Most readers and writers believe in the inevitability of a happy ending in children stories in hope of instilling hope and picturing life in a way better than reality. However, authors of children stories are challenged today to offer stories which best prepare children to face life challenges as they are, not to run away into sweet dreams and happy endings. Here I am going to discuss a few examples from recent local stories to discuss how endings are dealt with and their significance:
- “Jalal’s Apple” 2012, by Maisoun Assadi about Jalal; a talented student who is mistreated and neglected by his school’s teacher and headmaster. It ends unexpectedly with Jalal leaving his school. Thus the Maisoun sets herself as a writer who breaks from traditional templates.
- “Much More Expensive than Gold” 2013, by Suhail Keywan tells the story of Hamed, a poor child who finds a piece of gold and tries to keep it in spite of knowing that it belongs to a poor woman who turns out to be his own mother. Keywan ends his story lamenting the loss of today’s generation who lacks values, conscience, and self discipline. He could have made Hamed hand out the gold to police or look for its rightful owner. However, he prefers to shed light on the crisis of lost values which strikes Arab societies yet it is ignored by parents, media, authors, and the whole society.
- “Dardabeesi” 2013, by Salim Naffa’ is a folk tale about a dispute between Dardabeesi and her hunter brother caused by a devious wolf. At the end the brother realizes the atrocity of his deeds and rushes to reconcile with his sister. Naffa’ ends his story happily following the example of folk tales.
- “Bounteous Fish”, by Mohamad Ali Taha is a folk tale about a poor kind-hearted fisherman and his greedy wife. It addresses greed and ends tragically for the fisherman and his wife.
- “Dotto, the Cat”, by Sheraz Khairi Athamenah is a story of a lazy cat who loves sleeping and sneaks into houses to steal food until one day it falls in the grip of Grandpa Sam’an who offers Dotto food in exchange of hunting mice. The story ends happily for both Grandpa Sam’an and Dotto which turns into a hero. A happy ending which calls for hard work to step up in life is inevitable here because the story addresses early childhood.
- “Mum and Dad are Divorced”, by Hanan Jubaili is a ballad which tackles a tricky subject normally ignored among Arabs. The story ends with the parents still divorced yet with a wish they come back to live together.
- “My Brother and His Wheelchair” 2013, by Adeem Ahmad Massarwa addresses the issue of children with special needs. It ends realistically with a spark of hope not that the child will be cured but that he will always face challenges with a smile and go on with life.
- “Ahmad’s Screaming Clothes” 2009, by Lailah Hajjeh addresses obesity in children through the story of Ahmad who loves to eats sugary and starchy food until one day his clothes scream in pain so he sees a doctor who teaches him to eat healthy food. The story ends with the success of Ahmad’s mission. Had the writer chosen a sad ending it would surely cause obese children depression and disappointment while in this happy ending she proposes practical applicable solutions to the problem.
- “Nauf and the Bear” 2013, by Mena ‘Alyan, inspired by folk tales, ends happily following the example of traditional folk tales.
- “Birds’ Home” 2012, by Waheeb Nadeem Wahbeh has political and educational dimensions and was released in Arabic and Hebrew in the same edition. It ends with a realistic compromising solution to accept the new reality and coexist peacefully.
Considering the above mentioned examples a few notes can be drawn out. Local writers have a new direction to address pressing issues imposed by reality and children’s needs. Happy endings are not inevitable anymore or only restricted to tangible possessions; it may be acquiring a moral victory or merely having hope of a better future. Early childhood stories usually end happily to lift up children self-esteem and trust in life and surroundings, while stories for older generations ought to steer away from the familiar and the expected. A writer’s gender is insignificant regarding choice of topics and type of endings. Traditional stories inspired from folk tales generally have expected endings where it is evitable for good to conquer evil and even if names and characters change, the same ruminated endings are still used to offer an escape from reality’s challenges.
Today’s children are premature due to the bitter reality they live in where they watch people die and get displaced on TV, in addition to enduring domestic violence, sexual harassment, and other social problems. Children today have more information, new terminology, and more serious challenges. Therefore, writers are not expected to depict life as all rosy and beautiful but present stories as therapeutic tools to help children adapt better to their reality and be prepared to face various challenges.
As a result, happy endings are no longer inevitable; topics are not derived from traditional folk and international literature only but from children’s own reality, pressing issues, and interesting unconsumed topics in order to present the best tools to face social life changes and the demands of our children. Children literature should present life gradually and assert that success is only reached when surviving hurdles and setbacks, hardship makes real men, and making dreams come true needs much hard work, faith, persistence, strong will, and education.