There is no denying the rather sinister aspects of many of the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales.
Little Red Riding Hood is almost eaten by a wolf, while Hansel and Gretel only narrowly escape a cannibalistic witch who lives deep in the forest.
Now, in the stories reimagined by America’s largest and powerful gun-rights lobbyist, those youngsters are packing heat and - needless to say - are seamlessly transformed from hapless victims to heroic survivors.
The National Rifle Association’s twist on the classic tales has sparked outcry, with gun-control activists claiming it is a outrageous marketing stunt. The NRA, meanwhile, has defended the tales posted on its “family website”.
“Most of us probably grew up having fairy tales read to us as we drifted off to sleep. But how many times have you thought back and realised just how, well, grim some of them are,” says an editor’s note attached to the stories.
“Have you ever wondered what those same fairy tales might sound like if the hapless Red Riding Hoods, Hansels and Gretels had been taught about gun safety and how to use firearms?"
The NRA said the stories, written by Amelia Hamilton, whom the lobbying group calls NRA calls a conservative blogger and “lifelong writer and patriot,” were part of an effort to promote responsible firearm use by children.
The accident prevention programme it oversees has helped teach more than 28 million kids about how to stay safe if they find a gun, according to the NRA’s website.
At no point in either story do the protagonists fire their weapons at the fictional villains, but guns are portrayed as key to keeping them safe, according to ABC News.
In the NRA’s version of Hansel and Gretel, the pair are shown hunting for deer and other wildlife when they discover an evil witch's house. They then proceed to free a pair of boys held captive by her, guns at the ready.
“The hinges gave a groan and the sound of the witch’s snoring stopped,” one passage reads. “Gretel got her rifle ready, but lowered it again when the snoring resumed.”
In the NRA’s version of Little Red Riding Hood, the young girl still sets off into the forrest to meet her grandmother, but when she encounters the Big Bad Wolf she is not scared because she “felt the reassuring weight of the rifle on her shoulder.” Her grandmother similarly sees off the wolf, thanks to her gun.
The release of the stories comes as the US continues to reel from gun violence involving children. Reports suggest there are at least 350 shooting incidents involving children under the age of twelve each year.
Toddlers aged three or under shoot either themselves or another person roughly once a week, an average of more than 50 times a year.
So far this month, children under 12 have been involved in at least 30 shootings. They included a seven-year-old Chicago boy who died after apparently shooting himself with a handgun he took from a dresser drawer and a four-year-old boy who shot his mother after reaching down under a car seat and grabbing her gun.
Activists have been outraged by the stories.
“Make no mistake, this is a disgusting, morally depraved marketing campaign,” said Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
“The NRA continues to stoop to new lows in the hopes of shoving guns into America’s youngest hands. If nothing else, this approach demonstrates just how desperate the organis dation has become to sell more guns - it must now advertise deadly weapons to kids by perverting childhood classics with no regard whatsoever for the real life carnage happening every day.”
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