As some of you know, I'm leaving my full-time position at Field & Stream for another writing job, BUT as I was the only woman editing features for the magazine, I’m continuing as the FSHuntress blog host. So as long as we, as a group of women hunters, can prove there’s enough interest in the topic of females in the field, Field & Stream will keep the blog going. The “Email Kim” link under the author bio is now going to my new email account, so feel free to continue to send me thoughts, photos, and discussion topic suggestions—I’ll be reading them every day.
Of course, I think any forum for outdoorswomen is extremely important, so, I’ll get right to the topic for today: Fairy Tales. Well, fairy tales as they relate to kids and hunting.
I’m a research nut, and I’m always finding interesting little tidbits of information that I get excited about sharing with other people. Laura B. posted a comment on the blog about having her two-year-old son in the duck blind with her, and the thought of kids in the field got me thinking about a book I recently read on, of all things, the psychology of fairy tales.
It’s a book called, “The Uses of Enchantment” by an Austrian psychiatrist named Bruno Bettelheim. Of course, a lot of it had to do with witches, princes, and bread crumb trails, so I definitely didn’t pick it up thinking I’d find any references to hunting. But I found a lot.
Contrary to the redneck, bubba stereotype that some of today’s main stream media holds hunters to be, the book pointed out that the hunters of old folk stories were the most respectable of characters. As author Bettelheim put it: “In many fairy stories hunters are kind-hearted, helpful persons.”
Take Little Red Riding Hood, for starters. Who rescues the young girl and her grandmother from the belly of the Big Bad Wolf? The heroic woodsman. This quote from Bettelheim’s book might sound like a bit of psycho babble, but here’s what he had to say about the fact that, in the mind of the child reader, the wolf represents the bad part of male nature, while the hunter represents the good:
“It is as if Little Red Cap is trying to understand the contradictory nature of the male by experiencing all aspects of his personality: the selfish, asocial, violent, potentially destructive tendencies of the id (the wolf); the unselfish, social, thoughtful, and protective propensities of the ego (the hunter).”
“The hunter is the most attractive, to boys as well as girls, because he rescues the good and punishes the bad.”
Then there’s Snow White. Remember, at the beginning, the Queen orders a “huntsman” to kill Snow White and bring back her heart. But the “huntsman,” being an upstanding and compassionate fellow, disobeys the Queen, and instead sets Snow White free (at which point, she wanders the woods to the seven dwarves’ house). The huntsman then kills a wild boar, and presents its heart to the Queen instead.
Bettelheim points out that in the world of the woods, where wild animals lurk behind every dark tree, the hunter is a symbol of protection to a child. One more dose of psycho-babble:
“Only the parent-hunter… can scare these threatening animals away, keep them permanently from the child’s door. Hence the hunter of fairy tales is not a figure who kills friendly creatures, but one who dominates, controls, and subdues wild, ferocious beasts…the hunter is an eminently protective figure who can and does save us from the dangers of our violent emotions and those of others.”
Of course, translations of these old tales vary, but if you have young children, and a collection of fairy stories lying around, maybe it’s worth picking it up to see if the version you have preserved the positive role hunters played in these original versions.
Also, for those of you who read Field & Stream, this might be a good time to point out that the Sportsman’s Notebook section has a relatively new column called “How to Raise a Sportsman,” which includes tips like building a tree stand for two.
Okay, so I’ve taken a long tangent from Laura B.’s original post about hunting with her son, but if you have any thoughts or stories about hunting with kids, the perception of hunters in mainstream media, or anything else, for that matter, comment below, email me, whatever – it would be great to hear from you! --K.H.