Except when they didn't. Of course.
Now, you know that and I know that. But my children don't. So what I'm wondering is when should they learn? When it it time to read them the books in which they don't all live happily ever after?
Take Hans Christian Anderson's Little Mermaid. It's giving me goosebumps to think of it.
She doesn't get her prince, you know. He marries someone else, and she is told that to save her life she must kill him. But she loves him too much, so instead, standing by his marriage bed with a knife in her hand, watching him sleep with another woman's head resting on his chest, she drops a kiss on his forehead and throws herself into the sea, from which she is transformed into a daughter of the air, an ethereal cloud.
It's a great story. A story of a love that is greater than life.
So why, when the Guardian decided to retell it, did they change the end? Why does she have to get the Prince? Presumably because Disney say so, but then why did Disney change it too?
Are our children really not strong enough to take it? And if they're not now, when will they be? When can I say to them, "Actually, the Little Mermaid doesn't really end like that..."?
So many great children's books are tragic, after all: the Selfish Giant and the Happy Prince spring immediately to mind. I'm looking forward to children's war literature such as I am David, the Silver Sword and When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit too. And while we're on the subject of Judith Kerr, what about Goodbye Mog?
Now I realise, with the exception of Mog, that we may be a little young yet for Anne Holm or Oscar Wilde, but I still wonder whether protecting them from the idea of a sad ending is such a good thing. We can't protect them from sadness in real life, after all.
Maybe that's it, of course. Maybe Disney, the Guardian and their like think that stories should be a refuge from reality, especially for the very young.
I'm still not sure I agree.
Image from Wikipedia, although, interestingly, not wikimedia commons, because apparently Danish copyright laws also protect works of art in public locations. So if I'm breaching the artist's' family's copyright I'm sorry, and I will of course take it down if they want. Probably also one to bear in mind if you're ever in Copenhagen...