This has a point – but you have to read the story first.
Once there was a man who was granted 3 wishes. He wished for a cottage, a nice wife, and 100 gold coins. He lived in a small village, and each day while walking around town he would stop and talk with the old lady in the village. She told him that her son, who lived in the city, had just had a baby and that she would love dearly to visit him, but that she wasn’t able because her bones were old and sore. As the man walked away he thought to himself, “I don’t need all 3 wishes for myself. I wish that the old lady’s physical ailments be healed, so that she may go visit her son, and new grandchild.”
Then he came upon Anna, a young woman from his village, coming out of the woods carrying a basket of mushrooms. “Hello Anna,” he said, “those are some wonderful mushrooms. You’re so good at finding the safe ones to eat!” “Humph,” Anna replied. As long as the man had known Anna she had been unhappy because she was born with a deformed foot that prevented her from dancing at village celebrations, and running and climbing with her friends when she was younger. As the man walked into the woods he thought to himself, “I don’t need 2 wishes. I wish that Anna’s foot were healed, so that she might be happy.”
Once in the woods the man heard a strange noise. He followed the sound until he found the source: a fox had become trapped in an animal trap and was trying to free itself. The man immediately thought to himself, “I don’t need my 3rd wish, this fox needs it more than I do.” And he wished that the fox be free from the trap. As he thought this, the trap sprang open and the fox ran off. The man thought to himself, “I’m going make sure this trap never hurts another animal again,” and he dug a hole to put it in. As he dropped the trap into the hole, he heard a ‘clink’. He felt down in the hole and pulled out a small metal box. He opened the box and discovered gold coins! He counted them, and there were 100 of them! He must have been meant to find them.
A few days later he was walking through the village and came upon Anna who ran up to him, yes, she ran, to tell him that just after she had seen him a few days prior her foot had been miraculously healed and for the first time in her life she was able to dance, and run, and was so happy. And he saw her happiness, and asked her to join him at the village festival a few days later where they danced and enjoyed themselves thoroughly. And while they were dancing the man realized that he wanted Anna to be his wife. He had always enjoyed her company and now that she was happy and dancing, he would like to marry her. And she agreed to marry him.
A few days after that he came upon the old lady standing in front of her cottage. She was so excited to see him, she had just returned from visiting her son and had been asked to move in with him and his family to help care for her grandchild. There was nothing she wanted to do more, now that her body was free from pain and infirmity. Since she would be leaving town, she wanted the man to have her cottage.
In the end the man winds up with the 3 things he initially wished for: a cottage, a wife, and 100 gold coins. The moral of the story: be selfless and good will come to you.
Ooooookkkkaaaaayyyyy. Now we get to the part where I have some problems. In the car on the way home I turned to my husband and said, “So, I had some problems with that story.” And he kind of laughed and said, “Yeah. Me too.” So I asked him what had caused concern for him. He said that he wasn’t thrilled with the model of the man being the selfless hero in the story. Which I agreed with. But more so, I was pissed that the man “saved” Anna from her disability.
What kind of bullshit story is told to 1st graders that sets up Anna, with her physical limitations, as sad and angry, and IN NEED OF FIXING? This man, selflessly gives up a material wish for himself, so that Anna can be “normal” (that’s actually the word the storyteller used), and then marries her. ALL KINDS OF RAGE HAPPENING HERE.
I want to protect my kid from this kind of imagery. From these sort of fables. From stories (I don’t believe they are well intentioned and harmless) that will teach him that people who are different need to change. That they need to be fixed. People don’t need to be fixed. People who are different don’t need to change. WE need to stop othering diversity, and uniqueness. WE need to change.
Wouldn’t it have been amazing if instead of wanting to fix Anna’s leg, he had wished for a more inclusive environment for Anna? For people who would have sought to include her in village dances, instead of leaving her to sit by herself against the wall? For Anna to have a community that valued her as she was?
This is SO DAMN IMPORTANT to me. I understand, logically, that I can’t shelter kidlet from all of it. But that doesn’t change that I don’t want to.