You wouldn’t have thought that children’s stories differ markedly between America and Britain.

Now this report in The Atlantic about Why the British Tell Better Children’s Stories is both surprising and completely understandable at the same time.

The article explores the background to the children’s literature of America and Britain, suggesting that British  history informs fantastical myths and legends, while American tales tend to focus on moral realism.

Wind in the WillowsIt’s a thoroughly entertaining and learned read. I’ve never considered that the differences were to do with early British, and particularly Scottish, pagan folklore that informed the fantasy element of our stories. Or, that the British countryside, dotted with castles and our love of rural charms infuse our children’s tales.

Meanwhile, the American stories rely on the value of the protestant work ethic, and are rooted in realism. Contrast, as author Colleen Gillard does, the differences between The Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland, Winnie-the-Pooh, The Hobbit, and Harry Potter, which are all fantasies, to the American children’s classics Little Women, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer that are ‘more realistic portraits of day-to-day life in the towns and farmlands’.

Quite a major difference between our two nations explained.

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