The roots of our fascination with fairy tales and the symbolism they contain

Allan Graubard October The ubiquity of fairy tales across cultures and ages denotes an exceptional hunger for poetic imagination and invention, and its avid reception by listeners and readers. In the West, we usually turn to several published sources when considering these tales. There is the Brothers Grimm from the 19th century. Tales of My Mother the Goose.

The roots of our fascination with fairy tales and the symbolism they contain

Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice. An Overview Summary and Keywords Because the marvelous elements in fairy tales call for an explanation, a cohort of bright minds have pored over the problem of fairy-tale symbolism. Models sharing the nineteenth-century penchant for genetic inquiries have assumed that symbols are the survivals of archaic metaphors.

Such early approaches assume that symbols convey fixed meanings, and they disregard the effects of folklore variation on meanings. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm did take variation into account. This path was taken by folklorists influenced by Freud. Alan Dundes proposed to harness tale variants to grasp symbolic equivalences, and he pioneered the study of folk metaphors.

But Dundes focused on preset Freudian symbols, a trend that Bengt Holbek followed. Nevertheless, the basic tools are available. The time is ripe to synthesize these intuitions in the light of contemporary cognitive research on conceptual metaphor, so as to address the creative dynamics of symbolism in fairy tales.

Such was the prevailing understanding in the 19th century. The assumption that fairy tales are the narrative survival of customs and beliefs from other times and places has inspired two sorts of explanatory models.

On the one hand, the evolutionist hypothesis stresses survival in time. The notion that tales were invented only once and then traveled, while carrying the cultural mark of their place of origin, had a worthy exponent in Emmanuel Cosquin. This French folklorist embraced the view that fairy tales originated in India, and he repeatedly argued that fairy-tale motifs match Hindu representations.

A related problem plagues the evolutionist model. This is a sensible assumption. In short, the assumption that fairy tales might carry alien cultural traits fails to explain why those traits should have survived at all.

Alternatively, the premise of symbolism assumes that the bizarre elements in fairy tales are somehow relevant to the taletellers and their audiences.

Models that address fairy-tale contents as the symbolic expression of notions that are relevant to individuals and communities have no trouble explaining how fairy tales persist in tradition. Models with a Key Although all models of symbolism agree that the contents of fairy tales are not to be taken literally, they disagree on what symbols may be.

The roots of our fascination with fairy tales and the symbolism they contain

Typically, models built on 19th-century premises assume that symbols are the survivals of archaic metaphors. This assumption implies that symbols convey fossilized meanings, harking back to a primordial time, that are unintelligible at the present time.

As you might predict, competing theories about the origin of the symbols offer alternative propositions about their meanings. Those propositions tend to be contentious. A Disease of Language: Is everything the Sun? This is a fundamental insight.

Sigmund Freud Sigmund Freud proposed another variation on the notion that symbols are the fossilized survivals of archaic metaphors.

Symbols and Meanings in the Story of Bluebeard Little Red Riding Hood 2.
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Fairytales and Symbols - Ann Gadd Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice. An Overview Summary and Keywords Because the marvelous elements in fairy tales call for an explanation, a cohort of bright minds have pored over the problem of fairy-tale symbolism.

Things that are symbolically connected today were probably united in prehistoric times by conceptual and linguistic identity. Depending on their respective definitions of the primal metaphors, each author offers a confessedly monotonous—sexual, or solar—reading of symbols.

Quite apart from the Freudian tenet, it is noteworthy that the possibility of cherry-picking tale variants facilitates the plurality of interpretations. Notably, it applies to Darnton himself.

Darnton reduces the variety of folktales to the fixity of a single text, 48 declares that a 19th-century text represents an 18th-century tradition, and maims his chosen source, all of which is striking behavior for a historian.

In fact, Darnton joins Bettelheim and Fromm in the act of cherry-picking a tale variant that more or less agrees with his predefined template for interpretation. So the contrast between the historian and the psychoanalysts is a moot point.

The relevant point is that all three authors feel free to apply a preset interpretive grid to a tale variant that suits it, and to dismiss all the variants that might disprove it. This methodological choice raises the issue of what to do with all the unheeded tale variants.

It is clear that the practice of selecting one variant over the others befits projects bent on reading meanings into tales. Conversely, abstention from cherry-picking variants should be a condition for apprehending meanings from the tales.

The lesson here is that understanding a fairy tale involves discovering the commonalities among all tale variants—it requires a comparative endeavor that might capture the inner workings of the tale.

The Jungian canon provides a case study in the obfuscation caused by the wholesale metaphorical transposition of fairy tales—variants and all—into preset templates.

Jungian Interpretations Carl Gustav Jung proposed that the structural elements of the collective unconscious, which he called archetypes, are expressed in myriad images he called symbols.Home» Blog» Parenting» Hidden Meanings in Children’s Fairy Tales.

dissects stories and finds symbolism in fairy tales that parallel the adult spirit. The flying monkeys and the. Learning about Ourselves Through Fairy Tales: Their Psychological Value Meredith B.

Mitchell observe and do in our daily lives. Several fairy tales are presented to illustrate their The words fairy and tale themselves contain the answer. The idea of our roles being wired in explains why fairy tales help guide gender-conforming children but trouble nonconforming children, because internalizing gender-stereotypical characters they inherently identify with may relieve unconscious pressures for a conforming child or it may keep the gender-variant child at a limitation since their.

What are the major themes and symbols in Grimm's Fairy Tales? Update Cancel. Answer Wiki. 2 Answers. Mark Harrison, IT Consultant, What is the symbolism of breadcrumbs in Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale? Do fairy tales exist or are they a . Arabic Fairy Tales, Folk Tales and Fables Read fairy tales from Nights, Andrew Lang’s fairy books, and much more in our collection of Arabic folklore.

Explore full list of Arabic fairy tales. The ubiquity of fairy tales across cultures and ages denotes an exceptional hunger for poetic imagination and invention, and its avid reception by listeners and readers. In the West, we usually turn to several published sources when considering these tales.

There is the Brothers Grimm from the 19th century.

Fairy-Tale Symbolism: An Overview - Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature