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Psychology in Fairy Tales

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By seveNT7
Words 2008
Pages 9
Title: Varying Interpretation of Fairy Tales in real life and
The effects when introduced early in childhood.
Justin L. Soriano
Vincennes University

This paper explores published articles that report studies done from research conducted upon observation of young children by Bettelheim (The uses of enchantment, 1976). The articles however vary in their definitions today. Bettelheim suggested that fairy tales have an emotional and symbolic importance especially those traditional stories that included abandonment, death, injuries and evil witches. These tales allowed children to cope up with their fears and understand moral values in their own terms. This paper also examines how preferred relationship traits are created based on stories like Cinderella or Snow White and how it affects us in choosing an ideal suitable partner.

Varying Interpretation of Fairy Tales in real life and
The effects when introduced early in childhood.

Everybody as children has been read or told a version of “ Cinderella” at one point in their lives. They were recited to us by out parents and grandparents, aunts and uncle, older siblings or other relatives and of course our dear teachers at school when we were young. We can’t help but feel enthralled as our imaginations transport us to the enchanted time and place. But what really draws us to be so interested in fairy tale stories like these? How does these stories affect us or the children exposed to it in the long run as we both take the journey in the path of growing up? From my own personal experience and observations, I have come to realize and identify the different interpretations to each fairy tale story and how it relates to our own personal experience to why and how these events or encounters with other people begins and ends. Fairy tale stories all have one thing in common, it tells the story of building a relationship with another characters within the story, creating events related to the theme and expressing a multitude of different values such as love, hatred, the difference between good and evil, morality and it’s consequences.
Not so different for reality and society today, relationships with others individuals is almost a pre-determined intuition where interaction begins with something of interest or in common. Various types of these interactions can branch of to different sub-categories in which we characterized our type of social and emotional interactions with a certain person and place or group them in different aspects of our lives, They can be family and those we call loved ones, significant others with romantic ties, close trusted friends like family, social or professional acquaintances any many more categories that would fit our own personal lifestyle. So where do Fairy tale stories like “Cinderella” or the “Little Red Riding Hood” fits in these? Simple really everything we do, is by our own choice, everything we have learned up to who we are now is based on everything we have been thought, heard of, or spoken to, so subconsciously whether we like it or not our personal relationship with others was pre-determined by our own personal traits based on all these thoughts. A perfect example of this would be the story of Cinderella.
As a child when introduced to these types of stories we can’t help but concentrate of pay close attention to the characteristic traits that makes the story interesting and appealing to us at that moment. For little girls, the character of the princess is the most sought out role, the princess role represents beauty and a glamour as well as purity in it’s most fundamental role, it exemplifies the good life of wealth, power, and love all around them, regardless how dire or dark the story goes, because in the end it will all work out into a happy ending. For little boys, we sought out the role of the Prince, both a Hero and an evil-slayer; our purpose is driven by rescuing the damsel in distress, our true love, or in other words our very own Princess. This character represents that of what our imaginations as little boys sought of. A life of adventure, action, and recognition, all in all while doing good deeds and rescuing the princess. So how do these character roles affect us then in the future when we later on grow to be adults? Simple, we never stop searching for those traits as we grow up, our childhood memories are like roots to a tree, it’s where we came from, and if we lived a fantasy world back then, I believe we still continue to do so today, as adults were just better at keeping them in check w/ reality to avoid interference with our daily lives. But when we look for a suitable partner, we can’t help but think, “Is this person the Princess or Prince that I have been looking for?”
Fairy tales like “Cinderella” has a moral and positive lesson to be learned at the end of the story. To remember this clearly and engrave it in our minds so that we and any child that hears it take the lesson somewhat seriously to heart, it is told in a fashion where it captures our complete attention and interest until the very end of the tale. The mixture of realistic and familiar aspects of reality that we can relate to and unrealistic characteristics or properties such as magic or enchantments adds to its overall popular appeal that makes the whole experience of hearing or reading it memorable and worthwhile.
Moving on as adults, for women that were exposed heavily on fairy tales like these it is more likely that they subconsciously tend to look for “Prince” traits towards a suitable male partner, this person has to exuberate confidence, must be charming, pleasing to the eye, extremely reliable and thoughtful to their needs. The need for them to feel dependent on their partners not because they are not capable themselves, but to experience the act of being taken care of as the most important person to their partners, exactly like a princess. Now for males given the same situation as exposed in their childhood, we tend to search for more of the physical attributes of a princess and their demeanor, our image of a princess would be a beauty beyond compare (or close enough to it to say attractive to us), proper attitude is also important, a lady that knows how to present herself in public, these are some examples on both sides, depending on the situation of the overall situation, traits like these can change at a moments notice. But none the less exposure to fairy tale stories may trigger a thought process that will eventually lead to a decision of choosing. It all points to where it started from the beginning, which is of course from our childhood. The lesson taught that can have a positive effect on children in general, are actually very simple to understand. Most fairy tales have a similar pattern to each other and almost all of them follow its most basic concept. It tells us specifically what good is and what is bad, it also clearly identifies the characters in the story as such. Like the story of “Cinderella” it tells us about sibling rivalry and unjust treatment of lower and social status, yet it also identifies moral values such kindness towards cruelty, that hard work will eventually be rewarded and to never give up the story itself tells us that there is hope despite any given situation. That it’s ok to dream and wish for love and happiness because those that are good and well deserving of it will eventually have them. This is just one example, some fairy tales have tragedies, and even with that an important lesson can still be learned. Not to do this or this will happen, do this and this can happen, and early lesson of results and consequences. All these moral issues bundled up together can have a positive effect on the growth and development of a child. When introduced to this type of story at an early age it is more generally accepted and easily absorbed because it is less complicated or complex and far more interesting than reality itself.
Literature Review
Perhaps the best known subject matter expert to actually incorporate fairy tales to his own professional practice is Bruno Bettelhiem, an Austrian-born American Psychologist who also wrote and published Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, in 1976. Bettelhiem states that fairy tales gives children a model on how to survive and guide them through reality in a world ruled by adults. “Fairy tales are loved by the child not because the imagery he finds in them conforms to what goes on within him but because-despite all the angry anxious thoughts in his mind to which the fairy tale gives body and specific content-these stories always result in a happy outcome, which the child cannot imagine on his own.” (Bettelhiem 6) There are of course some drawbacks and misconceptions about a fairy tales overall interpretation. Some might actually argue that the stories are delusional and biased as opposed to the overwhelming morality of good versus evil. Skeptics say that growing up with this type of concept in a child’s mind can be dangerous, because majority of these type of stories only expose the happy outcome or result. It also tend to favor a certain stereotype that relates to the main characters of the story itself. Like how a female would generally associate a perfect mate to as a “Prince”, or how the male counterpart will often portray the same role to project masculinity and dependability and view their perfect mate as a demure and proper maiden like a “Princess”. But yet despite these stereotypes the original intent of a Fairy tale is still not lost, it values and stresses out to the audience the importance of what truly good is and how to live and abide by it, it plainly enumerates the outcome of bad deeds and bad behavior by telling us the consequences of it. Obviously as adults we all have grown and altered our way of thinking because we have been exposed to Fairy Tales like these. We have lived in our own “Cinderella” story experience as we grow up, it relates to us directly because its tale is of sibling rivalry, the daily hardships in our family, of escape, hope, dreams, true love, sadness and happiness towards the end. Although it may not be identical to these traits, it is somewhat similar as it touches a subject we all have at least experienced once. And if we encountered these, so will the young generation because what are they if not the exact replica of our youth. Children soon to be adults just like us.

Conclusion and Future Study
In my final analysis, the importance of fairy tales in the development and proper growth of a child depends entirely on the story teller and how much they expose such stories to the audience at hand. And because majority of these types of stories are recited, alterations to the exact literal translation may be lost and replaced to filter out and customize a tale to the story teller’s advantage given the type of environment and situation at hand. It is important as well as our responsibility as adults that have already experienced reality beyond that of fairy tales to properly tell these stories and explain the values and moral lessons to children thoroughly. In a way as entertaining and light hearted as it was meant to be.

Bettelheim, B. (1975). The uses of enchantment: The meaning and importance of fairy tales. New York:
Bettelheim, B. (2012, July 12). Bruno bettelhiem. Retrieved from
Dundes, A. (1991). The journal of american folklore: Bruno bettelheim's uses of enchantment and abuses of scholarship. (Vol. 104, pp. 74-83). Berkley: American Folklore Society. Retrieved from

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