- Jack and the Beanstalk
- The Pied Piper of Hamlin
I shall recount part of the tale of the Frog Prince below, so you can get a sense of the style of the rest of the stories in this book, which present Little Red Riding Hood teaming up with the wolf against the violence of the hunter, the three pigs living in a harmonious collective, and of course, the frog prince: Once, there was a young princess who, when she grew tired of beating her head against the male power structure at her castle, would relax by walking into the woods and sitting beside a small pond. There she would amuse herself by tossing her favourite golden ball up and down and pondering the role of the eco-feminist in her era.
Well, to cut a not-so-long story even shorter (and to avoid infringements by limiting my take to a fair-use length!), the princess and the frog agree to terms, but when the frog approaches for a kiss, the princess feels harassed; however, she relents, and the frog transforms into a businessman who wants to make the pond into a golf course and condo development... The princess eventually decided that she really didn't need a prince after all, particularly one like this, and turns him back into a frog.
'And while someone might have noticed that the frog was gone, no one ever missed the real estate developer.'
Of course, apologies are due to real estate developers, those who wear tacky golf clothing, and those caught in an inter-species spell.
Fun for children of all adult ages.