The value of fairy tales

Every parent will agree that it is important to read with or to children. With a variety of stories and fairy tales, we first of all have to choose what to give children to read. What kind of reading is the best for our kids? Should we read fairy tales?

Little_Red_Riding_Hood_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_19993Fairy tales are important for child’s development

Fairy tales have a lot of importance (especially from about 5 years old), according to the representatives of analytical psychology. Fairy tales enable children to work through their anxiety, build confidence, promote emotional maturity and give hope. Children, who might feel very insignificant and frightened, identify with a hero and live through experiences. Let’s take a hero who is depicted as “stupid”. Children sometimes feel “stupid” as well when others laugh at them, when other children perform better than they or when other children reject them. By identifying with a “stupid” hero in a fairy tale children live through the difficulties and finally believe that everything will be ok because the “stupid” hero in a fairy tale actually ends up being happy.

There is plenty of space for children’s fantasy to deal with their desires and needs that often reside in the subconscious part of mind. This is because the heroes (stupid brother, the youngest daughter), time, space and situations (long time ago, in one kingdom) are depicted as quite abstract. Children project their feelings to the heroes in fairy tales. It might be that while in reality a child is angry at his mother because she does not spend time with him, he projects all his angry feelings to a stepmother in fairy tale where she is depicted as a bad person.

Fairy tales teach children even if these lessons are given indirectly and through various symbols. For instance, after hearing a tale about the little red riding hood a child might realize that it is better to listen to his mother. A child realizes this not because he was told so in a tale but because he lived through the events depicted in a tale (the little red riding hood did not listen to her mother’s advice not to go aside from the main road and then later had problems). Becoming a queen or a king symbolizes independence that makes a hero safe, satisfied and happy. Death in fairy tales is perceived as a failure in hero’s life.

Fairy tales have advantages over other stories

There are advantages of fairy tales over real stories or stories which main purpose is to teach. Fantasy that is encouraged by a fairy tale is not reality, but the feelings following this fantasy are real and they are very important for children to build their confidence. On the other hand, children struggle to understand explanations based on reality. For example, it is difficult for them to understand that the earth is turning around the sun. When they do not grasp the idea, they do not feel safe. In general, fairy tales give more to a child than real or teaching stories, according to Bettelheim. Fairy tales give symbols according to which a child can fantasize depending on his or her needs. Fairy tales give hope to achieve anything that a child wants and thus are more convincing than a real story. In real stories there is no place for child’s unconscious desires and anxiety, whereas in fairy tales these subconscious needs are explored.

Fairy tales get critique

Fairy tales get some critique, and some do not value them. In Montessori education, real stories are preferred over fairy tales. It is true that there is a lot of cruelty in them and if we perceive killings, sufferings and death directly – it seems they are not for kids at all. It is good then that children perceive these cruel event indirectly. In fairy tales, marriage is usually depicted as an ultimate goal of two people – to have a partner that loves you and never leaves you – this to a kid must seem very comforting. However, in nowadays marriage does not hold so much importance anymore. How do we depict the ultimate goal for the relationship then? Also, women‘s role in fairy tales is sometimes quite passive. Now, when women‘s equality is emphasized, it might seem outdated.


I will read fairy tales to my daughter because they are exellent means to help children work through their anxiety and reach maturity. I will also read stories about active and confident girls.