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.    

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Little Red Riding Hood

            (the cartoon is copyrighted so this is a screenshot of the comic from my computer)
             This cartoon shows a modernized aspect of the classic fairy tale, “Little Red Riding Hood”.  It was created by Mark Parisi and is from  
          In the version of classic tale by the Brothers Grimm, when Little Red meets the wolf in the forest he already knows her name and greets her by it.  She continues on to tell the wolf far too much information about what she has and where her grandmother lives.  This idea is alarming to readers, in that it conveys the naivety and stupidity of Little Red.  All young children in today’s world, especially little girls, are taught to never give too much information away to strangers who ask.  However, with the advent of the internet and other social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter, it is entirely possible to be “friends” with or to “follow” someone you have never actually met.  Additionally, who isn’t guilty of friend requesting or accepting a request from someone you only met once or twice at brief events?  How can this plausibly be considered a friendship?  Many people have their entire life’s history available to be viewed on these sites, and this is equally as dangerous and stupid as Little Red’s actions with the wolf. 
            This cartoon seems to be conveying a social message to viewers.  There’s always countless news stories of young girls who have been found based on things they have posted on the internet.  Most recently, the sports story involving Manti Te’o and his alleged “girlfriend” demonstrate the power the internet has to connect and deceive people without ever having to physically meet. 
            I think this cartoon is amusing when taken on face value.  It is funny to think how different the story would be if it was more modern and the characters had access to sites like Facebook.  But on a deeper level, this cartoon displays the pervasiveness of the internet in the present day.  It represents a dangerous tool for ‘wolf’-like characters out in the world.  It’s important to proceed with caution on the internet and to not believe everything that you see there. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Child as Hero

            In certain fairy tales, children can be the heroes.  This can be inspiring for young children to hear, as they will come to believe that anything is possible.  Children are perceived as the symbol of innocence and are often not believed to be dangerous.  This can work to their advantage in many cases.

            One of the most popular fairy tales with children as heroes is “Hansel and Gretel” by the Brothers Grimm.  Although the story has several dark themes, both of the siblings care a lot about each other.  Both have roles that determine the final outcome of their situation.  Hansel first tries to take care of his sister by preparing to scatter small stones and later bread crumbs so that the two can find their way back home.  When this is unsuccessful, he continues to tell Gretel to have faith.  After getting caught in the witch’s house, Gretel becomes the one in the position of heroic action since Hansel is barred up while being fattened up to be eaten by the witch.  Gretel finally is able to outsmart the witch and push her into the stove before Hansel is to be cooked.  The children are then able to escape the gingerbread house and find their way back home.  Gretel’s compassion is truly seen when she tells Hansel that they must cross the big water separately as the duck is unable to support them both.  According to Bettelheim, the actions of Gretel at the end of tale demonstrate that she has truly matured and overcome the earlier anxieties that both she and Hansel faced. 


            Here is an image of Hansel and Gretel in the new movie called Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.  I think it is interesting that they are much older than children in this movie.  Clearly, it is an adaptation and retelling of the original Grimm tale.  I suppose the perception nowadays is that children would be unable to take care of themselves in the wild, like the way they were able to in the original story. 

            Another fairy tale that is similarly categorized with “Hansel and Gretel”, in that there are children acting as heroes is “Molly Whuppie”.  In this story, the child hero is a little girl; which when not compared to “Hansel and Gretel” could be considered unusual.  She is described as clever and this helps her to succeed in saving her family after being abandoned in the woods.  Through trickery, she is able to outsmart the giant they are entrapped by.  After escaping, she continues to use her cleverness to return to the giant’s home and steal items that will ensure her sisters’ future safety and economic security.  According to Bettelheim, this is done through “comic relief”, which is often less well-received than the drama of “Hansel and Gretel” (183, Bettelheim).  Nonetheless, Molly Whuppie is a heroine who relies on unorthodox ways to achieve happiness. 

            Children as heroes can be exciting to hear in a tale.  It helps to further reinforce the ideas of development, maturity, and growth.  There will come a time in each child’s life where they must move beyond the help of their parents; and this could involve some heroic efforts.        

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Definition: Folk or fairy tale

            Folk and fairy tales are a distinct type of text.  They are very formative stories for most children today.  They originate from a variety of sources and have no ‘original’ structure.  They are changeable and heavily dependent on the time and place of their telling.  Often the story exists as a form of escapism for readers.  Many times the stories have moral messages that shape the actions or dreams of its readers. 

Often referred to as ‘Old wives tales’, fairy tales can circulate in a variety of versions that have elements that reflect important matters of the day.  Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson developed a classification system for the variations of folk tales.  They are described by their AT designation (373, Tatar).  Folk and fairy tales were also passed along through the generations by word of mouth.  This allows the story to be changed and adapted as it is retold again and again. 

Within folk and fairy tales, certain types of characters are always present.  Fairy tales have changed over time, but there are many recurrent themes that still resonate.  They can have a universal application to any location in the world.  Most fairy tales begin with the phrase, "Once upon a time".  This adds to the whimsical and magical quality of fairy tales.  The hero can be either male or female and is often young and also must contend with a villian.  In many tales the villian is a stepmother or other type of monster (ogre, giant, witch, etc.).  By the end of the tale, the story is succinctly resolved and there is often some type of moral message that the reader is expected to learn from.  There is always a happy ending, in which the hero wins and the villian is defeated; hence the phrase "And they all lived happily ever after".  

Through the use of allusions, symbols, and motifs, folk and fairy tales help to teach both the young and old how to live their lives. 
Healthy Escapism