Elizabeth Matheson

As a society, we have drifted from instilling concrete virtues in our children, opting instead for a message of tolerance and values. In current times, values are hazy and ever-changing. Instilling concrete virtues in our children has never been more crucial. One way to nurture children's moral imagination and provide them with a moral road map for life's journey is through the timeless magic of classical fairytales. These tales, rooted in Christian beliefs, carry profound themes that can shape young minds and guide them towards becoming virtuous individuals, fulfilling the potential God intended for them.

Classical fairytales have captivated young hearts for generations, weaving enchanting worlds with compelling characters and enduring life lessons. Beyond mere entertainment, these tales hold the key to fostering moral growth and character development in our children. Unlike modern stories, which might focus on unclear values, classical fairytales present virtue and vice as distinct opposites, guiding our children to discern right from wrong.

In Dr. Vigen Guroian's illuminating book, "Tending the Heart of Virtue," the significance of fairytales in shaping our moral imagination without imposing dogmatic lessons is explored. Fairytales remind adults and teach children that virtue and vice stand in stark contrast. Guroian's insightful work walks us through the moral lessons and biblical references found in beloved children's stories, offering precious insights that can nurture morally responsible and virtuous adults. Over a long period of time, these classic tales have been revised to the point that modern versions are almost unrecognisable from the original tales, having undergone revision to fit the modern prescription of diversity and promotion of tolerance and equity. It is important as parents and educators to ensure not only that fairytales are read to children but that we do not shy away from the “harsher” and more “vivid” original versions, for it is in these stories that lie the most profound moral truths.

To modern ears, some of these fairytales are "scarier" versions - like the Grimms' version of Cinderella. Yet it is essential to consider these older renditions, as they are often more deeply connected to Christian beliefs and offer valuable life lessons.

In the Grimms' version of Cinderella, the wicked stepsisters cut off parts of their feet to fit into the glass slipper. This gruesome detail may seem too dark for young readers, but it holds an essential moral lesson. The act of mutilating themselves to deceive the prince serves as a cautionary tale against vanity, greed, and selfishness.

These darker elements in older fairytales are not meant to frighten children but rather to teach them the consequences of negative behavior and the importance of living virtuously. The struggle between good and evil in these stories is often more explicit, mirroring the Christian belief in the eternal battle between light and darkness.

Reading the earlier versions of fairytales allows us to delve deeper into their moral and allegorical significance. They show us that virtue is not always an easy path and may require courage and perseverance, just as Cinderella's kindness and patience triumph over her stepsisters' cruelty.

As parents, we have the privilege of selecting age-appropriate versions of these tales, ensuring our children benefit from their valuable lessons without unnecessary fear. By sharing classical fairytales, both the familiar and the earlier versions, we impart a sense of morality deeply rooted in Christian beliefs, helping our children become compassionate, resilient, and virtuous individuals.

The beauty of classical fairytales is that they offer more than a one-dimensional story. They offer a comprehensive moral lesson that children can carry with them for the rest of their lives. As parents and educators, we can use these lessons to teach our children the difference between values and virtues. It's vital to understand that the former changes depending on culture, while the latter is universal.

In a world where morals are often vague and relativistic, classical fairytales provide the concrete virtues that children need, especially when linked to Christian beliefs. By reading and discussing these tales, we can nurture the moral growth of our children and help them become the beloved creatures that God intended. So let us never forget the importance of classical fairytales in shaping the moral imagination of our children.

  • About the Author: Elizabeth Matheson, Director of Via Classica, viaclassica.com.