Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Child As a Hero


Among fairy tales around the world, the presence of children as main characters is undoubtedly an excellent reflection for children readers. Children, in their own world, have their own issues, and this can be addressed through fairy tales. Those tales impart a lesson for children: they can certainly overcome hardness and get rewards. Becoming heroes, which is close to children’s imagination, symbols the reward that they can get. 

 The roles of children as heroes, however, vary throughout different tales, namely Little Thumbling and The Juniper Tree. Little Thumbling, who was looked down and thought as being dump, turned out to be the wisest in the family and many times helped his older brothers get out of troubles. Knowing about their being abandoned in the forest, he dropped the little white pebbles or scattered the breadcrumbs on the path in order to find a way home.  He always stayed calm even when seven brothers were found by the ogre and ready to be eaten. Having predicted dangers that might come to all of them, Little Thumbling switched the golden crowns of ogre’s daughters by their caps so that the ogre mistook them by its daughters. He also showed his intelligence when he stole the enchanted boots and got all of the ogre’s wealth to get back to his home. He returned home as a hero after he helped his brothers survive in the forest, escaped from being eaten by the ogre and brought home a lot of wealth. For The Juniper Tree, the role of children as a hero is different. The boy came back after being killed by the stepmother, he transformed into a beautiful bird which can sing a beautiful song. Its song attracted people; he came back to the house, dropped millstone on the stepmother’s head and crushed her to death. The boy appeared alive after that, he was considered a hero because he eradicated the evil stepmother and brought joy to the family. 

According to Bettleheim, that the children were sent to the forest was a chance for them to grow up. Becoming a hero is actually the reward achieved from growing up, becoming unique individuals and being able to use initiatives to solve problems. For example, in Hansel and Gretel by Brothers Grimm, Hansel and Gretel faced the possibility of abandonment, famine and cannibalism, which pushed them to corporate and think of the way to survive. Bettleheim argued that the children “must overcome and sublimate his primitive incorporative and hence destructive desires” to arrive more mature when challenges come. In the process of development, they have to find their individuality and stride out on their own self instead of relying on others. The child becoming a hero draws a conclusion that once he finds his independence, maturity and uniqueness, he is ready to go on and succeed in life. 


Works Cited:
Bettelheim, Bruno: The Uses of Enchantment. New York: Vintage Books, 2010. Print