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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

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  3,638 Ratings  ·  300 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
Nandakishore Varma
Sep 13, 2011 Nandakishore Varma rated it it was amazing
This was the first book which assured me that my enduring interest in fairy tales was scholarly and not something to be scoffed at as juvenile. Until then, I have been blissfully unaware of the psychological depth of fairy tales and how a lot of major literary works are inspired by them. Now there are fairy tale studies by the dozen, and many are fascinating: but Bettelheim is the first person who opened the door for me, therefore this book holds a special place in my heart.

I have read that, in
Mar 30, 2009 Nicole rated it really liked it
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.
Dec 07, 2011 Jacqueline rated it really liked it
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 If you can get past the outdated Freudian theory, this book is a fascinating examination of fairy tale motifs and how they help children come to terms with sibling rivalry, fear of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
Feb 13, 2015 Jason rated it liked it
I don't think I could have taken much more of this. It has a definite entertainment value, absolutely, but come on - how can anyone take any of this stuff seriously? Part of me thinks Bettelheim is pulling our leg, he just has to be, but no - he's a straight-faced Freudian scholar of the reductive and ridiculous sort, and he's deadly serious about all of this. Here, check this out: the beanstalk in Jack and the Beanstalk represents a penis. Jack's climbing up the beanstalk represents Jack's disc ...more
Jan 22, 2011 Amy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sahel Ebrahimi
May 25, 2015 Sahel Ebrahimi rated it really liked it
I really liked the book since it was so informative on the subject of fairy tales and how they can be beneficial to children. I also did not know how to start reading about fairy tales' criticism, so as a beginning it helped my initiation to the subject.I'd recommend it to people who want to write something on fairy tales and how they can help children get over their psychological and also oedipal problem, if there are any.
J. Mulrooney
Apr 05, 2014 J. Mulrooney rated it it was amazing
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
Amy Rae
I can't believe I'm going to start this review with a Neil Gaiman quote, which is both incredibly pretentious and apt to make you think I think far better of Gaiman than I actually do, but here goes:

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

eta: It turns out Gaiman lifted that particular line from an author I respect far more, so let's start this over again with a G.K. Chesterton quote:

Fairy tales do not gi
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
Jan 12, 2010 Cleiton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 13, 2017 Angigames rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Letto con grande entusiasmo iniziale, sono arrivata alla fine che ero da un lato affascinata, da un lato fermamente convinta che non tutte le teorie espresse dall’autore siano vere e assolutamente applicabili nella maggior parte dei casi.
Ci sono tantissime variabili da considerare nella formazione psicologica di un bambino e non tutti i bambini reagiscono alla stessa maniera, la realtà è questa.
Il saggio comunque è molto interessante e ha aperto un mondo che fino a quel momento era per me scono
Katherine Sas
Apr 29, 2015 Katherine Sas rated it really liked it
Bettelheim's Uses of Enchantment is one of those classic pieces of criticism that are both absolutely essential and hopelessly outdated. There is a lot of useful analysis and history, and there are some really lovely passages about the universality and applicability of fairy tales. He even quotes Tolkien on the subject, seeming to agree with him in his distaste for didactic, allegorical, and condescending stories (for children and adults). Unfortunately, as he gets into the nitty gritty of looki ...more
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
E' il primo trattato di psicologia che leggo e l'ho trovato più scorrevole di quanto pensassi, infatti è scritto in uno stile semplice e discorsivo senza tecnicismi. Probabilmente la facilità che ho avuto ad approcciarmi al testo in parte è dovuta al fatto che le fiabe mi hanno affascinato fin da piccola, quindi immergermi di nuovo in quel "mondo incantato", anche se con un approccio analitico, mi è stato in qualche modo familiare. Leggere che le storie con cui sono cresciuta non sono solo appas ...more
Amar Pai
Feb 25, 2012 Amar Pai rated it liked it
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
Oct 03, 2015 Rodrigo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bettelheim fue uno de los psicoanalistas más respetados en su tiempo, aunque hoy en día sus teorías, sobre todo las referentes al autismo, han sido seriamente cuestionadas. De orientación psicoanalítica casi fundamentalista, Bettelheim hace un análisis profundo y muy impresionante acerca de las historias, los personajes y las problemáticas presentadas en los cuentos de hadas con los que todos -o casi- crecimos, y en verdad que resulta interesantísimo. Sí, es cierto que se nota su afiliación rígi ...more
Aitziber Madinabeitia
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
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
Jan 13, 2014 Gideon rated it really liked it
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
Anthony Buckley
Feb 14, 2009 Anthony Buckley rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 05, 2014 Sunny rated it liked it
I thought this book dragged on a little bit and was very sexual in its explanation of most of the fairly tales we have grown up with. The first half of the book is an explanation of some of the best known fairly tales we have grown up with and in some places was really insightful but in others quite repetitive and boring. The chapters cover myth, the pleasure principle, importance of externalisation, brining order into chaos, our dual nature, languages, the youngest child, why some fairy tales w ...more
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
Jun 25, 2008 Rebecca marked it as to-read
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.
Jun 26, 2008 Jason rated it really liked it
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
In un primo momento questo saggio non mi ha entusiasmata: in primis ho trovato lo stile di Bettelheim pedante ed arido persino nei momenti in cui riassumeva i contenuti delle fiabe di cui parlava, in più quando l'ho cominciato, avendo letto l'introduzione che prometteva mari e monti, pensavo di leggere qualcosa che prendesse in analisi le fiabe più conosciute e ne spiegasse i vari lati oscuri, introducesse varianti, raccontasse curiosità; e invece era "solo" un altro saggio psicologico. All'iniz ...more
Nashr Afkar
نگارنده: عاطفه سلیانی - 29 ارديبهشت, 1388
منبع: کتابک (

کتاب "کودکان به قصه نیاز دارند: کاربردهای افسانه و افسون" کاربردها و کارکردهای قصه های عامیانه را در فرآیند فرهنگ پذیری نشان می دهد و
نقش قصه ها را در دنیای کودکان باز می گوید. کار کرد مثبت قصه ها در شکل گیری شخصیت و افکندن نگاهی دوباره به قصه های عامیانه بحث اصلی کتاب است.

بنابر "دیباچه" کتاب به قلم نویسنده: "امروزه مانند دوران گذشته مهمترین و دوشوارترین وظیفه ی تعلیم و تربیت این است که به کودک یاری رساند تا برای زیستن معنایی بیاب
Va Le
When I first opened this book I thought how I would read about the real meanings of the stories you are told when you are a child when analised. What I found was a book on childrens development through fairy tales and stories, and their meaning to the childs subconscious world.
The further you dive into this book you realize how much of a child still lives in you, and, personally it brings some insight for young people leaving home and experiencing how the first steps away from your parents home
Dec 24, 2009 Mallory rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Marc Nash
Oct 29, 2015 Marc Nash rated it liked it
1st read this many years ago and came back to it for a project I'm currently writing. Has it stood my test of time? Don't think so. It kind of depends on your view of Freudian psychoanalytic theory i think, for Bettleheim's seems just a bit overstated an argument to me. Yes fairy tales connect to a basically pre-literate, pre-sexual part of us in order to commune with our unconscious, but I can't help feeling the Oedipal analyses of these tales are a bit overstated and also their remedial/therap ...more
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  • The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales
  • Breaking the Magic Spell: Radical Theories of Folk and Fairy Tales
  • The Interpretation of Fairy Tales
  • Morphology of the Folktale
  • From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers
  • Forbidden Journeys: Fairy Tales and Fantasies by Victorian Women Writers
  • Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale
  • Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales
  • Don't Tell the Grown-Ups: The Subversive Power of Children's Literature
  • The Witch Must Die: The Hidden Meaning of Fairy Tales
  • Clever Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales
  • Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie & Folklore in the Literature of Childhood
  • At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Nymphs, and Other Troublesome Things
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.

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“The child intuitively comprehends that although these stories are unreal, they are not untrue ...” 93 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.” 24 likes
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