I recently read a book about Eva Braun, Hitler's girlfriend which talked quite a bit about German fairy tales. The author's idea was that the viciousness of German children's stories had a part in the attitudes of the German people during WWI and WWII.
I don't know about that. I wasn't there, and I'm not German. What I do know is that my father (who had some German ancestors, so I guess I'm sort of German?) was thrilled when he came into possession of an archival-quality copy of Grimm's fairy tales. He settled us kids around and read us Cinderella. Dad was a great story teller. He pitched his voice for drama, used funny voices, and everything.
I went to bed that night and screamed every time I fell asleep. I had visions of the evil step sisters bleeding and mutilated, because in the original story, one sister cut off her toes to get her foot into the glass slipper, and one cut off her heel. Even though my young self had a problem imagining how to cut off a heel, I understood cut off toes easily enough. Screams rang through the night. Screams kept my family awake for two weeks. Apparently, my German ancestry is too diluted for me to handle the brothers Grimm -- though sufficient for a book burning. After two weeks of night terrors, Dad reluctantly built a fire in the back yard and let me toss the horrible book into the flames. My nightmares stopped.
I was given a Dr. Seuss album, a record -- you know, that object with magically recorded sounds in the dark ages before CDs, DVDs, and youtube. I sat on the floor, with my eyes wide open and cheeks pink with the thrill of story time. I also owned a Yertle the Turtle book which I read in sync with the magical voice coming out of the spinning machine. Clearly, Dr. Seuss understood how to talk to children better than the Grimms.
I've pondered the Eva Braun author's theory about German fairy tales stressing obedience at the threat of dire punishments. She might be right that stories and attitudes made for a militant society, but I'm glad I grew up in a time of Dr. Seuss and Yertle the Turtle.
The story in brief, is that Yertle the Turtle was the king of all the turtles. He wanted to see farther than his pond, so he made the other turtles stack themselves up and he climbed on top for a better view. This was pretty punishing for Mack on the bottom of the pile, who politely complained. Mack burped and the pile toppled...
"And today the great Yertle, that Marvelous he,
Is King of the Mud. That is all he can see.
And the turtles, of course... all the turtles are free
As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be."
Did you know Dr. Seuss wrote this about Hitler? I didn't either. Seems like he could've written for some of the people alive today. Maybe we should do a fundraiser and send copies of the book to some of these people?
Oh, right. We have youtube now. Watch it here.