Off With Their Heads!: Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood
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Off With Their Heads!: Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  103 ratings  ·  13 reviews
When fairy tales moved from workrooms, taverns, and the fireside into the nursery, they not only lost much of their irreverent, earthy humor but were also deprived of their contestatory stance to official culture. Children's literature, Maria Tatar maintains, has always been more intent on producing docile minds than playful bodies. From its inception, it has openly endors...more
Paperback, 328 pages
Published October 24th 1993 by Princeton University Press (first published March 17th 1992)
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A disturbing, enlightening, and engagingly-written book. Tatar is one of the best academic writers I've read. Her analysis is incisive; even when I disagreed with her or could envision a different interpretation, I recognized that I would not have been able to disagree with her without her elucidation in the first place. Which makes her the best kind of scholar: someone who's in it for the discovery, not to make everyone else agree with her. The disturbing aspects of the book were the chapters o...more
Sometimes I pick up a non-fiction book, just to have something slightly different.

The author's focus is largely on the literary form of fairy tales and how they were chosen/edited to maximize didactic content bent on making children (particularly girls) docile, obedient and incurious.

She spends considerable time on Bettleheim's "Uses of Enchantment and what she considers a victim-blaming theme where children are made responsible for the bad deeds of the adult villains who attack them.

This was wr...more
Bea Bolinger
Do you remember that movie "Reign of Fire"? There's that scene where they are reenacting Star Wars "Luke I am your father" and the little kids in the audience gasp - so cute. Well that's the thing about the oral tradition verses printed/filmed stories. Once something is written down or filmed that version of the story becomes fixed but the way we get together around the water cooler at work and talk about last night’s episode of "Lost" changes depending on whom we are talking with.

I'm not sure w...more
I met Tatar last year and heard her speak, and found her to be very pleasant and interesting. This book, however, drove me a little nuts. She tends to make claims that she doesn't bother supporting, which is frustrating as a scholar. She also makes many ethical judgments and presents them as absolute truths. The book seems to be an instruction manual on how to protect your kids from scary fairy tales, disguised as a scholarly text.
Noël DeVries declare that adults should stay out of children's literature is utterly unrealistic--adults write the books, publish them, review them, buy them, and read them--and to argue that adults should not interfere in the reading process is as misguided as arguing that they should not intrude on children's lives. Letting children be wholly on their own as the readers of a story can, in some situations, count as a not-so-benign form of neglect that leaves children without any sort of compass to gui...more
Alas, my library does not own this and its hefty $35 price tag in paperback is an obstacle. The copy I obtained through Inter-library loan had too short a loan period so I was only able to get through the preface which was enough to inform me that this is an analytical work that begs some concentration on the part of the reader.

I will say that I am now persuaded to NEVER read Bettelheim's "The Uses of Enchantment" in which he puts a disturbingly Freudian spin on the fairy tale motifs.

If I ever g...more
Tatar examples how fairy tales were slightly altered to fit into children's literature. She also offers quite a bit on Sednak. The book is written in such a way that you do not need to have a good solid background in fairy tale studies to understand it.
Kirk Ashworth
Feb 26, 2008 Kirk Ashworth marked it as to-read
I recently found this book in a pile of old books, Brandon and thought of you. I have not read it so I can't say anything about it. I have read a book of hers on feminine mythology that was interesting: Six Myths of Our Time or something like that.
I generally disagree with Tatar's major thesis concerning the predominant way in which children are represented in popular culture as "evil," so it was hard to read through the book!
An intriguing book on a scholarly examination of fairy tale. Extremely thought provoking and interesting.
Aug 19, 2009 Amy marked it as wishlist
Off with Their Heads! Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood by Maria Tatar (1993)
Nov 30, 2011 Phair added it
Shelves: could-not-finish
gave up- too dry & scholarly for me right now.
Mostly talking back to Bruno Bettelheim. Not bad.
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Maria Tatar is the John L. Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures. She chairs the Program in Folklore and Mythology at Harvard University. She is the author of Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood, Off with Their Heads! Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood and many other books on folklore and fairy stories. She is also the editor and translator of The Annotated Ha...more
More about Maria Tatar...
The Classic Fairy Tales The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood Grimm's Grimmest

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