Adverse Morality Of Fairy Tales And A False Perception Of Reality That Comes With Them
In Valerie Gribben’s essay, Practicing Medicine Can Be Grimm Work, Gribben recounts her experiences while working for a hospital. She explains that while she learned how to physically treat a wide range of ailments and conditions, she came to realize that she lacked any sort of emotional or spiritual understanding to the cause of physical trauma and disease.
By reading Grimm Brother fairy tales, Gribben states that fairy tales helped her find comfort, hope, and kindness while learning to become a doctor. I disagree with the notion that mere fairy tales can help us deal with real experiences in our own lives due to the rarity of any supposed “happy ending”, the underlying mechanism for altruistic action being rooted in selfish needs, and the lack of responsibility from the characters within the fairy tale genre.
In the real world, we don’t always have the luxury of a happy ending. Good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people – there is no narrative drive to validate a message or character. As a young boy, I was forced into adulthood by the very world that told me I should be reading fantasy stories. At the age of six years old, my parents split and I became the primary caregiver of my two year old brother. My mother worked and went to school at night, while I learned to cook and make money for school supplies. Now that I am enrolled in university, an optimist would argue that I have surpassed my hardships and achieved my happy ending. A similar thing happens in Briar Rose.
A happy ending is achieved when “the prince and Briar Rose were married, and the wedding feast was given; and they lived happily together for all their lives long.” In the story, nothing is said about the trials they needed to overcome in their lives, no work was done to secure their future – it was simply given to them. Unfortunately, in real life, it’s not that simple. People don’t come out of situations unscathed, and while my younger brother sleeps soundly at night, I am haunted by the image of my father being handcuffed in the small living room we once rented before being thrown on the street.
Also, fairy tales mask the selfishness of corrupt “role models,” with kindness. A controversial issue in modern philosophical debates, it is scientifically proven that every good action we commit as human beings, gives a dopamine rush to our brains, giving us a good feeling of fulfillment. This is expertly interpreted in the Briar Rose. When the queen finds a fish dying on land, she saves it. However, what started as an act of pure altruism transforms into something transactional. The Queen’s good deed is automatically repaid with her own self-fulfillment as well as her wish of having a child. Not only are we programmed with the falsehood that if we do something good, something good will happen to us, but fairy tales withdraw the purity of kindness without recognition, that most humans naturally have. Gribben herself, being raised on fairy tales, aspires to become a doctor because she strives to emulate the false-good deeds of her favorite fairy tale character.
Finally, fairy tales disadvantage us when dealing with experiences in the real world, because they teach that we do not need to be responsible for our actions. We see this in the case of the Grimm Brothers’ Hansel and Gretel, the father willingly gives up his children twice, after being coerced by their evil stepmother. When the children return for the first time after he abandons them in the forest, he is ecstatic, yet it is just a little while later that food runs scarce and the children are taken on another “outing.” Furthermore, even after the children return home, the father is rewarded for his deeds with the stones and jewels his children plunder from the witch. The father takes no responsibility for his actions in being complicit in the attempted murder of his own children, and even makes windfall because of it.
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