Jut There is a lot of useful analysis and history, and there are some really lovely passages about the universality and applicability of fairy tales. Bauman talks about this fairy psychanalyxe in Moral Blindness — how the lesson of the story is that everyone needs somewhere to be able to hide their deepest secrets and that being prepared to accept that people — even people you love very much — should be allowed room to conceal some things from you is actually an act of true love. Bettelheim is a famous psychologist who worked a lot with children. Psychanalyse Des Contes De Fees by Bruno Bettelheim eBay I have learned, in reading about how to read fairy tales, that I am woefully under-educated about penises and their manifold symbols, which there are exponentially more of than I ever could have dreamed about or hoped for. To his credit, he challenges phallocentric psychoanalytic interpretations, and upends misogynist penis-envy readings as critical thematic, which is oddly un-new critic of him given that he is a new critic wearing psychoanalytic glasses.
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This isnt quite what I was expecting, though. And given this was published in it seems much too Freudian than it ought to have been too. There were times when I would have been sure it was written in the s. Now, saying this is a Freudian analysis of fairy tales might be enough to put some people off. And that would be a real pity. All the same, it would be hard to not feel confronted by some of these interpretations and readings.
Even to myself. The short version of what this book is about is that fairy tales are a very particular genre. There is very little ambiguity to them — at least, not on the surface. Bad people are BAD. Good people are GOOD. There are no shades of grey. Good people need to be rewarded, bad people need to be punished.
People are kings and queens or dirt poor. The author says this is incredibly important as it allows children to know the world depicted is not real and so is a safe place for them to engage their wish-fulfilment — in all its excess and sometimes in all its horror. The problem here is that the moral of the story ought to be left a bit unclear because the same story can mean very different things to the same child at different times while growing up.
Although, after reading this book, I suspect that one of the major audiences for fairy tales really ought to be adults.
So, what does a Freudian analysis of a fairy tale look like? In fact, unlike in the real world, no penis is ever going to be insignificant. This really was a very impressive book, but there were more than enough penises, repressed Oedipal complexes and castration fears to make a couple of dozen Woody Allen films. One of the things I really believe is that love is about acceptance of someone else, acceptance of them FOR their scars, not despite them.
And that is why love is quite rare, if not, in fact, depressingly rare. It grows into a great tree. But the father marries again and Cinderella is confronted with a step-mother and two siblings. One that sets impossible tasks and then banishes the young girl to lie in the dirt and in the filth.
But this is also a story of sibling rivalry; the ugly stepsisters that have ultimate power over Cinderella and who she must degrade herself before. Such is the jealousy of mother to a daughter seeking to take her place. And such are the obligations of growing up — that what can seem like insurmountable difficulties need to be overcome and what is a horrible refusal of parental care and love is actually motivation for growth out of childhood.
He reminds us that Cinderella is a story of Chinese origin — hence the small feet as a sign of elegance. But even if this was not the case, as he makes clear, men are big in fairy tales it is one of the oppositions set up and so the smaller a woman the more feminine she will appear to be.
In the Brothers Grimm version of the story the ugly sisters are told by their mother to cut off either their toe or their heal to get their foot to fit into the glass slipper. He brings the sisters home again and finally Cinderella gets to slide her foot straight into the shoe without effort; a perfect fit.
Now, this is the bit I never realised before. The shoe is a metaphor for a vagina. The author here says that the Prince is revolted by the blood from the ugly sisters because it makes the sexual allusions all too clear, and like Cinderella, this is a rite of passage for him too towards being prepared for sexual love. The point being that it is important that the Prince finds her at home — and covered in filth.
Here is the reassurance for the child who believes they are beneath contempt and undeserving of love — that someone will love them despite it all. In fact, more needs to be read into this story. We humans are in constant danger of believing that we are monsters. We have nightmares and we catch ourselves desiring what we can barely bring ourselves to admit to.
Fairy tales allow us to know that these are not signs of mental illness, but are a universal part of the human condition. We are not alone in our nightmares or in our desires. They do not make us evil or wicked or loathsome. They make us human. Tootle liked to play with flowers, but it was very important that he been kept on the right track could a metaphor be more laboured? A kind of aversion therapy. And finally it work a treat and Tootle grew to be a big train and never again wanted to play among the flowers.
Something that seems increasingly sad the more you think about it Hard to do a Freudian reading of a story like that — which is part of the problem, because it is also hard to see how a story like that might help someone with the deep psychological challenges that growing up inevitably involves. Hard not to admit that if you have siblings there were times you might have wished them dead, particularly when they seemed to be favoured over you — even if you immediately rejected this wish.
But fairy tales are a safe place where such guilty secrets can by played with and learnt from. Tootle leaves no room to play — it is a telling, not a showing. Not because of the castration myths or even that Little Red Riding Hood is really about a young girl exploring the dangerous side of her sexuality.
If that is the case then fairy tales are always relevant to us, no matter what our age. Bauman talks about this fairy tale in Moral Blindness — how the lesson of the story is that everyone needs somewhere to be able to hide their deepest secrets and that being prepared to accept that people — even people you love very much — should be allowed room to conceal some things from you is actually an act of true love.
Our whole society rejects this, of course. Love is utter acceptance and so there can be no secrets between lovers. And although this seems to contradict what I said before about love being about acceptance of all of our scars — well, this is about love and growing and coming to understand ourselves — who said anything about consistency or making sense?
You can go on and live happily ever after now.
Psychanalyse des contes de fées – Bruno Bettelheim
Psychanalyse des contes de fées / Bruno Bettelheim – 1976