Racism in Children's Stories

I recently finished recording a story for LibriVox. I rather randomly selected a project to work and had the moderator assign me something to read. I ended up with “The Enchanted Canary” from the Red Fairy Book.

I recently picked up a copy of The Red Fairy Book while we were in New Orleans. I’ve read about a third of the stories and I am remarkably impressed by the assumed racism inside them.

For example, in The Enchanted Canary there is this line, with reference to a Prince who doesn’t want to marry any of the girls in the kingdom:

`My faith!’ cried Tubby; `do you want to marry a negress, and give me grandchildren as ugly as monkeys and as stupid as owls?’

I was reading the story out loud to my microphone when I got to that line and almost spit out my liver! Holy crap!

Of course, the rest of the stories have this same sort of thing. What biographers of Darwin have called “gentlemanly superiority”. This is something that emerges from the British Empire and it’s place astride the globe. Unfortunately, if I ever do read these stories to my unborn children, I foresee some judicious editing. And judicious excisions.

In some cases this will be moot. I won’t be reading The Enchanted Canary to any child simply because I don’t think it’s a very good story. There’s no there there, if you know what I mean. Now, the Twelve Princesses is good, but the Enchanted Canary just doesn’t cut the mustard.

I’m still reading these stories and I’ll finish up the book soon. I should remember to do some marginal notations as I go along so I don’t have to find out in impressionable circumstances that certain stories are not for today’s kids.

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