English writer G. K. Chesterton said, “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
I did my college thesis in English Literature on the importance of fairy tales in childhood. Relying heavily on Bruno Bettleheim’s THE USES OF ENCHANTMENT, I found that text (unlike audio/visual media, such as film) cannot overwhelm children with fear. Children automatically filter text, absorbing only what is most important and relevant at the time it is read. This is why books can mean one thing at one age and seem almost completely novel (pun intended) when read at another.
The fearsome material in fairy tales answers key developmental issues children have. And the Disnification of those tales might make them more, not less scary, to children because they often strip away the meanings that speak so particularly to issues with which the children are struggling.
Bettleheim’s book is a wonderful resource for anyone raising kids, writing fiction, or analyzing the importance of story to our lives.