The national curriculum recommends that, as part of ‘reading comprehension’ throughout the primary phase pupils should be taught to ‘become very familiar with key stories, fairy stories and traditional tales, retelling them and considering their particular characteristics’. The writers of the programmes of study haven’t provide a rationale for such a requirement, but one hopes they are according these stories a status as part of an international cultural heritage, as appealing to the imagination, and as a memorable, familiar and much loved genre. Nothing to argue with here, and if you take account of strong shapes, patterns and structures, it is easy to see how such texts can support the emerging reader as well as be part of a fully-fledged reader’s diet.

If you’re interested in what critics and writers have to say about the history and the meaning of fairy tales, read Bruno Bettelheim (The Uses Of Enchantment) for psychoanalytic readings  drawing on the work of Freud, or Jack Zipes (Breaking The Magic Spell) who offers, among others, Marxist and Feminist readings. Especially, read a very recent and accessible book by Marina Warner (A Short History Of Fairy Tale) in which she describes how the tales, besides teaching wisdom, moral lessons and alerting the audience to recurrent dangers, show vividly the historically harsh conditions of material life and the ever present threat of death. She calls them “an archive packed with history.”

Some more unusual version and collections to read and read aloud

  • The Hobyahs – Simon Sterne
  • Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters – John Steptoe
  • Snow-White In New York – Fiona French
  • Hansel & Gretel – Anthony Browne
  • The Magic Pasta Pot – Tomie De-Paola
  • The Fisherman & His Wife – Rachel Isadora
  • Clever Gretchen – Alison Lurie
  • English Fairy-Tales – Joseph Jacobs
  • Indian Fairy-Tales – Joseph Jacobs
  • Fairy-Tales – Terry Jones
  • Stories For Children – Oscar Wilde
  • A Necklace Of Raindrops – Joan Aiken

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