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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

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  199 Ratings  ·  20 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
Paperback, 328 pages
Published October 24th 1993 by Princeton University Press (first published March 17th 1992)
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Jan 28, 2012 KA rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Feb 20, 2009 Nicole rated it it was ok
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.
Nov 02, 2010 Skjam! rated it liked it
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
Bea Elwood
Mar 10, 2013 Bea Elwood rated it it was ok
Shelves: research
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
Sep 23, 2013 Vivian rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Katherine Sas
Apr 29, 2015 Katherine Sas rated it really liked it
A really interesting look at the messages we send our kids through stories.
Nov 11, 2011 Phair added it
Shelves: could-not-finish
gave up- too dry & scholarly for me right now.
Got really frustrated with this at the end.

Chapter 10 (about "The Juniper Tree") has Tatar damn-near bending over backwards in her efforts to vilify male writers for depicting (step-)mothers as evil, and for daring to imply that a happy home life without a maternal figure could be possible.
That the father, daughter, and son sit down to dine remains more than a curious detail in this enigmatic text. This last supper figures as an important contrast to the shocking meal in which the three particip
Jan 18, 2016 Shari rated it really liked it
Tatar gives chapter and verse, laying out many of the most usual functions of fairy tale (the motifemes) and studying carefully and thoroughly the varied allomotifs that each function might use. Her strong rendering of fairy tale history -- from oral tales that adults used to pass the time during deadening routines of daily work in which scatological humor and erotic material abounded, to the socialization directives and strict childhood duties and behavioral guidance for children and also stron ...more
Noël DeVries
Mar 26, 2010 Noël DeVries rated it it was ok 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
Jan 05, 2015 Rachel rated it really liked it
Tatar is, as always, refreshingly pragmatic and grounded in her analysis. This book in some ways functions as an extended critique of Bruno Bettelheim's psychoanalytic mode of fairy tale criticism, arguing for the historicity of many elements of the tales and their deep immersion in their own cultural contexts. In this way it is not unlike Marina Warner's more expansive From the Beast to Blonde, though Tatar is more pointed in her argument and in her opposition to Bettelheim. She is strongest wh ...more
May 26, 2013 Sue rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aarf-yuck-ugh
Seems like this person just writes to be writing, like when people like to hear themselves talk. If this could be broken down, summarized to about a third, maybe we could read it.

Scholarly premise, put forth as an assertion; seems like the author was trying to convince us about something, using high-fallutin' words that, really, far defeat the purpose.
Jan 10, 2009 Chris rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 18, 2009 Amy marked it as wishlist
Off with Their Heads! Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood by Maria Tatar (1993)
Jul 22, 2011 Susan rated it really liked it
An intriguing book on a scholarly examination of fairy tale. Extremely thought provoking and interesting.
savannah roskell
Apr 27, 2014 savannah roskell rated it really liked it
It has an interesting perspective on current and original fairy tales. I used this for my A Level coursework and found it exceedingly helpful.
Apr 29, 2012 Stephen rated it liked it
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!
Jul 21, 2016 Kate added it
Shelves: nonfiction, folklore
I didn't have a chance to finish this before it had to go back to the library, but that's ok because I have read it before
May 23, 2011 Jenine rated it it was ok
Mostly talking back to Bruno Bettelheim. Not bad.
Kat rated it it was amazing
Aug 03, 2008
Emilio Lara perea
Emilio Lara perea rated it liked it
Feb 08, 2016
Mpanchuk rated it it was amazing
Oct 24, 2012
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Jul 18, 2014
Sls rated it it was amazing
Sep 23, 2011
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Apr 20, 2015
David Acevedo
David Acevedo rated it it was amazing
Jul 19, 2012
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Victor Cioban rated it it was amazing
May 10, 2017
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Mar 23, 2012
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Sara Lindsey rated it really liked it
May 31, 2008
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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
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