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The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales
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The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  2,693 ratings  ·  214 reviews
The famous child psychologist, Bruno Bettelheim, explains how fairy tales educate, support, and liberate the emotions of children.
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 12th 1977 by Vintage (first published 1975)
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I’ve been meaning to read this for years. This isn’t quite what I was expecting, though. And given this was published in 1976 it seems much too Freudian than it ought to have been too. There were times when I would have been sure it was written in the 1950s.

Now, saying this is a Freudian analysis of fairy tales might be enough to put some people off. And that would be a real pity. There are few things more suited to a Freudian interpretation than literature – as a teacher of mine once said, ‘be
Bettelheim has totally schooled me on the phallic symbol. I have learned, in reading about how to read fairy tales, that I am woefully under-educated about penises and their manifold symbols, which there are exponentially more of than I ever could have dreamed about or hoped for.

This is an amazing and amazingly flawed book. His points about the function of fairy tales, how children and adults read them and what children get out of reading them on pre-, sub-, and conscious levels, is convincing.
O livro de Bettelheim, é verdadeiramente um livro surpreendente, ele mostra que os contos de fadas têm tanto sucesso entre as crianças por que representam elas mesmas, em seus incoscientes principalmente.

Mostra que as madrastas más são na verdade suas mães, a parte ruim delas, e que os conflitos edipianos são centro de várias histórias, mostra versões que eu não conhecia, mostra o contexto histórico em que os contos foram criados e em que ajudam as crianças. Por ex. em João e o Pé de Feijão é um
Kaycie Hall
I suppose this book was ground-breaking when it was first published, but honestly, I thought it focused way too much on the idea of all children having an oedipal complex and maybe not enough on how the violence and darkness in original fairy tales address something in a child's imagination (which the sugarcoated Disney tales leaving wanting).

I also disliked Bettelheim's analysis of Charles Perrault and his tales in general---to say that they're flippant and mocking is not really fair and it al
Ugh. This book was a nightmare to read. It was assigned for my Storytelling class, otherwise I would've dropped it after the introduction. Bettelheim is a famous psychologist who worked a lot with children. This book details (and I mean DEATAILS) his view of the importance of fairy tales to children's subconscious. Think Freudian fairy tales. I'm serious. And so is Bettelheim. He's completely serious about his ideas, which come off as far fetched and laughable some times. Much of what he writes ...more
Anyone who needs to be convinced that the protagonist of a children's story should always solve his or her own problems without adult help should read this book. If you can get past the outdated Freudian theory, this book is a fascinating examination of fairy tale motifs and how they help children come to terms with sibling rivalry, fear of abandonment, and other anxieties children face on the road to maturity. Bettelheim compares various versions of familiar tales and discusses theme at length. ...more
J. Mulrooney
Recommended for anyone who deals with children

Bettelheim was an old-fashioned Freudian psychiatrist -- the kind who talked to patients instead of drugging them -- and a Holocaust survivor. After the war, he emigrated to Chicago, where he did terrific work with children suffering from serious psychological problems.

The book uses a Freudian framework, but you don't have to believe in a literal id, ego, and superego to appreciate the insight Bettelheim brings to stories and how they are absorbed
Aitziber Conesa
Una obra magnífica, aunque posiblemente solo realmente apta para psicólogos, estudiantes de psicología y aficionados acerrimos a la misma.
Se trata del analisis completo y minucioso del simbolismo de los cuentos de hadas más conocidos y populares del imaginario europeo occidental desde la perspectiva psicoanalítica.
Olvidense de la inocencia suprema de los héroes de los cuentos de su infancia: ellos están obsesionados con la madre y la oralidad, tienen marcadisimos complejos de edipo e incluso su
Amar Pai
Good in that it gets you interested in the original versions of stories like Cinderella, Snow White, etc. It's nice to see someone think at length about the meaning, import, structure and significance of fairy tales, and there are definitely some good tidbits in here. One of my favorites-- instead of:

"And then they all lived happily ever after."

some stories end with:

"If they have not died, they are still alive."

Haha grim but true, that!

The main problem I had with this book is Bettelheim s psycho
Esta é uma obra resultante de uma extensa investigação e que analisa com profundidade os contos de fadas e o seu significado, a partir da vertente psicanalítica.
As explicações e análises detalhadas mostram a importância que os contos de fadas assumem para a criança; ao invés de serem prejudiciais por serem demasiado fantasiosos, eles promovem o desenvolvimento da criança, estimulando-a e ajudando-a a libertar as suas emoções.
A escrita de Bruno Bettelheim acaba por não ser tão acessível para quem
I'm about halfway through and have given up on this. It's as dry as a piece of old toast. I'm sure it was all very revolutionary when it came out, and probably influenced the likes of Marina Warner or Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood with their modern takes on fairy stories, but it all feels very dated and 60's Freudian. There are a lot more recent interesting books on both fairytale analysis and child development out there. 'The Child in the Mirror' and 'They f##k you up' on child development ...more
Anthony D Buckley
An interesting and important book, indeed, a classic. The points he make concerning the role of narrative (especially what we call fairy stories) in the development of children are definitely important. My feeling is, however, that Bettelheim is a bit rosy-spectacled. Eric Berne in "What do you say when you have said 'Hello'?" discusses a similar topic, but his argument has a harder edge. We maybe use narrative of whatever kind in forming our individual identities, but sometimes our identities a ...more
Great book. Was a revelation when I first read it as a student, but now I'd take issue with some of his ideas. Well maybe that's being a bit grand: I'd like to talk to him about the thinking behind some of his arguments...I could be convinced. Overall:life-changing ideas
I was raised on fairy tales. As a child, my parents and grandparents often told me stories, and I sought out both Andrew Lang and the Brothers Grimm collections of stories in written form (which Bettelheim argues is less effective). So I have to admit I don't fully buy his thesis that fairy tales are necessary for children to grow up into happy and well-adjusted adults - for the simple reason that I would be a lot better adjusted if this were true.

I can't deny that the book was fascinating, but
I'm actually not longer sure why this book was on my To Read list, although I'm guessing it might have come up while reading one of Joseph Campbell's books. Also, as a disclaimer, I pretty much skimmed the last 100 pages or so. The large scheme of the book I enjoyed: the exploration of the similar themes expressed in fairy tales that reflect the human race's views on morals and the human experience. I also enjoyed the small parts that talked about the origins/history of some of the fairy tales e ...more
Christian González
Bruno Bettelheim nos conduce por un recorrido a través de los cuentos de hadas que forjaron, sin que nosotros lo supiéramos, nuestras condiciones psicológicas frente a diferentes estímulos y nos ayudaron con nuestra maduración. Este libro es sin duda una valiosa herramienta para los padres que gustamos de leer a nuestros hijos, también nos habla de todas las formas de maduración psicológica que presentan los cuentos y como es que esta se da a través de su lectura, va mucho más allá de la simplis ...more
Karen Floyd
Are all psychiatrists obssessed with sex? This one certainly seemed to be. It would seem that all fairy folk tales (as he calls them)are telling us on a subconscious level how to grow up to become psychologically mature and have good sex lives. He has some valuable things to say, but he belabors his sexual ideas so these get drowned out.
And he says that in the genre of animal/monstrous spouses, women are always beautiful animals while men are usually fierce and repulsive. I beg to differ: Bettel
Rebecca Richardson
Feb 25, 2014 Rebecca Richardson marked it as to-read
Cate Blanchett Favorite - I read this in drama school. It's an analysis from a psychologist's perspective of the meaning and power of fairy tales. One example that sticks in my mind is the metaphor of a child going into the forest. Bettelheim makes the point that the structure of this story parallels children's experiences in life—how you can be frightened but eventually make it through to the other side. One can feel expendable—particularly in this day and age, and especially working in film—an ...more
A collection of essays by Bruno a Bettelheim, using psychoanalysis to deconstruct traditional fairy tales. I read a few of them for my children's literature class and checked this out from the library last year to read the rest but had to return it before I could finish, but I read enough to know that it's truly brilliant and I'll never look at fairy tales the same way or take their simplicity at face value. I recommend these essays to every person who enjoys the fairy tales. Copies of this can ...more
Emma Sea
Jul 21, 2014 Emma Sea marked it as non-fiction-to-read
NTS: requested via library
Julie H.
Bettelheim, a psychologist, examines common elements of fairy tales in several cultures from a Freudian perspective. While you certainly won't agree with all of it, it is certainly interesting and a provocative discussion starter. Read it in a folklore class in grad school, but have come back to it several times since then when considering the human capacity for storytelling and the role of narrative in both scientific and non-scientific explanation. A classic.
Nov 20, 2011 Rebecca is currently reading it
I'll just say that since beginning this, I've dug up my old trusty Grimm's and I've been reading them, guts and gore and all, to my four year old, who has been LOVING it. Although the fact that she just asked me how to make a whip might should make me nervous.
An incredible layman's intro to child developmental psychology, this is an absolutely vital read for storytellers of any stripe or any parent looking to peek inside the emotions and ideas of the important little people in their life.

I became aware of 'Uses' after reading an essay by Martin Scorcese which talked about how Stanley Kubrick used Bettelheim to compose the screenplay for 'The Shining' (side note: The Shining is a terrible, terrible bedtime story for children and not recommended by Bet
Joseph Haletky
Finally was inspired to read this by a great-niece of mine whose one-year old son had his first nightmare and it upset her! I told her not to worry, that it was a natural part of an infant's growing up and confronting the complexity of the world and that dreams are where we process all the new input. Offhandedly I mentioned this book and its then groundbreaking discussion of how fairy tales help children to come to terms with life issues and thought I'd better read it myself. I found it a little ...more
FI-NAL-LY!! I've read it all!!
This is one of the few books I wanted to put away as soon as I started reading. Optimistic as I was, I read on and hoped it would become better. It didn't. It only got worse and worse, but I'm too OCD to stop reading any book I started reading.

Bettelheim's approach is hardly scientific and leaves too less space for alternate conclusions. On top of that, he sounds like someone who knows the child's mind like nobody else and has taken some time to teach all this wonde
Janice Todd
I always loved fairy tales, the subtle undertones and ideas... preferring Grimm's Fairy Tales or Hans Christian Anderson... Bettelheim discusses his understandings of the more common tales, explains how Disney and Hollywood weakened and/or distorted what the authentic fairy tale was telling us. How they were used to pass on lessons, help children and I suspect parents grapple with issues... sibling rivalry, growing up and leaving home, facing and overcoming adversity. I didn't agree with everyt ...more
Now I know why Bruno Bettelheim's text is a classic. As a professional child psychologist, Bettelheim analyzes traditional fairy tales from the context of Freud's psychosexual developmental phases. I had been exposed to the idea of the oedipal complex before, but never put much stock in it. However, reading Bettelheim's analysis of how that framework applies to ancient fairy tales, known in multiple cultures, crafted over generations, over and over again, you begin to think there's something to ...more
Barbara Spurll
My curiosity was peaked when this book was made reference to by another author, regarding what the frog symbolizes in fairy tales. The book did not disappoint, in fact opened my eyes to the unconscious messages that classic fairy tales hold for children. Issues like sibling rivalry, oedipal conflicts, abandonment issues, good mother/bad mother dynamics and leaving home help children come to terms with the real life issues they face on a day to day basis. This book stays on the bookshelf to refer ...more
Sam Geaney
Bruno Bettelheim's examination of the meaning of fairy tales makes for some interesting but repetitive reading. Bettelheim applies Freud's theories to various well-known fairy tales in order to argue the depth of meaning and importance of fairy tales to children of all ages but, although some intriguing and well-supported arguments are advanced, the book proves to be rather repetitious. The books opening provides most of the ideas that appear throughout the book with the rest acting almost as an ...more
در کودکان عمل جایگذین ادراک است و هرچه احساس کودک شدیدتر جایگذینی بیشتر است. از نظر کودک عمل دلیل عمل است و وقتی که کسی چیزی را می‌شکند برای این نیست که خشمگین است بلکه تنها می شکند. کودک خشم را نه به عنوان خشم که به عنوان انگیزه ای قوی برای خراب کردن تجربه میکند و فقط پس از بلوغ است که با عواطف آنچنان که باید آشنا می شود.بی انکه به انگیزه آن دست عملی زند یا بخواهد دست به عملی بزند. کودک با خود نمی اندیشد که «اینقدر خشمگین هستم که می توانم این آدم را بکشم.» بلکه می اندیشد «وقتی ببینمش، می کشمش» ...more
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Fairy Tales Eclectic: The Uses of Enchantment 1 6 Jul 14, 2014 09:58AM  
  • Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion: The Classical Genre for Children and the Process of Civilization
  • The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales
  • The Interpretation of Fairy Tales
  • From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers
  • Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales
  • The Witch Must Die: The Hidden Meaning of Fairy Tales
  • Morphology of the Folktale
  • Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale
  • Forbidden Journeys: Fairy Tales and Fantasies by Victorian Women Writers
  • Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie & Folklore in the Literature of Childhood
  • 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
  • Children's Literature: A Reader's History, from Aesop to Harry Potter
Bruno Bettelheim was an Austrian-born American child psychologist and writer. He gained an international reputation for his views on autism and for his claimed success in treating emotionally disturbed children.

More about Bruno Bettelheim...
Freud and Man's Soul: An Important Re-Interpretation of Freudian Theory A Good Enough Parent: The Guide To Bringing Up Your Child The Informed Heart Empty Fortress The Children of the Dream

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“The child intuitively comprehends that although these stories are unreal, they are not untrue ...” 75 likes
“The unrealistic nature of these tales (which narrowminded rationalists object to) is an important device, because it makes obvious that the fairy tales’ concern is not useful information about the external world, but the inner process taking place in an individual.” 15 likes
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