Today, I was following this discussion on RichardDawkins.net. The question was “Could fairy tales have a pernicious effect on the reasoning abilities of small children”? The general consensus was that this would certainly be something worth researching and that we don’t know yet. However, until the results of the research are in, I thought, why not try to sneak in some science and reason into fairy-tales?
The sneaky bits are in bold italics like this.
Snow-White and the Seven Dwarves
Once upon a time, as the queen sat sewing at her window, she pricked her finger on her needle and a drop of blood fell on the snow that had fallen on her ebony window frame. As she looked at the blood on the snow, she said to herself, “Oh, how I wish that I had a daughter that had skin white as snow, lips red as blood, and hair black as ebony”. Now the queen knew that simply wishing for something would not make it happen. Then she realized that the king was white-skinned. And she was also white-skinned. From Biology, she knew that the color of her skin was because of her genes and the color of the king’s skin was due to the color of the king’s skin. If those genes were to be mixed together, the resulting gene would also cause white-skin. So she and the king went to the bedroom and mixed those genes*. Soon after that, the queen gave birth to a baby girl who had skin white as snow, lips red as blood, and hair black as ebony.
They named her Princess Snow White.
* Yeah, you’re on your own here!
Hansel and Gretel
While the witch prepares to cook Hansel, she orders Gretel to fetch her candies and fats to force feed Hansel. In the cage, Hansel finds a thin bone from his meals. When the witch tells Hansel to stick out his finger (so she can tell if he is fat enough to eat), he deceives her by sticking out the bone instead.
The witch has poor eyesight and even her glasses do not help because she is very old, and thus cannot see that Hansel’s “finger” is actually a bone. Days pass by, but the witch cannot perceive how fat Hansel is getting. The mistake the witch was making was that she stuck to a single method of analysis. If she had instead decided to try something else in addition, like say, weighing him, she would have found out that he had become fatter. Luckily for Hansel and Gretel, the witch had recently turned to religion, so her powers of reasoning had been dulled.
The Prince pocketed the slipper and vowed to find and marry the girl to whom it belonged. The Prince tried the slipper on all the young women in the land. When the Prince arrived at Cinderella’s villa, the stepsisters tried in vain. When Cinderella asked if she might try, the Stepsisters taunted her. Naturally, the slipper fit perfectly. This made the prince ecstatic and he believed that he had found his mate. However, the prince’s scientific adviser pointed out that in the entire kingdom, there would be more than one lady whose feet would fit the slipper.
Cinderella agreed and was happy that the Prince had such an intelligent adviser. So she brought forth the second slipper as evidence. Now there was enough reason to believe Cinderella was indeed the one and the Prince and Cinderella lived happily till old age.
The Turquoise Fairy scientist asked Pinocchio where the gold coins were. Pinocchio lied, saying he had lost them. As he told this lie (and more) his nose began to grow until it was so long he could not turn around in the room.
The scientist had used a lie-detector. A lie-detector is a machine that monitors your heart beats and based on that detects when you tell a lie. The scientist had put a lie-detector inside Pinocchio in such a way that every lie would trigger an electronic circuit that would enlarge his nose. The scientist explained to Pinocchio that it was his lies that were making his nose grow long.