How tales shape “children’s” mentality

“The folktale is the primer of the image of the soul”[1] (Joseph Campbel). A universal language, a powerful vehicle of knowledge, a wisdom – the tale resides in the heart of our society where “mature children” call themselves “adults”. They forgot they went through a maturing process and most probably they think it is all over. Unfortunately, reality is different: maturing is not a process, it is a cycle and a very repetitive one. Each time we are given a new chance in similar and yet original situations. Each time we get back to the “childhood” state to reshape ourselves in a newer way. And this is where tales can help us!

Whether you think you or your children are born with or without social archetypes, you will necessarily undergo some sheer influence of the overall informational field, your surroundings. The tales you or your children grow up with will have incredible influence. You can’t help bad information flows in their mind. You only can help to calibrate this information with a well-defined approach. There are tons of literature on education and tons of research on this. However, nothing replaces some well balanced tales, those that bring a sense of measure – as for everyone this is the most difficult thing to learn in a crazy and fast changing world.

You wonder what’s the difference between a well-calibrated tale and a disbalanced one? First, let us provide with some observations on the benefits of the tales on children’s psychology. If we take the example of fairy tales, according to the research by K. Violetta-Eirini, those enable:

  • Better self-awareness and awareness of others, development of emotional intelligence[2] (R. Mello),
  • Development of healthy self-concept, sense of identity[3] (V. G. Paley)
  • Enhancement of imagination[4] (K. Gallas)
  • Development of human morality[5] (J. Zipes)
  • Enhancement of cultural sensitivity[6] (McCabe) when children are exposed to storytelling from various cultural contexts

Having mentioned that, let us now give you a small example of what we mean under “well-balanced” tales that usually enable a stronger and healthier mentality for our children. We believe people should read more of those. For sake of clarity we have chosen a very explicit and easily understandable tale conveying a wise teaching. The important here is just that you grasp the essence of our demonstration. So, there we go…

An old Czech wisdom counts the story of a dispute between the Reason and the Luck. They draw the lot and saw it is up to the Reason to interfere in human’s life first. So, the Reason takes on a poor paysan and convince him to escape his condition and become a gardener at a royal court. He works hard and designs indeed magnificent gardens. The luck remains discreet and simply observes.

As the princess becomes marriageable, she suddenly gets ill and loses speech. The king sees this as a threat to her reign. He publicly promises her hand to the man who can heal her. After reflection, the paysan sets up his plan. As the royal family walks in the garden, he starts talking to the princess’s dog. He asks the dog: “Once a friend of mine, a sculptor, shaped a beautiful woman in marble, then, an other friend of mine, a dressmaker, tailored her a beautiful dress, then at the end I came with my beautiful poems and by some enchantment made her become alive. As we are all in love with her, we wonder whom this lady should give her heart to?”.  “To you of course! You made her wake up and be alive! She must choose you!”, claims the princess swiftly.

Everyone is surprised as they hear princess speaking. The paysan then asks for the princess’s hand but provokes the king’s anger with such a trick and such an improper audacity. The king orders to cut his head as no paysan should ask for his daughter’s hand, especially in this manner. At that moment the Luck disputes the Reason and intervenes to rescue the poor paysan. The executioner’s sword suddenly breaks as he lifts it up. Following the customs for such kind of situations, they release the paysan, believing this is a sign from above. Hence the paysan can marry with the princess, so they live long and happy.

That is how the dispute between the Reason and Luck ends. They both need each other since alone they become destructive, while they can make miracles shall they work together.

Nothing especial, right? First, the paysan got confident and trusted his Reason so to accomplish great things and improve his condition. Secondly, the story he made up, in fact, cleverly reproduces the situation of the princess, so we have a narrative spiral, a kind of irony that won’t let our consciousness indifferent. Finally, we have an irrational resolution balancing with the rest.

 But have a look at the construction and the morale of the story: the paysan is not satisfied with his condition – the reason offers him opportunity to improve it; the princess becomes marriageable but gets sick; the paysan wants to marry her but has no other solution than to talk to her dog; despite the paysan succeeds in the task he’s ordered to be executed; not only he escapes execution but he is released and even marries the princess. There is always some sort of balance at every stage, from the beginning till the end. The rational constructions always contrast with unpredictable outcomes and vice-versa. This sparks attention, this is caught by our subconsciousness and recorded immediately. What’s more, interestingly the ending scenario seems less important than the teaching itself. Remarkable, isn’t it?

[1] Joseph Campbel (The Flight of the Wild Gander, p.25)

[2] R. Mello, “The power of storytelling: How oral narrative influences children’s relationships in classrooms,” International Journal of Education & the Arts, vol. 2, no. 1, 2001

[3] V. G. Paley, The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter: The Uses of Storytelling in the Classroom, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 2001)

[4] K. Gallas, The Languages of Learning: How Children Talk, Write, Dance, Draw, and Sing Their Understanding of the World, N. Y: Teachers College Press, 1994.

[5] J. Zipes, Fairy Tale as Myth, Myth as Fairy Tale, Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1994

[6] A. McCabe, “Cultural background and storytelling: A review and implications for schooling,” The Elementary School Journal, vol. 97, no. 5, pp. 453-473, 1997.