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on 28 January 2007
After seeing this title appear in numerous suggested reading lists for the study of fairy tales as some sort of bible for the mythical decoding of the tales, I'd advise googling Bettelheim first of all and doing some research on the man who claimed to be able to distill the universal truths that were to be found in the tales before taking this work seriously. See the essay in Jack Zipes - Breaking the Magic Spell on Bettelheim and realise that treating any fairytale as some sort of divine vehicle for the mystical wisdom of times past is a ridiculous venture.
The tales Bettelheim uses are only those that got into print - molested and relentlessly edited by the Brothers Grimm, so how can these give us any insight into a universal instruction for morality? See all the criticism done by Marina Warner and Maria Tatar etc which troubles the idea of there ever being a stable version of the tale we think of when someone says 'Little Red Riding Hood' thus never any stable meaning we can use to 'instruct our children' as Bettelheim hopes to do - the reason why he believes farytales are important. The universal morals Bettelheim comes up with really just turn out to be the morals of the 19th century patriarchal society he was living in. Or don't bother with any of the much more realistic and historically informed approaches to fairtyale criticism that have surfaced in the last decade and highlight the ridiculousness of Bettelheim's method and pursuit, and just read up on his life. Although a seeming paragon for the importance of reassurance in the socialisation of children - a need he sees fulfilled by fairytales - biographical details suggest he was in his own practices some what *authoritarian* with kids, if not worse...