Posts: 14 Country (residing now): Israel Country (originally from): Israel & 3 more! Children, Ages: none yet, little bilingual girls at home tho ;) Majority Language: Hebrew Minority Language(s): English, German (& French?)
I'm Mal - a multilingual myself, a translator, a writer.
Recently I'm working on my first bigger project dedicated to multilingual kids.
My question is: Would it be troubling for you as parents of young multilingual children if a story was taking place somewhere far from your place, culture and origins, i.e. India, Pakistan, China, Middle East?
I'm half-way to make a small series of booklets based on the fairy tales from all around the world, but then I'm worried that while the stories would pass in a bigger anthology, nobody might want a booklet with English-xxxxxx text yet about a Radja and a tiger... Maybe it would be better to translate it to the general "fairy tale" realm? A King and a tiger?
Also, what about the folk legends that contain some traditional dose of "gore"? Should they be remade to milder version, like Cinderella and Little Mermaid were? Is it safe to read such stories to children in modern times?
Thank you for any help! Your opinion would be much appreciated!
I for one would love stories that are set in faraway places!
As for gore, Daddy has been reading the classic fairy tales to our 4-year-old recently, and there is quite a bit of gore if you think about it: abandoning children, cutting off toes, eating children and burning old women alive...
I think as long as it is not too vivid a picture (Gretel closes the oven and we don't hear any more about the witch burning to death) it should be okay. But I recommend that parents read the story for themselves before they read them aloud to the children. They can always improvise something if a scene is too gory for their kid at its current age.
I love also stories from far away. It is also a great chance to talk with the kids about that country, where it is... Maybe it would be nice if you would include also in the book a page with background information about that country, animal...also in the language.
As for the gore... I know I am absolutely not main stream about this but "gore" in traditional fairy tales has its reasons. Fairy tales have been for centuries a way of teaching kids about life lessons. They are not stories of real persons but a way to teach life lessons. They are also a way to teach about new situations in our life. For example Red Riding Hood symbolizes the "dangers" a girl maybe coming across when getting her menstruation (red hood) and has nothing to do with a little girl bringing cookies to grandma. I believe that for kids those hidden meanings are important and have never sweetened a fairy tale for them. I must say that even if I tried, they demanded the bloody version. But well, I guess I am the only one so please do not follow my advice if you want to sell many books.
I also love faraway places (my son's favourite cartoon is The Jungle Book, which is set in India). I think it's a great way of introducing children to other cultures, people, etc.
But! I'm rather strict about scary stories... No abandoning, cutting, burning, shooting, no Spiderman, Power Rangers and company on TV... I am okay with Mowgli vs Shere Khan, and we adore the Gruffalo, but that's about it. My son is still young, so I guess he has time to experience all that later, or maybe I just want to keep him wrapped up in a gentle and innocent world for as long as possible...
We already have a wide array of culturally diverse books. Just recently I had to explain why Dutch children put carrots in a shoe for Santa Claus. You'd think that books from Europe would be clear no matter where you are, but such things creep in no matter what setting you have. I enjoy telling my kids about the far away places and far away customs (except smoking, I hate how it crops up in all the books written between 1900 and 1960).
As for gore, I'm currently re-examining my opinion on that. By limiting screen time for my kids it seems I have almost completely sanitized their life of anything scary. As a result my oldest is scared of everything. I live in a country where first graders were targeted and killed in school. It was a freak thing obviously, but when a freak thing happens I want her to be able to process her fear and react appropriately instead of being paralyzed. I think processing scary things in the safety of her home, with fictional characters might be a good way to do that. So I'm looking at ways to bring gore into our library.
The weird thing is that even the non-Disney fairy tales are often sanitized to an extent. We have Hansel and Gretel and the original Little Mermaid, and she just doesn't grasp what's so bad about those. She didn't realize that the little mermaid committed suicide at the end.
The scariest book I read as a child was Norse fairy tales. Man, I still remember one where a boatmaker made a deal that his ships wouldn't sink in the worst of storms, but every seventh one would for sure. Then all the ghosts of the seventh ships haunted him and drove him crazy. It's not necessarily gore, but certainly scary.
"Sinta Claus" comes on a barge from Spain on a horse. Carrots are for the horse. His black slave helpers (multicolored free servants now) deliver presents to the show. If I recall correctly bad children are hauled off to slavery.
At least that's the story my Dutch coworker told me as he gifted me a giant chocolate bar in the shape of a T (for Tatyana). Apparently that's a thing there too for Sinta Claus (the day, not the man).
Oooo, Sinterklaas...complicated. Sinterklaas has nothing to do with Santa Claus. He is a bishop that lives in Madrid, Spain and comes with a boat full of presents to celebrate his birthday (December 5) with Dutch kids. His helpers are black but are not really slaves, they do work for him. There has been a biiiig issue here regarding the fact that they are black and whether they are slaves or not so other colour helpers have been introduced. Some people say that they are not really black but that their faces are black due to the fact that they come through the chimneys to bring the presents. Big issue for a children's celebration.
Before he used to take naughty children with him to Spain but he is not doing it anymore.
Sinterklaas is a BIG, BIG thing here. He arrives on November 16 to the country and he stays here until December 5. Those are 3 loooong weeks in which Sinterklaas is EVERYWHERE. In the supermarket, at school, in the mall and yes, he even has his news show every day where they tell the adventures of Sinterklaas here. And of course the news is watched by all kids and even commented on by the teacher at school. There is always a big problem and it looks like they will not be able to bring the presents but finally everything is solved. During those 3 weeks, kids can put their shoe with a carrot for the horse from Sinterklaas (Amerigo) and maybe some sweets for the helpers, a drawing... Depends on the parents, kids may do this every day or just a few times in those 3 weeks. They get a small present then and a chocolate letter like Tatyana got with the first letter of their name. Also special cookies and sweets are eaten at this time of the year and also found on schoes (well, actually they start selling them in September so by the time Sint is coming, you are fed up with eating them). When you put your shoe you need to sing VEEEEEERY loud one of the millions of Sinterklaas songs there are, so the helpers hear you and bring you something.
On December 5 it is the custom that around dinner time (17:30-18:00), one of the helpers will hit hard on the front door and leave a big bag full of presents (including for the parents). The custom is that the presents include a poem from Sint where he tells you how good/bad you have been this year (absolute headache to make if you are not Dutch). For older kids who do not believe anymore and adults it is the custom to make a lottery among the family members and buy a present for the person you got. The idea is that you pack the present in a "box" that has to do with what that person likes. For example, a big racket made of paper if he likes tennis. Other families buy 2-3 small presents per person and play a game with special dice with instructions that say to take some of the presents you bought away.
As you can understand after 3, 3 looooong weeks of Sinterklaas stress, all mums are really happy when he is leaving the country.
As you know, I am Spanish and I come from Madrid, so for my kids there is something not really fitting in here. Sinterklaas does not speak Spanish, and other kids in Spain do not know who Sinterklaas is... I think next year will probably be the last one they believe in him.
Thank you Reina, I had no idea Sinterklaas was such a big deal (and I don't mean that in a negative way!) in the Netherlands.
In Germany we have Nikolaus who comes during the night of December 5 to 6, and you put out a shoe, a stocking or (as the song says, but I've never seen it) a plate. There are some sweets and a present the next morning.
When I was a child (no idea if they still do that), in our Protestant part of Germany, we'd go into the shops on December 6 and sing songs or play the flute and the shop people would give us sweets. I remember my elementary school teacher reminding us not to go into private homes, only into public places.
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