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The Witch Must Die: The Hidden Meaning of Fairy Tales
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The Witch Must Die: The Hidden Meaning of Fairy Tales

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  394 Ratings  ·  49 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)
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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
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.
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
Jul 22, 2016 Americanogig rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book more than I did. I appreciated the focus on some of the older, darker fairytales and yes, even I, had not heard of quite of all of them. However, a lot of the psychological underpinnings attached to the tales seemed to be quite a reach. I was hoping for more of a sociological perspective. Why society as a whole needs these things. I think the book would have been stronger had it just focused on the psychological aspect (again, though I disagree with many of the author' ...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.
Mar 24, 2016 Jernelly rated it liked it
Analyzing fairy tales from a psychoanalytic way is what got me to pick up this book. I found the stories to be the most potent in just themselves, and found the explanations and analysis wasn't as in depth as I hoped. I liked the Jungian theory analysis (the shadow self, self-actualization) which I tend to side more with than Freud ideas (sexual oppression and desires) which Cashdan seems to agree. I enjoyed learning about child psychology and concepts like transitional objects and the Good Moth ...more
Charlotte Coburn
May 12, 2016 Charlotte Coburn rated it it was ok
While I love that this book takes you on a tour of many classic fairy tales, and some lesser known ones, the authors arguments are loosely held together. Cashdan attempts to organize the tales by sin, and somehow manages to contradict his own statements rather than support them. The book begins by stating common myths about fairy tales, 1, that they are for children, and 2, that they impart some sort of moral lesson. Strangely, the remainder of the book centers around exactly how the fairy tales ...more
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
Lizzie K
Apr 28, 2016 Lizzie K rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed reading this book. The author delves into the world of fairy tales and sorts the stories by the sins they contain. The author poses a theory that fairy tales are built to help children deal with their shortcomings and discusses what each type of character means in a story. This book was amusing, had lots of puns, and introduced me to some new fairy tales I had not heard of before along with stories I grew up with. I highly recommend for people who love fairy tales and who want t ...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.
Jun 29, 2016 Munch rated it it was amazing
I lent this book to a friend from work and before she could even start it her boyfriend started reading it. He's even got his friends interested in reading it! She has demanded that they get their own copy since she wants the chance at it
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
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 neverwhere 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)
Andra Nicoara
Sep 19, 2016 Andra Nicoara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
O carte ce merita citita de catre fiecare, indiferent de varsta!
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.
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For Adults first, then for children 2 6 Aug 10, 2012 09:55AM  
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