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Showing posts with label Bettelheim. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bettelheim. Show all posts

Monday, August 15, 2011

About Stories

"[The] prevalent parental belief is that a child must be diverted from what troubles him most, his formless, nameless anxieties, and his chaotic, angry, and even violent fantasies. Many parents believe that only conscious reality or pleasant and wish-fulfilling images should be presented to the child - that he should be exposed only to the sunny side of things. But such one-sided fare nourishes the mind only in a one-sided way, and real life is not all sunny."

~ Bruno Bettelheim

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Deeper into the Enchanted Woods We Go


A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Bruno Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (Vintage)Here are two more passages from the introduction which bear some consideration.
“It is characteristic of fairy tales to state an existential dilemma briefly and pointedly. This permits the child to come to grips with the problem in its most essential form, where a more complex plot would confuse matters for him. The fairy tale simplifies all situations. Its figures are clearly drawn, and details, unless very important, are eliminated. All characters are typical rather than unique.”
This is a very important distinction between fairy tales and fiction for children. In fiction for children, characters are described with many nuanced details of biography and personality, giving them three-dimensional life. We feel that we know a friendly and cheerful little boy like Wilbur, the pig in  Charlotte's Web. Many of us have met a prickly and defensive kid on the wrong side of the child welfare groups, a Gilly from Katherine Paterson’s The Great Gilly Hopkins. We know precociously wise girls like studious Hermione Granger, and good-natured, loyal goof-buddies like Ron Weasley, Harry Potter’s sidekicks. One of the reasons kids are attracted to these books is because they are attracted to the characters, who are particular people (even if sometimes they are animals) and as such could be people they might meet or come to know.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Into the Enchanted Woods!

The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (Vintage)
Today I’d like to offer a couple of passages from the introduction to Bruno Bettelheim’s landmark book, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales , originally published in 1975. This has been a supremely influential book over the years, although from here, in 2011, the heavy Freudian perspective feels somewhat dated. Nevertheless, there is much to be gleaned from these pages, even if you must take some of the analysis of individual tales with a grain or two of salt. Again, these passages are from the introduction, and so speak about fairy tales in general.  For Einstein's advice about fairy tales, be sure to read "Relativity."
“This is exactly the message that fairy tales get across to the child in manifold form: that a struggle against severe difficulties in life is unavoidable, is an intrinsic part of human existence – but if one does not shy away, but steadfastly meets unexpected and often unjust hardships, one masters all obstacles and at the end emerges victorious.”
“The more I tried to understand why these stories are so successful at enriching the inner life of the child, the more I realized that these tales in a much deeper sense than any other reading material, start where the child really is in his psychological and emotional being. They speak about his severe inner pressures in a way that the child unconsciously understands, and – without belittling the most serious inner struggles which growing up entails – offer examples of both temporary and permanent solutions to pressing difficulties.”