analyze

9. Hidden Messages Behind Popular Children’s Stories

x4kaajg0tmu-aaron-burdenI read the story The Gingerbread Man to children. This is a holiday book that is read during the Christmas season. 

Basically, a grandmother was hungry, made some cookies, and when she took the cookies out of the oven, a gingerbread man pops out and runs away because he doesn’t want to be eaten. The entire story is all about the gingerbread man running away from children and animals until he ”befriends” a fox by a lake. The fox cunningly invites the Gingerbread man on his back so he can take him across the lake. The Gingerbread, innocent and obviously gullible, goes on the fox’s back and gives in to the fox’s lies until he is eventually eaten.

The children find this story funny – but I found elements in this children’s book that were a disturbing:

–> First point: the Gingerbread – (yes – magically ) birthed into a living being, experiences his first moments of life in hostility where despite the Gingerbread Man wanting to live (ie: ”don’t eat me!”) people refuse his request and run after him – wanting to eat him  when the Gingerbread Man wanted to live.

–> Second point: that the Gingerbread man’s death is due to the cunning and sly deception of the fox – who at first seemed trustworthy in wanting to help the Gingerbread Man, but ended up at the last moment eating him – and in the illustration, the Gingerbread Man’s face is in fear. 

Yes it is a story – but if you look behind the words and pretty pictures, it’s really a screwed up story that makes death and deception something entertaining for the kids. The being (Gingerbread man) came into the world with the intention to live yet was immediately threatened because everyone wanted to eat him, instead of being born into a world where individuals (humans and animals) welcome and nurture him.  

Similar elements are found in real life – like a child being born in a war-torn country, or an abusive household, –once the baby born, they are threatened with real-life problems. 

So, how can a story like The Gingerbread Man be an appropriate story for the Holidays, especially Christmas – which is known as the season of ”giving” and celebrating life (of Christ)? I understand some may react to my words, and find the book funny and entertaining, but I’m the type of person who likes to look beyond the words to see what is really behind it all, and if these words/meanings support our children’s development.

I suggest we as parents/teachers/adults start analyzing the meanings behind the stories we share with our children – those ”hidden messages” we tend to overlook and see how we can instead teach and show how to support each other and life, so that we raise our children within the foundations of supporting life for all.

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