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Broomsticks for witches? The development of the role and portrayal of the witch in children's literature from 1927 to the present day

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posted on 2017-11-16, 11:19 authored by Louise K. Doyle
The decline of childhood has resulted in the modern child having access to 'adult' knowledge. The suggestion of censorship leads to a discussion on a child's psychological needs in relation to fear and evil; dimensions of the witch. Using fairy tales as a model shows that children do need fear for a healthy psychological development. The symbolic meanings of the witch are analyzed revealing a beneficial effect. lt is found that the stereotyped witch image emerged from the sixteenth and seventeeth centuries. Using three major themes (isolated by Ann and Barry Ulanov) fundamental to the witch image in fairy tales; five children's 'witch' novels are analyzed for correlations. The resulting archetypal witch is found to be manifest in 1927, less apparent mid-century, and reappearing in the 1960s. The stereotyped witch image has undergone a steady decline since 1927. Analyzing relevant social trends it is found that feminism promotes the portrayal of the archetypal witch, and social awareness has led to the portrayal of innocuous witches. lt conclusion, irony is found in a child's increased access to 'adult' knowledge when fear and evil in his literature are decreasing. lt is also found that the witch presented in an archetypal form can provide psychological benefits; innocuous witches cannot. The archetypal witch does not promote feminism. The innocuous witch often maintains the stereotyped image, prolonging a negative attitude towards females.



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© L.K. Doyle

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 2.5 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.5) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5/

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A Master's Dissertation, submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the Master of Arts degree of the Loughborough University of Technology.


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  • MA

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  • Masters

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