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The Uses of Enchantment in Fairy Tales Essay


An enchantment is a feeling or a great liking for something which is out of the ordinary or unusual. It is more of a spell which is created using words (Gratz 24). The uses of enchantment can also be said to be the importance of fairy tales especially to children. The uses of enchantment were discussed in detail by an Australian philosopher called Bruno Battelheim.

He suggested that traditional fairy tales had some element of darkness, death, witches and injuries and gave children a chance to experience fear and grapple with it in a symbolic way. Bettelheim argued that if children engaged themselves with the socially evolved stories or tales, they would grow emotionally and they would be well prepared for the future

Fairy tales are not real but they tend to be very resourceful and they teach a lot. They seem to answer a deep need in all of us to find stories and situations that we can identify with in real life (Gratz 31). Bettelheim has been the best known psychologist to have developed a thought and argument that fairy tales are the best tool for promoting child development. Fairy tales usually get across different messages to children but the main message that it gets to children is that they cannot avoid the struggle against severe difficulties in life.

The struggles in life are therefore inevitable and hence the children need to be given guidance and direction in a symbolic manner on how to deal with them. This can be shown in the fairy tale ‘Hansel and Gretel’ where the children had to struggle to survive the harsh conditions in the woods so far away from home and they also had to struggle to defeat the witch in the woods and find their way home through the thick woods.

Many modern stories that are written for children nowadays are usually for their entertainment and for the purpose of learning in class and they are not practical. This is because they usually give the child the picture and hope of eternal life and good things in life.

Fairy tales on the other hand are more practical and they give the child the picture of life full of struggle and human predicament for example many fairy tales usually begin with the death of a mother or father which is followed by agonizing pain and suffering of the dependants of that parent as it happens in real life (Bettelheim 97).

Other stories on the other hand, the parent usually age totally until he or she decides that it is time for the younger generation to take over and the young generation has to prove themselves worthy. This means that even if the parent dies, the dependants will not suffer much.

This can be shown by the fairy tale written by the Grimm brothers known as “the three feathers” where the king was old and almost dying and did not know which of his sons should inherit the kingdom. He then decided to give them a difficult test and the person who did best would inherit the kingdom. This tale engages the children and prompts them to deal with their dilemmas in life (Bettelheim 134). Another use of fairy tales to children is that it offers children the solution dealing with their dilemmas in a level in which they can understand.

The fairy tales are usually very simple and direct unlike the other modern stories which have more complex and developed plots. The fairy tales therefore gives the child a better understanding of how to deal with certain situations in life at their level of understanding. Unlike other modern stories where evil is just an imagination that is not real, in fairy tales, evil is as omnipresent as a virtue. This means that evil and virtue are looked at in the same way.

Evil and virtue are therefore said to be a duality in fairy tales and this duality poses a problem and struggle on how to deal with it or overcome it (Julavits 76). Evil is considered as an attraction and that is why fairy tales are good for the development of children. Most people fear evil and they usually develop certain skills or characters and strengths to help them deal with the evils they encounter. This therefore shows that evil is an attraction as shown in the fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel”.

Evil in this fairy tale is symbolized by the woodcutter’s wife who wanted the children to die. It is also symbolized by the witch in the woods who wanted to eat both Hansel and Gretel (Bettelheim 156). Fairy tales are also used to make children have an experience in moral education. The fairy tale ‘Hansel and Gretel’ teaches children to be courageous and to be fair and do good. This is because those who did not act morally ended up dead like the stepmother of Hansel and Gretel and the witch in the woods

Evil people in fairy tales never win because they are usually punished. This does not mean that the virtue always wins in a fairy tale it only shows that the child identifies more with the hero and therefore the child will try to do what the hero does and be like the hero. This will help the child in developing good morals and doing what is right.

It is not like the virtue always wins or is always expected to win but the child always goes through all the trials and tribulations with the hero who finally wins at the end and therefore according to the child the virtue has won and he or she will try to practice the virtue.

This can be shown in the fairy tale by the brothers Grimm called “Hansel and Gretel” where a young brother and sister who were threatened by a hag and the two children save their lives by outwitting her. The child can relate to this fairytale and try to outwit the challenges that he or she is facing.

Fairy tales are therefore important in child development both mentally and physically because it prepares them to be able to deal with certain challenges that they face in real life. They always tend to imitate the hero and try and be like him in real life and hence they develop certain skills by trying to act like the hero. They also develop good virtues in the process

Works cited

Bettelheim, Bruno. The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. New York. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. 2010. Print

Gratz, Conrad. The experience of living with enchantment. New York: ProQuest

Julavits, Heidi. The Uses of Enchantment. London: Random House. 2008

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IvyPanda. (2020, April 28). The Uses of Enchantment in Fairy Tales. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-uses-of-enchantment-in-fairy-tales/

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"The Uses of Enchantment in Fairy Tales." IvyPanda, 28 Apr. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/the-uses-of-enchantment-in-fairy-tales/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Uses of Enchantment in Fairy Tales." April 28, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-uses-of-enchantment-in-fairy-tales/.


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IvyPanda. 2020. "The Uses of Enchantment in Fairy Tales." April 28, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-uses-of-enchantment-in-fairy-tales/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Uses of Enchantment in Fairy Tales'. 28 April.

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