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The Moral Dilemma

By Lynne Stringer

Most books have some kind of moral in them. Even the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales (I didn’t realise just how grim some of their stories were until I was an adult trying to read them to my son!) so it’s not like it’s a modern thing. Stories with morals have been around for a long time. Jesus told parables to demonstrate a moral and I’m sure it wasn’t new then, either.

But can books go too far? Can a story have too much moral in it?

I’ve also noticed, in recent days, that some stories are being toned down. As a child, I remember hearing the story of The Little Red Hen. She tries to get the other animals on the farm to help her make some bread, but they’re all too lazy to help. Then, once the bread is made, they all come to join her in eating it, but she refuses to give them any because they refused to help. I recently heard this story retold on Play School and they’d softened it up, so that the other animals were simply busy, but did come to help at the last minute, so the hen shared the bread with them and they all agreed to help more next time.

I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing.  Was the moral in the original version demonstrated too harshly? Were they right to water it down? Or is the new version a wishy-washy, politically correct tale? Which version is better?

I think the answer to that will vary for each one of us. Personally, I like a story with a bit of a moral, even if it’s so subtle it’s difficult to see. Sometimes they are the better stories, as you’re not even aware you’re picking up a moral, and sometimes, you never will be. Perhaps it is another reason we should be careful what we read, in case something slips in, unbeknownst to us.

I think we should always try to be aware of what the stories we read are trying to teach, whether they are doing it subtly or brazenly. But enjoy each story for its own sake as well.

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