A little jewel of a book on how great fairy tales and other children's stories, with their vivid myths and metaphors, can morally educate and refine young people. Theologian Guroian engages in a close and sensitive reading of about a dozen children's tales, including such well-known ones as The Little Mermaid and Pinocchio and such largely forgotten ones as The Princess and the Goblin by the 19th-century British writer George MacDonald. He notes that contemporary —values education," with its often dry presentation of moral principles, has at best limited appeal to children. In contrast, the great children's stories graphically and memorably present characters—human, animal, fantastical, and other—that embody the struggles and joys of being human. Their focus is on such enduring themes as deep friendship and love, suffering and solitude, fear and courage, empathy and the "leap of faith." Guroian writes crisply and perceptively about these and related matters, such as this observation about love, faith, and tolerance in The Princess and Goblin: "the hard truth [is] that we cannot make even those whom we love believe, and that if we truly love them, then we must permit them to come freely to that belief." His interpretations sometimes may prove overly christological for many non-Christian readers. For example, he claims that a "red-rose willow tree" that the Little Mermaid plants —alludes to blood and tears and the passion of the cross," a symbolic link that seems far too theologically freighted for most children. Still, this is a book whose appeal goes far beyond the religiously minded; it will interest parents and teachers of all backgrounds who want to help their children to both grow imaginatively and achieve moral depth.
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