The Witch Must Die: The Hidden Meaning of Fairy Tales

The Witch Must Die: The Hidden Meaning of Fairy Tales

The Witch Must Die: The Hidden Meaning of Fairy Tales

The Witch Must Die: The Hidden Meaning of Fairy Tales

Synopsis

In The Witch Must Die, Sheldon Cashdan explores how fairy tales help children deal with psychological conflicts by projecting their own internal struggles between good and evil onto the battles enacted by the characters in the stories. Not since Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment has the underlying significance of fantasy and fairy tales been so insightfully and entertainingly mined.

Excerpt

Three is a special number in fairy tales. Snow White's stepmother, the queen, tempts Snow White with lethal gifts on three separate occasions. Cinderella, after repeatedly eluding the prince on her first two trips to the ball, loses her slipper on the third. And the miller's daughter promises Rumpelstiltskin her firstborn during the little man's third appearance. The number three is a staple of fairy tales: three visits, three trials, three promises.

I had three goals--three wishes, so to speak--when I set out to write The Witch Must Die. The first was to provide readers with a new way of understanding fairy tales. What do these age-old stories signify? What deeper meanings do they possess? Fairy tales are the first stories we hear, and though they are meant to enchant and entertain, they also offer us a means of addressing psychological conflicts. Using "the seven deadly sins of childhood" as a unifying theme, The Witch Must Die demonstrates how fairy tales help children deal with envy, greed, vanity, and other troublesome tendencies.

The second goal is to revisit the fairy tales of our youth in order to illuminate hidden meanings in the stories that were glossed over when we were young. Few children understand why Snow White lets the evil queen into the cottage three times in the face of the dwarfs' repeated warnings or why the princess in The Frog Prince refuses the frog's request to hop into bed. Is it merely that the frog is wet and clammy, or is there more to it than that? And it is not readily apparent that the reason the witch cuts off Rapunzel's tresses is to punish her for becoming pregnant, a condition that comes to light when the young girl's apron no longer fits about her waist. Adults have little trouble making these connections, but children do.

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