Last night, in want of something to read, I pulled a compilation of Grimm’s Fairy Tales from a shelf. Fairy Tales seem to be popping up all over entertainment nowadays what with Grimm, the fairytale episode on Castle, Snow White and the Huntsman and Mirror, Mirror. There was also this wince-worthy article in Slate declaring fairy tales as being…out of fashion.
It’s a natural progression from the cultural focus on vampires and werewolves, and I love it. As a kid I lost myself in big tomes of Grimm’s, Hans Christian Anderson, Celtic folktales and Native American legends. Those stories were the backdrop of my imaginary life and still are. I love basing my own stories in dense forests where no amount of sunlight can lighten the deep shadows. Where animals speak, fairies exist, and we are challenged to become something…more. To do the right thing. To complete the quest.
I’ve been thinking that now is the time to start becoming reacquainted with these tales. C’s about to be of age to be told the milk-and-bread versions, and I just generally want a refresher course. So, I fluffed my pillows all around, opened the book and dug in.
The first tale is The Frog Prince, not my favorite. I much prefer The Seven Swans or The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Still, it’s a nice little tale that is ostensibly about doing the right thing. Little princess loses the ball, frog makes her promise to take him home, she agrees, he gets the ball, she backs out of her promise. Then, he follows her home, tells the king, and the king makes her live up to her word. Later, she takes him up to her room. The princess is so disgusted when he asks to sleep on her pillow that she throws him against a wall. Boom! He becomes a prince. They marry and live happily ever after. In the Grimm’s version, the prince’s servant carried grief like three iron bonds around his heart when the prince went missing. As the prince and the princess drove away in carriage they heard a snapping sound–the bonds breaking off the servant’s heart.
In Jungian analysis the golden ball is the self. When the princess–an immature self (or whole self–no individuation between the person and the self)–loses it, she is effectively losing herself in the dark well. She needs some agency of transformation (the frog–life circumstances, middle age, just an awareness of being divided) to help her rescue it. Even still, she needs an authority (the King–Highest Self) to guide her to accepting that ‘frog’, and ultimately be grateful that it has helped her get her ball back/become whole again.
The next discussion we could have, of course, is about whether or not such analysis is worthwhile. What does it mean to us? Does it have a meaning or is this just a story about keeping promises and being grateful?