Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Witch Must Die: The Hidden Meaning of Fairy Tales” as Want to Read:
The Witch Must Die: The Hidden Meaning of Fairy Tales
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Witch Must Die: The Hidden Meaning of Fairy Tales

3.89  ·  Rating Details  ·  358 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
In The Witch Must Die, Sheldon Cashdan explores how fairy tales help children deal with psychological conflicts by projecting their own internal struggles between good and evil onto the battles enacted by the characters in the stories. Not since Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment has the underlying significance of fantasy and fairy tales been so insightfully and entertai ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published July 7th 2000 by Basic Books (first published June 15th 1999)
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 The Witch Must Die, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Witch Must Die

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,175)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Beth Anne
Jul 28, 2009 Beth Anne rated it really liked it
i really enjoyed this book. it's a psychological breakdown of the symbolic meanings behind fairy tales, both mainstream and obscure. the book goes through the "deadly sins" of mankind (vanity, greed, sloth) and basically dissects fairy tales and how they fit into each of the sins. at the core, the book is an argument that these stories teach children that they should destroy/kill/banish the wickedness they hold inside of themselves...

i agree with other reviewers, the most interesting part of the
May 11, 2014 Julie rated it did not like it
The premise was fairy tales in the context of the seven deadly sins, but it veered off into other topics and stories. While I am sure you can take just about any story and find elements of fairy tale in them, that doesn't mean they should be in this book. He jumps from the topic headings of Vanity, Gluttony, "Objects That Love". That is not a sin, and was irrelevant and annoying. He gets the ending of The Velveteen Rabbit wrong, and I almost quit reading at that point. He oversimplifie ...more
Chris Cipollini
Oct 16, 2015 Chris Cipollini rated it really liked it
Im a life long fan of fairy tales. I love them. The souped up Disney versions, the cheerfully deranged originals and some of the contemporary yarns. I would go so far as to say they are probably one of my favorite thigs in the world. So I was delighted to come across this tome.

I truly enjoyed "The Witch Must Die". Being a fairly analytical person, I appreciated the psychological view the author took in assessing each tale, but not coming at the reader with just psycho babble, and also paying ho
Seb Read
Jul 26, 2015 Seb Read rated it liked it
The Witch Must Die is an interesting exploration of what fairy tales mean to children and social life more broadly. Specifically, it looks at the importance of the witch character and why they must die to complete the meaning of the fairytale and fulfil its purpose. The book also offers alternative interpretations of Freudian analysis, which it is suggested has dominated a lot of literary criticism of fairytales up until now. Cashdan interprets a number of the classic fairytales, while also intr ...more
Aug 26, 2009 Katy rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book as one way to understand the draw of fairytales and how they speak to us psychologically. The treastise is interspersed with recaps of many fairytales and their different versions. I discovered with pleasure some fairytales I hadn't heard before and enjoyed immensely. I also really like the idea that the witch represents our own inner vices and thus, to live happily ever after, the witch must die. Definitely.
Jan 01, 2015 Claudia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference, 2014
Un buen libro para saber más sobre los cuentos de hadas y sus significados. Gracias a él he recordado cómo me gustaba Madre Nieve de pequeña, y cómo este y otro cuento sobre la constancia eran mis preferidos.
La razón por la que le he dado las tres estrellas es a causa de las erratas del libro de esta versión, que se podían haber corregido fácilmente.
En conclusión, espero que se reedite (y se actualice) algún día.
Emily Ann Meyer
Aug 09, 2007 Emily Ann Meyer rated it really liked it
This was a great book. It approached fairy tales from a rather psychological, symbolic approach, reading into the themes and the deeper meanings.

The author's thesis was, essentially that the wicked characters in these stories embody the symbolic wickedness within ourselves that we struggle to destroy, and/or common enemies in our own lives (e.g., the good witch/bad witch being the nurturing vs. selfish aspects of our mothers, so that we learn to embrace our mother while holding her blameless fo
Mar 29, 2014 Kerri rated it really liked it
This is such an interesting view on fairy tales. I like how Cashdan brings in other opinions on what fairy tales mean and then says why he does or does not agree with them, and in the appendix is a large list of other books to pursue for further study if interested. I mostly agree with Cashdan's analysis, though there were one or two things that just did not sit quite right with me and I am still thinking upon them. He presents himself and his ideas clearly and easily, quoting directly from fair ...more
Feb 01, 2012 Janet rated it really liked it
Shelves: grownup, fairy-tale
The Witch Must Die is a straightforward, readable analysis of fairy tales from the perspective of childhood psychology. It's refreshing to see an author chuck elaborate Freudian analysis and explain the appeal of fairy tales as a way for children to deal with the temptations of the various ways to be bad. Cashdan describes "the witch" as both a representation of 'the bad mother' and of the negative side of the self, and explains why the witch must die. She also explores fairy tales that help chi ...more
Wayne C
Jul 01, 2015 Wayne C rated it it was amazing
An excellent scholarly study of fairy tales from around the world. Gave insight into these stories I'd never considered before and really challenged me to re-read the ones I knew and explore others that I'd never heard before. Worth the read if you'd like to know the story behind the story.
Megan Beals
Oct 21, 2012 Megan Beals rated it really liked it
This is an excellent thesis on how we relate to fairy tales in our formative years, and why they have such a hold on us as adults. Cashdan explores a different fairy tale in each chapter and relates it to its central sin (gluttony in Hansel and Gretel, envy in Snow White...), and how those themes are encorperated into our internal ideas of self. It's a very smart, very readable way of looking at fairy tales as they are seen by children. And it gleefully reincorperates tales as they were original ...more
Andie Froim
Feb 14, 2008 Andie Froim rated it really liked it
I feel like I learned so much about fairy tales from this book. I've had my fair share of literature courses, and this book was as informative of the best of them - and was enjoyable to read. I probably enjoyed it as much as I would enjoy reading any of the fairy tales the book is about.
I love the real stories behind a lot of the cleaned-up, Disney-fied versions of fairy tales that we have today, especially Sleeping Beauty. Who knew! I enjoyed hearing the author's ideas, and I love the interpret
T. Finley
Feb 01, 2016 T. Finley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Did I like it? Yes.
Would I reread it? Yes.
Would I recommend it? Yes.
Oct 09, 2015 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Really loved this one!
Cory Thomas
Jul 31, 2012 Cory Thomas rated it really liked it
An interesting look at fairy tales from the perspective of child developmental psychology. Focus is on internal 'sins' and how children use tales to cope with them. Cashdan can get entrenched in his interpretations and insist on a singular 'use' of any one fairy tale, rather than recognizing it as functioning at multiple depths within a developing mind. Well-structured prose with embedded tales to explore each sub-theme. Case studies distract from book's focus. Accessible writing. Smart, engagin ...more
Jun 17, 2010 Kendall rated it really liked it
This book goes through all the fairy tales and explains some of the hidden meanings behind them. Whether you take the meaning to heart or not is completely up to the reader. It was intriguing to learn some of these meanings, as well as see the differences from the original stories and the stories we know today through Walt Disney. It will inevitably have you looking at fairy tales in a whole new light, and you will probably never see them the same way again. I enjoyed it though!
Apr 25, 2010 Michele rated it really liked it
Fantastic overview of faerie tale motifs, and a perfect starting place for for anyone interested in the psychology of children's literature. Written in a very accessible style, this book covers enough ground to be diverse and interesting, but doesn't weigh itself down with excessive details or confuse the layman with scholarly jargon. Recommended for those wanting a basic introduction to faerie tale criticism that will definitely leave you wanting to know more. :)
Jun 11, 2009 Elizabeth rated it liked it
Shelves: psych-books
Super interesting look at fairy tales and why we 'need' them.. What I like most about it was really that you got read the real versions of the fairy tales and not the disney versions. The real versions are really not that PG, they can be kind of intense. Like the real story of Sleeping Beauty, Sleeping Beauty was raped by the prince when she was 'asleep' or under the spell of the witch. Yeah I can't figure out why that didn't make it into the movie.
Dec 23, 2012 Chris rated it really liked it
This book was a very interesting analysis of the place fairy tales have in culture. I warn you, it can get rather deep into psychology (simply look at the other books the author has written), but even a layman would, I imagine, get a lot out of it. I was pleased to note that he rejected the Freudian analysis of most stories. Psychoanalysis can get very tedious with regards to hidden meanings and the like, so I enjoyed their absence (for the most part)
Jun 22, 2011 Shelly rated it liked it
Very interesting exploration of the power of fairy tales, the underlying meaning of the stories and how they can be used to teach children to avoid different vices. The book compares different versions of familiar fairy tales that have been "Disneyfied." The author also introduces some less familiar Russian fairy tales. Some of the theories are a bit out there but they are entertaining none the less!
Mar 17, 2011 Jo rated it it was amazing
Excellent blend of psychology and fairy tales. Admittedly two of my passions, however, Cashdan explains and interprets the fairy tales in an easy manner to maximize understanding. Loved how he would compare the actual tale itself with popular interpretations today - think Disney. I would recommend this book to any parent or teacher interested in teaching their child fairy tales.
Nov 18, 2012 Annie rated it it was amazing
Very pleasant. I remember reading my Blue Fairy book as a little girl and being really frightened by how dark and scary some of these stories were but being unable to stop reading them. I loved the explanation for why we crave scary stories, the defense of Disney and evolution of these stories today. Great book, I'd recommend it to anybody who loves folk tales.
There were some really insightful bits in here, and Cashdan clearly has a thorough background on fairy tale scholarship and psychology. But I was not entirely convinced by the argument that fairy tales were focused on these "sins," and would occasionally get annoyed by all the references to Cashdan's personal experiences with family members and patients.
Jan 06, 2014 Ginny rated it liked it
How funny that a non-fiction book would be my favorite book from Spring Break :P It was very interesting though!
May 08, 2009 Kitty rated it liked it
Why does every fair-tales must have a "happy ending?" and how did this play a major role of a child's psychology. This is a must read book, on how a fairy tale can shape a child's mind. From snow-white to sleeping beauty. This is for anyone who wants more than just a happy ending.
Mar 21, 2013 Sue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had no idea fairy tales were edited "down" from the adult level, or changed in any way. It is true that, as children, we read a watered-down version and never look back. There were some real surprises here, explained at the collegiate level. I have to say, more than I expected.
Stephanie Woody-groshelle
Dec 03, 2012 Stephanie Woody-groshelle rated it it was amazing
Very informative collection of the psychology of societies and collective feminine archetypes. I thought the author made an interesting point of the necessity of the female villain. This book was a great source of perspective when I was doing some research for some of my artwork.
Jun 12, 2015 Darren rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Excellent study of fairy tales and their usefulness in moral teaching for children (and adults, too). I really enjoyed the last chapter, a discussion of modern takes on fairy tales.
Oct 03, 2011 Jasmine rated it it was amazing
I really like reading about the true fairy tales and how Disney changed them up. I read this book for a CSN class "The History of Witch Craft" and found the book really interesting, especially because I'm such a big fan of Fairy Tales!
Jun 04, 2008 Cat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those inclined to serious frivolity
this book is a psychologically analytical dissection of fairy tales. i am thoroughly enjoying it, both for the insight (did you know snow white's actually about vanity?) and the gruesome, extravagant quotes on the titular witch's death.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 39 40 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
For Adults first, then for children 2 6 Aug 10, 2012 09:55AM  
  • Off with their heads!: fairy tales and the culture of childhood
  • The Interpretation of Fairy Tales
  • Spinning Straw into Gold: What Fairy Tales Reveal About the Transformations in a Woman's Life
  • From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers
  • Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion: The Classical Genre for Children and the Process of Civilization
  • Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales
  • Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale
  • 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
  • Clever Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales
  • Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie & Folklore in the Literature of Childhood
  • Don't Tell the Grown-Ups: The Subversive Power of Children's Literature
  • Medieval Folklore: A Guide to Myths, Legends, Tales, Beliefs, and Customs

Share This Book