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The Water-Babies



A Fairy Tale for a Land Baby

This didactic moral fable was first serialised in MacMillan's monthly magazine, then published in 1863.

On the surface, Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies appears to be a traditional fairy tale complete with fairies, sea-beasts and talking animals. However, this is a fairy tale adapted to Victorian life. The villains are the neglectful masters, violent schoolteachers and ignorant parents, who create a darkening world of terror from which, the hero Tom must escape by turning into a water baby. However, upon entering a new world of underwater mystery, Tom must re-visit aspects of the human world in new magical forms, in order to correct his own weaknesses and become truly 'clean'. Kingsley's novel is a heavily symbolic and didactic text that conveys horror to the Victorian evils represented through surprising methods of fairytale fiction. However, above all else, the novel champions the child victims at the heart of the text and the society in it portrays, in order to expose the social evils of the time and offer comfort to those reading the novel, with the hope that fairies and magic could still be found beneath the soot of industrial Britain.--Submitted by Anonymous

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