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The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (Anglais) Relié – juin 1985


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LIFE DIVINED FROM THE INSIDE 

 “Little Red Riding Hood was my first love. I felt that if I could have married Little Red Riding Hood, I should have known perfect bliss.” This statement by Charles Dickens indicates that he, like untold millions of children all over the world throughout the ages, was enchanted by fairy tales. Even when world-famous, Dickens acknowledged the deep formative impact that the wondrous figures and events of fairy tales had had on him and his creative genius. He repeatedly expressed scorn for those who, motivated by an uninformed and petty rationality, insisted on rationalizing, bowdlerizing, or outlawing these stories, and thus robbed children of the important contributions fairy tales could make to their lives. Dickens understood that the imagery of fairy tales helps children better than anything else in their most difficult and yet most important and satisfying task: achieving a more mature consciousness to civilize the chaotic pressures of their unconscious.  

Today, as in the past, the minds of both creative and average children can be opened to an appreciation of all the higher things in life by fairy tales, from which they can move easily to enjoying the greatest works of literature and art. The poet Louis MacNeice, for example, tells that “Real fairy stories always meant much to me as a person, even when I was at a public school where to admit this meant losing face. Contrary to what many people say even now, a fairy story, at least of the classical folk variety, is a much more solid affair than the average naturalistic novel, whose hooks go little deeper than a gossip column. From folk tales and sophisticated fairy tales such as Hans Andersen's or Norse mythology and stories like the Alice books and Water Babies I graduated, at about the age of twelve, to the Faerie Queene.” Literary critics such as G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis felt that fairy stories are “spiritual explorations” and hence “the most life-like” since they reveal “human life as seen, or felt, or divined from the inside.”  

Fairy tales, unlike any other form of literature, direct the child to discover his identity and calling, and they also suggest what experiences are needed to develop his character further. Fairy tales intimate that a rewarding, good life is within one's reach despite adversity – but only if one does not shy away from the hazardous struggles without which one can never achieve true identity. These stories promise that if a child dares to engage in this fearsome and taxing search, benevolent powers will come to his aid, and he will succeed. The stories also warn that those who are too timorous and narrow minded to risk themselves in finding themselves must settle down to a humdrum existence-if an even worse fate does not befall them.

Past generations of children who loved and felt the importance of fairy tales were subjected to the scorn only of pedants, as happened to MacNeice. Today many of our children are far more grievously bereaved-because they are deprived of the chance to know fairy stories at all. Most children now meet fairy tales only in prettified and simplified versions which subdue their meaning and rob them of all deeper significance-versions such as those on films and TV shows, where fairy tales are turned into empty-minded entertainment.

Through most of man's history, a child's intellectual life, apart from immediate experiences within the family, depended on mythical and religious stories and on fairy tales. This traditional literature fed the child's imagination and stimulated his fantasizing. Simultaneously, since these stories answered the child's most important questions, they were a major agent of his socialization. Myths and closely related religious legends offered material from which children formed their concepts of the world's origin and purpose, and of the social ideals a child could pattern himself after. These were the images of the unconquered hero Achilles and wily Odysseus; of Hercules, whose life history showed that it is not beneath the dignity of the strongest man to clean the filthiest stable; of St. Martin, who cut his coat in half to clothe a poor beggar. It is not just since Freud that the myth of Oedipus has become the image by which we understand the ever new but age-old problems posed to us by our complex and ambivalent feelings about our parents. Freud referred to this ancient story to make us aware of the inescapable cauldron of emotions which every child, in his own way, has to manage at a certain age.  

In the Hindu civilization, the story of Rama and Sita (part of the Ramayana), which tells of their peaceable courage and their passionate devotion to each other, is the prototype of love and marriage relationships. The culture, moreover, enjoins everyone to try to relive this myth in his or her own life; every Hindu bride is called Sita, and as part of her wedding ceremony she acts out certain episodes of the myth.

In a fairy internal processes are externalized and become comprehensible as represented by the figures of the story and its events. This is the reason why in traditional Hindu medicine a fairy tale giving form to his particular problem was offered to a psychically disoriented person, for his meditation. It was expected that through contemplating the story the disturbed person would be led to visualize both the nature of the impasse in living from which he suffered, and the possibility of its resolution. From what a particular tale implied about man's despair, hopes, and methods of overcoming tribulations, the patient could discover not only a way out of his distress but also a way to find himself, as the hero of the story did.  

But the paramount importance of fairy tales for the growing individual resides in something other than teachings about correct ways of behaving in this world-such wisdom is plentifully supplied in religion, myths, and fables. Fairy stories do not pretend to describe the world as it is, nor do they advise what one ought to do. If they did, the Hindu patient would be induced to follow an imposed pattern of behavior-which is not just bad therapy, but the opposite of therapy. The fairy tale is therapeutic because the patient finds his own solutions, through contemplating what the story seems to imply about him and his inner conflicts at this moment in his life. The content of the chosen tale usually has nothing to do with the patient's external life, but much to do with his inner problems, which seem incomprehensible and hence unsolvable. The fairy tale clearly does not refer to the outer world, although it may begin realistically enough and have everyday features woven into it. The unrealistic nature of these tales (which narrow-minded 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 processes taking place in an individual.  


In most cultures, there is no clear line separating myth from folk or fairy tale; all these together form the literature of preliterate societies. The Nordic languages have only one word for both: saga. German has retained the word Sage for myths, while fairy stories are called Märchen. It is unfortunate that both the English and French names for these stories emphasize the role of fairies in them-because in most, no fairies appear. Myths and fairy tales alike attain a definite form only when they are committed to writing and are no longer subject to continuous change. Before being written down, these stories were either condensed or vastly elaborated in the retelling over the centuries; some stories merged with others. All became modified by what the teller thought was of greatest interest to his listeners, by what his concerns of the moment or the special problems of his era were.  

Some fairy and folk stories evolved out of myths; others were incorporated into them. Both forms embodied the cumulative experience of a society as men wished to recall past wisdom for themselves and transmit it to future generations. These tales are the purveyors of deep insights that have sustained mankind through the long vicissitudes of its existence, a heritage that is not revealed in any other form as simply and directly, or as accessibly, to children.  

Myths and fairy tales have much in common. But in myths, much more than in fairy stories, the culture hero is presented to the listener as a figure he ought to emulate in his own life, as far as possible.  

A myth, like a fairy tale, may express an inner conflict in symbolic form and suggest how it may be solved-but this is not necessarily the myth's central concern. The myth presents its theme in a majestic way; it carries spiritual force; and the divine is present and is experienced in the form of superhuman heroes who make constant demands on mere mortals. Much as we, the mortals, may strive to be like these heroes, we will remain always and obviously inferior to them.  

The figures and events of fairy tales also personify and illustrate inner conflicts, but they suggest ever so subtly how these conflicts may be solved, and what the next steps in the development toward a higher humanity might be. The fairy tale is presented in a simple, homely way; no demands are made on the listener. This prevents even the smallest child from feeling compelled to act in specific ways, and he is never made to feel inferior. Far from making demands, the fairy tale reassures, gives hope for the future, and holds out the promise of a happy ending. That is why Lewis Carroll called it a "love-gift" -a term hardly applicable to a myth.*

Obviously, not every story contained in a collection called "Fairy Tales" meets these criteria. Many of these stories are simply diversions, cautionary tales, or fables. If they are fables, they tell by means of words, actions, or events-fabulous though these may be-what one ought to do. Fables demand and threaten-they are moralistic-or they just entertain. To decide whether a story is a fairy tale or something entirely different, one might ask whether it could rightly be called a love-gift to a child. That is not a bad way to arrive at a classification.  


To understand how a child views fairy tales, let us consider as examples the many fairy stories in which a child outwits a giant who scares him or even threatens his life. That children intuitively understand what these “giants” stand for is illustrated by the spontaneous reaction of a five-year-old.  

Encouraged by discussion about the importance fairy tales have for children, a mother overcame her hesitation about telling such “gory and threatening” stories to her son. From her conversations with him, she knew that her son already had fantasies about eating people, or people getting eaten. So she told him the tale of “Jack the Giant Killer.” His response at the end of the story was: “There aren't any such things as giants, are there?” Before the mother could give her son the reassuring reply which was on her tongue-and which would have destroyed the value of the story for him-he continued, “But there are such things as grownups, and they're like giants.” At the ripe old age of five, he understood the encouraging message of the story: although adults can be experienced as frightening giants, a little boy with cunning can get the better of them.  

This remark reveals one source of adult reluctance to tell fairy stories: we are not comfortable with the thought that occasionally we look like threatening giants to our children, although we do. Nor do we want to accept how easy they think it is to fool us, or to make fools of us, and how delighted they are by this idea. But whether or not we tell fairy tales to them, we do-as the example of this little boy proves -appear to them as selfish giants who wish to keep to ourselves all the wonderful things which give us power. Fairy stories provide reassurance to children that they can eventually  the better of the giant – i.e., they can grow up to be like the giant and acquire the same powers. These are “the mighty hopes that make us men.”

Most significantly, if we parents tell such fairy stories to our children, we can give them the most important reassurance of all: that we approve of their playing with the idea of getting the better of these giants. Here reading is not the same as being told the story, because while reading alone the child may think that only some stranger-the person who wrote the story or arranged the book-approves of outwitting and cutting down the giant. But when his parents tell him the story, a child can be sure that they approve of his retaliating in fantasy for the threat which adult dominance entails.

*Child of the pure unclouded brow
And dreaming eyes of wonder!
Though time be fleet, and I and thou --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Revue de presse

“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 --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .



Détails sur le produit

  • Relié: 328 pages
  • Editeur : Random House Inc (T); Édition : First Edition (juin 1985)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0394497716
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394497716
  • Dimensions du produit: 3,8 x 16,5 x 24,1 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 3.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 333.927 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
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0 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par roquefere le 7 janvier 2012
Format: Broché
il a fallu scotcher la couverture du livre qui est en très mauvais état, mais il a encore le droit d'exister !!!
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0 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par SullyH le 28 avril 2011
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Even though it was said that the book was second hand, it appeared like new to me.

Thank you
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82 internautes sur 85 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A very good book, indeed... 12 mai 1998
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
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.
65 internautes sur 68 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A classic psychoanalytical view of fairy tales 28 avril 2005
Par C. Middleton - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
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. More specifically, the fairy tale is an educational tool to help children grow and develop into adults. He goes on to say that the child needs to be given "...suggestions in symbolic form about how he may deal with these issues and grow safely into maturity." (P.9)

Bettleheim adeptly sets out to prove his theses by analysing well known fairy tales in the context of psychoanalytic theory, persuasively arguing the value of these tales towards the child's psychological development.

If you are interested in psychoanalysis and would like to know more about the profound positive effects the telling of fairy tales can have on our young, this incredible book is indispensable.
49 internautes sur 53 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
An insigtfull rendering of the value of fairy tales! 9 juin 1998
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
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"!
65 internautes sur 72 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Forget What The Naysayers Tell You! 18 février 2001
Par Christina Paul - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
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.
18 internautes sur 18 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Not as Good as I Expected 21 mars 2012
Par Four-Headed Monster - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I've heard this book raved about for decades as a classic in understanding the psychology of fairy and folk tales, and I finally got around to reading it recently.

Unfortunately, I didn't find it lived up to its reputation. It isn't a psychological interpretation of fairy tales; it's a psychoanalytic one, as in Freudian psychoanalytic. Consequently there's an endless parade of references to "id, ego, and superego," "oral this," "oedipal that," and so on. (Fortunately, there's very little "anal anything.") What makes it especially boring--and annoying--is that Bettelheim barely acknowledges, let alone attempts, any other way to interpret these stories. I realize going too much into other theories or interpretations would result in a book too heavy to lift, much less read, but he could have done more to acknowledge alternative explanations exist.

For example, he devotes 40 pages to interpreting "Cinderella," a story that exists all over the world in hundreds of different versions. In some of them, the title character runs away from home because she fears her father wants to commit incest with her. Bettelheim writes this off as oedipal feelings on the daughter's part, which are projected onto the father because they cause the child so much guilt. Or maybe they represent the oedipal feelings of the of the father, too--deeply repressed ones, of course. (p. 246)

Never mind that incest is far more common than any decent person would like to admit, so it's quite likely many of those stories featuring a runaway Cinderella were based on the very real risk that a young girl might be raped by her own father. Bettelheim doesn't mention that possibility even in passing, even though he acknowledges elsewhere that in times past, some societies expected the oldest daughter in a family to become her widowed father's wife *in every respect.*

On the plus side, Bettelheim's goodness and compassion shine through the numbing Freudian jargon, although finding traces of those characteristics made me feel like I was digging through mud with my bare hands looking for gold nuggets. He clearly cares about helping children grow into happy, fulfilled adults, and find healthy, socially acceptable ways of dealing with their anxiety, hostility, and feelings of inferiority. He strongly advocates for the role fairly tales can play in these processes--gory tortures and deaths included. He sharply criticizes people who sanitize the stories to "protect" children, pointing out that a big part of the reason these stories work, and have endured so long, is because they give children a safe, indirect way to let out the violent impulses and shameful feelings they can't admit to consciously. Cleaning up the stories cuts off the expression of those feelings, thus bottling them up inside.

About halfway through the book, I got tired of Bettelheim's Johnny-one-note style of interpreting folk and fairy tales, so I put the book aside and began reading other things. I did finish it, but it took several days of making myself read 20-30 pages a day to get through it. This book is mainly for those interested in Freudian psychoanalysis. People who don't care about and/or like Freud may want to steer clear of it.
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