Are fairy tales bad for children?

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Are stories like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, and Rapunzel harmful to children? According to a piece in today's Telegraph, some British parents think so. A poll of 3,000 British parents showed that a quarter of mothers today reject some classic fairy tales.

According to the Telegraph: "A third of parents refused to read Little Red Riding Hood because she walks through woods alone and finds her grandmother eaten by a wolf.
One in 10 said Snow White should be re-named because 'the dwarf reference is not PC.' Rapunzel was considered 'too dark' and Cinderella has been dumped amid fears she is treated like a slave and forced to do all the housework. "

In the US, there are experts who agree. Liz Grauerholz, an associate professor of sociology at Purdue University  and Lori Baker-Sperry, an assistant professor of women's studies at Western Illinois University have also flagged concerns about the gender and beauty myths perpetuated by many fairy tales in which beautiful princesses are more likely to be popular and unattractive people are more likely to be evil.

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Is this all just silly – or eminently sensible?

A book written today in which a little girl's grandmother is eaten by a wild animal would probably find many detractors and few fans. But fairy tales do have tradition on their side. Most of us adults grew up reading them – so they don't surprise us.

Fairy tales are imaginative, insist their advocates. "Fairy tales are magical. They may provide a window to another world, a chance to look beyond the mundane," writes one blogger, who concludes that, "Fairy tales can make good children stories."

However, I must admit, a few months ago my husband and I went to the opera to see a performance of Engelbert Humperdinck's "Hansel und Gretel." Maybe it was the very convincing costumes and sets but we had to admit that, even as adults, we were pretty creeped out. I really wouldn't have wanted to bring a child.

According to the Telegraph, fairy tales are being replaced. They list the following as today's Top 10 bedtime stories:

1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle (1969)
2. Mr Men, Roger Hargreaves (1971)
3. The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson (1999)
4. Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne (1926)
5. Aliens Love Underpants, Claire Freedman & Ben Cort (2007)
6. Thomas and Friends from The Railway Series, Rev.W.Awdry (1945)
7. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame (1908)
8. What a Noisy Pinky Ponk!, Andrew Davenport (2008)
9. Charlie and Lola, Lauren Child (2001)
10. Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Robert Southey (1837)

What are they replacing? Here are the Top 10 fairy tales that, according to the Telegraph, are less often read to children:

1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
2. Hansel and Gretel
3. Cinderella
4. Little Red Riding Hood
5. The Gingerbread Man
6. Jack and the Beanstalk
7. Sleeping Beauty
8. Beauty and the Beast
9. Goldilocks and the Three Bears
10. The Emperor's New Clothes

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