Sometimes we need a duck to show consequences
BY MICHAEL OVERALL World Staff Writer
Monday, November 26, 2012
11/26/12 at 6:44 AM
Because I Said So is a blog written by five parents and one grandparent.
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In Disney's version of "Peter and the Wolf," the ferocious villain goes chasing after an innocent little duck, ending with a mouthful of feathers and a satisfied grin.
But after Peter triumphantly captures the wolf, the duck waddles out of her hiding place, alive and well after all.
Sergei Prokofiev's original wasn't quite so cheerful.
At the end of his 1936 musical, which is intended to introduce children to classical music, we do hear the duck still quacking.
But only from inside the wolf's belly.
"For, in his hurry," the narrator says, "the wolf had swallowed her whole."
I guess even Prokofiev couldn't bring himself to kill the duck, leaving its ultimate fate to our imaginations.
But a glimmer of hope isn't enough for revisionists.
The duck, like everyone else, must live happily ever after.
Some recent versions even insist on a happy ending for the wolf, who winds up being Peter's friend.
Trying to eat him? Well, that was all a misunderstanding.
With our 21st century sensibilities, we want to reassure children that every problem can be solved and every conflict resolved, making everybody a winner.
But in a world without consequences, there's little use for right and wrong.
A sanitized fairy tale loses the moral of the story.
Little Red Riding Hood gets chewed up to teach us not to talk to strangers.
And if the evil stepsister doesn't slice off her own toe in a desperate effort to fit into the golden slipper - not glass, that's the Disney version - Cinderella won't see the self-inflicted wound of jealousy.
And neither will we.
Prokofiev's story is morally complex.
Peter disobeys his grandfather twice by leaving the safety of his cabin to venture into the woods, where a vicious wolf lurks.
The second time, he puts himself at risk to save his friend, a little bird. And we forgive Peter's defiance because it serves the greater good.
But the first time, it was pride - not friendship - that led Peter into the woods.
And a hapless barnyard animal, following Peter out of the open gate, pays for it.
To learn the lesson, we need a dead duck. Or at least, a swallowed one.
Note: "Peter and the Wolf," even in watered-down versions, is still a great way to introduce children to music. Go to tulsaworld.com/becauseisaidso to find several versions to choose from.