Research- Fairy Tales

Through research I explored different perspectives of fairytales and the hidden meanings within them.



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According to Bruno Bettelheim in his book “The Uses of Enchantment: The meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales”, fairytales such as “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Hansel and Gretel” envelop the loss of childhood innocence. In the story “Hansel and Gretel” the two children come from a deprived background and as a result their parents worry about how they will be able to take care of them. Bettelheim believes that a central theme in the story is greed, highlighting that poverty and deprivation do not improve man’s character, but rather make him more selfish, less sensitive to the suffering of the others, and thus prone to embark on evil deeds. Bettelheim also adheres to ideas of oral fixation, when the children come across the gingerbread house it is too attractive to resist, again highlighting ideas of greed and selfishness.

In his book, Bettelheim examines the story of Little Red Riding Hood as she encounters the wolf in the forest, presenting ideas about entering adulthood through her loss of innocents. While there are many interpretations of fairytales, in particular that of “Little Red Riding Hood” Bettelheim focuses on Perrault and The Brother’s Grimm versions of the tale. He presents an in depth analysis of both stories, highlighting that the main theme is her loss of virginity and reaching her sexual maturity and therefore her loss of innocents. The wolf is seen as the predator or antagonist of the story, often interpreted as a petifile, preying upon children because he is the seducer. In Perrault’s version when Little Red Riding Hood says to the wolf “What big arms you have” the wolf replies “All the better to embrace you with” and when she says “What big legs you have” the wolf says, “To be better able to run”. This adheres to the idea of the wolf as the predator. Eventually however, Little Red Riding Hood escapes from the wolf’s stomach and takes revenge on him by filling his stomach with stones to replace herself. In the Brother’s Grimm tale there is a second version where Little Red Riding Hood learns from her experience so that next time she is approached by a wolf she runs to Grannies house and together they kill the wolf by placing a pot of water under the chimney so that when he climbs down he drowns himself.


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