Friday, May 21, 2010

Fears and Fairy Tales

by Wenda Dottridge

Aren't stories a wonderful way to take us away from our everyday fears and worries?

When my children were small, like most mothers, I made weekly trips to the library so I could instill in my children a love of books. Each week we'd arrive for story time, and then we'd meander through the children's section until my kids had placed five books in their special, hand-sewn book bags provided by library volunteers.
My son Timothy chose the same book each and every week. In fact, it was the only book he wanted, week after week, after week. I'd force other books in the bag, but at home they'd be ignored. Every now and then I'd make him leave "his" book at the library so some other child would have a chance to read this wonderfully illustrated and well-told classic, The Three Billy Goats Gruff.

I've never really understood why it had to be this story, but he loved it. He loved to have it read to him, with all the voices acted out, of course. He loved flipping pages on his own and running his hands over the pictures, and most of all, he loved acting the story out whenever we went for walks. At the time we lived in an area full of great hiking and mountain biking trails.  We never crossed a bridge without first acting out the whole story. My husband would play the nasty troll and Timothy would take great delight in acting the part of the Biggest Billie Goat. He would enthusiastically butt that horrible troll off the bridge every time. Over and over and over again.

And before you're tempted to ask, "Ever considered if Tim is OCD?" Umm. well, yeah. But he's not, really.

In fact, it's not unusual for small children to want to watch the same show many times, or to read the same story repeatedly. For Tim, I believe The Three Billy Goats Gruff provided a way for him to work out his fears. To enact a scenario in which good triumphs over evil. The fantasy of the story and the role playing provided the thrill of fear, without real danger.

We traveled long distances in the car with our children before DVD players were standard automobile equipment and the one story Timothy loved was a Ladybird Classic tape from England telling the Three Little Pigs. In our house at the time, if one opened our bedroom door and the walk-in closet door both doors would meet and provide a little "house" in the corner. This became the spot the Big Bad Wolf, aka Daddy, blew the house down and ate (tickled) little pigs. Over and over and over and over. The children never tired of this game, and I can still picture all three kids huddled in the corner, giggling and taunting the BBW.
With each reenactment of the story, they triumphed over adversity. They trumped their fears.

And really, isn't that a big part of what compels us to read fiction as adults, too. When our heroes and heroines overcome odds to earn their happily-ever-after don't we learn that we can, too? Is it any wonder our Lord chose to teach most of his lessons through stories? Imagine this....A traveler is beaten by thieves....A woman loses a coin....A man owned a field..... Jesus reveals the new covenant to us in the same way his Father imparted the old covenant to his people, through story.

I'm happy to report that Tim is no longer compelled to take out only one book from the library or to check for trolls under bridges. Nor does he taunt the BBW from behind bedroom doors. Those imaginary bad guys have long been slain, and if they weren't, they wouldn't stand a chance against his lanky sixteen-year strength and 6'2" height and reach. No, Tim's current villains are Algebra problems and English essays. Thank goodness for Ted Dekker heroes to show him that the good guy, with effort and faith and some supernatural help, can still slay monsters.

Thanks for joining us as we relive our favourite stories and story memories. Were there particular books your kids (or nieces and nephews or special small people) loved when they were (or still are) small? Are there stories you seek out to calm your stresses and fears in life?


  1. I forgot how much children love the familiar! We do too, of course, but we hide it better! What a great story, Wenda.

    It's fun to watch my granddaughter go through her countless books and choose the next one to be read. So far she hasn't found her own version of the Three Billy Goats Gruff.

    She has loved books and loved learning sign language equally. She is not hearing impaired but she started learning to sign before she could talk. One day my son-in-law took her to her mom's work and while waiting, they went to the library (she works in a primary/elem. school). Grace's face lit up and she signed book repeatedly over and over. A LIBRARY FULL OF BOOKS was an amazing thing to her!

    I was looking through my old books this week and found one small book that brought such a strong feeling to me that I can only think it was one of my early favorites.

    This has been a great theme. I've really enjoyed it. Thanks Inkies!

  2. I never could get my kids to "take" to books much, but they did watch certain DVDs over and over and over again. However, the two books from their childhoods that are worn to the point of falling apart are both Dr. Seuss titles: The ABC book and Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?

    Not sure of the significance of that!

  3. Hi Deb,

    We missed the signing trend, but I ran a community play group at our church a few years back and was amazed at the small hands signing. For food and drink mostly!

    And D'Ann, Dr. Seuss books are a great way to introduce kids to the magic of language. Someday I'll have to blog about my cousin's wedding vows, recited back and forth between bride and groom in Dr. Seuss. Amazing, really!

  4. Oh, yes. There are some favorites at our house. I've read some so many times that the mere sight can elicit a groan. Barbie the Ballerina is sickeningly sweet, I want to kick her.

    Or, perhaps I could be teh biggest billy goat and butt her off a bridge?

  5. When my daughter was small, there was a time where she only wanted one of four books: Where is Bear?, Where O Where is Baby Bear?, Bear Loves Food, and Bear in the Big Blue House. I used to groan at the sight of those books, sort of like Lisa and Barbie, but now I cherish them. Kids do love the familiar, and I guess it's like me watching certain Jane Austen movies: I want to be in that universe.

    My brother was in a musical production of Billy Goat's Gruff (30 years ago!), and I have one of the songs in my head now! It's crazy what sorts of things the brain remembers, and what it doesn't (I wish I could memorize Scripture so well.).

    Thanks for the fun post!

  6. Susie, I almost said the same thing. The familiar is so soothing. I too will watch my Jane Austens and the like over and over again.

    My grown up fairy tales...

    Goodnight Inkies
    Goodnight Moon!

  7. I can't say my kids liked a particular book because they went for the whole series. We joined the Disney book Club when my oldest was a baby and that meant getting 2 books in the mail every couple months for years and years.

    Every night it was a different adventure but always, a Disney book even though I ensured they had lots of books to choose from.

    Great post, Wenda. Loved the pics. :)


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