Reading Fairy Tales

Did you believe in Santa Claus when you were a kid?  What about the tooth fairy?  The Easter bunny?

Fantastic imaginary figures are a common childhood experience in America.  Most people who celebrate Christmas remember waking early that morning as a child to sneak a peak at what Santa left for them to find under their trees.  It was a joyful occasion, and even as an adult I still have echoes of that feeling when I wake at three in the morning because I’m so giddy about getting to open presents.

Of course, the lovely people at Chick.com think that this kind of childhood wonder is actually a gateway to murder.

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This is what happens when “Yo mamma” goes too far. (Image credit: Chick.com)

Yes, murder.

Fairy Tales? is a story about young Harry, who’s awaiting execution on death row after a life of misery and hatred, all because his parents lied to him about the existence of Santa Claus.  The way it starts out, Harry’s parents just tell him the standard childhood stories: the tooth fairy leaves money under your pillow when you lose a tooth; Santa Claus brings your Christmas presents; the Easter bunny hides eggs for little children to find on Easter morning.  Harry believes these stories wholeheartedly, and why wouldn’t he when he’s eight years old?

There’s an admittedly funny panel here where Harry confuses the Easter bunny with Jesus, but otherwise it’s a rather bland depiction of a child’s complete trust in his parents’ word.  Naturally, that gets crushed by some kids at school who’ve already figured out the ruse and are taking great pleasure in stomping on Harry’s fragile beliefs.  Harry, being like any rational human being, can’t take the cognitive dissonance and so murders the offending children.

When he’s eight years old.

The police take Harry into custody and call his parents, to whom he explains that he got in the fight with the other boys because they said that Santa doesn’t exist, and if that’s true that would make his parents liars.  When his folks admit that, yes, Santa’s fictional, Harry goes berserk (fortunately he’s strapped to a bed “for his protection”), concluding that if his parents lied about Santa and the tooth fairy, they must have been lying about God and Jesus too.

Hey, maybe this Harry grows up to be last week’s Harry in a parallel universe (it would at least explain The Bully‘s motivations)!

Harry’s already extremely fragile psyche is shattered, and he kills multiple other people on his meteoric rise to the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list right alongside Osama Bin Laden.

That’s right; this kid whose parents didn’t tell him the truth about Santa is the equivalent of one of the most reviled men in American history.

I don’t know what the Bin Laden equivalent to Godwin’s Law is, but this is it embodied right here.  We’re not told about most of Harry’s crimes, but they must be pretty heinous for him to be set up with the likes of Bin Laden by the time he’s only 28 (I feel like such an underachiever).

In true Chick fashion, it’s a coin toss as to whether Harry’s going to repent by the time of his execution, but in this tract he doesn’t.  All because his parents lied to him about Santa Claus.

Alright, let’s go ahead and do this quickly, because it’s not going to happen often.

I agree with the point of this tract.

No, not all the stuff about how children who get lied to about imaginary things will grow up to become serial killers who reject God out of spite.  What I agree with is that Harry, as a child, implicitly trusts his parents, and rightly so.  When you’re that young, your parents are supposed to be the people that you can rely on to take care of your needs.  Assuming they’re doing a decent job at that, you’re going to love and trust them.

Of course, as we get older, we all hit a point in our development when we realize that our parents are fallible, just like us.  It’s kind of a painful thing to go through, but it’s a healthy step as we transition to independence.

What’s not healthy is leading your kids on with stories that you know you will have to explain weren’t true one day.  However you spin it, selling a fiction as a truth is deceit, and I find that practice abhorrent, particularly because it involves exploiting a person’s trust.  Learning that Santa’s not real is disappointing, and while it doesn’t typically lead to homicide, it is an inevitable part of passing the Santa story off as real.

The kicker is that I like Santa.  I think he’s a very fun, festive part of a holiday that is generally devoted to encouraging goodwill between people.  I don’t want to get rid of him.  At the same time, I wouldn’t want to lie to my children.  The best solution I’ve come across for this dilemma is simple.  You don’t act like Santa’s real.  Eventually your children will absorb the cultural narrative about him, and when they bring it up, you tell them the truth; Santa’s a game that everyone likes to play around Christmastime.  It’s simple, elegant, and will probably blow up in my face if the time ever comes where I get to implement it.

Okay, now that I’ve said all that (phew!), let me come back to say that like every other Chick tract I’ve read, the underlying point of this story is to scare its readers.  The writers at Chick.com are fearmongering in the worst kind of way in this case by playing on parental anxiety.  The fact is that children grow up to be who they are regardless of their parents’ intervention.  This story, with its worst of all possible worlds (remember, parallel universe Harry only grew up to be a drunken abuser who got saved), wants to makes parents fear that if they do anything outside of the prescribed child-rearing strategy of Jack T. Chick that they are dooming their kids to hell.

And that’s a lie that’s sure to backfire horribly on someone.

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