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The Uses of Enchantment


I am re-reading The Uses of Enchantment at the moment and wondering if anyone else has thoughts on it. It`s such a beautiful and truthful book. I say re-reading, but for fear of pretending to be smarter than I actually am: my plan this time is to dip in and out of it and not plough doggedly through it (regardless of how little of it I`m taking in!) so that I can say I read it (like I did in my early 20s!)

It`s a book about the meaning and importance of fairytales, by Bruno Bettelheim, a concentration camp survivor and psychoanalyst.  It looks at the unconscious underpinnings of fairytales and argues why magic is so important to the development of a child. It seeks to answer Bettelheim`s question `why children find folk fairytales more satisfying than all other children`s stories?`

His answer is that ` these stories are so successful at enriching the inner life of the child (because)... these ... tales start where the child is really at 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`. ... The fairytale...takes these existential anxieties and dilemmas and addresses itself directly to them: the need to be loved and the fear that one is worthless, the love of life and the fear of death`.  (I`m mangling together some of my favourite bits here for the purposes of condensing - and also, aren`t those fears the big universal fears, not just childish fears?)

Here`s two other favourite bits and then I`ll stop and let you read it yourself:

"The child, so much more insecure than an adult, needs assurance that his need to engage in fantasy, or his inability to stop doing so, is not a deficiency" (That`s why according to the author, it`s so important to a child to have an adult tell the stories)

And here`s the thing I think is key to all art, for all people, not just for children and fairytales: (because after all, isn`t there a 6 year old in all of us?...)

`although these stories are unreal, they are not untrue...`

This book won the US National Book Award in 1977. The other very exciting thing that happened to youth arts that year is that I was born. Aha.Haha.

If self deprecating humour doesn`t come through on blogs, I`m in trouble.

Happy Weekend Everyone!

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