Politically incorrect fairytales: Millions of inventive parents are bringing the endings into the modern era

Parents are most likely to change the end of Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs and The Gingerbread Man due to concerns they are inappropriate, too scary or politically incorrect

Friday 22 May 2020 09:18 BST
A young child rests on her father's chest while he reads her a bedtime story
A young child rests on her father's chest while he reads her a bedtime story

Millions of parents are changing the endings of classic fairy tales – because they are politically incorrect, a study has found.

More than one in four admit to altering parts of a traditional story when reading it to their children due to fears it’s inappropriate or too scary.

In fact, 16 per cent avoid certain tales altogether, with almost a quarter of those saying they don’t feel they are politically correct in today’s world.

Little Red Riding Hood is the story parents are most likely to change, followed by The Three Little Pigs and The Gingerbread Man.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella and even Goldilocks and the Three Bears are also among the top 20 tales mums and dads tell differently.

Liam Howley, marketing director at musicMagpie, which commissioned the research, said: “Some of these stories have been around for generations – many would have been read to mums and dads when they were children.

“But times have changed and there are many elements to these classic tales which for some don’t really fit into society as they once did.

“Not only that, but when you think about the storylines, some can be considered very scary for little children.”

The study of 2,000 parents found that more than a third of people believe it’s ‘cruel’ that the Gingerbread Man is eaten by a fox, while another 36 per cent are concerned by how the Pied Piper of Hamlin tricks children into following him.

Almost one in four think it’s inappropriate to tell children the story of Cinderella, who was forced to do all of the cleaning and household chores and another 27 per cent feel the same about Robin Hood – a man who stole from others.

One quarter of parents also avoid reading the Ugly Duckling as they worry it could encourage body-shaming and discrimination.

Three in 10 dislike Hansel and Gretel due to the children being abandoned alone in the forest while one in four think Sleeping Beauty is inappropriate as she is kissed without her consent.

Even Pinocchio leaves 27 per cent of parents worrying as the story tells the tale of a boy who runs away from home and lies to people.

The research which was conducted for musicMagpie by OnePoll.com also found 78 per cent of parents read their children bedtime stories, spending an average of 17 minutes on each story time.

But while 85 per cent read from a physical book, almost one in 10 will read from the tablet and one in twenty listen to spoken stories on the TV.

An inventive 18 per cent of parents even make up their own tales to entertain their children at bedtime.

Of those who don’t read to their children, one in five parents are too busy while more than one in 10 would rather give them a tablet or audio book to listen to before bed.

Others let them watch TV instead (15%), say their children don’t enjoy reading stories (25%) or lack confidence in their own reading abilities (15%).

Despite this, 97 per cent of parents think it is important to read to their children.

Howley added: “It’s great to know that the majority of parents read their children bedtime stories, plus they think it’s important to, and while the format of how they read to them is in the form of a physical book, it’s interesting to see that almost one in 10 will read from a tablet.

“As technology has advanced and lives have become busier, it’s not surprising to see that parents are leaning towards tablets and audio books when it comes to easy bedtime reading.

“At musicMagpie, we’ve seen a huge rise in parents purchasing refurbished tech for their children to keep them entertained, and we expect this trend of buying refurbished, rather than new, to grow even more this year.”

For more information on the study, please visit Music Magpie’s blog.

Top 20 stories parents change:

Little Red Riding Hood

The Three Little Pigs

The Gingerbread Man

Hansel and Gretel

The Ugly Duckling

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Beauty and the Beast


Jack and the Beanstalk



Sleeping Beauty

The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

The Little Mermaid

The Pied Piper of Hamlin

The Frog Prince


The Princess and the Pea

The Emperor’s New Suit

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