SAN FRANCISCO, FEB. 6. -- The late Bruno Bettelheim, a pioneer in treating mentally disturbed children, plagiarized the work of another scholar in his popular book about children and fairy tales, a noted folklore expert said today.

Bettelheim took whole passages of "The Uses of Enchantment" from a book by psychiatrist Julius E. Heuscher but did not give him credit, said Alan Dundes, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

Dundes, an admirer of Bettelheim, said he was "devastated" by his inadvertent discovery and fears it could diminish the importance of the famed child psychoanalyst's work.

But Heuscher said he was "very skeptical" about Dundes's allegation. When he read Bettelheim's 1976 book, Heuscher saw similarities to his own 1963 work but didn't think his work had been lifted.

"There were some areas where we were thinking similarly about some of the tales. {But} I had the feeling he happened to think the same way I did," said Heuscher. What he himself wrote "was not particularly original," Heuscher added.

But Dundes said there were too many instances of important parallel passages for them to be coincidental or an example of two people arriving at the same conclusion.

Bettelheim, a student of Sigmund Freud and survivor of Nazi death camps, killed himself last March in a Maryland nursing home at the age of 86. His doctor said he had been depressed since suffering a stroke a short time earlier.

Bettelheim taught that violent fantasies are part of a healthy child's psychology. In "The Uses of Enchantment," he argued that fairy tales represent the struggle for identity children wage against their parents.

The book, which won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, is probably the best-known book to take a psychoanalytic study of fairy tales, said Dundes.