What We Can Learn from the Predators of Fairy Tales

When you think about the issues of abuse, specifically child sexual abuse, as much as we do – you start to see the world in a different light. In reviewing some of these popular pieces of literature (some old and some newer versions) it brings to mind some of the important lessons that we strive to instill in our educational work and materials. There is no one ‘lesson’ on predators, nor should we have just one conversation with our kids. Here is our feedback on some of the most well-known predators children learn about during their childhood reading.


Written and provided by The Mamabear Effect

The Three Little Pigs

Which house did the Big Bad Wolf blow down first? The one with the most vulnerable foundation. Child predators in the real world are no different. They look for single parents, families struggling financially, parents that are too busy or simply don’t give their kids enough attention – many predators that premeditate abuse look for weaknesses in a family unit and often choose the family and child that seem easiest to prey upon.  


Little Red Riding Hood

“Do not stray from the path and don’t talk to strangers.”


What did Little Red do? She strayed and talked to a stranger. Kids do that, not always face-to-face but online via social media, video games, and chat rooms. Most parents are terrified to let their children walk alone down the street, yet  too many, arguably, allow their children unsupervised access to the internet – where the newest crop of predators wait. Not unlike real-life online predators, the Big Bad Wolf gathers personal information about Red Riding Hood – where she was going and who she was seeing and, again, like in real life – he pretends to be something he isn’t in order to draw her as close to him as possible.


Hansel & Gretel

While the witch may have lured the children with candy – there are many forms of grooming that predators use to gain trust and break down the defenses of a child. Here she had two hungry children lost in the woods, but many children are hungry for attention, friendship, or a sense that someone truly cares. Much like the witch, predators don’t always attack right away. She fed them, and made them nice beds to sleep in – the children were completely at ease. In the real world, predators can takes months of time grooming the families and their victims into a state of complete comfort and trust.


The Spider and the Fly

Spiders are, perhaps, one of the best known predators for luring and ensnaring their prey. Perhaps less known than most fairy tales, The poem, ‘The Spider and the Fly’ is a cautionary tale about those who use flattery and false kindness as a way to woo those they wish to harm, or in the spider’s case, devour. The meaning in the last lines of the poem are is not so disguised,


“And now, dear little children, who may this story read,

To idle, silly, flattering words, I pray you ne’er give heed;

Unto an evil counselor close heart, and ear, and eye,

And take a lesson from this tale of the Spider and the Fly.”


The Little Mermaid

What ultimately drew Ariel to go to Ursula the Sea Witch? That she could give Ariel what she wanted – when her father responded with anger and outrage, Ursula found her moment to ensnare the girl. Her father’s behavior drove Ariel away – Ursula’s feigned empathy and offer to ‘help’ drew her in.


Some predators will seek opportunities to show that they ‘understand’ their victims and encourage them to partake in adult activities – whether it’s giving them alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs. Ultimately, it’s an attempt to blackmail the child so that they feel they cannot ask for help – especially if the parent is likely to respond with anger or if they fear they’ll be in trouble. It is important to remember, especially during the most trying moments of parenthood, that maintaining the bond we have with our children is essential. A parent’s love should never be conditional.


Sleeping Beauty

The point we want to make here is a simple one: sometimes no matter how loving, how protective parents can be – a predator will still make their way through. The good news – there can still be a happy ending.
As most people know – many abusers live in the home of their victims. And often, victims are very adaptive in order to survive – from the outside you may never know what they’re holding in. There is no ‘one fits all’ way for victims to act nor what abusers look like. But no matter the ability for a person to deal with mistreatment, whether physical, emotional, sexual or otherwise – abuse and neglect are never OK. Not every survivor comes out with Prince Charming. Surviving the abuse is half the battle, surviving the recovery means overcoming the trauma, the depression, the anger, struggles with trust, low self-esteem all while moving forward with their lives.  Like Cinderella, we hope every victim and survivor of abuse can see that castle in the distance and know, in their hearts that no matter how much dirt and soot is thrown at them – it doesn’t change their worth. We may not always be where we want to be, but so long as we don’t give up we can get there.


Photo Credit: http://www.earlyoftennow.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/three-little-pigs-sm.jpg

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