Few things tug at my heartstrings like concern for the elderly. I’ve never found anything so uncomfortable as the sound of an old person crying. I remember visits to my grandmother’s nursing home that haunted me afterwards because I would see one of the residents upset. I never saw my grandmother cry but I’ve had nightmares.
In fact, I’m so sensitive about this that even reading about a sad old man can put a tear in my eye. To that end, this Grimm’s Fairy Tale has a special place in my heart. You can read The Old Man and His Grandson here. It’s a short one.
Many of Grimm’s fairy tales feature intended morals. The most common seems to be: Never go into forests ever. But here we have a more unique moral presented simply and elegantly.
I’m 22 years old. I’m not exactly an elder but I’ve always been aware that I will get old some day. I’ve always observed the lives of elders around me as “This could be me some day.” And yet, elder abuse remains a problem in the world. This tale demonstrates the ignorance and selfishness that leads to abusive or neglectful behaviour and the anagnorisis that must take place for that behaviour to be corrected.
(Anagnorisis: A device originally from Greek tragedies in which the tragic hero would realize their error and how it adversely affected their fortune.)
The innocence and impressionability of children is on full display here. The grandson’s eagerness to pick up on the cruelty of his parents is such a strange contrast. His innocence runs him the risk of becoming evil.
Also worth noting is what the man and his wife’s priorities are. They value a clean table cloth over a dignified life. I think we could all use some time to remind ourselves how valuable life is.
So that’s The Old Man and His Grandson. An important tale that my children will certainly learn one day. An important moral. An important message. A story that makes my heart ache but hopefully one that can teach people some empathy and compassion.