Lies My Bedtime Stories Told Me

aladdin-1299675_640My parents, like many others, used to read me bedtime stories in an attempt to get me to fall asleep.  This almost never worked, but they couldn’t think of anything else and they weren’t allowed to dose me with whiskey, so they kept doing it.  What I didn’t realize until much later is that those stories my loving parents told me night after night were filled to the brim with lies.  By this, I don’t mean the talking animals or the magic beans—nothing so easily identified.  Here are some of my bedtime stories and the lying lies they told me:


Cinderella, if you truly need a recap, is the story of a beautiful girl whose evil stepmother forces her into a life of drudgery, making her work all the time and never letting her have friends or go to parties (she may have just been a tiger mom, I’m not sure).  Fortunately, on the night of the prince’s grand Let’s-Find-Me-A-Wife ball, Cinderella’s fairy godmother magics her raggedy clothes into a party dress and turns a pumpkin into a carriage so Cin can go get her freak on, with the warning that the carriage will turn back into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight and it’s a long walk home in glass slippers.

carriage-1295752_640The lie this story told me was that you’re going to know exactly when the carriage will turn back into a pumpkin and you can totally plan around it.  The truth is, it can happen at any time.  You could be just walking in the door in your perfect magic ballgown, with everyone looking at you and the prince asking his courtiers, “Who’s the hottie,” when suddenly everything goes poof and you’re back in your raggedy dress, the prince is chatting up your stepsisters, and someone just made your carriage into a pie.

When things are about to turn to crap, you don’t have until the stroke of midnight and you don’t get a warning.  It just happens, fairy godmother or no fairy godmother, and the lesson you should really take from all this is to learn how to drive a pumpkin.

The Ugly Duckling

This is the story of a bird hatched out of a mother duck’s egg that everyone assumes, reasonably enough, is a duck.  The presumed duckling is so much uglier than the other ducklings that all the animals bully it and tease it until it runs away, lives in wretched isolation for a while, and finally decides to kill itself.  Fortunately, before it does so, it gets a glimpse of its reflection in the water and realizes that it has grown into a beautiful swan, and it flies happily away along with all the other swans.

swan-9489_640One of the lessons this story taught me was that, no matter how miserable you are as a child, as long as you grow up to be gorgeous, people will respect and admire you.  In addition to being disturbing and unhealthy, this is also untrue.  You may or may not grow up to be gorgeous, but even if you do, everyone back home is still going to think of you as the ugly duckling.  You could go to your high school reunion a week after appearing on the cover of Vogue and the first thing you’ll hear will be, “Look, everyone, it’s Ugly Duck!  Hey, Ugly Duck, remember how ugly you were?  Man, I’ve never seen a duck look that ugly!”  You can swan around all you want.  To them, you’ll always be that freak who tried to pass herself off as a duck back in the day.  On the upside, you’ll be able to beat them to death with your wings, so it’s not all bad.

Another lesson this story taught me was, maybe don’t be so mean to others that you make them want to die.  I think that lesson was pretty solid, though, so I’m leaving it off the list of lies.

The Little Red Hen

This is the story about the mother hen who found a grain of wheat and asked the other farmyard animals to help her plant it.  They all touched their snouts and beaks and said “Noes goes,” and the hen had to plant it herself.  The same thing happened when she had to harvest and thresh the wheat, mill it into flour, and bake it into bread.  Once the bread was ready to eat, the other animals were down to help, no problem, but the hen snapped her beak and said “Nyah, nyah,” and she and her chicks ate all the bread.

The lesson I learned from this story is that I’m the only one who has the right to enjoy the fruits of my labor.  I then discovered that this was a vicious, heartless lie when I got my first paycheck.  You see, no one had explained to me about tax withholdings.  It came as a nasty surprise when the government, noticeably absent from the planting, harvesting, threshing, milling, and baking portions of the proceedings, got very interested in my bread once all the work was done.  They got so interested, they snatched it right out of my hands.

chicken-45944_640Before I got even a crumb, the government had taken nearly half my bread and given it to all the barnyard animals who’d called nose dibs when it was time to do the work, because it didn’t want the poor things to starve.  I didn’t exactly want them to starve, but that was my bread!  I made it myself!  I should decide who gets it.  I’m still bitter about this, in case you can’t tell.  Stupid lying hen.  I hope she got ergot poisoning.

By the way, did you see what I did with the “bread” reference?  ‘Cause bread is slang for money?  Okay, I’ll stop.

Honorable Mentions:  Sleeping Beauty and Snow White

In both of these stories, it’s viewed as totally cool that the guys mack on the girls while the girls are unconscious.  It’s really not.  Like, at all.

These are just some of the lies my bedtime stories told me.  Parents, I’m not saying you’d be better off dosing your kids with whiskey to get them to go to sleep (that’s probably also a bad lesson to teach your kids).  Just, maybe stick with Good Night, Moon, or better yet, “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.”  That one’s nothing but truth.


[all images are in the public domain via]

Little Blind Red Riding Hood

Public domain image via Project Gutenberg

A tale of a legally blind girl trying to run errands:

Once upon a time, a little blind girl got ready to go to the market.  She put on the gloves her father gave her, the scarf her mother gave her, and the little red coat she wore to make sure people saw her even when she could not see them.  You see, the little blind girl lived in a part of the forest where the carts would go crashing past without looking for pedestrians or obeying the cart traffic signs nailed to the trees along the path.  So the little blind girl stepped out in her red coat with its nice warm hood and went to the market.

On the way there, the little blind girl saw a cart approaching the point where the paths in the wood intersected, just where she was going to cross.  The little blind girl remembered what her mother had told her:  “Beware of strange carts in the wood, my child.  Give them a wide berth, and do not trust them to go straight when they do not signal to turn.”  So she waited patiently for the cart to pass her by.

But the cart did not pass her by.  Instead, it wove back and forth as it approached the point where the paths crossed.  The driver appeared to be distracted by the smoke signals he was issuing as he drove, holding the air bellows between his ear and his chin as he struck the flint.  ‘My, what a large bellows that man is holding,’ thought the little blind girl.  “I’d better get an answer!” yelled the cart driver.  ‘My, what a loud voice that man has,” thought the little blind girl.  “The wind had better hold off.  The smoke signal reception here is terrible!” shouted the cart driver.

“My, how fast you’re going, sir,” said the little blind girl to the cart driver.  “I hope you can see me, in my little red coat.  I wear it so drivers will be able to notice me.”

“All the better to run you down while I turn at this intersection much too fast without signaling my intention!”  screamed the cart driver, maddened by rage and frustrated by the wind disrupting his smoke signalling.  He turned suddenly, heading right toward the little blind girl.  But the little blind girl, who had been well taught by her father and mother, jumped out of the way of the cart.  As the cart passed, she threw the scarf her mother had given her through the spokes of the wheels.

The little blind girl then went to the inn where the King’s soldiers were quartered.  “Good heavens, little blind girl, where are you running to in such a hurry?”  asked the startled sergeant on duty.   “Oh, please, sir, a cart just nearly ran me over,” panted the little blind girl.  “Did he not see your little red coat, which you wear so that drivers will see you even when you cannot see them?” inquired the puzzled sergeant.  “Oh, yes, I am quite sure he did,” responded the little blind girl.

“But how will we find which cart it was that nearly ran you over?” asked the sergeant.  “Though the driver could not know it, you would not be able to read his cart license, and there are so many carts on the paths.”

“I threw the scarf my mother gave me through the spokes of the wheels,” replied the little blind girl.  “Just look for a cart with a little red scarf fluttering behind.”  And so the King’s soldiers found the cart with the angry smoke-signaller, who had not noticed the little red scarf in his wheel, and brought him before the King, who sentenced him to be rolled through the intersection in a barrel filled with spikes for nearly running over the little blind girl in her little red coat.

And the moral of this story is:  use your mother-loving turn signals when you’re driving, will you?  You’re making me crazy!

Audio reading of Little Blind Red Riding Hood: