Off with Their Heads
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Off with Their Heads : Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood

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When Hansel and Gretel try to eat the witch's gingerbread house in the woods, are they indulging their "uncontrolled cravings" and "destructive desires" or are they simply responding normally to the hunger pangs they feel after being abandoned by their parents? Challenging Bruno Bettelheim and other critics who read fairy tales as enactments of children's untamed urges, Maria Tatar argues that it is time to stop casting the children as villians. In this provocative book she explores how adults mistreat children, focusing on adults not only as hostile characters in fairy tales themselves but also as real people who use frightening stories to discipline young listeners.

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Product details

  • Paperback | 332 pages
  • 152.4 x 223.52 x 20.32mm | 476.27g
  • Princeton University Press
  • New Jersey, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 30 illus.
  • 0691000883
  • 9780691000886
  • 567,379

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Review quote

Winner of the 1992 Book Prize in Literature, German Studies Association "As provocative and stimulating as her The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales, this book should give a salutary shock to everyone who brings children and tales together, convincing them that "every interpretation is a rewriting' and encouraging them "to identify what is transmitted in the stories we tell children.'"--Library Journal

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Back cover copy

When fairy tales moved from workrooms, taverns, and the fireside into the nursery, they not only lost much of their irreverent, earthy humor but were also deprived of their contestatory stance to official culture. Children's literature, Maria Tatar maintains, has always been more intent on producing docile minds than playful bodies. From its inception, it has openly endorsed a productive discipline that condemns idleness and disobedience along with most forms of social resistance.

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