Childhood fairy-tales

Childhood fairy-tales

Adapted from the old New Straits Times editor’s article

Most of us grew up on 550 Buddhist tale, 10 Jettaka or Reincernations of Buddha’s Stories, Burmese Folk tales, Lu Du U Hla’s Ethnic Minorities folk tales, 1001 Arabian Nights, Aesop’s Fables, stories by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, and Mothers and Grandparents’ tales, learned lessons that have stayed with us.

From the tale of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, we learned that if we tell lies, people will not believe us when we tell the truth.

And we learned from wise father’s tale of the Bundle of Sticks that unity is strength.

The great fairy tales depict morality through anecdotes of tussles between good and evil.

They depict character and virtue attractively; wickedness and deception are evil.

Through these stories, we face the unvarnished truth about ourselves and are compelled into thinking about what kind of people we want to be.

One of the most-liked fairy tales is Beauty and the Beast because it contrasts goodness with badness in an appealing way.

The story starts with a very rich merchant with three daughters, all of whom are extremely beautiful, especially the youngest.

She was called “The Little Beauty” but the story does not talk about her physical attributes.

Instead, it draws attention to her virtuous character. Her moral goodness, or inner beauty, is contrasted with her sisters’ pride, vanity and selfishness, their inner ugliness.

By portraying the world in which ugly beasts are transformed into princes and where evil persons are turned to stone, fairy tales remind us of the moral truths.

These tales draw a distinct line between good and evil. But in the real world, as we know it, there are grey areas.

There is good and there is evil, and there are good people who have a little vice and there are evil people who may have a good streak in them.

And we also know that the mere ability to use moral principles to justify one’s actions does not make that person virtuous.

We see in our world people who shout loud about virtues and principles but who really are trying to hide their flaws.

We all forget sometimes, as one philosopher said, that “you cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one”, or that “character is what you know you are, not what others think you have”.

We learn from what great writers such as Somerset Maugham meant when he said: “When you choose your friends, do not be short-changed by choosing personality over character.”

Or what John Wooden meant when he wrote, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are; your reputation is merely what others think you are”.

Sometimes, we must remember the proverb that we cannot break through a wall with our forehead.

But people often judge a bird by its flight, which is really unfair sometimes because some one is being judged more by his/her reactions rather than his/her deeds.

Maybe they thought that where something is thin, that’s where it tears.

Sometimes, you have to look back into the past, much as people prefer to let the past lay buried, to get the right perspective.

The fairy tales and proverbs we learnt when we were young teach us that one does not sharpen the axes after the right time, which means that there is little use in speaking up when it is too late.

We could take lesson from the proverb that as you make your bed, so you will lie on it.

We should remember that all are not cooks that walk with long knives (do not judge a person by what he says or how he appears).

Referring to the fairy tales for a moral may not be such a bad idea in such times… 

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