The supermarket chain, Aldi, has withdrawn from sale copies of the Roald Dahl classic “Revolting Rhymes” owing to complaints form someone (someone?) claiming that the book contains inappropriate words.
That is, in the hilarious re-vamped tale of Cinderella the word ‘slut’ is used.
This book was first published in the 1980s, when most children had possibly never heard the word, ‘slut’ and had no idea what the word meant if they had. The word was generally just passed over as another very funny part of Roald Dahl’s story telling.
Here’s the offending section:
The Prince cried, 'Who's this dirty slut?
'Off with her nut! Off with her nut!'
I often read this and other ‘Revolting Rhymes’ to students in my classes over the years and never had a complaint.
(Children all knew that ‘nut’ referred to ‘head’)
I probably didn’t read this story to the very young children; small children who were still gaining enjoyment from the original fairy tales, but at about eight years of age and beyond, children were thrilled to hear such tales with a rude and yes, ‘revolting’ take on the old favourites.
Parents, also, found the book (and the others, “Rhyme Stew”, and “Dirty Beasts”) very entertaining.
These Roald Dahl books provided great opportunities for families to have reading time – and fun – together.
Other Roald Dahl books were also read by me to my pupils, including his far more serious memoir, “Boy”, which was a favourite, especially with Grade Five students.
It wasn’t only rude and grisly accounts that helped make Roald Dahl a favourite author for children and adults from before 1980 to more recent times. His books were (and are still, to some extent) devoured by millions; encouraging young people of every age to pick up a book and read.
The current furore over the word ‘slut’ has flabbergasted me. Perhaps I understand the original meaning of the word to simply mean ‘dirty’ or ‘slovenly’, but why some people place such importance on a single word and become all morally offended and (falsely?) high principled about it I cannot comprehend.
A final comment: If you are likely to be offended by words, why on earth would you buy a book that is entitled, “Revolting Rhymes”?
What did you expect?
To end, just another tiny extract:
'All right?' cried Cindy .'Can't you see '
I feel as rotten as can be!'
She beat her fist against the wall,
And shouted, 'Get me to the Ball!
'There is a Disco at the Palace!
'The rest have gone and I am jealous!
How delightful is that?
There seems to have been talk recently – and a few books on the subject – about children losing the ability to use their imagination and about kids living in cocooned inside worlds, with nothing but electronic games to amuse themselves.
Whilst I disagree with some of the more dramatic (hysterical?) statements concerning the demise of real, active and experience-filled, learning childhoods, I am in agreement (as I think I have stated before) with the people who suggest that an outdoor play-time led childhood is the more beneficial one to be experienced.
The topic of cubby houses has been in my mind lately as I have been seeing far too many of those terrible pastel or brightly coloured plastic ‘play houses’ both in back yards and in sales catalogues from (cheapish) department stores.
What’s the point in producing a lollipop-looking dolls-house thing that’s just big enough to fit a small child? A plastic set-up that’s destined to fade and fall apart shortly after the child has become terminally bored with attempts to make it into something exciting – or even satisfying.
Whatever happened to the idea of a family collecting building scraps of timber and constructing a real ‘cubby house’ – or even a tree house, as both an interesting activity and a personalised play space for the kids and their friends?
Is it too much like hard work to build something?
Would such a construction spoil the neat look of the perfect home?
Is it the dangerous possibility of a child getting a splinter in his or her finger?
Is it not safe for a child to learn to use a hammer and nails?
Is it the even worse fear of a child falling from a home-made play house and actually hurting themselves?
I fondly recall the cubby of my childhood, the dirt floor of which my sisters and I constantly swept clean with an old broom. The cubby that had a (glass-free) window that served as everything from porthole to shop counter.
I recall the cubby my husband built for our small children (with their help and advice!). It was in a corner of the yard, therefore negating the necessity of constructing two of its four walls, as they were provided by the paling fence.
Our young daughter often invited neighbourhood children into “her house” and even enlisted me as an occasional drinks’ waiter to bring out plastic mugs of cordial and sometimes a plate of plain biscuits.
That cubby house even had a (low) second storey, with a makeshift ‘ladder’ of wooden steps nailed to the nearby gum tree.
Certainly, there were a few falls and knocks, but not one child broke a bone and I cannot remember blood being spilled. But fun they had in spades.
There doesn’t seem to be much fun associated with the plastic ‘already-prepared’ constructions I see lately.
But I may be wrong.
I’ve always been a fan of Dr Seuss - a devotee, not only as a teacher and a mother (& grandmother) but as an admirer of his attitude to life and the wisdom of his words.
His simple and amusing books have helped millions of people throughout the world to learn to read, while imparting gems of philosophical wisdom dispersed in the undercurrent of his words.
A favourite quote is:
‘Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter, don’t mind.’
Oh, how true - and oh, if only everyone could digest that thought and remember it - and act upon it.
Then there is:
‘Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is You-er than You’
Sadly, most people go through life imagining they are something other that who (or what) they truly are. We all do it; we (nearly) all have a vision of ourselves that is different from the true self.
Likewise, I suspect we (nearly) all have a vision of how others see us other than the way they really do see us.
I have always had a feeling that I have a lot of ‘catching up’ to do before I can be like other people. I feel that most people have a better grip on life and a better approach to everything than I have.
I remember throughout my childhood, even though it was a fairly happy time, often thinking that I would never be as good as the other children in my class. Not only as far as intelligence went but even as far as having the ‘right’ look and the ‘right’ family and even the ‘right’ pencils, for heaven’s sake!.
Not so very long ago I had a simple reunion get-together with some old (yes, quite OLD) school friends, from long ago. While talking to a girl – now a middle-aged mother and grandmother - I mentioned some of my not-so-pleasant memories of school days. She surprised me by saying, ‘But, Dianna, you were always so clever!’
What a shock. I had never thought that any other girl in my class would have thought I was clever.
I had spent many a school day trying to be just like the other girls and never seeming to quite make it. That at least one girl had a vision of me as a clever person was a small revelation.
Perhaps it was a late-in-life jolt to my self-esteem and opinion of myself - to realise so many years later that others’ views of me (even though as a child) were quite different from what I had imagined.
So, I try to follow Dr Seuss’s advice and not even try to think about what others may think of me and to remember that I do not have to conform to anyone’s ideas or ideals - and to remember the words,
‘There is no one alive who is You-er than You’
Thanks, Dr Seuss!
Many years ago, I knew a man who claimed that all that was needed to keep young kids amused was a few tin cans and some stones and rocks. Although I laughed at the time, I am starting to agree with him.
A woman in USA (Lenore Skenazy) was labelled ‘USA’s Worst Mom’ because she let her nine-year-old child travel on the train by himself. She later wrote a book titled, ‘Free Range Kids’.
There seems to be an emerging, though small, movement of people who are concerned about the way children are continually watched over and over-protected nowadays.
I think it was Professor Paul Tranter of the University of New South Wales who coined the phrase ‘the unobserved child’. He and others claim that children who walk to school, and are exposed to nature, outdoors, weather and friendships are the lucky kids.
Nature (outdoor) play has been replaced with ‘playing’ inside, which supposedly keeps the children safe.
In fact, children who play outside, unobserved, are the kids who end up healthy, creative, happy and independent. Very rarely are they overweight, nor do they suffer from other diseases and conditions brought about by inactivity.
I consider myself most fortunate to have lived the life of an unobserved child.
Of course that was many decades ago and “things” were different then. Mothers often did not even own cars, let alone drive children to school and back each day.
We walked to school, often moaning about it during hot or rainy weather, but kept on walking. We walked to the bus stop and travelled by bus on our own or with siblings and friends.
We played outdoors in every spare moment and we mingled with other kids (and dogs!) in our neighbourhood. We even caught the train to the public swimming pool and swam and splashed around nearly all day, without a parent in sight! Would our mother be lampooned (or even arrested) today for allowing us to do this?
My life was a little different. As the second born in a family of five children, my mother did not have time to be a “helicopter parent”, to spend all her time hovering over her kids – well certainly not the older two!
And, as the middle child in our family was disabled and needed extra care, it made it even easier for me and my older sister to escape and make our own fun.
We went to the park, without an adult. We went to the shops, without an adult. We climbed trees, we explored vacant blocks of land and clambered all over half-built houses. We looked for spiders inside curled-up leaves. We rode bikes, without helmets and careered down roadways in ‘billy-carts’; all without parents around. And we survived. Sure, there was the odd broken arm and the occasional nasty bleeding knee, but nothing too serious.
I am happy to say that I think I gave my own children the experience of being ‘free range’. I hope they appreciated it!
How sad it is today for children to not have the freedom allowed previous generations of kids. What will be the consequences of this different childhood life-style?
This different childhood, with scant experience outside the home - and the constant cocooning inside the family car?
I choose to comment on social issues and write creatively on a variety of subjects - for a variety of audiences.