Rufus Ward: Grandma's Old, Old Fairy Tales

September 22, 2012 9:05:27 PM

Rufus Ward - [email protected]


Last week our daughter, Sarah, flew into Columbus with our granddaughter for a visit. One afternoon I found myself reading "The Glass Slipper" and "Sleeping Beauty" out of the book "Grandma's Old, Old Fairy Tales" to my granddaughter. Karen, Sarah and cousin Ashley were there and commented that the stories were not exactly like the Disney movies. 


I started to think about the book and the stories and that my granddaughter was the 5th generation to be read stories out of that very same book. I recalled that when I was a small child my grandmother read to me from the book and said it had been read to her as a child in the early 1890s. 


The stories are more concise than most fairy tales are today and the illustrations are very gothic. Today the illustrations would probably be considered too violent to be included in a children's book. In reading original versions of popular fairy tales it is amazing how scary and depressing they often were. 


How many of us recall the old nursery rhyme from our childhood that went: 




Ring around a rosie 


A pocket full of posies 


Ashes ashes 


We all fall down 




It is a rhyme that dates to the 1600s in England where it went: 




Ring a ring o' roses 


A pocket full of posies 


A tishoo a tishoo 


We all fall down 




Though its origin is in dispute, many scholars link the rhyme to the Black Death or Bubonic Plague that devastated England during the 1600s. During those times people would carry bags of sweet smelling flowers or herbs to hide the smell of death. Also, victims were said to have often experienced an onset of sneezing before they fell dead. Fortunately not all scholars give such a gruesome beginning for such a seemly innocent rhyme.  


These stories caused me to recall, on a more pleasant note, an event several years ago. That was when Columbus honored Josh Meador, the former Columbus resident and Oscar- winning long time head of Walt Disney Studio's Animation Effects Department. Meador, who died in 1965, created the animation effects for such classics as Fantasia, Pinocchio, Bambi, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Josh's son Phil joined us in Columbus for the celebration of his father's life and works. 


Reading the old fairy tales brought to mind a story Phil told me. Phil, who passed away last year, was in his own right a very talented special effects artist. Though raised in California, he recalled how he enjoyed many family excursions to Columbus. 


Phil told of one occasion around 1950 when his father came home from work and made a strange request of his mother. Josh asked his wife to get on her hands and knees on the floor. He then gave her a bottle of bubble solution and a plastic wand to blow bubbles. Though the request was strange, Mrs. Meador knew that Josh must have a good reason for it. Soon Mrs. Meador was on the floor on her hands and knees blowing bubbles. 


She continued to blow bubbles until the air around her was filled with them. All the while Josh sketched her and the bubbles. The following morning Josh took his sketches back to the studio and redrew them. The image of Mrs. Meador became the image of Cinderella scrubbing the floor and becoming surrounded by soap bubbles containing her reflection. Josh's strange request to his wife became one of the most famous of all animated movie scenes. 


When we watch the old Disney fairy tales we can thank Walt Disney for changing them from gothic stories into wonderful stories for children and remember that Columbian Josh Meador made those animations come alive. 


Rufus Ward is a local historian. Email your questions about local history to him at [email protected]

Rufus Ward is a Columbus native a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to Rufus at [email protected]