Excerpts: The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim

I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you are comfortable with a lot of psychobabble. This book is FULL of psychobabble: Oedipus complexes, sexual insecurities, etc.

Basically this book is a high-minded discussion of the effects of fairy tales (and therefore most animation) on children. It discusses fairy tales from a story aspect, which is what interested me in the first place (that and the fact that Mamet recommends the book in his, “On Directing Film.”) While I did pick up a lot of good information, which I’ve listed below, the book is very long, and very dry. Just stick to my notes, all the good stuff, that which is applicable to film-making and animation, is listed below.

“Safe” stories mention neither death nor aging, the limits to our existence, nor the wish for eternal life. The fairy tale, by contrast, confronts the child squarely with the basic human predicaments.

We grow, we find meaning in life, and security in ourselves by having understood and solved personal problems on our own, not by having them explained to us by others.

Fairy tales enrich the child’s life and give it an enchanted quality just because he does not quite know how the stories have worked their wonder on him.

The fairy tale is therapeutic because the patient finds his own solutions, through contemplating what the story seems to imply about him and his inner conflicts at this moment in life.

The fairy tale offers fantasy materials which suggest to the child in symbolic form what the battle to achieve self-realization is all about, and it guarantees a happy ending.

Myths project an ideal personality acting on the basis of superego demons, while fairy tales depict an ego integration which allows for appropriate satisfaction of id desires. This difference accounts for the contrast between the pervasive pessimism of myths and the essential optimism of fairy tales.

The more secure a man is within himself, the more he can afford to accept an explanation which says his world is of minor significance in the cosmos.

On the other hand, the more insecure a man is in himself and his place in the immediate world, the more he withdraws into himself because of fear, or else moves outward to conquer for conquest’s sake.

This is why many fairy tales begin with the hero being depreciated and considered stupid. These are the child’s feelings about himself, which are projected not so much onto the world at large as onto his parents and older siblings.

Cleverness may be a gift of nature; it is intellect independent of character. Wisdom is the consequence of inner depth, of meaningful experiences which have enriched one’s life: a reflection of a rich and well-integrated personality.

The adult’s sense of active participation in telling the story makes a vital contribution to, and greatly enriches, the child’s experience of it.

The world becomes alive only to the person who herself awakens to it.

Only after one has attained inner harmony within oneself can one hope to find it in relations with others.