Between horror and boredom: fairy tales and moral education

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Where do a child’s morals come from? Interactions with other human beings provide arguably the primary contexts for moral development: family, friends, teachers and other people. It is the artistic products of human activity that this essay considers: literature, film, art, music. Specifically, I will consider some philosophical issues concerning the influence of folk and fairy tales on moral development. I will discuss issues of representation and reduction: in particular, how far should stories for children elide the complexities inherent to many folk and fairy tales? Drawing on a distinction between a problematic reductionism and an appropriate pedagogical reduction, I suggest that pedagogical issues of representation require us to think about how to represent complexity in ways that are reductive without being reductionist, that can delight and engage without being horrifying or tedious. While there is a place for horror and for boredom, it is primarily a matter of timing...
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-231
Number of pages19
JournalEthics and Education
Issue number2
Early online date17 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2020


  • fairy tales
  • moral education
  • pedagogical reductions
  • reductionism
  • fox and crow
  • moralism


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