There's a famous criticism Rav Hirsch had about fairy tales- I think he was responding to the Grimm Brothers specifically. He says that reading such stories are very bad chinuch, since it affects our ability to understand and believe midrashim. (Ex: How can kids differentiate between a story about Og king of Bashan who was a giant, vs. [lehavdil] Jack and the beanstalk with a giant? It gets very confusing.)

I've seen this criticism numerous times over the years and have heard people reference it. But I haven't been able to find it.

Even while checking through the volume of Collected Writings dealing with education (I think vol. 5?) I didn't find anything about this topic (I checked most of the work.) I even found him making reference to a "Cinderella" situation, such that he clearly was familiar with them.

Can anyone shed light on this topic? Thanks!

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    Welcome to MY! Thank you for bringing this intriguing question here, and looking forward to learning with you.
    – DonielF
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 12:41
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    Btw doesn't the verse say Og was a giant? Not just a Midrash
    – robev
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 14:17
  • robev you're right. I meant the medrashic references to Og, such as his picking up a whole mountain and planning on throwing it on Klal Yisrael etc.
    – Binyomin
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 7:02
  • The chovas hatalmudim does say to say over made up stories about tzadikim in order to teach a lesson
    – Dr. Shmuel
    Commented May 14, 2020 at 22:39

3 Answers 3


You may want to check this reference to vol 3, p.263 on regard chanuka:

Teach the jewish chanuka, don't feed the child with fairy tales. It does not beguile childhood and youth with the notions of a world that does not exist, it does not seek to win their hearts and minds for a life which reality will never afford them.

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    Read: don't tell them that the Chashmonaim played dreidel in the cave.
    – DonielF
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 14:51
  • Is noty a typo?
    – TRiG
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 15:27
  • Txn for notice that @TRiG. its Fixed now. Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 18:33

I checked the index in volume 9 and found a few places where Rabbi Hirsch denigrated fairytales.

All are found in volume 7.

Pages 113-114, 329, 376, 383-384.

None of the objections, as far as I can tell, are for the reason mentioned in the question, paralleling them to medrashim.

He only mentioned Cinderella by name, never the brothers Grimm, but did describe Little Red Riding Hood in one place. In fact he didn't seem to be derisive of Cinderella at all.

His general point seems to be don't fill a child's thirsty imagination with foolishness that does nothing to nurture their relationship with God.

It seems from your question you own the Collected Writings, so I don't feel so bad not writing in quotes, especially since you only asked for the source places. Perhaps I can come back to fill in some direct quotes, but Rabbi Hirsch's wordy style makes that quite the challenge.

  • Thanks for sharing this- I have the 8vol set but didn't know about the 9th volume. Is it sold as a separate volume? (I haven't seen it, either individually or as part of a set, sold here in Israel.)
    – Binyomin
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 6:56
  • You are welcome. Yes, it's sold separately. It came out 8 years ago. Half of it is letters and the like that were not published during his life and half is an index for the set. I think they only make the small blue kind. feldheim.com/…
    – user6591
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 7:22

I found a quote from Yesodot Hachinuch pt. 2 (I don't know how that translates into the English version of the collected writings):

"על האם להיות 'חוה' לילדה, דהיינו לדובב אליו ולשוחח עמו, שכן הילדים מטבעם אוהבים לשמוע ולהקשיב, והם שותים בצמא כל מילה של סיפור ושל לימוד. את הצמא הזה חבל לרוות באגדות תפלות חסרות כל ערך חינוכי. לפי דעתנו אין מזון רוחני תפל יותר לרוחו ולדמיונו של הילד מאשר האגדות האלה. אין אנו מבינים מה תועלת תצמח לילד מזה שמתארים לפניו עולם ומלואו, והתיאור הוא מנוגד כולו למציאות. מה יועיל לילד סיפור על זאב הבולע סבתא, חובש את מצנפת הלילה שלה וממתין לנכדה. מוטב לספר לו דברים מן המציאות, בעלי תוכן מוסרי וחינוכי. חומר כזה לא יחסר לה לאם. היא אינה זקוקה לתיאורים מלאכותיים מאיזה עולם רחוק בלתי מציאותי, שכן עולמו האמיתי של הילד - חדר הילדים, הבית, הגינה, העיר וכל סביבתו של הילד, על מאורעותיה הקטנים והגדולים, כל אלה מהווים חומר עשיר ומגוון, אותו תוכל האֵם לנצל כדי לאמן ולתרגל את תכונותיו של הילד ולהדריכו בדרך הטוב".

[My] translation: It is for the mother to be 'Chava' to her child, meaning to speak to him and discuss things with him, as it is children's nature to listen, and they drink in thirst every word of story and study. It is a waste to Use up this thirst on fairy tales lacking any educational value. We do not understand what use will come of describing an entire world to a child, and that this description stands in complete contrast to reality. What use will a child find in a story about a wolf that swallows a grandmother, puts on its nightcap and awaits her granddaughter. It would be better to tell him things from reality, things of true ethical and educational value. Stuff will be abundant to the mother. She is not needing of artificial descriptions of a world far from reality, for the child's true world - the children's room, the house, the garden, the city and the entire surrounding area of the child, for all its great and small events, all of these take part in being a rich material, that the mother can use to train the child's character and condition him in the way of good.

  • Harel13 thanks for this quote. is Yesodot Hachinuch one volume of the Collected Writings (the Hebrew set)? Is it it's own sefer? I've seen a sefer called something like "avnei chinuch" which is a guide to chinuch based on rav Hirsch. is this the same sefer?
    – Binyomin
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 7:05
  • @Binyomin I don't know. I don't personally have the book. You can find the book on the currently (because of the current situation) free online version of Otzar Hachochma - tablet.otzar.org/pages/… and type in the internal search the word זאב.
    – Harel13
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 8:06
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    @Binyomin As the 7th volume of the collected writings is called Jewish Education, and this seems to be one of the ideas mentioned in the list of sources I provided, I'm guessing it's a reprint of that into Hebrew. So you will already have this in your collection.
    – user6591
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 17:35

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