Breaking the Magic Spell

Breaking the Magic Spell: Radical Theories of Folk and Fairy Tales

Jack Zipes
Copyright Date: 1979
Pages: 304
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Breaking the Magic Spell
    Book Description:

    This revised, expanded, and updated edition of the 1979 landmark Breaking the Magic Spell examines the enduring power of fairy tales and the ways they invade our subjective world. In seven provocative essays, Zipes discusses the importance of investigating oral folk tales in their socio-political context and traces their evolution into literary fairy tales, a metamorphosis that often diminished the ideology of the original narrative. Zipes also looks at how folk tales influence our popular beliefs and the ways they have been exploited by a corporate media network intent on regulating the mystical elements of the stories. He examines a range of authors, including the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, Ernst Bloch, Tolkien, Bettelheim, and J.K. Rowling to demonstrate the continuing symbiotic relationship between folklore and literature.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7030-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface to the 2002 Edition
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface to the 1979 Edition
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  6. Introductory Fairy Tales
    (pp. xv-xxvi)
  7. Chapter One Once There was a Time: An Introduction to the History and Ideology of Folk and Fairy Tales
    (pp. 1-22)

    To begin with a true story told in fairy-tale manner:

    Once upon a time the famous physicist Albert Einstein was confronted by an overly concerned woman who sought advice on how to raise her small son to become a successful scientist. In particular she wanted to know what kinds of books she should read to her son.

    “Fairy tales,” Einstein responded without hesitation.

    “Fine, but what else should I read to him after that?” the mother asked.

    “More fairy tales,” Einstein stated.

    “And after that?”

    “Even more fairy tales,” replied the great scientist, and he waved his pipe like a...

  8. Chapter Two Might Makes Right The Politics of Folk and Fairy Tales
    (pp. 23-46)

    Politics and the fairy tale. Power struggles and magic. One is tempted to ask what all those enchanting, lovable tales about fairies, elves, ogres, giants, kings, queens, prices, princesses, dwarfs, witches, peasants, soldiers, beasts and dragons have to do with politics. One is tempted by the magic spell of the tales, so it would seen, to obliterate their real historical and social basis and to abandon oneself to a wondrous realm where class conflict does not exist and where harmony reigns supreme. Yet, if we reread some of the tales with history in mind, and if we reflect for a...

  9. Chapter Three The Revolutionary Rise of the Romantic Fairy Tale in Germany
    (pp. 47-103)

    Most studies of the romantic fairy tale (Kuntsmärchen)¹ usually agree that its development marked the beginnings of a new form which broke radically with the traditional folk tale (Volksmärchen) and contained the essence of romantic aesthetic and philosophical theories.² Generally speaking these studies have focused on the formal experiments of the romantics and have made careful distinctions between the different kinds of fairy tales. Though this scholarly research has provided valuable insights into the particular intentions and designs of romantic authors, the underlying socio-historical forces which governed the rise of the fairy tale in the late eighteenth century have not...

  10. Chapter Four The Instrumentalization of Fantasy: Fairy Tales, the Culture Industry and Mass Media
    (pp. 104-145)

    Ever since the eighteenth century German bourgeois writers have shown a marked propensity to write and study folk and fairy tales. One might snidely assert that this is perhaps what has been wrong with German bourgeois thinking. However, such a snide remark would miss the real significance of this phenomenon. The discovery and serious study of folklore during the latter half of the eighteenth century tapped a rich vein of culture which is still being explored today and is vital for a concrete realization of humanistic utopian projects.

    It was Johann Gottfried Herder, who first kindled the interest in German...

  11. Chapter Five The Utopian Function of Fairy Tales and Fantasy: Ernst Bloch the Marxist and J.R.R. Tolkien the Catholic
    (pp. 146-178)

    It might seem somewhat incongruous if not risky to couple the names of Ernst Bloch and J.R.R. Tolkien. It is almost like taking two names in vain at the same time. But in the name of the fairy tale anything goes. And, as we know from the fairy tale, risks are more often rewarded than not. So what about these names?

    Bloch, hardly known in the Western world except to erudite scholars and theologians, was a Marxist philosopher, who endeavored to unravel the resilient latent qualities of humankind manifested in the struggle for a better world. He viewed these qualities...

  12. Chapter Six On the Use and Abuse of Folk and Fairy Tales with Children: Bruno Bettelheim’s Moralistic Magic Wand
    (pp. 179-205)

    When I first wrote the following essay in 1977, I was greatly angered by what I felt to be the authoritarian tone and fallacious arguments of Bruno Bettelheim’sThe Uses of Enchantment, which is still widely used and acclaimed as a great and perspicacious study of fairy tales. Little did I know at that time—and little did the general public know—that my critique of his work was minor and temperate compared to the critiques of his activities as a psychologist and his published works that followed his death by suicide in 1990.

    Two excellent biographies,Bettelheim, a Life...

  13. Chapter Seven The Radical Morality of Rats, Fairies, Wizards, and Ogres: Taking Children’s Literature Seriously
    (pp. 206-232)

    The continual commotion caused by J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, the film, and assorted toys and costumes is more disturbing for me than exhilarating because, I believe, many people are being misled by myths spread about children’s literature and about the way children learn to read—and to read the world—through children’s literature. I have already noted this dilemma in my critical discussion of the myths that Bruno Bettelheim irresponsibly created and spread about fairy tales as do many critics who use children and their readings as pawns in political and social conflicts. The context in which we discuss...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 233-252)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 253-270)
  16. Index
    (pp. 271-279)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 280-280)