“…then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in”, bellowed the big bad wolf in the most ferocious, and gruffest of voices that he could muster. This, he did to the first, the second, and the third little pig. Such is the stuff and nonsense that fills children’s fairytales some may say, but not I and maybe not you either. Most of the tales, stories and fables we heard as children, and in our turn tell to our own children have an important message rooted somewhere within. Something that needs to be said but in a way that young minds can relate to. Oftentimes (now there’s quite an old fashioned word), the message is crystal clear quite early on, and near the beginning even. At others it is for the reader to discover as the story unfolds word by word, page by page, picture by picture. Stories are repeated over and over again, and possibly, and most likely become ingrained in the young subconscious mind, a seed waiting to grow and realise the lesson when the lesson needs to be learnt somewhere along the line that is life. Let’s face it, most children love being read to! Many Mums and Dads, and children of all ages get to share a special time, with storybook characters who may be good, bad, beautiful, ugly and changeable. Story time is a time for make believe, play and characterisation. There’s many a parent out there who puts on their best funny, happy, angry, sad voice. I know I did, and my husband too. Our children loved all the verbal playacting and if we did the voices differently as happened on occasion, the little cherubs would say “no, not like that, like this” as they piped in with how you had said it last time. It’s part of the fun! Part of the ritual.
So where was I? Oh yes, I was talking about the inherent lesson that lurks within, between and beneath the lines. In the aforementioned tale of ‘The Three Little Pigs’ which was accredited to James Orchard Halliwell (later Halliwell-Phillips) the lesson is about how hard work pays off, and how by working hard, putting in the time and effort and building strong foundations, you can achieve a safe and secure world for yourself where you can ‘keep the wolf from the door’ as it were. Of course it is a good lesson, and there is much to be said for working hard, and reaping the rewards of ones efforts, and the idea of a sound structure speaks for itself. However, you have to remember that this story was supposedly written in the mid 1800s, therefore Victorian times. People, or at least the working masses did have to work hard in those times to literally put bread on the table. If you did not work hard, you may starve. So in this particular story the message is clear. That said, I think if the story had been written today, there may have been another angle that said that yes, it’s good to work hard but that play is just as important. I think today the onus would be on striving for and achieving balance. We all want to avoid the clutches of the big bad scary wolf which may appear in many guises but all work and no play pushes us too far near the edge, and if we are not careful we may trip over and fall into a quagmire.
Another thing that springs to my mind regarding the ‘fantasy’ of fairytales, and may be food for thought is how much a story can change through the telling as it is passed down from one generation to another. In one version of the above, the antagonist is a cunning fox rather than a big bad wolf. There is, it seems a version too where the three little pigs have names, and individual personality traits but that is another story. Where the changes in stories take place is often not known, and is lost somewhere in the telling. My point is that stories whether fairytale, fiction or reality should be told. We are the storytellers, and it is for us to ensure that those who follow in our footsteps know the stories so that they too can pass them down when it is their time to tell. So perhaps today or tonight put down that extension of your arm that is your mobile phone, pick up a storybook and share it with young ears.
In years to come you will be glad that you did!
© Liola Lee 2019
I captured the image of wolves shown here at Longleat Safari Park earlier this month.