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Fairy Tale, The: the Magic Mirror of Imagination

Jones, Steven Swann
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Twayne Publishers, New York
Literary Criticism

Fairy tales, one of the oldest and most popular of literary forms, possess distinctive formal characteristics that have remained consistent from the first printed edition of Boccaccio's Decameron in the fourteenth century to today's high-tech productions, such as Disney's Aladdin. Jones identifies these essential ingredients as the use of fantasy or magic, the confronting of a problem and its successful resolution, the use of a sympathetic protagonist, and a thematic core. His concise and effective analysis of each element includes examples of fairy tales, discussion of such factors as gender roles, and consideration of the thematic emphasis on concerns of young people, such as fear of abandonment, cruel siblings, tyrannical authority figures, and prospective mates. Drawing upon the work of such scholars as Bruno Bettelheim and Joseph Campbell, Jones examines clearly and succinctly the psychological and sociohistorical aspects of fairy tales. Some of his most interesting arguments are found in his tracing of the fairy-tale influence in The Wizard of Oz, The Cat in the Hat, and Where the Wild Things Are. Donna Seaman

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