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The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales Paperback – April 23, 1989

ISBN-13: 978-0679723936 ISBN-10: 0679723935

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 23, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679723935
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679723936
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #551,577 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Bettelheim argues convincingly that fairy tales provide a unique way for children to come to terms with the dilemmas of their inner lives." --"The Atlantic" "A charming book about enchantment, a profound book about fairy tales." --John Updike, "The New York Times Book Review"" ""A splendid achievement, brimming with useful ideas, with insights into how young children read and understand, and most of all overflowing with a realistic optimism and with an experienced and therapeutic good will." --Harold Bloom, "The New York Review of Books " "Provocative and persuasive." --"Boston Globe" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

The great child psychologist gives us a moving revelation of the enormous and irreplaceable value of fairy tales - how they educate, support and liberate the emotions of children.

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Customer Reviews

Unfortunately, I didn't find it lived up to its reputation.
Four-Headed Monster
Bruno Bettelheim's book is excellent in looking at the psychology behind fairy tales.
Christina Paul
This is the most serious book about children's books I ever hope to read.
Brian

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 85 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 11, 1998
Format: Paperback
Bruno Bettelheim makes a very good case for the importance of reading fairy tales to children. He proposes that by hearing about life-threatening problems, serious problems, children are given vital information for the planning of their lives and the formation of their personalities.

By hearing of success against great odds, children are given hope that they, too, as powerless as they may feel themselves (as children), can one day hope to "live happily ever after."

This is in sharp contrast to programming such as "Barney" which presents an unreal fairy-tale present. While children may enjoy seeing programs where there is no violence, they nevertheless DO need to have the reassurance that the difficulties they experience in daily living are universal, and that by perseverance they can develop into good strong, kind people.

The author defines a fairy story as one in which there is a happy ending. Exceptions are (notably) "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" and "The Little Match Girl".

I took a renewed interest in reading these tales to my youngsters, and found that indeed they did appear to be most receptive to them. And no longer did rather gory details disturb me, as the children DO seem to realize that 1) it is just a story, and 2) there is in fact some reasonableness to the idea of unhappy people in this suffering world.

I recommend this book very highly, indeed, to parents of young children. But Dr. Bettelheim cautions against telling the children how good the stories are for them, lest the full impact be somewhat dissipated.
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61 of 63 people found the following review helpful By C. Middleton on April 28, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is well known that storytelling is an innate expression of civilization, in an effort to define who we are and to make sense of the world. The fairy tale is an important part of this tradition that has a long and rich history spanning thousands of years.

First published in 1975, Bruno Bettleheim, one of Sigmund Freud's followers and an important contributor to psychoanalysis, has written an incredible book, suggesting that the fairy tale has a pedagogical use, educating the child about the struggles in life, that these struggles are an intrinsic aspect of existence. Following Plato, he believes that the literary education of children should begin with the telling of myths. In other words, the fairy tale can present models for behaviour, providing meaning and value to our lives. This wonderful book expresses this view extremely well and also provides a frame of reference towards the child's overall psychological development.

I have read Freud for some years, and nowhere, including Freud himself, have I read a more succinctly expressed view on the ultimate purpose of psychoanalysis, than in this book by Dr. Bettleheim, he writes,

"Psychoanalysis was created to enable man to accept the problematic nature of life without being defeated by it, or giving in to escapism. Freud's prescription is that only by struggling courageously against what seems like unwieldy odds can man succeed in wringing meaning out of existence." (P.8)

Fairy tales inform us about life's struggles, hardships and the reality of death. From Bettleheim's point of view, the fairy tale is a "manifold form" that communicates to the child, educates them, against life's vagaries and realities, which are the unavoidable aspects of our existence.
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62 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Christina Paul VINE VOICE on February 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
Bruno Bettelheim's book is excellent in looking at the psychology behind fairy tales. I think what most modern readers forget is that the Fairy Tales were moral tales, and that we cannot really look at them with modern eyes. In the earlier eras, Children were viewed as "miniature adults" that had to be shown the ropes of what was considered the modes of good and acceptable behavior in society. I read this book after the release of the film "The Company of Wolves" which took Little Red Riding Hood and put it into a tale of adolecence and budding sensuality against what is considered staying on the straight and narrow path. The effect was pure Bettelhiem. I would definitely recommend this book to give a new perspective on fairy tales and their importance in the collective consciousness of our world.
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 9, 1998
Format: Paperback
Got kids? Want them to grow up to be as emotionally, intellectually and spititually developed as possible? Then tell them fairy tales! The world famous child phychologist Bruno Bettelheim belives that the telling of fairy tales in thier original form can be the single most powerful influence in the lives of children. After reading his book on the subject: "The Uses Of Enchantment" you would (as I have) come to percieve the value of this medium for the channeling of essential information about how to live sucessfully in society. When Einstein was asked by a concerned mother what she could do to best promote her children's intellectual development he responded: "Tell them fairy tales!" When she pressed him for what else she could do he said: "Tell them more fairy tales!" Fairy tales reach the young child on the 'enchanted' level which is his world and give acceptance and approval to the chaotic and uncontrolable emotional states which rule him. They involve him in the delemas of the 'hero' and entice him to believe that the problems that presently so overwhelm him will ultimately be resolved if he will stick steadfastly to the true path. This body of liturature was has it's roots in prehistory and has been shaped with the particular aim of the socialization of the young: for which reason it must be passed on in it's original form. Any application of this insight will ultimatley result in happier, more productive and more thoroughly adjusted and socialized sons and daughters. More importantly though, right from the moment it begins it confers a compelling and involving validation of the child that exists at it's center. A fairy tale told in it's original form is: "a love gift to a child"!
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