Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale, said Hans Christian Anderson, author of The Little Mermaid. As is often the case as Headmaster of a school, much of my inspiration comes from the children. In this case, 1H’s assembly reminded me of my fascination with fairy tales and their meanings.
Oral history is a fascinating topic, and allegorical tales (be they fairy tales, myths or fables) teach us so much about the time they were created. You will find wolves cropping up in Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs and a selection of Aesop’s Fables. The message here is clear to European medieval children: wolves are dangerous.
Such stories still have important messages for children today: this week, girls and boys have told me that fairy tales have helped them understand the importance of not talking to strangers, keeping to the path and following rules. One of the many wonders of reading is that children learn to explore the meaning of a story, but everyday experiences also help children decide the sort of person they want to be and form a strong sense of the correct way to act. An important element of learning at Lyonsdown is the range of activities that we provide for children, so they can discover what their interests are and develop their character. When a Year 6 pupil spots a door stop is missing and asks if she may fetch another, she is showing the importance of being responsible and helpful for the benefit of others. If younger children witness this, and the praise from her teacher, the Year 6 girl becomes a role model – she has shown others the way.
Although Disney may have changed the plot of Anderson’s tale about mermaids and princes, the moral of the story is the same. As Sebastian the crab has it: Children get to be free to lead their own lives. Children have a great deal of choice as they grow up and, with support and guidance, are more than responsible enough to do the right thing.
All the best for a relaxing weekend.
Riddle me this
An answer first: horses make for excellent ballerinas because they permanently walk en pointe, on their toes.
This week: luckily wolves are banished to fairy tales, but who was the last real-life lumberjack in the United Kingdom?