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The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (Penguin Psychology) Paperback – 25 Apr 1991

4.6 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (25 April 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140137270
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140137279
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 14,229 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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"

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book when I was training in psychiatry and it was the most enjoyable and readable text of my training. It brings together beautifully the key concepts in psychoanalysis with stories that we were all brought up with. He writes with brevity and clarity and knows his subject inside out. Its a delight - abundant eureka moments.
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A brillently written piece of work which provides interesting insight into the psychoanalysis of classic children's fairy tales and their meanings and usefulness to children and us all. A facinating and enjoyable read.
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I read this book years ago - it remains one of my favourites today. If you still need convincing of the merits of the bedtime story and of the magical benefits that fairy tales can provide for your children - then read it! If you need reminding or better understanding of your own childhood - then read it too!!
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This is truly one of the most interesting books I have read. Bruno Bettelheim, a psychoanalyst, had a brilliant insight into the workings of the child mind and showed the rich symbolic way that fairy tales help the child to cope with its fears and understand the world it is growing up to face. After reading the book I rushed out and bought the complete Grimms tales and read them all.

As might be expected from a Freudian there is a lot of discussion about how children deal with their forthcoming sexuality. He doesn't make extreme assertions about children being sexual but if you aren't open to the premise that there are complicated things going on in the young mind linked to sex, you probably won't like this book.

The book was written 38 years ago. In a subject as fast moving as psychology it would be surprising if ideas had not moved on in the 38 years since Bettelheim wrote his book. Nevertheless it remains full of insight as well as being clearly written and enjoyable to read.

There has been some criticism of the author's character. I would recommend taking the work in itself without speculating on the man. If you are interested in the man I would refer to Wikipedia's account rather than hostile book reviews.
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I thoroughly enjoyed "The Uses of Enchantment". A book I could not put down till I had finished it. Fairy Tales are important. Dr Bettelheim proves it. His psychoanalysis of "Cinderella", "The frog Prince" and "The Three Bears" is truly well worth reading. If you only read one book year make it "The Uses of Enchantment. The meaning and importance of fairy tales". You'll not be disappointed.
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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...

Beware...
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Format: Paperback
A fascinating book which sets out in considerable detail how fairy tales are essential to a child’s inner life, providing him with a mythology with which to reflect upon what sort of person he wants to be. Some fairy tales have been applied by being turned into moral stories but the real tales include the conflict between good and evil, the need to struggle within oneself and overcome selfishness and other demons, to work through the oedipal complex and fear of sexuality &c. If such tales are essential for developing wholeness, one might presume that religion fulfils the same function, by its mythology, for adults.
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I gave away - or lent - my copy of this book and because it is such an extraordinary and important book I really miss being able to refer to it and so want to replace it on my shelves, when it arrives.
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