How does the final paragraph of "Once Upon a Time" help elucidate the theme?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I remember first teaching this short story to my Seniors and the way that they were all repulsed by the final paragraph and the ending of this modern fairy tale in South Africa. In particular, the bloody end that the boy meets whilst trying to enact the fairy tale in his book is incredibly shocking. Note how this ending is depicted:

Next day he pretended to be the Prince who braves the terrible thicket of thorns to enter the palace and kiss the Sleeping Beauty back to life: He dragged a ladder to the wall, the shining coiled tunnel was just wide enough for his little body to creep in, and with the first fixing of its razor teeth in his knees and hands and head he screamed and struggled deeper into its tangle.

There is an intense irony in this passage which is crucially linked to one of the main themes of the story. The family have supposedly had the "Dragon's Teeth" installed to protect themselves, but they end up by damaging themselves in a way that they could never have foreseen. It appears that walls or barriers, no matter how sophisticated or high, cannot guarantee safety or peace, and that often, when we try to protect ourselves we actually just end up hurting oruselves, as is shown through the way the boy is mauled.