The popularity of this post on my personal writer’s website is what encouraged me to set up this blog, focussing solely on psychoanalysis in literature.
Fairy Tales are one of the oldest and most recognised narrative forms. Classics such as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast have traveled across continents and found their place amongst Western culture in the forms of familiar books and films. Psychoanalytic theory, founded by Sigmund Freud during the twentieth century as a means to evaluate and cure mentally disturbed patients, lurks beneath the surface of traditional Fairy Tales, barely hidden.
In an essay titled ‘Jung and the Fairy Tale,’ Maria S. Kardaun claims that fairy tales have no ‘well-defined central ‘I,” which according to Jungian psychology is due to the fact that ‘fairy tales, like dreams, have no fixed central focus.’ Fairy tales are often dream-like, shifting in nature and purpose, often seeming to be made up of an arbitrary collection of images. However, if these stories are read in Freudian terms of latent and manifest content, as described in ‘The Interpretation of Dreams‘, it’s possible to read familiar narratives as psychological tales of sexual development, personal growth and female suppression.
Kardaum asserts that in fairy tales ‘the content of the image sequence is much more important than the precise wording,’ suggesting that the metaphorical images within stories are more important than setting or context. Manifest content allows for interpretation of latent desires and fears within the mind of writers, readers and characters.
The sleeping Aurora, the comatose Snow White, the submissive Belle and the voiceless Ariel. Children’s tales are brimming with misogyny, sexual desire and repressed carnal instinct, yet we relish these stories, passing them on from generation to generation.
Read the original post here, or explore analyses of individual fairy tales in depth by looking around the blog.