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Children are the most innocent of the creatures, and a lot of observation is given to what they view during their childhood, what they read and what content should go into their heads at such a crucial stage.
For the same purpose, various moral/value storybooks are also illustrated properly so that the moralistic lessons get deeply embedded in children’s minds and hearts.
The source of extreme entertainment for children is provided primarily by Disney, which helps them create a world of the most beautiful imaginations. Disney princesses are popular for the same. It enables the children to remain in their Utopic world far away from the corrupted realities of life.
But what if some of these beautiful and all so innocent stories hide in it in-depth adult content incomprehensible to children for the time being. I’ll pick here 5 of the most famous children’s fiction which includes deeply hidden adult content. I mean erotic content, political and social content with adult content, which is not understandable by children.
1. LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
We all have heard this story during our childhood where this little girl wearing a red hood sets out to collect flowers and fruits for her sick grandma but faces an encounter with a cunning wolf who has his eyes on her fruits and the other gifts she has in her basket which he later becomes successful in taking from her. Now this story, in any way doesn’t show adult content or something of the sort but the critics when looked at it more closely found in it hidden adult content. It is believed by the critics that the girl in the story doesn’t only go to the clearance to collect flowers and fruits, but she wanted some alone time for herself, to touch her own body without any disturbances around. And what better place will she get than the lake where the water would soothe her as well. The wolf saw her right there, and his lustful eyes wanted her badly. After she leaves the clearance satisfied enough with herself, she moves towards her grandma’s home where she mistakes the wolf lying in bed for her grandma, and he forcefully steals her virginity thereafter.
It’s not proved if this is what the author actually meant, but critics from various places have pointed out this content entrenched in the story of the little red riding hood.
2. ALICE IN WONDERLAND
If we talk about this story where nothing makes sense, and everything seems to be going out of place, children often read it as a complete fantasy story. Alice daydreaming and then all her dreams coming true magically is something which we think is complete nonsense. In this book, as we study and get a more in-depth and deeper understanding, we come across various metaphorical devices that lead us to discover the Victorian society’s embedded ideas. These devices are rarely or in fact, not even recognizable to children. Some of them include the growth of a Victorian girl, the loss of innocence and entering into public relations. Sometimes the rabbit hole is designated as the opening of a vagina too! The patriarchal notions are very much enhanced in this novel, obviously hidden from the innocent audience.
3. GULLIVER’S TRAVELS
Whether we take a look at the Lilliput land or the land of Brobdingnag, Gulliver’s travels though considered partially as a travel narrative with all the maps and ships included is actually a satirical narrative. Jonathan Swift highly criticizes the 18th-century politics of the Whigs and Tories in this narrative. The land of Lilliput represents the way England looked at France, i.e. in terms of the country’s smallness and the dominating aspect of the former is highlighted. Along with this in Book 3, science is heavily satirized by Swift. Book 4 gives a deep philosophical view of humankind’s vices and follies and the way we comprehend these. The horses’ stoic acceptance of death in Book 4 parodies the extra attention we give to such events.
YES! it is a children’s fiction. After reading this small insight of it, I don’t think you would ever consider it as one.
4. SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS
Yes, the ever beaming and highly romanticized fairy tale of all times is full of symbols and motifs to suggest some deep hidden meanings and the historical details of the 19th century. Like ‘Alice in Wonderland’, the story becomes a path of the growth of a girl into a woman. The adult anxieties regarding sex and controlling the children become evident if we take an in-depth look into it. The tales of this era kept with protestant ethics and the patriarchal notions of sex roles. The dwarfs’ home where she finds rest from her stepmother is believed by some critics to be a woman’s development. All seven dwarfs teach her the adult tasks such as cleaning and cooking alongside soothing the prince. Her stay with the seven men, though dwarfs, is considered a mark of eroticism at the fairy tale’s heart.
5. THE JUNIPER TREE
Though the story is less known amongst the contemporaries of that era, The juniper tree represents, like Cinderella and Snow white, the practice of child abuse prevalent during that time. In this story, a woman decapitates her own stepson as he bends down to get an apple. She then brutally chops his body, stews it and serves it to her husband. The husband is also cruel enough to enjoy the meal made out of his own son. Child abuse seems like the central theme of this story.
After being aware of all these hidden references in stories which are so-called ‘fairy tales’, we can no more look at them as we used to. After all, they don’t help us in getting away into a Utopia altogether.
About the author
Hey, this is priyanka, a student of English literature, keen on exploring the depths of it. I am an introvert, shy and more inclined to my books. Love old Hindi music. Good at sketching and poetry.