Fairy tales sí, myths no: Bruno Bettelheim’s antithesis

Robert A. Segal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


A. Dundes is consequently eager to praise those few scholars who do undertake psychoanalytic studies of folklore. Dundes cites Bruno Bettelheim’s acclaimed study of the Grimm tales, The Uses of Enchantment, as one of “the few bright spots in the history of the psychological study of folklore in the United States”. Dundes shows that Bettelheim sometimes confuses myths with folktales. He also shows that Bettelheim wrongly assumes the universality of tale types. Dundes’ main criticism is that Bettelheim at once ignores most of his psychoanalytic predecessors and outright plagiarizes others! In the first place Bettelheim is distinctive in pitting myths against fairy tales. In the second place Bettelheim is distinctive in conspicuously favoring fairy tales over myths. In the third and final place Bettelheim does not merely prefer fairy tales to myths, as he is surely entitled to do, but inexplicably disregards contemporary Freudian approaches to myths in so doing.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Psychoanalytic Study of Society
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 18: Essays in Honor of Alan Dundes
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781135827526
ISBN (Print)0881631612
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 1993 by The Analytic Press. All rights reserved.


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