The UnFair(y) Tales: Part I (Haste Makes Waste and Rapunzel)

I’ve been reading some children’s stories again thanks to my daughter N. And what strikes me so hard now in my adulthood is how biased against women these stories are. What skewed role models they create. And how stereotypical they are, all under the guise of innocent fun.

Let me illustrate.

You have read “Haste makes Waste.” In my version, a farmer lives happily with his wife and infant/ toddler son. He finds a baby mongoose in the wild and brings it home saying it will make a fine pet for his son. The mongoose becomes very attached to the baby and hangs around the baby all day. The mother is terrified since she is afraid the mongoose might harm her baby. The farmer waves away her concern. One day she asks the father to mind the son since she’s going to buy groceries. A while later, the farmer’s friend arrives and they both go out for a walk. In the meanwhile the wife returns to find the mongoose with a bloodied mouth. She fears the mongoose has killed her child, hits out at the mongoose and rushes inside only to find a dead snake near the crib where the child is sleeping peacefully. She realizes her mistake and repents her haste. The farmer arrives to chide her for being hasty.

Here’s what is wrong with this story.

!? You bring home a wild creature expecting it to make a pet for your son. But your wife isn’t comfortable. You don’t address her concerns– you only wave them away. What if the mongoose hadn’t turned domestic? What if the mother’s worst fears had come true?

!? Her anxiety grows each day. It worsens each time she sees the mongoose near her baby’s crib. So when she hits out at the mongoose it wasn’t a momentary lapse of reason. It was a culmination of months of dread, finding release in an unexpected situation.

!? The farmer was supposed to mind the child when the wife was away. He instead goes away for a walk, “since he had nothing else to do.” Where is his responsibility towards the child, his commitment to his wife? Yet, he