ironically to discourage what we should regard as fairytale, he affords valuable confirmation of the way we should expect children to be introduced to a repertoire of stories: 43
(38) Therefore let (children) not hear frivolous stories and old wives tales: ‘This youth kissed that maiden. The king’s son and the younger daughter have done this’. Do not let them hear these stories, but let them hear others simply told with no elaboration. They can hear such from slaves, but not from all…Let those of the servants who are well fitted take part. If there be none, then hire someone who is free, a virtuous man, and entrust the task especially to him, so that he may have a full share in the undertaking.
(39) …But when the boy takes relaxation from his studies—for the soul delights to dwell on stories of old—speak to him, drawing him away from childish folly…Speak to him and tell him this story: ‘Once upon a time there were two sons of one father, even two brothers.’ Then after a pause continue: ‘And they were the children of the same mother, one being the elder, the other the younger son. The elder was a tiller of the ground, the younger a shepherd, and he led out his flocks to woodland and lake.’ Make your stories agreeable so that they may give the child pleasure and his soul may not grow weary. ‘The other son sowed and planted. And it came to pass that both wished to do honour to God. And the shepherd took the firstlings of his flocks and offered them to God.’ Is it not a far better thing to relate this than fairytales about sheep with golden fleeces? Then arouse him—for not a little depends on the telling of the story—introducing nothing that is untrue but only what is related in the Scriptures…And let the child’s mother sit by while his soul is being formed by such tales, so that she too may take part and praise the story. ‘What happened next? God received the younger son into heaven; having died he is up above…’.
(40) So far is enough for the child. Tell him this story one evening at supper. Let his mother repeat the same tale; then, when he has heard it often, ask him too, saying: ‘Tell me the story’ so that he may be eager to imitate you. And when he has memorised it you will also tell him how it profits him…Say to him afterwards: ‘you see how great is the sin of greed, how great a sin it is to envy a brother…’. (41) This is not all. Go leading him by the hand in church and pay attention particularly when this tale is read aloud. You will see him delighted and leaping with pleasure because he knows what the other children do not know, as he anticipates the story, recognises it, and derives great gain from it. And after this the episode is fixed in his memory. He can profit in other ways from the story. So let him learn from you: ‘There is no