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

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3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  234 ratings  ·  34 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
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...more
Katy
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.
Emily Ann Meyer
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...more
Kerri
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
Janet
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
Megan Beals
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
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...more
Cory Thomas
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
Kendall
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!
Nevvie
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. :)
Elizabeth
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.
Chris
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)
Shelly
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!
Jo
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.
Annie
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.
Tortla
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.
Ginny
How funny that a non-fiction book would be my favorite book from Spring Break :P It was very interesting though!
Kitty
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.
Sue
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
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.
Jasmine
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!
Cat
Jun 04, 2008 Cat rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Kelly
It certainly was an interesting read, the book brings some attention to behind the scene thoughts on fairytales and though I may not agree with everything in the book it was still fun to read.
Mona Al-kazemi
Well-written and full of fairy tales to learn about. It turns out that the witch must die because she reflects the evil side in our personalities. Her death resolves our inner conflict!
Stephanie
Good nitty-gritty breakdown of fairy tales. Important note: this book approaches the need for fairy tales from a psychological perpspective more so than underlying folk themes.
Ellyn
I first read this book when I was on a fairy tale analysis kick. It's a fascinating look at the tenets of fairy tales from a psychological point of view.
Laura
Jul 14, 2009 Laura rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: people who enjoy fairy tales and looking beyond their surfaces
Recommended to Laura by: my grandmother
It's a non-fiction book looking at the role of the witch in fairy tales and literature using psychology. It's well written and an interesting read.
Analise
Let's just say that this is the book that re-kindled my passion for fairy tales.
Bridgett
Nice analysis of fairy tales, but mostly familiar material to me.
Megan
Interesting background on fairy tales, but slow at times.
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