Updated: Mar 9
Once I was reading an Eastern European folktale to my daughter when she was five. According to the story, a girl went on a journey to find her little brother, who was kidnapped by an evil witch. On her way to the witch’s house, she met an apple tree full of apples, an oven full of bread, and a milky river. All of them asked her for help before sharing food with her and advising her of the direction to the witch’s house. At the end of that story, my daughter asked in confusion, “Mom, why did she not meet a microwave and refrigerator?”
As I was stunned by her question, I also, sadly, realized that those stories have become unpopular and boring. Nowadays, children cannot imagine that they must do chores to get food on their plates. We are so used to our comfort that we can’t imagine a life without pressing buttons and flipping switches. Simple knowledge about what bread is made of or how apples grow – our children dig for on the internet, if they choose to, of course. They have no interest in knowing all of this because all their lives they have been introduced to the final products: everything we need we can buy at the store. As a consequence, we are paying a high price for it by shaping our kids’ consumer mentality, based on taking – and not giving – attitudes.
There was something else that troubled my daughter. Who could write such a silly tale in which parents left their kids unattended? That sounds criminal at best. As a consequence of parental neglect, the youngest child was kidnapped. Of course, this folktale, as many others, was written centuries from now. And people then were living a lifestyle that reflected their era. But it is a task to explain all these archaic details to your kids. Thus, it is becoming more reasonable to postpone reading those stories at least until middle school age, if not longer, and maybe even do the folklore studies necessary exclusively for linguistic students.