Gene Veith’s blog Cranach links to an excellent article from Touchstone Magazine concerning the stripping of any frightening or scary parts of stories from children’s Bibles. The article is called Eaten Alive and it specifically explores the wrongs done to the story of Jonah in various Children’s Bibles.
I could not agree more and this hits on a real pet peeve of mine. With three kids, 5, 3, and 6 months, we are constantly showering them with books and stories. But, it is frustrating to see how dumbed down and ridiculous most of the books that pass for children’s literature today have become. This is especially true (and doubly infuriating) with Children’s Bibles.
You are hard pressed to find a children’s Bible that conveys any of the more frightening, violent, or sad parts of the Bible. Indeed, my 5 year old daughter received one as a gift that did not even have a crucifixion account in it (this version found its way to the trash can).
To combat this cultural poverty, we have made efforts to “work in” old fairy tales, classic myths, and some reproductions of some classic Children’s Bibles. I say “work in” because despite my efforts, my three year old still likes to read about the inane exploits of Dora the Explorer.
I am having more success with my five year old, for obvious reasons (she’s older). She greatly enjoys reading selections from Andrew Lang’s Blue Fairy Book. This is an outstanding collection of classic fairy tales told as they were originally collected in the late 1800s. You can purchase the entire set of fairy books, but in my opinion, the blue is the best.
She loves the original version of Little Red Riding Hood. This is the one where the wolf eats everyone. There is no woodsman to rescue her and her grandmother from their fate. Of course, this is understandable given the point of the tale. Little Red Riding Hood thought she could trust a wolf. Silly girl.
Hansel & Gretel is also a favorite. It is little more graphic than you might remember and scary. My little ones love it!
So too, with Bible stories. The Touchstone article discusses Jonah. My gauge is how a Children’s Bible treats the story of Daniel, especially the end. At the conclusion of the story, as Daniel is pulled out of the Lion’s Den, the men responsible for putting him there are thrown into the Den with their families. We are told they did not touch the ground before they were torn apart. Pretty grim.
By now, I would probably be condemned by most soccer moms for exposing my children to such violence and frightening stories. My own view is that they are the ones running the risk. Without such exposure, their children will have no defense when the this world’s violence and frightening aspects confront them head on. It is an immunization of sorts against the really dark and sinister aspects of this world that wait to devour them.
These stories actually teach moral lessons and the difference between right and wrong. They need to know that there are things they really should fear in this world, and where they can seek refuge when they are confronted with it.
I would much rather them spend their time in these stories than read a story designed to teach them how to count from one to five in Spanish.
The Annotated Brothers Grimm Parents will enjoy its history of the development of these classic fairy tales.