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Why Is My 3 Year Older Fixated With The Witch And The Bad Guys?

Question:

She loves Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and the story of the 3 Pigs; most likely the bad witch and the wolf. We recently went to Disney and when she saw the Wolf (Pinochio) she went and greet him with a big smile. Then she wanted to visit the Haunted Mansion; when she heard the wolfs hauling she said: "Listen mom, the wolfs are hauling out for me" I almost fainted. Why is this fascination with evil figures? She seems to be very advanced for her age, she is the youngest of 3 kids (8 and 6 years) and she speaks very well since she was a year old . She loves to be read out loud and when she is not being read to she pretends to read the stories herself. She acts out the evil roles as well and likes to laugh like the witch and wear a costume. She also acts out as the witch when in school and speaks in the tone of a mean character. My husband and I joke about how she might be the next Stephen King (a worried joke). I have tried not to fuel her fixation by changing the books to more real subjects (rather than fantasies) but she continues to be interested in stories like Snow White and such. Should I be concerned? What is the meaning of her fascination? Please advise. Thanks so much. MariD

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Answer:

Many parents write to me in despair about the very same topic you are describing in your query. Some people remove fairy tales from their children’s libraries in the incorrect belief that this will stop the fantasies. In actuality, fairy tales have stood the test of time (eons) because they appeal to the fears, fantasies and yearnings that we carry within us.

Children have imaginations that are rich in all kinds of spirits, witches, monsters, goblins and stepmothers. Hansel and Gretel is another one of the most popular of the fairy tales that appeal to children. The evil mother is represented by such figures as the old witch who lives in the house made of gingerbread and who cooks and eats children, the wolf who ate the grandmother and has "such big teeth," and the stepmother who encourages Hansel and Gretel’s father to put them out of the house so they will be killed in the forest.

Who is this evil mother portrayed in these fairy tales? It is the mother who says "no" you are not allowed to have this, eat that, or do that now.

In other words, small children partially cope with their anger at their big, powerful grown up parents by engaging in these fantasies and tales where they (the parents) are safely portrayed as witches, wolves and, etc.

By the way, because the imaginations of children like your daughter are so very creative there is nothing about those "real books" that would prevent them from continuing to have the same fantasies but in a different form. I would suggest you allow your child to continue to have her fairy tales but that you read them to her and allow her to ask all the questions she wants and needs to ask.

I remember being terrified by the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz. I also remember feeling really sorry for her when water hit her causing her to evaporate. I survived that tale, even seeing the movie version many times over and loving the fear reaction I had to that witch every time. I hated and feared the evil witch. But, why did I feel sorry for her when she evaporated? I suspect that deep in my child psyche I knew that she was part of my mother, the whole mother who was made up of things I loved and adored but could be evil when she did not permit me to eat All the Potato Chips I wanted. Gee, what a mean mom!! (smile).

Perhaps your daughter will be the next Stephen King. Who knows, anything is possible. We need to encourage our children to imagine, think, dream, all of which is OK so long as we are nearby to reassure, comfort and nurture.

Best of luck and if you have more questions please write again.

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