Interpretation of fairy tales I

2010 I wrote my master’s thesis titled “Interpretation of fairy tales and their relationship to religion”. My purpose was not to choose the best way to interpret fairy tales, but to understand how peaple are doing it. I realized that there are four ways to interpret fairy tales:

Firstly, there is the interpretation of tradition – interpreters are finding traditions in fairy tales. For example, there can be descriptions of marriage, initiations, rituals and cosmology. Interpretation of tradition involves both secular and religious side, according to decision whether the interpreted motive is religious or not. For example, marriage can both be arranged to get god`s blessing and social acceptance.

For example : Cinderella fairytale tells us that the prince was looking for a girl who`s foot is small enough to fit into a golden shoe. In China, where the story was firstly collected on 10th century, women tend to wear clogs preventing foot to grow, which in turn guaranteed an advantage to find good spouse. For comparison – in Estonian Cinderella stories, the shoe must fit the leg – not too small neither not too big.

Secondly, there is the sociological interpretation, in which the purpose of the interpretation is to see fairy tales showing and teaching social values, expectations and roles. In my opinion, the best interpreter in sociological interpretation is Bengt Holbek. Sometimes fairy tales are believed to be educational, but sometimes interpreters say, that stereotypes in fairy tales are carrying wrong stereotypes (women have to clean and serve etc).

For example : As a rule, princes or kings marry a lady in similar social clothes. They fall in love with Cinderella, when she carries a costume that higher class is wearing and they cannot recognise her without these clothes.

Thirdly, there is psychoanalytic interpretation of fairy tales – fairy tale is taking place in one person and showing psychological problems. Real life experiences are just reflections for our psychological decisions. For example, prince and princess are not human beings, but animus and anima, archetypes of the unconscious mind.

For example: magic helper is a knowledge that we will get from our uncouncious mind.

And the last way of interpretating fairy tales is spiritual interpretation. It describes the development in one person – the adventure is leading to spiritual values that can be available to anyone, but it is seldom achieved. In that case, it is not the story about psychological wellness, but higher spiritual values, that are hardly accessible because of human`s habit to aim for lower, materialistic, purpouses.

The growth can be considered for both the individuals and human groups (such as nations), as well as on the global scale. King of the acquisition is the ability to be the ruler of oneself (which is difficult to achieve).

Spiritual wisdom is the world’s secret wisdom of mystical perception of humans or human groups. If a psychoanalytic interpretation of the fairy tale has neither earthly nor psychological resource findings, it is the spiritual interpretation of this spiritual wisdom.

For example : The main character (Cinderella) is an example of a good human being. He/she achieved happiness by surpassing obstacles which others would not have been able to overcome.

How do you prefer to interpret fairy tales?

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