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Breaking the Magic Spell

Radical Theories of Folk and Fairy Tales

Jack Zipes

Publication Year: 2002

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.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Title Page

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pp. iii

Copyright Page

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pp. iv

Table of Contents

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pp. v

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Preface to 2002 Edition

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pp. 10ix-x

In revising the essays in this collection, first published in 1979, I was surprised to find how "radical" they still are. Over twenty years have passed since I wrote these articles under the influence of the student and anti-war movement of the late 1960s and 1970s, the resurgence of interest in Marxism, and my own study of the ...

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Preface to 1979 Edition

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pp. xi-xiii

Our lives are framed by folk and fairy tales, but in the framework we never fill in the meaning of the tales for ourselves. It remains illusive just as our own history remains illusive. From birth to death we hear and imbibe the lore of folk and fairy tales and sense that they can help us reach our destiny. They know and tell ...

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pp. xiv

This book was originally published in 1979 by Heinemann Educational Books Ltd, and I was greatly assisted at that time by Philippa Stratton and Hana Sambrook, whose editorial work and advice were invaluable. I am most grateful to Ken Cherry, Director ...

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Introductory Fairy Tales

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pp. xv-xxv

In our time there was once a little girl who set out to find the fairy tale, for she had heard everywhere that the fairy tale had become lost. In- deed, some people said that the fairy tale had been dead for some time. Supposedly it was lying buried somewhere, perhaps in a mass grave. But the little girl did not let herself be deterred. She simply could ...

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Chapter 1: Once There Was a Time: An Introduction to the History and Ideology of Folk and Fairy Tales

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pp. 1-22

It now seems that the entire world has been following Einstein's advice. By 1979 a German literary critic could declare that fairy tales are "fantastically in."' In fact, everywhere one turns today fairy tales and fairy-tale motifs pop up like magic. Bookshops are flooded with fairy tales by J.R.R. Tolkien, Hermann Hesse, the ...

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Chapter 2: Might Makes Right—The Politics of Folk and Fairy Tales

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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 ...

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Chapter 3: The Revolutionary Rise of the Romantic Fairy Tale in Germany

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pp. 47-103

Most studies of the romantic fairy tale (Kuntsm

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Chapter 4: The Instrumentalization of Fantasy: Fairy Tales, the Culture Industry and Mass media

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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 ...

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Chapter 5: The Utopian Function of Fairy Tales and Fantasy: Ernst Bloch the Marxist and J.R.R. Tolkien the Catholic

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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 ...

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Chapter 6: On the Use and Abuse of Folk and Fairy Tales with Children: Bruno Bettelheim's Moralistic Magic Wand

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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's The 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 ...

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Chapter 7: The Radical Morality of Rats, Fairies, Wizards and Ogres: Taking Children's Literature Seriously

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pp. 206-231

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 ...


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pp. 233-251


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pp. 253-269


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pp. 271-278

E-ISBN-13: 9780813170305
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813190303

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2002