I have been reading Bettelheim's The Use of Enchantment to augment my course lectures on C. S. Lewis' Narnia fairy stories. While he is too psychoanalytic for my blood (I need to read Jungian anaylses of faerie - any suggestions?), I still think the following is relevant:
Those who outlawed traditional folk fairy tales decided that if there were monsters in a story told to children, these must be all friendly - but they missed the monster a child knows best and is most concerned with: the monster he feels or fears himself to be, and which also sometimes persecutes him. By keeping this monster within the child unspoken of, hidden in his unconscious, adults prevent the child from spinning fantasies around it in the image of the fairy tales he knows. Without such fantasies, the child fails to get to know his monster better, nor is he given suggestions as to how he may gain mastery over it. As a result, the child remains helpless with his worst anxieties - much more so than if he had been told fairy tales which give these anxieties form and body and also show ways to over come these monsters. If our fear of being devoured takes the tangible form of a witch, it can be gotten rid of by burning her in the oven! But this consideration did not occur to those who outlawed fairy tales. . . .
We do encourage our children's fantasies; we tell them to paint what they want, or to invent stories. But unfed by our common fantasy heritage, the folk fairy tale, the child cannot invent stories on his own which help him cope with life's problems. All the stories he can invent are just the expressions of his own wishes and anxieties. Relying on his own resources, all the child can imagine are elaborations of where he presently is, since he cannot know where he needs to go, nor how to go about getting there. This is where the fairy tale provides what the child needs most: it begins exactly where the child is emotionally, shows him where he has to go, and how to do it. But the fairy tale does this by implication, in the form of fantasy material which the child can draw on as seems best to him, and by means of images which make it easy for him to comprehend what is essential for him to understand (Bettelheim, 1975, 120-122).
I think "our common fantasy heritage" also helps children (and adults, if, as Lewis admonishes them to do so, they remain open to fairy stories) to confront the evil they encounter outside of themselves, namely in real life ogres, witches, trolls and whatnot.
(By "witches," of course I realize that there are differing views on them. So also Xander reailzed:
Xander: It could be witches Some evil witches! Which is ridiculous 'Cause witches, they were persecuted Wicca good and love the earth And women power And I'll be over here.)
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