Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rainbow Fish

I guess this Rainbow Fish storybook came along after I was out of elementary school, so no well-meaning teacher never read it aloud to my class.  Having heard it mentioned a few times over the years, today I finally took a minute to look it up.

Get ready to roll you eyes, if you must, but I have to agree that it is somewhat troubling.

Most of all, however, it's boring.  It seems that the people who remember loving the book as children mostly just liked looking at the glittery/shiny scales in the illustrations.  The story itself is a real snoozer.

Then there's the "moral" that in order to be accepted by others, you have to sacrifice whatever it is that makes you unique.  If you possess something that others desire, you really ought to give it to them.  Otherwise, you're just a big old meanie and no-one will ever want to play with you.  (Another moral:  You shouldn't hesitate to ask for whatever you want, even if it happens to belong to someone else.  Heck! Why should they have it, if you don't?  But maybe I'm overly sensitive on that point; I've always found that kind of thing particularly annoying...)

As for it being A Child's Garden of Socialism... Yes, I can see why some shudder at it, but I can also see why others roll their eyes.  Basically... I wouldn't read it to my own theoretical children.  For one thing, there are just way too many better stories available.  For another, I wouldn't want to teach young, impressionable minds that individuality (and individual property) must be modified (or divided) to fit the mold (or make things "fair").

Sure, you want kids to learn about sharing, but there are limits to how much anyone should be expected to share.  Would people view this story differently if Rainbow Fish hadn't been quite so rude to the little fish when it first asked for a scale?  Let's say Rainbow Fish had answered in a more neutral voice, "I'm sorry, but no.  If I give one to you, everyone else will want one, too, until there are none left at all.  Besides, your own blue scales are very pretty just as they are!" (And from that point, it turns into a story about knowing and valuing your own special qualities.)  Would that have been acceptable?  Would Rainbow Fish still have been expected to pull its own scales out (which, ew, by the way) and hand them out to the other bratty fish? (Well, they did shun Rainbow Fish whey he/she/it didn't want to part with his/her/its scales, and that wasn't very nice, either, was it?)

Ugh! ...This story is just depressing.  And annoying.
(Which seem to be the only types of things I ever blog about anymore.  Sorry.)