Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Importance of Enchantment.

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”Albert Einstein

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I am reading  "The Uses of Enchantment" by Bruno Bettelheim

Bruno Bettelheim was a child psychologist, famous for his research on autism.
I love what he writes in the introduction.

"Wisdom does not burst forth fully developed like Athena out of Zeus's head; it is built up, small step by small step, from most irrational beginnings..... Today, as in times past, the most important and also the most difficult task in raising a child is helping him to find meaning in life."

Viktor MikhajlovichVasnetsov "Song of Oleg the Eternal"

 "The Uses of Enchantment" is a book about the importance of fairy stories to a child's psychological development.

I have read many books which underline the human need for story as a kind of medicine.
Certainly in many Native traditions, story is used as a fundamental form of psychic "medicine".

"Woman of The Grove" Warwick Goble

The book argues that in modern society children need folk tale medicine even more than ever.

In a tribal community there would be little to no change in day to day life for the community within hundreds or even thousands of years.

A sense of structure, security and belonging in the community would be the child's birth right.

His self hood would awaken slowly and naturally through stories, rhythm, work, play and initiation rituals.

In a modern, fast paced, market driven society, canyon wide culture gaps have opened up between parents and their offspring.

Our grandparents grew up with a completely different lifestyle and set of values to us.
These days we are ofter searching desperately for fragments of meaning in our busy lives.

It is as if each generation has to start from scratch.
Find it's own stories, solutions and pathways through life's often rocky terrain.

"In a utilitarian age, of all other times, it is a matter of grave importance that fairy tales should be respected."Charles Dickens~

"The Mermaid" Howard Pyle

 The ancient tradition of folk tales and fairy stories act as a universal platform for human experience through the ages. 

Children engage with fairy tales intuitively.
Often they ask for the same stories over and over again and these well loved stories are often reenacted during their play.

Many times, the tales they relate to most directly resonate with their own issues, fears or concerns of the moment.

The tale gives them a safe passageway through their feelings.
Feelings that might be otherwise overwhelming.

My children, as all children have a serious need for justice.
Their sense of right and wrong is very black and white.
They love to see that good wins over evil.

Florence Harrison

Yet fairy tales are also full of ambiguity, nuance and paradox as well as conventional (purely good or evil) archetypes.

Through story children learn about the complexity of both the inner mechanics of the world they live in and their own inner world.

They learn that "fortune favours the brave"

They confront their fears and learn the importance of trusting their intuition.

They also learn that being honest and authentic is one of the bravest things they can do.

Fairy tales feed a child's inner hearth of imagination and possibility.

Through the fantasy of story children meet, and learn the ways of the Monsters, Heroines, Tricksters and Sages of the collective consciousness of their own particular culture.

They also learn how to discover and navigate the realms of their own imaginations and subconscious worlds.

Each person needs a field of activity for his inner life, for his willing, feeling, and finally for his thinking soul.

 The child needs this field of activity for the strength of his soul as does each adult. If I do not present the child with the images of the language of the fairy tales, then the contents of his soul will be supplied by the idle talk of the alley. 

Car makes and money concerns; trivial, unimaginative bits of everyday conversation will rule the field of his soul, resulting in a field filled with weeds.~ Helmut von Kugelgen


  1. Thank you for book recommendation Suzy. I will be ordering it today. I have heard it said that many children have never heard of fairy tales and that has made me so sad. I read tales daily to the wee one here just as my mother read them to me.xx

  2. I am going to have to look into this book. It's exciting to me to hear of fairy stories being told as an intrinsic part of childhood development. So often they are dismissed as fluff and nonsense... not true at all, in my opinion. Thank you for the recommendation.

  3. Thank you for the in-depth book recommendation. I found your post fascinating.

  4. Thanks for your insights on that interesting sounding book!
    I love those mindless knits where you're free to dream and visit.

  5. I think I may need to get my hands on that book.

    It isn't surprising that fairy stories are so important to children's development, when you think about it - folk stories weren't passed down generation after generation for no reason, after all; people wouldn't have told them otherwise - but your post makes me want to dive in & learn more... xo

  6. Fairy tales are important! The book looks very interesting. I love the deep blue of the yarn.

  7. The sounds like a really interesting book! I love reading authors who step way outside of the box and discuss things such as fairy tales and their importance in the growth of little minds. I haven't read my girls fairy tales in many years, but for quite awhile they were a staple! My most favorite was Peter Pan, and it still is to this day! :)

  8. I love knitting too and find it somehow brings me a sense of peace.
    I'm a grandmother Suzy, and I grew up loving all the Fairy Tales. I am so happy to see that you read them to your girls - and that they enjoy them. They were a lovely part of my childhood, and I read them to my children too!

  9. I definitely find knitting and other handwork to be a form of therapy, meditation, and comfort. I also find that, as I'm knitting, my thoughts drift to the person I'm knitting for and I hope that some of the intentions I have -- my love for them and wishes for their dreams to come true -- are knit into each stitch. (Stopping by from Ginny's Yarn Along)

  10. That last post was from Kathy at http://www.needleandspade.com if you want to stop by. :-)

  11. I heart that you read your babies fairytales – and I heart even more that you know so much about them, that you think about their development, and their growth, and their heart – and as a mama you know even the hidden parts – that is so obvious. There is nothing like the love of a mama who loves her babies. It always leaves me in a little bit of awe - I'm in awe right now. God bless and keep you and each and every one of your little fairy tellers Suzy.

  12. Thank you for that interesting post. I read Bettelheim years ago, before I had children. It would be interesting to re-read him now!


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