Having survived for ages and been in our lives ever since the day people began talking, fairy tales, according to Wikipedia, “…a fictional story that usually features folkloric characters (such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, witches, giants and talking animals) and enchantments, often involving a far-fetched sequence of events… ”, are common encountered joys for children in life and the target of fairy tales is mostly young children, but when these fairy tales are told to them, are the influences of these questioned?
There are researches on the effects of fairy tales and there are also articles. One of them is “ The Pervasiveness and Persistence of Feminine Beauty Ideal in Children’s Fairy Tales” by Lori Baker-Sperry, an assistant professor of women’s studies at Western Illinois University, and Liz Grauerholz, an associate professor of sociology at Purdue University. This article demonstrates the idealization of feminine beauty in fairy tales and explores in which ways feminine beauty is emphasized.
It also explores surviving fairy tales to figure out the cause of their popularity. The study shows that emphasizing feminine beauty has a major role on the survival of these fairy tales. This article also interprets findings with the women’s social status over the past 150 years. The other article is “The Effect of Classic Fairy Tales on Readers and Society” by Kenny Fong, a lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. This article is also reveals the effects of fairy tales by giving examples from them.
There are millions of fairy tales such as Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, The Frog King, so on, and most of them emphasize feminine beauty in a way conditioning people to have prejudice that the beautiful are always good whereas ugly people are bad. Fairy tales also give certain roles to genders in some ways. The other concept about the effects of fairy tales is false expectations people have such as being just beautiful is the appropriate feature for being rewarded. We see that in spite of the belief that fairy tales are important to teach children certain concepts of life, in fact they culturally shape us.
First of all the effects of fairy tales, one of the concepts is emphasizing feminine beauty in a way conditioning people to have the attitude of evaluating people according to their appearances. It is clearly seen that beautiful girls in fairy tales are always good, so children who will become the adults of future deduce that beautiful girls have always good characteristically features in contrast to ugly ones. There has been research on average number of references to physical appearance and all fairy tales have been explored.
In the article, “The Pervasiveness and Persistence of the Feminine Beauty Ideal in Children’s Fairy Tales” by Baker-Sperry and Grauerholz, referring to this research, it is said that “Discourse analyses reveal several themes in relationship to beauty. Often there is a clear link between beauty and goodness, most often in reference to younger women, and between ugliness and evil (31 percent of all stories associate beauty with goodness, and 17 percent associate ugliness with evil)” (718).
The link that research means is between goodness and beauty; badness and ugliness. One of the fairy tales “Mother Holle” also reveals this link between goodness and beauty; on the other hand the link between ugliness and badness. In the article, “The Pervasiveness and Persistence of the Feminine Beauty Ideal in Children’s Fairy Tales” by Baker-Sperry and Grauerholz, referring to this fairy tale it is said that “the story begins; A widow had two daughters, one who was beautiful and industrious, the other ugly and lazy”.
Even this simple and short description in this fairy tale shows us the link between goodness and beauty; badness and ugliness in a way conditioning us about the perception of people. Secondly, fairy tales establish certain borders between genders and their roles on society. They give messages to girls about being pretty and competent in house keeping, being qualified for mothering and so on. In Cinderella, she does not work for earning money to feed a family but she is qualified enough in house keeping and she marries the prince so they live happily a prosperous life ever after.
About the research on the concept of messages given to children, the article, “The Pervasiveness and Persistence of the Feminine Beauty Ideal in Children’s Fairy Tales” by Baker-Sperry and Grauerholz, says “Research since the early 1970s has shown that children’s literature contains explicit and implicit messages about dominant power structures in society, especially those concerning gender.
Fairy tales written during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were intended to teach girls and young women how to become domesticated, respectable, and attractive to a marriage partner and teach boys and girls appropriate gendered values and attitudes”(714). This shows us the certain roles of genders shaped by fairy tales by some messages hidden in them. The other concept of the effects of fairy tales is creating false expectations from life.
Summarising, one of these is being beautiful and rewarded because of this physical feature. Women think that being beautiful is always enough to have an affluent life. Because the characters in fairy tales are all beautiful and become happy in the end nevertheless in reality it is not so. In the fairy tale “Snow White”, Snow White is a very beautiful girl and one day she is poisoned by an ugly witch but in the end, handsome Prince rescues her and they marry. They become happy forever.
Also in the article, “The Pervasiveness and Persistence of the Feminine Beauty Ideal in Children’s Fairy Tales” by Baker-Sperry and Grauerholz, referring to the link between being beautiful and being rewarded due to this feature it is said that “Fairy tales, like other media, convey messages about the importance of feminine beauty not only by making “beauties” prominent in stories but also in demonstrating how beauty gets its rewards” Also in the other article, “The Effect of Fairy Tales on Readers and Society” by Fong, referring to fairy tales it is said that “One peculiar feature of their styles is their inevitable happy endings in which good is rewarded and evil is punished”, as good is beautiful and evil is ugly in fairy tales, we come the conclusion from this sentence that beautiful girls are conditioned to have happy lives for the sake of their beauty in spite of their unawareness of false expectations from life. All these examples from articles and fairy tale, “Snow White”, show us the link between happiness reward and beauty which creates false expectations from life. In conclusion, effects of fairy tales can be deduced from the articles, “The Effect of Fairy Tales on Readers and Society” by Fong which is about the effects of fairy tales on society, as it can also be understood from its name, and “The Pervasiveness and Persistence of the Feminine Beauty Ideal in Children’s Fairy Tales” by Baker-Sperry and Grauerholz which is about the idealization of feminine beauty in fairy tales and the findings of explorations on fairy tales.
Effects of fairy tales can be seen in women’s minds about being rewarded because of their beauty and they can also be seen in people’s attitudes towards others by evaluating them related to their physical features. They can be seen in gender roles by clearly stating certain roles, as well. That is, fairy tales condition people easily and apparently in the sense of aforesaid concepts. But changing circumstances, having gradually more technological life because of inevitable computers in our lives lessen the pervasiveness of fairy tales in children’s before asleep habits. So their effectiveness on children is definitely decreasing day by day. It is concluded that one day there can be no such prince and princesses’ tales forming children who are in fact the adults of future or the society they compose.