Once Upon a Time (Literature)

Once Upon a Time
By Nadine Gordimer 

     In this short story, the implied author had denied the function of fairy tales and refused to write a story for children, as readers can read from the first paragraph. “I don’t write children’s stories” said by the author. However, during the later paragraph, the author told himself a bedtime story to ease his nerve. What is the function of fairy tales? Personally, I believe that fairy tales are used as a way to release the children’s uneasiness during their sleep, and a way for parents to educate their children the good and evil in the world. “I couldn’t find a position in which my mind would let go of my body—release me to sleep again. So I began to tell myself a story, a bedtime story.” From this quote, readers can see that the author mentioned the point how fairy tales release the children into their sleep. However, the later part of the story was denying the part that “fairy tales educate the children.” In Once Upon a Time, the couple built their wall higher and higher, and the protection became stricter as well, and eventually, those protections caused their son’s death. If the story was meant to be a fairy tale, then shouldn’t it has a “happily ever after” ending?  If not, then what was the author implying? The story contained all the themes to be a fairy tale; however, the ending was twisted and unexpected. The possible explanation is that the author believed that all those fairy tales and protections will be a danger to the children since the fairy tales are mostly with the theme of good always wins and evil always lose. Yet in reality, that can’t be true all the time, and if parents give their children those ideas all the time, it might cause the children’s ignorance. But it also comes to my mind that isn’t fairy tale designed as a way for children to recognize the danger in the world by a tactful way? At the same time, it’s a way for children not to lose their faith in people. Imagine all the fairy tales written as the way Once Upon a Time did, won’t children stop believing the possibilities of kindness and good in life? Besides, if the author denied the function of fairy tales, what about fables? Fairy tales and fables serve the same moral, don’t they?


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