One of the reasons we place so much value on stories at Storytime is because they inspire so many important and positive reactions in children – curiosity, wonder, inspiration, understanding, empathy and courage. These last two are so crucial right now.
The Most Courageous Kid of All
The Emperor’s New Clothes in our latest issue, Storytime 30, is a brilliant story for inspiring courage in kids, because the real star of the story is not the vain and proud emperor, or the pandering fools around him, or even the tricksters who better him, it’s the small boy in the crowd who’s the only person brave enough to stand up and say, “But he hasn’t got anything on!”
In this case, courage isn’t about wielding a sword and slaying dragons, it’s about having the heart and the nerve to stand up and say what you truly believe in when everyone around you is saying the opposite thing. In The Emperor’s New Clothes, only a child is bold enough to point out the glaringly obvious and embarrassing truth.
This child is probably my favourite in all of the fairy tales we’ve featured so far and, I think, he’s a character that kids can readily identify with. Perhaps adults too – wouldn’t we all like to think we’d be this child in the same situation? (Wait‚ aren’t we in a similar situation right now?)
Tact and good manners are all well and good, but I often wonder whether they’re sometimes at the cost of honesty and courage.
Questions of Courage
I think it’s a pity the child is such a minor character in the story and he’s definitely worth exploring some more. Here are some questions you could consider with your child:
- Why do you think the boy said what he did?
- Do you think he was right to say it?
- What happened to the boy after the emperor’s parade?
- What did he become when he grew up?
You could even write your own stories about his adventures – and give him a name. He deserves a name.
More Courageous Kids
And while we’re on the subject of courage, here are some more gutsy kids who can teach us some lessons in fearlessness.
1. Gerda in The Snow Queen This little girl sets off on her own, undertakes an epic journey, overcomes a brutal band of robbers and remains undaunted by the icy Snow Queen – all to save her best friend. An inspiration. (Storytime Issue 4)
2. Alice in Wonderland In a surreal and sometimes threatening new world, Alice gives the ridiculous and the unjust short shrift and says what she thinks. (Storytime Issue 1)
3. Hansel and Gretel Hansel has the audacity to trick the cannibalistic witch with a skinny chicken bone when she comes to see how well he’s fattening up, and Gretel gives the witch the big heave-ho into the oven. (Storytime issue 13)
4. The girl in Baba Yaga We named her Irina in Storytime. When Irina’s brother is abducted by Baba Yaga’s black geese, she goes on a mission to save him from Baba Yaga’s scary hut, which stands on chicken legs in the middle of the deep, dark forest. (Storytime Issue 26)
All of these stories are good examples of plucky and daring characters who might, in turn, inspire self-belief and courage in kids. Attributes definitely worth having at the moment. And there are many, many more amazing courageous kids in books, so perhaps the most heroic thing you could do this week is take a trip of the library…
Which courageous literary characters inspired you as a child? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you over on Twitter or Facebook. Hope you like the art for The Emperor’s New Clothes – top of page – it’s by the talented Tel Coelho.
Until next time!