Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Breaking the Magic Spell: Radical Theories of Folk and Fairy Tales” as Want to Read:
Breaking the Magic Spell: Radical Theories of Folk and Fairy Tales
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Breaking the Magic Spell: Radical Theories of Folk and Fairy Tales

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  176 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
This revised, expanded, and updated edition of the 1979 landmark Breaking the Magic Spell examines the enduring power of fairy tales and the ways they invade our subjective world. In seven provocative essays, Zipes discusses the importance of investigating oral folk tales in their socio-political context and traces their evolution into literary fairy tales, a metamorphosis ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published July 1st 2002 by University Press of Kentucky (first published 1979)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Breaking the Magic Spell, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Breaking the Magic Spell

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 842)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
This is a remarkably good book. It is a post-Frankfurt school, Marxist look at the significance of fairy tales. I’ve recently read The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales – a neo-Freudian interpretation of fairy tales and it is very lucky I read these books this way around, as if I’d read this one first there is very little chance I would have read the other. Not only does this book mention Bettelheim’s little problems with faking his qualifications and abusing childre ...more
Anna Smithberger
Feb 22, 2015 Anna Smithberger rated it it was ok
Zipes makes a lot of interesting and useful points but so much of this is boring. He spends most of his time saying every other scholar of fairy tales is wrong because their perspective isn't historically-based German Marxist enough, and I just really did not care for that.

He also did not have a very strong "why do we care?" aspect to his argument, so I didn't. Care, that is. Because what am I supposed to do with an historically-based German Marxist perspective on fairy tales? Not much. I agree
May 31, 2015 Shari rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Folk and fairy tales --we all grew up with them. We think we know something about them. We are reminded of them in subtle ways every day through the media; movies, TV, commercials, advertisements, and even in the way news is packaged and dealt out to us. The motifs of the folk and fairy tale are so well anchored in our brains that stories, news stories, word-of-mouth stories and even gossip makes use of them.

Zipes gives us the history of these stories which probably arose in the Ice Age, when m
Amy Rae
Man, I am not on top of my review-writing this month. All right, let's get down to brass tacks.

Jack Zipes has written an important book on folk stories and fairy tales. For me personally, it was hard to read and gain much from; while it's important that he's covered the history of studies of folk and fairy tales in pretty clear detail, it doesn't exactly make for fascinating reading.

One of the hard things about this book--for me, at least--was the fact that so much of it relied on sources and ac
Dec 26, 2009 E rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: theory-lovers and fairy tale enthusiasts
"Breaking the Magic Spell" is one of Jack Zipes' earliest books, and an important and useful text. I read a copy published in 1979, but I know there's an updated and annotated version that was released more recently. The book covers the history of German folk and fairy tales, especially the philosophical history (i.e. the historical role of the tales and their resultant ideologies), the history of the romantic fairy tale, the potential utopian function of the fairy tale in contemporary society, ...more
Apr 10, 2015 Ilana rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I really enjoyed Jack Zipes' theories on fairy tales, and can't wait to read Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion. I am also really glad I read his chapter on Bruno Bettelheim before I starting reading The Uses of Enchantment. It gave me some idea of what to expect (i.e. condescending bullshit).
Nov 24, 2014 Maria rated it really liked it
Hmm... Actually, I hardly had any knowledge about the works that Zipes mentioned and talked about. Therefore his essays, although interesting, were quite dense to me and their points didn't actually stick with me. With the exception of the last essay, they pretty much went in and went straight out of my mind again.

The last essay, a response to Bettelheim's book "Uses of Enchantment", was so nice to read! First of all because he basically ridiculed Bettelheim's approach (which he called 'pathetic
Katelyn Patterson
Mar 16, 2012 Katelyn Patterson rated it really liked it
This won't be a cover to cover read for me, for now at least. I am doing some research for my Storytelling class. We were pointed to Zipes essay on Bettelheim which is the last chapter of this book. I was so fascinated that I had to find out more. Folk tales were never really intended for a young audience. They were, in fact, kept from children to avoid giving them "crazy ideas" about rebelling against authoritarian or patriarchal rule. Zipes describes the sociopolitical transition from folk tal ...more
Laura Head
Jul 15, 2015 Laura Head rated it really liked it
An interesting read and extremely useful. This book actually allowed university reading to become exciting!
Mar 26, 2016 Jonathan rated it really liked it
A very helpful guide to understanding fairytales and folk tales, and that the two are different from each other. It also sets historical and social context for both tales along with criticism for both genres. It is also a study in utopia and how folk and fairytales are unfulfilled wishes that the storytellers seek to fulfill.
I skipped over quite a bit (particularly in the essay about cinematic fairy tales, as I haven't seen Star Wars or any of the films he discussed, really), but what I read was quite good. He's insightful, and I tend to agree with him. To an extent. He's also very very Marxist/anti-capitalist, and I'm less emphatic in my pro-children's-literature and anti-Capitalist stances.
Aug 09, 2011 Rachel rated it it was ok
If you love super dense, highly intellecutal books about the inner-workings and impact of fairy tales, then this book is for you!! Sadly, it was not for me...
Brigid Keely
Couldn't get into this. Have liked other work of his, don't know if this is unusually dry or I'm just not in the mood for it. Might try again later.
Lynette Twaddle
This is a fantastic book to read if you are interested in folk lore. I thoroughly recommend it.
Jul 12, 2015 Sara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: thesis-books
definitely going to come back to this and read it again. some chapters more than other!
Yalonda Neff
This is a great theoretical book for those who have an interest in fairy/folk tales.
Nov 12, 2011 Saroon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: thesis-books
definitely going to come back to this and read it again. some chapters more than other!
Jun 12, 2007 Willow rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: socialists and folklorists
Shelves: folklore, non-fiction
An interesting socialist perspective on the purpose of folk and fairy tales.
Catherine Woodman
Jul 29, 2011 Catherine Woodman rated it liked it
from one of the few people writing about theories of fairy tales
Sep 26, 2007 Veronica rated it really liked it
Intriguing study of the socio-political context of global fairytales.
H. Anne Stoj
Dec 01, 2008 H. Anne Stoj is currently reading it
Shelves: folkloremyth
progressed to the plaid bag.
very Marxist
Kenny added it
Jul 29, 2016
Anna marked it as to-read
Jul 29, 2016
Jessie McMains
Jessie McMains marked it as to-read
Jul 27, 2016
Reniel Cuña
Reniel Cuña marked it as to-read
Jul 26, 2016
Sarah Howell
Sarah Howell marked it as to-read
Jul 25, 2016
Elitza marked it as to-read
Jul 24, 2016
Nesrin rated it it was amazing
Jul 12, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 28 29 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Off with their heads!: fairy tales and the culture of childhood
  • From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers
  • The Interpretation of Fairy Tales
  • Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie & Folklore in the Literature of Childhood
  • The Witch Must Die: The Hidden Meaning of Fairy Tales
  • Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale
  • Spinning Straw into Gold: What Fairy Tales Reveal About the Transformations in a Woman's Life
  • Don't Tell the Grown-Ups: The Subversive Power of Children's Literature
  • Forbidden Journeys: Fairy Tales and Fantasies by Victorian Women Writers
  • At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Nymphs, and Other Troublesome Things
  • Fairy Tales: A New History
  • Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales
  • Clever Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales
  • The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales
  • Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children's Literature
Jack David Zipes is a retired Professor of German at the University of Minnesota. He has published and lectured extensively on the subject of fairy tales, their linguistic roots, and argued that they have a "socialization function". According to Zipes, fairy tales "serve a meaningful social function, not just for compensation but for revelation: the worlds projected by the best of our fairy tales ...more
More about Jack D. Zipes...

Share This Book

“Over the last three centuries our historical reception of folk and fairy tales has been so negatively twisted by aesthetic norms, educational standards and market conditions that we can no longer distinguish folk tales from fairy tales nor recognize that the impact of these narratives stems from their imaginative grasp and symbolic depiction of social realities. Folk and fairy tales are generally confused with one another and taken as make-believe stories with no direct reference to a particular community or historical tradition. Their own specific ideology and aesthetics are rarely seen in the light of a diachronic historical development which has great bearing on our cultural self-understanding.” 0 likes
More quotes…