But anyvays. The first half of the book is how fairy tales work on a symbolic level, and how children work in the brain, and how those two things dovetail, and how bowdlerizing fairy tales ruins them, and how modern stories lack that tasty something (eye of newt?) and how fairy tales = mind food. And then the second half is specific fairy tales and what they’re up to.
Bettelheim is highly into the symbolism of fairy tales, the cut of which jib I like, and he (like I) is convinced that children subconsciously grasp much more of the symbolism than adults do, with our tidy, work-a-day brains. Part of the irony of this is that Bettelheim presents fairy tales as a way for childrens to organize their internal processes and to develop tidy work-a-day brains. Fairy tales apparently (like booze) are both the disease and the cure.
And the whole thing is pretty Freudian and he says words lik ‘preconscious’ and ‘superego’ a lot, but even though he sometimes brings his conclusions in from out of left field he isn’t camped there. The Bruno has a very un-didactic view of stories and is more concerned with how children extract their own meanings. So even though he’s convinced (and I don’t always disagree) that certain tales deal with oedipal complexes, he doesn’t want you sitting your little’un down all, This story is about how you want to kill your dad so you can marry your mum. You can’t just tell kids things like that, that’ll eff them right up. You have to imply it by reading Jack and the Beanstalk to them and letting them work it out for themselves. Subconsciously.
So. Teensy bit dry, but people who like this sort of thing will probably find this to be the sort of thing they like. Also, Bettelheim is a bit of a honcho, so it’ll give you something to talk about with your psychoanalytic friends.