[Bruno Bettelheim – The Uses of Enchantment] – Response

Mary Kate’s response to Bettelheim’s text

Bettelheim seems extremely positive about the good and magical effects that fairy tales have on a child’s development. Fairy tales provide a sense of “security”, “to feel secure on earth”. To a child, he/she can come up with his/her own an explanation of the world and its workings. In my opinion, I agree that this sense of comfort and safeness is extremely important, and personally, I have friends who do not practice religion, but believe that there is a greater power or a source of power, such as a golden dragon, who created the world we live on. These explanations indeed make us comforted and feel good about things.

Bettelheim’s connection of fairy tales and toys is interesting in pointing out that these aspects of childhood are important in shaping children’s understanding, and creativity. Studies show that playing with toys increase the ability of people to be more creative, especially because the ‘make-believe’ aspect allows children to develop empathy by placing themselves in someone else’s shoes, and in this way, learn to experience more things. This is also connected to fairy tales because children can project themselves in the characters of the story (by pretending to be these characters) and this helps shape their understanding of their surroundings.

On another note, Bettelheim seems to suggest that fairy tales are good for certain stages of life, and that at a certain age, the fairy tale has meaning to offer us, but afterwards we grow out of the fairy tale and begin to challenge the notions in the fairy tale. Although fairy tales seem to be better for children to grasp because of the fantasy realm that it creates (consistent with the child’s view of the world) and security it provides children with, fairy tales can be and is also still enjoyed by adults as well. People do not grow too old for fairy tales, and fairy tales can have a positive impact on adults as well. This is connected to the toys aspect. The less we play, the older we become. Therefore, fairy tales provide an escapade to a fantasy world, and thus can also help adults go through life as well. I believe that adults can enjoy fairy tales the same way as children do.

Part from Bettelheim’s text, notably, the “vicarious satisfaction versus conscious recognition” section was slightly confusing. Bettelheim says that it is good for a boy to play with baby dolls as long as he does not “recognize what unconscious desires he is satisfying”. Bettelheim adds that girls sexual desires while riding horses are better if she was not aware of the implications of those. It seems unclear to me what Bettelheim’s argument about those activities suggest, and the reasons why children are better not being conscious of those desires, because it would be detrimental to them? What does Bettelheim mean by that? And do children really experience all those desires without knowing?

Another debatable point that was mentioned by Bettelheim was the point about children creating a double identity in their parents or loved ones. When parents scold their children, the children associate this new side of their parents to an evil character just like in fairy tales. Bettelheim says that fantasies help children be angry at a “false parent” and not feel guilty about it. They can then keep the holy image of their good parent separate from the angry evil one. As a child, I do not recall having made those associations when my parents were angry with me, and so I do not think that this is a given universal standard. At the same time, a question is: will that not be more detrimental to imagine that a parent is a different person when being angry, and will that not create more barriers between children and parents because the child has not accepted the whole identity and facets of their parents? Similarly, the children will not feel that he has done something to anger the parent if the child thinks that it is not his/her parent scolding him? Consequently, the child will not learn from these wrong behaviours.

Fairy tales in the 21st Century  Week 2 scenarios text

It’s very fascinating how there are already different scenarios prepared for different fairy tale situations. There are quite a few categories of things that can happen in fairy tales, and it was interesting to be able to see the different possibilities of directions fairy tales can adopt, and ultimately, the relationships between hero and villain. Although this booklet provides the possible causes and effects of an action by the hero or villain of a story, it also places constraints on the direction of a story, and emphasises the relationships between all of these actions to make the fairy tale coherent and flow.

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