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“It’s no accident many children’s books begin with bored children.”

Maria Tatar is A Person You Should Know

Josh Spector
Aug 3, 2016 · 2 min read

Fairy Tale Expert. Professor of Germanic Languages and Literature, Harvard University.

Believes fairy tales are often underestimated because of the misleading name given to the genre and points out the abstract concepts in the stories are reinvigorated by new generations of tellers.

Thinks trying to understand why things go wrong is more productive than focusing on what is right.

“This savagery we offer children today is more unforgiving than it once was. And the shadows are rarely banished by comic relief. Instead of stories about children who struggle to grow up, we have stories about children who struggle to survive.”

Suggests bedtime reading with children is a wonderful opportunity to go back to your own childhood.

Believes fairy tales are all about the hyper-dysfunctional family and as we process what goes on in them, we learn to manage our own anxieties and desires.

“It’s no accident that many children’s books begin with bored children, like Alice on the riverbank reading a book and nodding off. How do you move from boredom to curiosity — how do you animate the child? My answer is: by using the shock value of beauty and horror, administering jolts and shimmers that flip a switch in the mind.”

Thinks fairy tales and myths help us navigate cultural contradictions and figure out who is the predator and who is the prey, who is innocent and who is seductive. (video)

Recommends 10 lesser-known fairy tales that deserve more attention including The Juniper Tree and The Enchanted Quill.

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Josh Spector

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A Person You Should Know

Profiles of smart, creative people. Because who you know influences who you become.