Just my two cents here, please do take what resonates with you....I think we have to be careful to "know in our heads" about the whole archetypal imagery thing, but then still apply our "adult stuff" to it. I had a friend who was very uncomfortable with the "Evil" parts of fairy tales, the not nice parts, and what i told her was that to me, the fairy tales are ETERNALLY OPTIMISTIC. The Norse myths, for example, the Gods destroy themselves, (fourth grade Waldorf curriculum). The fairy tales, the protagonist can overcome anything and everything in a fantastical way. I think if anything, we have to read the fairy tales and see what ones resonate with us, in our hearts, and these are the tales we tell our children.. Don't tell the ones you are uncomfortable with! Tales like "Hut in the Forest" and "Spindle, SHuttle, Needle" are great tales without a lot of the dicier elements....THey would be great for a six year old. How old is your child? I would check out lots of tales from other cultures, but also sit with a copy of the Pantheon version of Grimm tales and read them and see which ones resonate with you and then go with those. THere are so many of them I guarantee you will find something to like! If your child is young, some of those very repetitive tales, Chicken Licken and The Gingerbread Man and all of those wonderful tales.
I wrote a post on my blog regarding fairy tales and wanted to share with you here, maybe it will help you out:
"Some of these quotes may get you thinking about this subject:
"The human soul has an inextinguishable need to have the substance of fairy tales flow through its veins, just as the body needs to have nourishing substances circulate through it." -Rudolf Steiner
"We can interpret the fairy tales-to return to these-as answers to the ultimate questions about our outer and inner needs." -An Overview of the Waldorf Kindergarten, page 48.
"Children who are ready for fairy tales instinctively know that these stories are not literally true on the physical plane, but are true pictures of inner events and circumstances, of inner challenges and forces which must be faced and overcome. Thus, they sense that beauty and ugliness refer to inner qualities, not external appearance." -In A Nutshell: Dialogues with Parents At Acorn Hill, Nancy Foster, page 47.
"In regard to the issue of violence and evil, it is a reality that children, and all of us, do encounter challenges and bad or frightening experiences in life. The fairy tales, in which such experiences are redeemed in various ways according to the particular story, help to give children the trust that challenges can be overcome and that we are not powerless." -In A Nutshell: Dialogues With Parents At Acorn Hill, Nancy Foster, page 48.
"That is the strength of fairy tales. They are filled with promise. The weak can be strong; evil can be turned to good; the ugly can become beautiful; Cinderella can become a princess, the frog a prince. Every human being can rise to his true stature. Even the smallest child can realize this and rejoice at future victories." -An Overview of the Waldorf Kindergarten, page 54.
So, in short, we tell stories orally because once we, the parent, pick a story and are with the story for three days before we tell it, we put ourselves into it when we tell it to our children. That warmth from us is there, and there is no book that can create that. The children then create the pictures of these archtypal images in their heads. They realize truth and beauty and goodness come from people and life, not just in books. This sets the stage for the parent being an Authority in life, a Keeper of Knowledge, not just that knowledge comes from books. The oral storytelling provides a rich context for language and rhyme that is important in later reading.
The images within the fairy tale tell the story of all people, of all generations and of all times. It fulfills essential qualities within the child's soul. Fairy tales are also a vital part of the moral education of a child. For more interesting insights into fairy tales and the role they fulfill for all of us, please do read Bruno Bettelhem's "The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales."
I love what Mr. Bettelham says on page 45 of his book: "Myths and fairy tales both answer the eternal questions: What is the world really like? How am I to live my life in it? How can I truly be myself? The answers given by myths are definite, while the fairy tale is suggestive." He goes on to say on page 47," The child asks himself: "Who am I? Where did I come from? How did the world come into being? Who created man and all the animals? What is the purpose of life? True, he ponders these vital questions not in the abstract, but mainly as they pertain to him. He worries not whether there is justice for individual man, but whether he will be treated justly. He wonders who or what projects him into adversity, and what can prevent this from happening to him. Are there benevolent powers in addition to his parents? Are his parents benevolent powers? How should he form himself, and why? ….Fairy tales provide answers to these pressing questions, many of which the child becomes aware of only as he follows these stories."
Mr. Bettelhem also says in his book, "From an adult point of view and in terms of modern science, the answers which fairy tales offer are fantastic rather than true. As a matter of fact, these solutions seem so incorrect to many adults - who have become estranged from the ways in which young people experience the world - that they object to exposing children to such "false" information. However, realistic explanations are usually incomprehensible to children, because they lack the abstract understanding required to make sense of them. While giving a scientifically correct answer makes adults think they have clarified things for the child, such explanations leave the young child confused, overpowered and intellectually defeated."
Great thoughts to ponder, but again, I think fairy tales almost live more and resonate more in our hearts than our heads. It is a question of picking the right tales, the ones that speak to you. Those are the ones that will be the most alive for your child. And Remembering that good always wins in the fairy tales - very reassuring. Just picking the right tales for the right age is important though. I love "Longshanks, Girth and Keen" a Hungarian (??) tale, but it is for older kids. If you have younger children you need different tales then the ones with lots of trials and tribulations...There is an art to picking the right tale, I think...and then memorize it and tell it...
Sorry for the long book!