We can overcome the Fear element in our character with strong willpower. Many parents do not like their children to view scary images or read out such stories. They feel that frightening images/details found in some traditional folk tales are ‘harmful’ for children; if they might encourage and incite children to violent behavior. I understand the fears that parents often might have in this connection, but it’s important to explore other aspects of the impact of such traditional stories and folk tales on young people, which are different from some modern stories that seem deliberately designed just to scare, disturb, unsettle and create hatred and violence.
You might have gone through the series of stories about Baba Yaga. Few other story-characters match her for scariness; and yet these stories provide us with those aspects that we ‘adults’ often overlook, but which children often wisely relate to. Baba Yaga appears in hundreds of Russian and Eastern European stories and fairy tales. An ugly old woman, with a nose that hoods downward, a chin that curves upward, long greasy hair, iron teeth, fingernails that are sharp, ridged and long, she has a short temper and is notorious for devouring children.
To further heighten the scary picture, she lives in a clearing in the wood in a hut that spins around on bright yellow chicken legs. Its bolts and shutters are made of human bones, and a fence around it made of human skulls. She travels from place to place in a huge mortar and pestle, using a broom to erase the marks of where she been. Wherever she appears a wild wind begins to blow, trees groan and leaves whirl madly through the air. Then why on earth, you might ask, would anyone go looking for Baba Yaga or enter her hut, as many seekers repeatedly and purposefully do? In most Slavic folk tales she is portrayed as an antagonist ; however, some characters in other folk stories have been known to seek her out for her intelligence and she has been known on occasion to offer guidance to lost souls, although this is seen as rare. Well, because they also know that she is very wise, tells the whole truth and offers effective solutions to those brave enough to ask.
So these stories contain not only fearsome descriptions, but also suitable ways to approach this power, as well as what positive attitudes and values to exhibit or develop in order to get something significant our of the encounter. To safely enter Baba Yaga’s domain of power, we learn through these stories that it is important to remember to approach with great humility, knowing we do not have the answers, but she does. Also, we must respect the laws of civility and respectfulness in dealing with these sacred and powerful energise, have the faith and courage to venture into places that scare us, hold on to intuition and heart-connection, boldly ask for what is desired, and go through those tasks and challenges that will lead eventually to the reward. And these, we surely recognize, are basic life-lessons.
By relating to a fairy tale hero, any child can compensate for her inadequacies, real of imagined. Identifying with the victorious character, any child can climb into the sky, defeat giants and witches, change her appearance, become invisible or become a powerful or successful person. This is one of the reasons why the scary characters in traditional folk stories have
been made so vivid. If, by identifying with a hero in a folk tale, you can be inspired to face and triumph over such foes or obstacles, then facing your own real life challenges becomes a lot easier and more do-able.
Therefore, it is hope and courage – those very qualities that help one deal with real-life situations-that are once again placed before us as ideals to develop. We must try to develop them in our children and our dear ones so that they may not get frightened with scary images or stories.