Thursday, February 28, 2013

Jungian View of Fairytales

            Fairy tales can be analyzed from a number of viewpoints, one of which is psychodynamics. 

            Carl Jung was a psychologist that followed Sigmund Freud.  His ideas varied from Freud and dealt with the main ideas of the collective unconscious and archetypes.  The collective unconscious includes all the shared experiences of the human race.  These sorts of experiences become manifested as archetypes and these archetypes are portrayed in their most pure form in countless fairy tales.  Some examples of archetypes include a mother, a trickster, a beast, or a wise old man. 
 Carl Jung (

            Jung believed that as people grow, they are able to reconcile the opposite forces within themselves.  These forces include their consciousness and ‘shadow’ (the parts of oneself that one is unaware of). 

            Jung was also interested in alchemy- the process of attempting to turn base metals into gold.  Alchemy is associated with the colors of red, white, and black.  These three colors are manifested as key symbolical colors for characters or events in tales such as Snow White or Little Red Riding Hood. 


            The various tales related to the original Beauty and the Beast can be connected to Jung’s ideas as well.  In The Frog Princess, the brides are chosen unconsciously.  The location of the arrows was random and not something the king or prince could have anticipated.  The frog (and the swan, beast, or tiger in the other related tales) is a symbol of transformation.  The monster must encounter a more virtuous person (usually female, but occasionally male) and transcend their experience as a beast after growing into a relationship of love with the other person.  The forest that the prince enters also is a symbol of the collective unconscious.  The deep, dark forest is within each human and must be dealt with.  It could include messy issues or aspects of one’s ‘shadow’ that they have yet to discover.

            Jung’s ideas of archetypes even transcend beyond past fairy tales.  They can be seen in many modern stories such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and The Hunger Games.  A Jungian view of fairytales encompasses many collective events that are part of the human experience.  Similar characters and personality types will arise again and again as a way to educate readers.    

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