The interpretation of fairy tales

by Marie-Louise von Franz

Book, 1996



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Boston : Shambhala, 1996.

Original publication date


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Of the various types of mythological literature, fairy tales are the simplest and purest expressions of the collective unconscious and thus offer the clearest understanding of the basic patterns of the human psyche. Every people or nation has its own way of experiencing this psychic reality, and so a study of the world's fairy tales yields a wealth of insights into the archetypal experiences of humankind.

Perhaps the foremost authority on the psychological interpretation of fairy tales is Marie-Louise von Franz. In this book—originally published as An Introduction to the Interpretation of Fairy Tales —she describes the steps involved in analyzing and illustrates them with a variety of European tales, from "Beauty and the Beast" to "The Robber Bridegroom."

User reviews

LibraryThing member Laurenbdavis
Marie-Louise von Franz is considered by many to be the heir of C.G. Jung. She's written a number of books on dreams, synchronicity, myths, alchemy and here, the interpretation of fairy tales. Although it took me perhaps 50 pages to get used to her writing style, which is a bit bombastic at times,
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her analysis is thorough and thought-provoking. Her insights are backed up by a lifetime of scholarship and research. I found my own understanding of folk and fairy tale symbols, themes and motifs significantly enlarged and deepened. I won't read the old tales the same way again. My only criticism is that her brief discussion of the 'animus' seemed like a foot-note to the book-long examination of the 'anima' and the 'shadow.' This weights the work in favor of the male psyche and I would have liked more examples and more discussion of the female psyche. Having said that, her analysis of The Three Feathers, Prince Ring and several other tales are terrific. Recommended.
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LibraryThing member eilonwy_anne
Von Franz was apparently Jung's chief disciple, and her work on fairy tales and folklore was central to her continuation of his work. This volume is, mostly, more centered on the act of interpreting than on the big Jungian worldview, and thus is interesting even if you don't entirely buy into
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Jungianism. It discusses the importance of tale-telling and fairy tales and demonstrates Jungian folklore analysis by dissecting individual tales in depth.

I enjoyed the way von Franz uses multiple versions of a story to triangulate a strong interpretation. The stories she uses are often evocative and little known. Many of the symbols she discusses, and the diagramming of fairy tales by number and gender of characters are very useful and fruitful. The last sections of the book were less intriguing, especially the section where she talks about the female fairy tale heroine, which dripped gender essentialism and was more full than usual of Jungian metaphysical certainties. Most of the book, however, was thought-provoking and even inspiring. Recommended for fabulists and other fairy tale enthusiasts.
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