Bluebeard, a French literary folktale, the most famous version written down by Charles Perrault, tells the haunting story of a violent aristocrat whose new wife discovers actual skeletons in his closet – the murdered bodies of his previous wives.
Its classification of being a folktale shows that it was a story passed down by generations so it might not have been originally “marketed” towards children like other texts. The inclusion of a moral, and that it is classified alongside other fairytales, obviously leads to children reading or being exposed to the story. The discussion arose in class if a story where the protagonist finds a forbidden room where her new husband literally hangs the bloodied bodies of his previous wives is appropriate for children. (It’s not!) One classmate cited that he had only heard of Bluebeard because he read Cracked.com’s “5 Grimm Fairytales You Should Only Read to Kids You Hate.”
So, if childhood is so sacred, why are we doing this to our kids? While parents probably would never read Bluebeard to their children as a bedtime story, they would read or allow their children to read equally violent stories. Children’s stories and fairytales are riddled with swordfights, bewitched hot iron shoes, and evil witches being thrown into ovens. A most recent young adult bestseller The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, has children as young as 12 fighting to their deaths in a televised contest.
The hypocrisy that arises to me, however, is how other adult themes are extremely off limits to children. In class, we discussed how sexually advanced storylines like incest are banned because they can get too real. Isn’t the prospect of a serial killer rounding up bodies in his house a little too real? It is intriguing to think of the lengths parents go to suppress sexuality and other adult themes but are open to exposing children to violence based solely on the hierarchy of what society deems important.