Wishfulfillment and Symbolism in Fairy Tales/Chapter V

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The Symbolism of the Fairy Tale

In Bechstein's collection of fairy tales, illustrated with Richter's attractive pictures, one of them that belongs to the tale of "Oda and the Serpent" strikes me. The tale runs as follows:

Once upon a time there was a man who had three daughters, of which the youngest was named Oda. Once the father was going to market and he asked his daughters what he should bring them. The oldest asked for a golden spinning-wheel, the second for a golden reel, but Oda said: "Bring me what runs under your wagon when you are on the way back." Then the father bought at the market what the two eldest daughters wished for and started home; and behold there ran a serpent under the wagon which he caught and brought to Oda. He threw it down into the wagon and afterwards before the door of the house where he let it lay. When Oda came out the serpent began to speak: "Oda, dear Oda, can I not come in on the porch?" "What," said Oda, "my father has brought you to our door and you wish to come up on the porch?" But she let it come up. Now as Oda went to her room the serpent cried again: "Oda, dear Oda, may I lay before your room door?" "Ah, see that," said Oda, "my father brought you to the house door, I have let you in on the porch, and now you wish to lay before my room door? Well, let it be as you wish!" Now as Oda was going into her bed-room and opened the door of her room the serpent cried again: "Oh Oda, dear Oda, may I not come in your room?" "How," cried Oda, "has not my father brought you to the door, have I not let you on the porch and before my room door, and now you wish to come with me in my room? However if you will be satisfied now come in but I tell you to lay still." With that Oda let the serpent in and commenced to undress. When she was about to get into bed the serpent cried out again: "Oh Oda, dearest Oda, may I not get into bed with you?" "Now that is too much," cried Oda angrily, "my father has brought you to the house, I let you in on the porch, afterwards before my room door, afterwards in my room, now you want to get into bed with me. However, you are probably frozen. So come in with me and get warm you poor worm!" And then the good Oda stretched out her soft warm hand and lifted the cold serpent into her bed.

Into the bargain now the serpent changed into a young prince who in this manner was freed from the magic spell; and he took the good Oda to wife.

The sexual symbolism of this tale, the single phases of the seduction, the change of disgust into affection, are so transparent, that explanation is unnecessary, and the transformation at the critical moment makes any such wholly superfluous.

The serpent is here the prince, in the language of fairy tales that signifies the wished-for man. The symbol is by no means, however, accidental. As in magic and fairy-tale symbolism the part (for example the charm) almost always stands in place of the whole; that is protects from the bewitched or from magic, or calls forth magic, so is also the serpent a part of the man, namely the phallus. In the story of Oda this substitution is apparent. One has the feeling in reading it it might just as well have been the relation of a dream which a patient with hysteria or dementia præcox had had.[1] Indeed we meet the serpent there with absolutely identical significance and in dementia præcox also in other pictures which are of dream-like construction, for example, in delusions, hallucinations, wish deliria, etc. There are snakes which creep into the genitals or bite near them. They are cold, disgusting (as with Oda), they have the same tendency to produce terror, and a feeling of uneasiness that so often adheres to the anticipation of the sexual. Snake dreams are very common with hysterical women and can almost always be traced to this signification.

It must be pointed out, with the exception of what has already been said, what the serpent means as a sexual symbol. That it has a very great significance in mythology, in race psychology in fairy tales, and in psychopathology. Stoll mentions the importance of the serpent in the popular belief of the cause of the miracle of Moses ("Suggestion und Hypnotismus," p. 214, II Auflage; the brazen serpent). Mention is also made of the serpent miracle of Moses (2. B. Mos., Kap. IV u. VII).

After Moses has seen the Lord in a vision (Chapt. III) and been called by him to be the Savior of Israel,[2] he desired a miracle from him, so that the people might believe in the vision of the burning bush and that he was chosen. God makes his staff change into a serpent; Aaron repeats this miracle before Pharaoh; we see also the Egyptian magician do it. The staff of Aaron twists about the staff of the Egyptian. Shall we not think here of a dream-like erotic symbolism when it borders upon the previous vision of the burning bush that itself moves upon dream-like ground? The staff becomes a serpent; that is the miracle; and the Israelitish serpent twists about the Egyptian; does not that mean that Israel's men will vanquish the Egyptians?

We learn from Stending[3] of the serpent especially as the soul animal, that is, the animal into which the soul is transformed after its separation from the body by death. Erechtheus (later Erichthonios, another name for Poseidon) of Athens was taken from his mother, the earth, and given over to his false sisters Aglauros, Herse, and Pandrosos to care for, who, at the sight of the serpent-like child, were seized with frenzy and threw themselves down from the castle cliff. Later this God was seen incarnated in the temple serpent maintained in the Erechtheion (according to Stending a proof that, originally residing in the depths of the earth, it was as well the God causing the fruitfulness of the land and also death).

From the same source I take the following about the orgies of the Mainades of the Dionysius cult. The wild round dance, the shaking of the head, the shouting and the deafening music of the flutes brings forth by night time in passionate stimulation crowds of women carrying torches in the mountain forests, who in connection with the use of intoxicating drinks are thrown into convulsions in which they believe themselves united with the god. (See also Stoll, II. ed., p. 317.) Their souls seem to leave their bodies and to mix with the spirit hosts of the god, or they think, that the god himself enters into their bodies so that they are full of the god.

To the god Dionysius as to the soul itself is ascribed a serpent form. In order to be able to take him into themselves, his worshippers therefore tore and devoured snakes or, according to the old belief, other young animals consecrated to him and representing him as bull calves and rams, and in the earliest times probably also children, and drank the blood as being the bearer of life, and clothed themselves in the fresh pelts. In this way they called upon God with loud voices that he would grant them fruitfulness in the new year.

The small Dionysia held in the country and in Athens itself, the Anthesterins (fiower feasts), have the same meaning; they represent the symbolic marriage of the god with the queen representing the country, who, at the time of the republic, was represented by the wife of the Archon of Basilea.

The serpent is also the attribute of heroes. In the Roman mythology there are related to the spiritual beings (manes, lemures, larvæ), spirit-like creatures, the genii, the representatives of the life and procreative powers of man, and the corresponding junones for women. At birth they enter into men, at death they leave, and like the souls of the dead the spirits are represented in the form of a serpent.

It may be that serpents and also dragons (both ideas often overlap in mythology and fairy tales) have a broader significance in these territories than at first sight would appear, certain it is, that they very often have a sexual meaning or a meaning closely associated with the sexual, and that that is the original meaning. That is shown by the above mythological digression. In fairy tales the ideas of dragon, serpent, giant, devil, monster are often used promiscuously. They commonly play the same rôle.[4]

If, however, perhaps in fairy tales that are full of mythological reminiscences and fragments, this supposition is permissible, so probably in present-day psychopathology the old mythology is less responsible than the similarity with the male genitals, with the appearance of the serpent as a sexual symbol (both symbolic series have a common origin). An hysterical patient, who, for example, in a dream was bitten in the mouth (instead of the genitals) by a serpent, had no such mythological knowledge. The example will be further referred to later.

It is similar with other elements in the fairy tale. In the sexual dreams of the mentally disordered, for example, we know the magic wand, the divining rod in sexual symbolic meaning. In fairy tales, however, the significance of these objects may be displaced, and so not every fairy tale serpent is a sexual symbol. We have, however, instances of fairy tales in mind in which the mythological series meets and crosses with that from dreams and psychopathology.

From the different collections which I know well I will select a series of examples of the sexual symbolism of fairy tales.

The Frog King (Grimm, No. 1).—The princess lost her golden ball which fell into the water. The frog, who came out of the water, promised to bring it back to her. As a reward, however, he will have neither the clothes, pearls, precious stones or crown; but the princess must promise to love him; he wished to become her chum and playmate, sit by her at her little table, eat from her little gold plate, drink from her little cup, and sleep in her little bed. She promised and he got the ball; when, however, the princess did not keep her promise the frog, the following day, hopped to the palace and asked the princess, who felt fear and disgust of him, to keep her promise. He made then, one after another, requests similar to those made by the snake in the story of Oda. Perhaps here the eating together is also a sexual symbolism (perhaps also the ball?). The princess was afraid to sleep in her little bed with the cold frog which she hardly trusted herself to touch. Because she was commanded by her father she picked up the frog by two fingers, carried it upstairs and put it in a corner. When she was in bed the frog asked to be lifted up

into bed with her. Then the princess became very angry, took him up and flung him with all her strength against the wall. What fell down, however, was not a frog, but a prince who became her beloved spouse.

The similarity with "Oda" is very great, only that Oda after first being angry picked up the serpent in love and took it up to herself. The moment of the going over of the sexual disgust to love is somewhat displaced. Quite clearly, still more so than with Oda, is represented the original sexual aversion and prudery of the maiden, the uneasiness and shyness before the crude sexual, the penis. That there is already a sexual wish present we know. The form of the wished-for prince (serpent, frog, bear, etc.) supports a new determination. It represents the sexual uneasiness, disgust. Instead of the tale describing the change in the heroine it projects it upon the wish object. It becomes agreeable to the heroine, so a change appears, from the disagreeable to an agreeable form, from the disgusting beast into the beautiful prince.

The wicked action of the sexual rival, who has caused the change, and this well-known psychological process are here represented condensed.

The frog as a "little man" we often meet in our case histories as well as in the associations in researches with normal and hysterical women, where the so-called "failures," long reaction times and other "complex indicators" appear.[5] I refer to such an example in an earlier work.[6]

In the beginning of the fairy tale "The Sleeping Beauty" a frog appears (Grimm, No. 50, Bechstein, p. 223).

In olden times there was a king and queen who said every day: "Oh, if we only had a child!" but no child came. Then it happened that once when the queen was in her bath a frog hopped out of the water and said: "Your wish will be fulfilled; before a year goes by you will bring a daughter into the world!" What the frog prophesied came to pass and the queen bore a daughter that was beautiful beyond compare.

If the significance of the frog does not appear so evident here as in the "Frog King," it will, however, be perfectly clear if we compare this example with later ones, especially those with Freudian transpositions (Verlegung). Again and again impregnation is represented in childless people in symbolic form (here the frog is the symbol of fertilization), and the child originating therefrom has a fate of projected significance.

The tale brings thus, among the applications of the magic and transformation technic undertaken by it, first the symbol, in order to represent the sexual story and establish in the given moment the whole as represented by the symbol.

The Tale of "The Little Hazel Branch" (Bechstein, p. 40).—A merchant has to make a journey and wishes to bring back a present for his three daughters. (Compare "Oda and the Serpent.") The first wanted a pearl necklace, the second a diamond ring, the third whispered her wish for a beautiful, green, little hazel twig. On the way home he had great difficulty to find one. Finally he accidently discovered a beautiful, green, little branch with golden nuts. As he broke it off, a bear, to whom the branch belonged, rushed out of the thicket. He surrendered it to him; the merchant had to promise the bear, however, to give him that which he first met on the way home. Naturally this was the youngest daughter. The bear came, after a little while, with a wagon to take her away. When he returned to the forest he asked her to caress him, noticed her manner, that it was only that of a substitute peasant maiden and instantly went for the right youngest daughter of the merchant. The bear took his bride to a cave with horrible dragons and serpents, and by not looking about her she breaks the enchantment and the bear becomes a prince, the owner of a beautiful palace and the liberated monsters are his followers. The bear is thus the prince, to him belongs the fruit-bearing little hazel branch that is here the special sexual symbol. The disenchantment explains the relation only that therein the little branch is no longer mentioned. The analogy with Oda and the serpent is quite transparent. The idea of the magic cave is naturally assisted by the mythological view of the (chthonischen) divinities dwelling in the ground and in the mountains, and perhaps the bear is a prince who has died and the fearful animals, his followers, who are freed from magic or death. The little hazel branch to be sure fits only half way into this symbolic series while it has its own special sense and place in dream-like sexual symbolism.

Nuts are northern symbols of fruitfulness and are distinguished as such ornament on the Christmas tree. I have met them also with quite the same significance in a dream of a patient with mental disease. The following example illustrates the twig as a masculine sexual symbol.

Hoffmann-Krayer[7] relates of the shrove-tide customs in Switzerland: "In general these (Shrove-tide customs) are still marked by sexual excesses, that originally probably proceeded from a symbolic act, which in the spring, similar to the awaking of the nature spirit of the plant world through different kinds of ceremonials, should bring about human fruitfulness.[8] The whipping of women or virgins with a twig or a bush, was a common action in all of these customs."

The author cites the following passage from the "Fast of Montanus" (Carmelite monk in Mantua, 1448—1516).

And with long straps, cut from odoriferous goatskin
They lashed the palms of young women, whom by such beating
Pleasing the god, they believed to assist in childbirth.

Mannhardt brings more material (Der Baumkultus, 1875, p. 251). He calls this the "stroke with the branch of life." Besides there may be connected with these views the present-day custom of holding a wedding in shrove-tide.

The author relates further of the widespread similar custom of single women sitting on the plough to be drawn about and of the so-called "Giritzenmoos" excursion. The old maids, in person or as dummies, are taken to a moor (Torfmoos) for punishment of their sterility, where they must live transformed into plovers (Giritze), which at this time are found in those regions. In several other articles in the same archives attention is drawn to the relation of this custom to the Danae saga.

"In the Frick valley (Switzerland) following a wedding celebration wine is poured in the lap of the maidens probably as a promise of fruitfulness."

In the same archives we read of May sports (p. 153). "Opposite the room window of the old maids a large straw man is hung up named 'Mäia-Ma' [May man]. Many old maids had to be satisfied with fool branches" (Narrenästen) (Zindel, "Folk Customs in Sargan and Surroundings"). The male organ of copulation was besides often called "rod" [verge in French].

It may be added that the branch, like other objects: magic wand, the stalk of life, pistols, syringes, rays of from ten to fifteen centimeters long, the raised finger, play a role of absolutely like significance in the sexual symbolism of the mentally diseased.

The German Cinderella.—In the German Cinderella, that we have denominated as the type of wish-fulfilling fairy tales analogous to the dream, we come across at the beginning a similar symbolic motive to that of the "Little Hazel Branch."

Cinderella had a stepmother who neglected her in favor of her own two children in the usual way. The father once went to the fair and promised all three daughters to bring something back for them. The stepdaughters wished for beautiful clothes, pearls and precious stones but Cinderella begged him to break off for her the first branch that hit his hat on the way home (compare "Oda" and "The Little Hazel Branch"). This was a hazel branch. Cinderella took it to her mother's grave, planted it there and watered it with her tears. Instead of directly becoming a fairy prince like Oda's serpent or the bear in the "Little Hazel Branch," the branch grows into a wish-tree from which the maiden receives everything, the most beautiful gold and silver clothes and little golden slippers in order to please the prince and with the help of which she finally makes the wish-prince her husband.

The Singing, Jumping Lark (Grimm).—A man was going to make a long journey and wished to bring back presents for his three daughters. The youngest desired, in this fairy tale, a singing, springing lark (Löweneckerchen = Lerche = lark). Finally, on the way home, after a long search, he sees one seated in a tree, and tells his servant to get it for him.

A lion (Löweneckerchen = Löwe = lion) springs out (such a play upon words one might meet in a dream or in dementia præcox; children's songs and rhymes do the same) and threatens to eat the merchant for trying to steal from him his singing, jumping lark.

(A physician used to say to a patient with a sexual disease, "Here you are with your little bird (Vögelein), why don't you let it out!" In the dialect of our region the penis is the bill, beak (der "Schnabel," das "Schnäbeli "). "Vögeln" is the vulgar expression for coitus. I must return to these slang expressions in order to support the inductive arguments entered upon.)

Nothing can save him unless he promises to give to the lion what he first meets on his return home: "if you will do that, however, then I will give you your life and also the bird for your daughter." The story then goes on as in the "Little Hazel Branch." The lion is afflicted, however, with a different spell. At night he is a prince in human form, during the day time, however, he is bewitched and is a lion. At night the wedding is celebrated and during the day they sleep.

Mythology gives us some information about the spell that lay upon the lion.

"There is a universal belief, and a cult bound up with it, of the separate existence of the soul when it has left the body after death. Two phenomena of human life have occasioned this belief: the dream and death. Sleep and death exist in the ideas of most peoples as like processes and are therefore treated in poetry as brothers. While, however, after sleep, life returns, nothing is perceived of this return after death. Therefore they must be constant attendants of the body, the Fylgia (followers), as the old Germans call them, which abide somewhere else, and so arises the idea of spirits in nature, of the spiritual realm. To this knowledge of his double being man can only attain through his dreams: in them he learns of the existence of the second ego. The dream-life also explains in the simplest manner the forces which are ascribed to the liberated soul: the gift to view strange places and distant times and to assume all sorts of forms. Through dreams man learns, according to general Germanic beliefs, his future. The dreamer sees many things in his sleep: the soul has left his body, tarried in secret and distant places, had intercourse with dead persons, taken all sorts of animal forms."[9]

The soul usually slips out of the sleeper in the form of a small animal when it goes on these dream journeys. He must not disturb it in this position for it would not be able to find its way back and then he would die.

With the idea of the dream-soul goes along also that of nightmare (Druckgeitser?).

"Out of the belief in the dream soul has grown the conviction that certain men possess the power to separate their souls from their bodies and take other forms."

"In the form of dangerous animals (wolf, bear, dragon) such men bring harm to others; therefore it is strongly punished by law. Here belong the witches and Völven" (volu = magic wand, volvur = sorceress). "They make bad weather, make men and beasts sick, are able to transfix people to a spot, and can take all possible animal forms."

In fairy stories they can, in the same way, wish men into other forms.

"In the belief on the changeableness of the human soul took root further the belief, widely spread over Germanic territory, of the werwolf (man wolf), that is a man who is able to take the form of a wolf." In fairy tales such werwolfs are sometimes enchanted men who only at special times can lay off the wolf skin.[10]

The lion in the "Singing, Jumping Lark" stands also as the hero, in a number of other similar tales, under such a curse. In this kind of tale the prince or the princess is in the beginning under a hostile power and the wish-fulfillment consists in the desire to avoid this influence in order to be united with the heroine of the story whom we have substituted in the wish-dream with the figure of the dreamer.

In the "Singing, Jumping Lark" the second part, which we did not follow above, deals with this theme.

The utilized mythological material indicates a new root out of which has developed the symbolism of the fairy stories in so far as it is mythological. It is the dream symbolism itself with the views developed therefrom by the dream observer, primitive man.

This knowledge is a great support for us; we are no longer surprised to find the dream, the fairy tale, and the symbolism of the psychoses all so related.

Several Icelandic fairy stories have motives quite like that of the "Singing, Jumping Lark," for example: "The Prince Bewitched into a Dog" (Rittershaus, "Neuisländische Volksmärchen").

The Brown Dog (first variant of this tale).—A king had four daughters of which the youngest was the favorite of the father. Once while hunting he lost his way (so commonly begins the entrance to the sphere of sorcery). He came upon a small house, in which there was only a reddish brown dog. He and his horse found good shelter. After he had left the house the next day the dog stopped him on the way and took him to task as ungrateful for not having expressed thanks for the hospitality. The king then had to promise him the first thing that he met when he returned home; it was his youngest daughter; the rest of it goes on as in the tale of the Singing, Jumping Lark. The husband of the daughter who had taken her away as a dog, sleeps with her at night as a man in her bed. Further she must bring a lot of proofs of obedience and faithfulness; the children were first taken away from her. Then she permits herself unfortunately to be persuaded to relate the secret of her marriage to her mother, who advises her to hold a light in the sleeper's face so that she can at least see it once. (One compares the corresponding act of Psyche in "Amor and Psyche" by Apuleius. The light serves thus to discover sexual secrets!) He awakes saddened; for he could otherwise have been delivered after a month; now, however, he has fallen into the power of his fiendish stepmother, who has cast the spell upon him, and must probably marry her daughter. Then he gives advice, how help may yet come through his bewitched kinsmen, and disappeared.

She follows his advice, arrives at the right time at the impending marriage of her husband with the daugliter of the sorceress, obtains for her magic jewels, wliioh she wanted, permission to sleep alternate nights with the bridegroom. He was given a sleeping potion, however, each time by the witch bride. His neighbors called his attention to what was going on and he only feigned to drink this potion on the third evening, and at night, as he hears the moans and story of suffering of his true bride lying near him, his memory returns to him, he is delivered, and the witch's power is broken.

This tale, whose single motive in similar connection often recurs, shows us again, that the spell was cast on the hero by a hostile power, the reason being that he was to marry a rival of the heroine (i. e., in the dream of the dreamer) and was unwilling to do so. That compares well with the delusions of certain patients, that their loved one is misled by others and taken away from them. The sexual rivals in the fairy tales are usually sorcerers and witches, who at the conclusion, through the wish-fulfillment of the fairy-tale dream, are very severely punished.

We do quite the same at night in similar circumstances with our own rivals in dreams.

An acquaintance had it in mind to woo a maiden. In the house of his admired he met other young people one of whom he suspected might also have intentions. After an invitation he dreamt, among other things, that he killed his adversary, with whom in waking life he was pleasantly related socially. Finally he shoved him under the piano (he himself is a good piano player) so that only the head projected, namely in the spot where otherwise the pedals would be found. Now in playing he tread upon the head of the poor rival with his feet!

As is fully represented in Amor and Psyche the heroine also here in the fairy tale of the brown dog is sensible of the embraces of a man with whom she sleeps but who she cannot see.

One is thereby reminded in the liveliest manner of fully analogous hallucinatory perceptions which our patients frequently relate.

One such patient experienced this connubial embrace clearly every night at two o'clock and had to answer it. That this automatism had always to appear when the clock struck two, as the symbol for the existence of two loved ones, depends upon a similar comical association, as that which accounts for the association of lark (Löweneckerchen) and lion (Löwe).

That the dog appears here as a sexual symbol in condensation with witchcraft as a double being appears, after the former examples, to be without doubt, and it is shown by such examples as that the dog is one of the commonest sexual animals, that is symbolic animals, for the masculine-sexual in the dream and in the dream-like experiences of the insane.[11]

The sleeping potion (in other fairy tales it is a sleep-thorn) plays, in the same connection as here, an important rôle in fairy tales, rarely in other significance, that is without dependence upon a sexual wish-structure. The being neglected for another, a rival, is here symbolically indicated in this manner, bearing throughout a character of dream origin. Through some means the spell is finally broken and the prince again recognizes the spurned bride by his side. The matter is so brought about that he has no blame for his forgetting and deserting, but the strange, bad influences are at fault.

In the "Grumbling Ox-maw" (Rittershaus, XI, p. 50) when the queen was dead and her husband appeared inconsolable, there entered the royal halls a beautiful woman with a goblet full of wine. She let fall, unnoticed by him, a drop upon the lips of the king. Then he arouses from his brooding, drains the goblet, and forgets his dead spouse. He now marries the beautiful stranger, who naturally is a sorceress and as a bad stepmother bewitches his only daughter in his absence and changes her into an ox-maw, which in this fairy tale always has the role and attributes of a human being. The ox-maw is delivered by a prince whom she promises to marry. The mother of this prince suddenly sees, on the marriage night, instead of the maw a beautiful princess, takes quickly the put aside covering, that is the maw, and burns it. (For the significance of fire see earlier pages; for the burning of the magic covering on the wedding night see the remarks on the fairy tale "Kisa" in the chapter The Transposition Upward, also the Icelandic Cinderella cited.) According to Rittershaus (p. 52) the drink of oblivion, which the sorceress gives to the sorrowing king, appears already in the Völsunga Saga; then further in the tale of "The True Bride" (Rittershaus, XXVII, p. 113). A royal pair had no children. When the king threatens to kill his wife if she has no child on his return from his voyage, she takes the part of one of his servants on his journey, without being recognized by him, and he takes her in his tent as the most beautiful of three women. She returns home unrecognized; she bore a daughter, Isol, and died. (So Isol is by fate made an especially conspicuous being.) Isol found later on the shore a small, very beautiful boy, in a box, named Tistram, rescues him and takes him to herself to espouse. And so Tistram is introduced as a wonder child. (Compare the finding of Moses by the daughter of the Egyptian King!) This motive frequently occurs in fairy tales and dominates a number of examples of sexual transposition symbols to be mentioned later.

The king marries a sorceress for his second wife. When he goes with Tistram on a journey she seeks to destroy the blonde Isol and to give her daughter, the dark Isota, to the returning Tistram to wife. When Tistram first inquires for his true bride the sorceress gives him a potion so that he quite forgets Isol and is willing to take Isota. Isol comes to the court as a poor maiden, and in place of the dark Isota who secretly bears a child, is obliged to ride by Tistram's side in the wedding procession, disguised as his bride but is forbidden to speak to him. In order, however, to awake the old memories, she says, as they pass an old ruin:

Formerly thou hast shone upon the earth,
Now thou hast become black with earth,
O my house (referring to her burned "Woman's house").

and upon seeing a brook:

Here runs the brook
Where Tistram and the fair Isold
Pledged her love and faith.
He gave me the jar,
Gauntlets I gave to him,
Now can you remember well.

The prince will not go to bed with Isota that night until she explains to him what these utterances signify that she has given expression to during the ride. As she knows nothing of them she is compelled to go and ask the disguised Isol, whereat the bride-groom discovers the plot, remembers Isol and takes her for his wife.

Also in the fairy story of the "Forgotten Bride" that is met with in many peoples and in which usually a false kiss causes the forgetting. It is related in one of the Icelandic settings, that the prince, returning home, drank water (in spite of the warning of the bride!) from a golden goblet, and as a result forgot the bride.

In "The True Bride" (Rittershaus) we have a wish-structure of a sexual nature from the standpoint of Isol. Instead of the wish-prince being enchanted and changed by a bad power into a sexually symbolic form, here the forgetting of the bride is brought about by the sorceress, and the overcoming of the difficulty and the wish-fulfillment lies in this, that Isol is able to bring his memory back, similarly as the heroine in the "Forgotten Bride," through other means. In a Greek fairy tale[12] the princess also[13] escapes a dragon by letting herself be locked in a chest. This chest comes now into the possession of her beloved, who as a result of the mother's kiss had forgotten the bride. After a few days the maiden is discovered by him and he marries her (Rittershaus, p. 132).

In a fairy tale cited from Rittershaus (p. 141–2), Jonides and Hildur, after many persecutions, reach the castle of Jonides' parents from whom Jonides had once been stolen by a dragon. Hildur rubs an ointment on him which works so that Jonides cannot forget Hildur when he goes in the castle in order to be proclaimed the lawful king. Then comes along a bitch and licks the ointment off and Jonides forgets his bride completely and marries a maiden, who later turns out to be the sorceress whom Hildur had meant to annihilate. Then later it happens that he finds Hildur in a peasant village after he has lost his way. She anoints him with the same salve and then there returns to him the memory of his bride whom he marries.

The motive of forgetting in fairy tales has the same significance that we have learned from Freud's researches into the meaning of forgetting.[14]

Isol, for example, finds the beautiful boy Tistram on the shore and rescues him in order later to espouse him. In this way is indicated the association in youth of the love and play of children as is especially brought out in other similar tales and as has been expressed prominently in Jensen's "Gradiva" in his psychological works. Jensen's Norbert Hanolt flies from the enchanted territory of love into the regions of archeological science; for him this signifies about the same as the magic potion of oblivion does for the fairy prince Tristram, although it is not apparently presented by an unfriendly rival. Jensen has nothing at all to say about it. The bas-relief of Gradiva, the peripatetic studies and the adventures in Pompeii in Jensen's novel are represented in the fairy tale of Isol by the expedition on horseback during which she endeavors to reawaken the forgotten memories of Tistram. The fairy tale pictures most beautifully the resistance which Tistram opposes to the memory. It is indicated in the materialistic, figurative speech of the fairy tale by forbidding Isol to speak directly with Tistram so that she recites these verses to herself. The bas-relief of Gradiva and these sayings signify the same thing, or the remark of Gradiva: "To me it seems as though we had eaten our bread together once like this two thousand years ago." Precisely through the false bride, who removes him from his true love, he is made to find the right one, Isol, a psychological moment, which Freud in the work mentioned demonstrates so plastically. This comparison naturally has significance for the other fairy tales which show the motive of forgetting.

In the language of fairy tales the love potion expresses precisely the indifference for everything in the world except the object of love. For the rest during this time, there is no recollection. This constellation can disappear just as quickly.

That the fairy tale thus fully recognizes and naïvely expresses the toxic nature of the state of being in love is certainly noteworthy.

After this discussion of the significance of the forgetting symbolism in fairy tales and the overcoming of the rival in the sexual wish-structure of fairy tales, let us return to animal symbolism after still pointing out that in Icelandic fairy tales the Winter Guest, a fairy tale figure based upon the Iceland custom of keeping through the winter a guest who arrives in the fall, almost invariably plays the part of a sexual rival and enemy who must be overcome.

The winter guest appears to me to be just such a special case of sexual rival as the stepmother. Both play a quite analogous rôle.

Similarly with the already referred to tales ("Oda," "The Lark," "The Prince Transformed into a Dog"), in the variant "The Black Dog" ("The Black Dog of the Prince," Rittershaus, p. 25) the youngest daughter Ingibjörg wishes for a golden apple. The father gets lost on the way home in mist in the forest (enchanted place), comes to a beautiful garden, and finds, after he has let himself be lodged in the castle by invisible beings, golden apples upon a wonderful tree. When he has picked the most beautiful one and is about to leave the castle, a great, black dog blocks the way and makes the familiar demand.

Ingibjörg is then taken away in a splendid carriage by the dog. When she goes to bed in the enchanted castle the dog comes to her, and as he lies by her in bed he has become a man.

In two Norwegian fairy tales (cited by Rittershaus, p. 27) the enchanted prince is a polar bear.

Benfey communicates in an extract from the Somadevas collection a story where the daughter of a woodsman is married by a snake king ("Benfey kleine Schriften," 2 Bd., Berlin, 1892, I, p. 255–6; cited by Rittershaus). Rittershaus, p. 28, quotes in the same list one Reporco (Gonzenbach, "Sicilian. Märchen," Leipzig, 1870, 2 Bd., I., 42, p. 285 ff.).

In the stories of this group the bride forfeits the love, and the disenchantment of the bridegroom because she wishes to look at him at night and see when he sleeps with her as a man and awakes him by a hot drop from her candle or something similar. After many difficulties she attains a reunion and the delivery of her mate from witches, while under similar circumstances, Psyche[15] loses Amor and only again attains her beloved after great trouble. Venus plays the rôle of a sorceress. The many tasks to be fulfilled correspond to those which must often be carried out in dreams and the wish-deliria of the mentally disturbed. To many psychotics, for example, the confinement in an asylum itself and the work accomplished therein appear as one of the tasks, which they must fulfill, in order to attain the object of their desires.


  1. See the "little green serpent" in Jung, the "Psychologie der Dementia praecox." Halle a. S., Carl Marhold, 1907. Monograph Series No. 3.
  2. A teleological hallucination: like that which we meet commonly as the deciding point in the lives of great and small religious minds; it marks a moment from which they live wholly according to their ideal. One thinks of the conversion and the call of Paul; of the vision of the holy Francis of Assisi; of Goethe's beautiful soul, Susanna von Klettenberg, who, as the conclusion of her oscillation between heavenly and earthly love felt in a vision—not as before, God in general—but specifically the attraction of the man Christ in the body. Here the union with the definite object of love is very clear. In certain sects the producing of such "conversions" is frankly strived for.
  3. "Griech. und röm. Mythologie." Leipzig, Göschen, 1905.
  4. In Bernhard Schmidt ("Das Volksleben der Neugriechen und das hellenische Altertum," 1 Teil, Leipzig, B. G. Teubner, 1871, pp. 186–7, note 1) there is an intimation as to the masculine sexual root of the serpent worshipped as a good house spirit: If the whole male branch dies out in a house then the house serpent has forsaken the house forever.
  5. "Diagnostische Assoziationsstudien," edited by C. G. Jung, Leipzig, J. A. Barth.
  6. "Diagnostische Assoziationsstudien," VII Beitrag, p. 246.
  7. "Fastnachtsgebräuche in der Schweiz." Schweizer Archiv für Volkskunde, I Jhrg., 1897, p. 126, u. speziell, p. 133 ff.
  8. I am reminded of the phallus in Greece and the lingam in India.
  9. Mogk, "Germanische Mythologie." Göschcn, Leipzig, 1906.
  10. Mogk, I. C. The night-mare root of mythology calls for special treatment. The "Traumdeutung" appeared first in 1900. Laistner's "Rätsel des Sphinx" (Berlin, W. Hertz, 1889) unfortunately is based on a not very complete knowledge of the dream.
  11. Compare also Jung, "Diagnostische Assoziationsstudien," VIII Beitrag, p. 47.
  12. Schmidt, "Griechische Märchen, Sagen und Volkslieder," Leipzig, 1877, Pd. 12. "Der Drache," cited from Rittershaus.
  13. The above fairy tale is related to the chest motive. The chest, which is to be opened by the beloved, looks very sexually symbolic.
  14. See Nervous and Mental Disease Monograph Series, No. 15.
  15. Apuleius, "Amor and Psyche." In English in Open Court Publications. Bolin's Library for Apuleius' Works.