Reading to my children is one of the things that brings me complete joy. I love how they “wrestle” with each other to gain more space on my lap. I love how they get excited at the end of the story and run to bring me another one. Even though my children have a significant age gap, it warms my heart how I can pause my day at any time and enjoy a story with them. It’s a beautiful time that brings us together and proves that reading can be cherished regardless of age.
I remember when my daughter was quite small and she would beg for more fairy tales. It was always easy to give in because the tales were usually short in length. The wonderful thing about reading fairy tales to children is that they are rich with lessons and themes that open up a world of discussion.
This post is one of many that I’ll be sharing with you on the lessons we can learn from fairy tales and how to impart them to our children. First up is one of my favorites!
Finding Lessons In The Fisherman and His Wife (by The Brothers Grimm)
Have you ever read a piece of literature multiple times and picked up something new each time? I love it when that happens! It’s like finding a little treasure every time. This fairy tale is like that. I actually just finished reading it for the ____th time (honestly, I’ve lost track) and each time I noticed a predominant theme throughout the tale. Let’s’ briefly explore the tale.
Overview Of The Tale
So, in the story, a fisherman and his wife live in a broken-down, smelly hut by the sea. Each day, the fisherman goes fishing in the sea and brings back whatever he catches. One day as he’s fishing, he reels in a talking fish. The fish tells him that he’s an enchanted prince who has been cursed. The fisherman takes pity on the fish, sets him free, and returns home to his wife.
Now, when the wife hears the story of the enchanted fish, she scolds her husband for not asking the fish for anything. The husband is most astonished at this, leading us to believe this idea never once crossed his mind. She demands the husband return to the sea and ask the fish for a cottage to live in rather than their current shack. Guess what? He agrees reluctantly, but he does agree.
He goes to the sea and tells the fish that his wife wants a cottage to live in. The fish tells him to go home because it’s already there. When the husband returns home, the wife is “happy” with their larger home. The husband tells his wife they’re going to enjoy it. The wife agrees until about 2 weeks later when she realizes the cottage is not good enough. She wants a stone castle. She again demands the husband return to the fish and ask for this castle.
Now before I relay the entire tale to you, let me tell you that the husband returns to the fish 5 more times after he asks for the castle. Each time, the wife demands something bigger; something greater and more satisfying than the previous thing. Do you see a theme yet?
The Theme (or moral of the story)
Throughout the story, each time the fish granted the wife’s request, she was content, but only for a short while. From the moment she made her first wish, she began the great spiral towards discontentment. After each wish, her husband asked her if she was content. The answer was always some form of “We shall see.” You see, the wife was never content to begin with. The more she got, the more she wanted.
Teaching Our Children To Love What They Have
From the time they’re very young, it’s so important to find ways to teach our children that the “grass” is NOT greener on the other side of the fence. We combat their desires to have the newest toys like their friends, the newest edition video game console, or the super cool shoes that just arrived at the local sporting goods store.
While it’s not wrong to want something, it does become wrong when we dwell on that and it eventually leads to coveting.
What Does Teaching These Lessons Look Like?
We must teach and guide our children to order their desires to the things that matter most. What does this look like? It starts with creating deep relationships with them through conversation. These ways are simple but so meaningful:
- Spend time talking at the dinner table.
- Read with them (doesn’t need to be long).
- Talk on the way to and from school.
- Pray with them over their struggles.
- Be specific with your talks to open discussion – help them work through the “I don’t know’s” of their lives.
- Read Scripture with them. This can even be a few verses at the table, in the car, before bedtime, or anywhere you can.
There’s a theme here too! Teaching them how to order their desires starts with finding little ways to talk with your children. I know life gets so busy and often overwhelming. Our priorities tend to get lost in the busyness of life. Using small stories like fairy tales are a great way to open up talking points with our children.
Talking about this specific fairy tale lets our children see the dangers of discontentment in our lives. However, the story is not without some redeeming qualities the in characters. I encourage you to read this one (and others) with your children.
Some Favorite Brothers Grimm Resources
This is not a complete list of my favorites but it’s an excellent start!
Coming soon – Part 2 – The Elves and the Shoemaker by the Brothers Grimm
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