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akerle's picture

who are fairy tales REALLY for?

Bettelheim makes an interesting arguement for the nature of the fairy tale.  Towards the end of the article he discusses the childs obsession with 'justice'.

"The child feels that all is well with the world, and he can be secure in it, only if the wicked are punished in the end"

Elsewhere in the article Bettelheim uses this same concept but applies it in a more general way- to both adults and children. So this makes me wonder- who are fairy tales really for? I feel that some of the greatest fairy tales are found in religious teachings- where ultimately the wicked get punished and the good get rewarded. Indeed, if what Bettelheim says is true, then religion supplies this need of an 'escape fantasy' which satisfies one of the most primal needs within both children and adults- the need for a 'happy' ending. 

Although I do not particularily agree with or understand Bettelheim's psychoanalysis of the child I do agree with the idea that children- rather than being inherently good innocent beings- can actually be selfish and cruel. I have spent many hours listening to young people talking about great acts of cruelty. Acts that they have perpetrated and been subjected to. The child is innocent, yes, but that does not mean she is not cruel.   

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