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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  ·  Rating details ·  4,243 ratings  ·  355 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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3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,243 ratings  ·  355 reviews

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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
Dec 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely love this book. Of lately--few past decades--fairy tales have gotten a bad reputation, often cited as examples of horrible role models for girls and boys. However, it seems we--modern us--are in part responsible for turning fairy tales into those kind of stories because they weren't like that originally.

In this book Bettelheim explores how deeply significant these seemingly out-of-touch with the present world stories are for children's development.

One of the things we need to unders
Nandakishore Varma
Sep 13, 2011 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
Dec 14, 2009 rated it did not like it
I had to read Bruno Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment many years ago for a university-level course I was taking in the summer (on specifically Charles Perrault's and the Grimms' fairy tale collections as pscho-drama therapy for children), and while the author does indeed have some interesting takes on what fairy tales as a literary/oral genre can mean, and that they are important for children and their psychologic development, the massive Freudianism of Bettelheim's analysis and that he basic ...more
نعیمه بخشی
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
علاقه من به موضوعات رازآمیز و جادویی بهخاطر ارتباطشان با استعاره و نماد است. برای کلام پنهانشان که امری ساده را عمیق و معنادار میکند و این خاصیت ذهن و روان انسان است که شاید حتی بیاختیار معنایی بگذارد در دل یک قصهی عامیانه و یا شاید آدمهایی پیدا شوند که معنایی از دل سادگی پریانهها بیرون بکشند. هر کدام از اینها که باشد، من را مجاب میکند به خواندنشان.
افسون افسانهها بررسی عمیق و مفصلی درباره قصههای پریان است. شاید برایمان سؤال باشد که چرا قصههایی که در کودکی شنیدهایم پر از نامادریهای بدجنس و جادوگ
Feb 13, 2015 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
Mar 30, 2009 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.
Algirdas Brukštus
Saldainis, o ne knyga. Privaloma literatūra visiems jauniems tėvams ir seneliams.
Jan 22, 2011 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
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
Dec 07, 2011 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
May 25, 2015 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.
Federico Sosa Machó
Removedor planteo que desde una perspectiva psicoanalítica aborda un importante corpus textual de cuentos de hadas. La obra se centra en la importancia de los relatos en la constitución de la personalidad de los niños, y aunque algún pasaje parece algo sobreinterpretado, el conjunto es muy interesante. Como podía suponerse, la sexualidad aparece jugando un papel fundamental y es adecuadamente destacada más allá de la aparente inocencia superficial de los relatos. La cenicienta o Caperucita roja ...more
Joanne Freitas
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Este livro é adequado quem gosta de contos de fadas e de saber os aspectos submersos sobre eles, ou seja, em que medida ajuda no desenvolvimento cognitivo da criança. Para além disso, fala de como os contos de fadas são todos pensados de uma forma inteligente e refletem na vida real das crianças.
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: austrai, jav, psichologija
Labiausiai patiko todėl, kad patvirtino mano požiūrį, jog viskas gerai su toms stebuklinėm pasakom, per daug lyčių vaidmenų jos neformuoja, nebent tėvai patys tendencingai parenka, kad mergaitėms skaitysim tik apie princeses, o berniukams - tik ne apie princeses :) Įdomiai parašyta knyga, skaityti buvo gana lengva.
J. Mulrooney
Apr 05, 2014 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
In terms of the psychoanalysis here, which is heavily based on Freud’s work, it sounds like a lot of rubbish to me. And if you know Bettelheim’s work from his work on autism, you’re not entirely safe from that here — he only mentions it once or twice, but it’s still jarringly wrong. Still, some of his analyses of the texts on a literary level do make sense, and his suggestions of how some people might apply their own lives in understanding and interpreting them are fascinating. As a literary wor ...more
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
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
Adriana Scarpin
Leia os livros de Marie-Louise von Franz. Por favor.
Ana Rotea
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Au fost odată ca niciodată basmele, în prezent istorii demodate și desconsiderate pentru simplism și cruzime, fără de care însă - zice Bruno și parcă-l cred - nu ne mai făceam noi mari. Sau, mai exact, nu ne mai făceam bine. Basmele se adresează angoaselor și meschinăriilor inconștiente din fiecare, ne educă discret și fără cicăleală, ne asigură subliminal că tot ce ni se întâmplă (pierderi, obstacole, amenințări, conflicte) ține de firescul vieții, la fel ca și finalul favorabil nouă - numai de ...more
Jovita Vaitkutė
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Pasakos mus lydi nuo pat mažų dienų, kai tėvai, norėdami užmigdyti, jas sekdavo prieš miegą. Tačiau retai kada susimąstome, kad jos slepia gilesnę prasmę. Šioje knygoje yra analizuojama ta pasakos pusė, kuri paslėpta po įvairiais simboliais. Daugeliu atveju autorius pasakas sieja su paauglių lytine branda, santykiais su tėvais ir kitais brandos aspektais. Tekstai įdomūs, daugelis įžvalgų stebina, kaip kad "Raudonkepuraitėje" kalbama apie žmogaus aistras, oralinį godumą, agresiją ir pradėjusios b ...more
Mar 13, 2017 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
Amar Pai
Feb 25, 2012 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
Dec 24, 2009 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
Katherine Sas
Apr 29, 2015 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
Aitziber Conesa
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I did enjoy some of the historical information regarding the origin of various fairy tales, this is not a book that I enjoyed or would recommend. Bettelheim is clearly knowledgeable and has studied fairy tales for quite some time. However, I found his dependence on the psychological beliefs of Freud too heavy. He claims that what is special about fairy tales is that they meet a child where he/she is and gives them whatever it is that they need at the time. This, I do agree with. He then, t ...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
J.Aleksandr Wootton
Mar 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Heavily Freudian, but a teaspoon of salt will help the Bettelheim go down. Offers much insight into the positive ways children interact psychologically with fairy tales and fairy tale tellers.
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  • Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion
  • From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers
  • The Witch Must Die: The Hidden Meaning of Fairy Tales
  • The Interpretation of Fairy Tales
  • Don't Tell the Grown-Ups: The Subversive Power of Children's Literature
  • 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
  • Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales
  • Spinning Straw into Gold: What Fairy Tales Reveal About the Transformations in a Woman's Life
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.

“The child intuitively comprehends that although these stories are unreal, they are not untrue ...” 104 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.” 26 likes
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