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The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and…

The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales… (original 1976; edition 1991)

by Bruno Bettelheim

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Title:The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (Penguin Psychology)
Authors:Bruno Bettelheim
Info:Penguin Books Ltd (1991), Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales by Bruno Bettelheim (1976)


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FREE AT LAST! (Or, joy at having finished this fifty-pound weight.) ( )
  KatrinkaV | May 14, 2016 |
Freud, Freud, and more Freud. ( )
  jeneyhart | Dec 3, 2013 |
The Uses of Enchantment is a really enjoyable read, and it really gets you thinking! Bettelheim proposes that fairy tales are socially evolved stories that help children work through the many psychological struggles of childhood, and that the violence and dark themes that have been gradually removed from them are an essential part of what makes them popular with and, useful for children. He comes at his argument from a Freudian, psychoanalytical approach to child psychology, which can seem a bit old fashioned and dramatic, but that doesn’t take away from the interesting ideas the book raises. As a fan of old fairy tales, it’s satisfying to hear them defended in all their gore and pessimism against the sunny, positive children’s literature that is more popular today. ( )
  LeilaM | Sep 27, 2013 |
Okay, if I'm being honest, I'm probably not going to get to this. But it's got my attention right at this moment.
  AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
This book is really more about psychology and child development than fairy tales, but it turns out fairy tales are a pretty cool means by which to learn about psychoanalysis and such not. Bettelheim makes the case that fairy tales aren't just fun for children, but that they help them face the subconscious fears, conflicts and ambivalence that a child would be otherwise unable to understand or cope with. A lot of his insight to child development and how fairy tales can reflect childhood crises and help children learn how to deal in real life was brilliant. His analysis of specific fairy tales was a lot more hit or miss.

I'm not someone that thinks the fairy tales were written with some intentional deeper meaner. That doesn't mean I don't think they can't have deeper meanings, or even a specific deeper meaning. But when that's the case I expect it's the product of hundreds of years of storytellers and audiences unconsciously editing and re-editing stories to settle on the version that resonated most deeply. And the fact that I do think some fairy tales do seem to have a specific meaning doesn't mean someone that finds another meaning in it is wrong. These are personal things, if someone finds something there that isn't there for me I am not the arbiter of their experience and I certainly can't dismiss their reactions.

That said, a notable chunk of Bettelheim's analysis is more a demonstration of a psychoanalyst's ability to find cock everywhere than it is about what anyone else is going to see. This can be pretty ridiculous and entertaining. It can also get stupid and sexist. I'm not saying everytime Bettelheim offers a sexual interpretation its bullshit. I'm just saying keep your psychoanalysis filters up.


"The magic formula "up stick and at it" suggests phallic associations, as does the fact that only this new acquisition permits Jack to hold his own in relation to his father..."

"Thus the expulsion from the infant paradise begins; it continues with the mother's deriding Jack's belief in the magic power of his seeds. The phallic beanstalk permits Jack to engage in oedipal conflict with the ogre..."

"it does not take much imagination to see the possible sexual connotations in the distaff..."

"So dwarfs are eminently male, but males who are stunted in their development. These "little men" with their stunted bodies and their mining occupation--they skillfully penetrate into dark holes--all suggest phallic connotations."

"A small locked room often stands in dreams for the female sexual organs; turning a key in a lock often symbolizes intercourse."

"She selects him because he appreciates her "dirty" sexual aspects, lovingly accepts her vagina in the form of a slipper, and approves of her desire for a penis, symbolized by her tiny foot fitting within the slipper-vagina."

"The bride stretches out one of her fingers for the groom to slip a ring onto it. Pushing one finger through a circle made out of the thumb and index finger of the hand is a vulgar expression for intercourse...The ring, a symbol for the vagina, is given by the groom to his bride; she offers him in return her outstretched finger, so he may complete the ritual."

"...he will gain a golden vagina, she a temporary penis." ( )
5 vote fundevogel | Jan 19, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679723935, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:29 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Helps adults become aware of the importance of fairy tales. By revealing the content of such stories he shows how children may make use of them to cope with their emotions, whether they be feelings of smallness and helplessness or the anxieties the child feels about strangers.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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