Wishfulfillment and Symbolism in Fairy Tales/Chapter VII

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Some Special Sexual Fairy-Tale Motives

Fairy tales have a predilection to deal with various sexual motives, having a tendency to the pathological, although with a normal root, which latter is constantly emphasized by Freud.

These motives follow from the psychological sexual inclination, especially manifested in dreams, between father and daughter, son and mother (Œdipus Saga!), Further of cruelty (sadistic root) and the correspondingly developed resistance in women.

"Drudge-of-all-Work" (Grimm, 65).—There was a king who had a wife with golden hair who was beautiful beyond compare. Before her death she made him promise that he would not take another wife who was not as beautiful as she and did not have golden hair like hers. After the king had mourned for a long time he sought a second wife, but none could be found who had the desired characteristics. Then his eyes fell on his daughter who resembled her dead mother in beauty; he was consumed with love for her and wished to make her his wife. In order to put him off the daughter desired wonderful dresses, difficult to make, and a mantle made of a thousand furs to which every animal in the kingdom must contribute a piece of its skin. The king was not deterred and brought it about that these conditions were fulfilled. When there was no more hope the princess fled with her mantle into the forest. Here she was discovered by the hunting attendants of a young king. She was then employed at menial work in his castle, and by secret contrivances accomplished it that the king recognized her in her true character and married her.

The persecution through the father is here a special form of sexual rivalry with the wish prince; the whole is a very apparent dream-like wish structure with Drudge-of-all-Work as heroine and the introductory special motive.[1]

Nowhere better than here could be pointed out the similarity of this fairy-tale motive with the case history of the hysterical young woman whose case was related as an example from pathology of transposition symbolism.[2]

In the occurrence of this hysteria the father became a prominent personality as a sexual rival.

The young woman almost regularly saw herself pursued in her dreams by her naked father. Her wish-dream corresponded in principle to the Drudge-of-all-Work motive. Instead of the original sweetheart there appeared indeed later in the dream also the substitution through the physician, a frequent occurrence in the process of cure emphasized by Freud (transference on the physician).

The father first appeared as sexual persecutor and rival in the dream and in the hysterical structure at the moment when he stopped the relation of his daughter to her true sweetheart. With that was also given the occasion for the hysterical symptoms, in the case in question (through the box on the ear), especially also to the transposition of the hysterical symptoms upward and to completing the wish-structure.[3]

"The Father Persecutes His Own Daughter" (Rittershaus, XXXI, p. 133).—A prince killed his parents and his sister in order to secure the kingdom for himself. Some years later he married a beautiful princess and after one year she bore him a daughter named Ingibjörg. When she was grown her mother as she lay upon her death-bed called her child to her and said to her that after her death her wicked father would wish to possess her and to prevent her escape would tie her with a rope. She should now endeavor to tie her bitch to the rope while she, through flight, saved herself. She should then bind herself with a girdle and then she would never suffer from hunger.

The prophecies of the mother came true. Ingibjörg succeeded, in the darkness of the night, in escaping to the sea where the captain of a merchant-man took her on board his ship. She came to a strange kingdom and found shelter in a small peasant's cottage.

The peasant had to make all the clothes for the young unmarried king. Since Ingibjörg came everything was so much more beautifully made, sewed, and splendidly embroidered that the king wondered about it and resolved to investigate the matter. As he came to the peasant's house he saw there the beautiful princess and he was consumed with love for her. He offered her his hand and Ingibjörg agreed gladly to the marriage.

Now he had to promise her never to take in a strange winter guest without her knowledge. The king promised. After some years an old man came who begged the king to take him in and put him down as a hen-pecked husband because he must first ask his wife about such a little thing. The king was ashamed of his promise and received the guest without the consent of the queen. The motive of the now beginning persecution by the winter guest (the father) who kills her children and drives her into misery is a resuming of the original theme. With the help of a princess bewitched by a wicked stepmother in an ox's maw, Ingibjörg, after many difficulties, is returned to her husband again, the father (winter guest) is annihilated.

The "unity of scene" demanded by the dream is thus respected in a beautiful manner by the fairy tale: The king (that is the husband) is seated on a golden chair, the winter guest, however, who has become his minister, is seated on an iron chair with iron braces, which close tightly about his breast (anxiety? bad conscience?). He must now, as is usual in Icelandic fairy tales, relate the story of his life. When he begins to lie and to conceal his misdeeds the iron braces press tighter and tighter and iron prods bore into his breast. Finally he has confessed everything and now a rock opens beneath him and he falls in a kettle full of boiling pitch and is consumed.

The ox's maw as a reward marries the king's brother and is delivered from the spell on the marriage night.

There are still other fairy tales in Rittershaus of analogous content.

Bjorn Bragastakkur (from the collection of Jón Arnäson, cited by Rittershaus) is no king but a wild soldier of fortune who lives deep in the solitary forest. He stole a princess and compelled her to marry him. When his wife died he also wished to marry the daughter, named Helga. She escapes from him in the night, leaving a piece of wood in her place bound with a rope and which she begs to answer for her.

Helga first helps the cook of a king, then the tailor, where the king in spite of her hiding discovers her and then marries her. Her own father becomes here also, contrary to his promise, the winter guest of the king, kills her children and gets the king through cunning to order his wife to be killed. She is then saved in a wonderful way by magic, also the children, and later united with her husband while her persecuting father is annihilated.

In the "Vitæ Offæ" (Müllenhof, "Sagen, Märchen und Lieder der Herzogtümer Schleswig, Holstein und Lauenburg," Kiel, 1845, cited by Rittershaus) it is related according to an old Germanic saga, that the king Offa once while hunting came across a wonderfully beautiful maiden who was crying. She told him that her father wanted her to marry. Because she had not consented the servants have been commanded to kill her in the forest. The servants out of pity spared her life but left her there helpless.

King Offa took the young maiden home and married her. From the wars he sent a messenger to her who on the way accidentally happened on the bad father of the queen who exchanged the letter for another which he substituted for it according to which, on the command of her husband, the queen and her children were to be murdered. Through magic they were saved and later found their way back to the mourning king.

Straparola also deals with the same theme ("Les Facétieuses nuits," Paris, 1857, I Nacht, 4 Fabel, I. S., 58 ff., cited by Rittershaus). A prince wishes to marry his daughter. On the advice of a nurse she hides in a cupboard which is sold and is taken from the palace and finally comes into possession of the king of England who then marries her. There she is discovered by the father. He disguises himself as an astrologer and comes to the court. Here he kills his two grandchildren and trys by means of a bloody knife which he hides near the queen to attach suspicion to his daughter. For this she is to die a slow death. Her old nurse learns of her misfortune, arrives upon the scene and discloses the misdeeds of her father.

The "Peasant Daughter Helga" (Rittershaus, XL), a beautiful maiden, received an awl from her dying mother which could say "yes" when charged to. When one evening her father wished to compel her to come to bed with him, she pretended, that she must look after the fire. When she was outside she stuck the awl in the wall and charged it to say "yes." Now she herself ran out into the dark night.

The further development of the fairy tale, however, takes a different course than those previously related.

Towards morning she had penetrated deep into the forest to a neat little house. The owner was named Herraudur and asked her to stay with him. After a while Helga became pregnant. In the sequel Herraudur was ensnared and bewitched by a sorceress who sought Helga's life. She was saved with the help of magic, Herraudur recognized that he was bewitched, the persecutor was destroyed and Herraudur celebrated his marriage with Helga.

Here is the place to go into that somewhat complexly constructed fairy tale of "The Beautiful Sesselja" (Rittershaus, LI, p. 217).

A king mourned long over the death of his queen and declared that he would only marry a young maiden who was as beautiful as she who was dead and was like her. One day he saw his young daughter Sesselja dressed up in the best clothing of her mother and as she was more beautiful than her mother he wished to marry her. Sesselja fled now out of the kingdom of her father. In a strange kingdom she sought shelter with poor people and let herself be known as their daughter so that her father could not discover her. Once while tending the sheep, believing herself unobserved, she dressed up in the good clothes of her mother. She was discovered by the servants of a princess and was brought to her to serve her. This princess was also named Sesselja with the added title of "The Proud," as in her conceit she spurned all suitors.

Once as they were walking together they heard, deep in a cleft, a bird lamenting. Sesselja, the servant, had longer hair than her mistress so that the bird could reach it when it was let down and was pulled out. The princess was so delighted with the bird that she took him with her in her bed room. On the following morning, however, it had disappeared. Yet during the night which the bird passed in her room, the princess dreamt a wonderful dream. After several days there came to her a wonderful feeling and as the gold, that her father had once given her and that only retained its lustre in contact with virgins, turned black, the princess knew that, without fault of her own, she was pregnant (compare the Annunciation motive with the dove).

The faithful servant now helped her in her need, helped to conceal her pregnancy, held her own hands over that of the princess that contained the tell-tale gold, and passed herself as the mother of the child.

After some time the prince arrives who had been transformed into that bird by the wicked stepmother, but could be delivered by a princess risking her life for him, and wishes to marry his rescuer. The princess is required to show her gold but affirms that the servant Sesselja has stolen it and drives her away. Everything is revealed, however, and the prince marries the servant, poorly rewarded for her faithfulness, who was indeed also a princess.

The motive of the sexual persecution by the father is the same as in the previous examples.

That the mother must always die first means, as in the language of dreams, that the mother (in the wish dream of the daughter) is the sexual rival of the daughter and must yield to her (infantilism).

The bird-prince and the narration of how princess Sesselja became pregnant is another striking example of sexual fairy-tale symbolism that further completes our deductions regarding the "Lark."

Sesselja, who is followed by her father, is depressed and gets the bird as a wish complement and becomes pregnant through it. It becomes indeed later also her mate. Through that, that the haughty princess Sesselja, as rival, who must be overcome, is taken up in the structure, there is brought about the somewhat characteristic transference.[4] Pride, unapproachableness, combined with cruelty, as sexual characteristics of fairy-tale heroines, or much more of the woman whom the fairy prince is to conquer, is a frequently used chief motive in fairy tales.

Of the Peasant's Son Who Marries the Queen (Rittershaus, XLVIII, p. 201).—The peasant's son Finnur in his childhood often played with two princes. He was, however, stronger in every way than they, so they enviously ignored him. They undertook a journey into the world, well endowed, but in contrast to Finnur, who also sallied forth, they spurned the assistance of a magic being who offered to serve them, and went from court to court. Finnur, who fell in with them at the courts of the kings, made himself loved everywhere by his skilful service and his strength and was presented with magic gifts. A little table which laid itself, a jug in which a drink came when one wished in it, and magic shears with which one could obtain the most beautiful clothes.

In the fourth kingdom in which the youths met a virgin queen reigned who suffered no man among her retinue or in her vicinity who had not been castrated. The princes allowed themselves to be castrated, Finnur preferred to be banished on a desert isle, where he and others to whom the same fate had fallen, maintained themselves with his magic gift. The queen observed this and desired an explanation from him. She wished to possess unconditionally the little magic table, whereupon Finnur demanded to spend one night in her room sleeping on the floor. Four men with lights and drawn swords watched the bed in which the queen slept. For the magic jug he demanded to sleep in her bed at her feet. Eight men watched this time but Finnur did not stir. For the magic shears he demanded to sleep beside the queen but outside the bed coverings. The watch this time consisted of twelve men. Finnur wished now for the assistance of the magician mentioned in the beginning. In the same moment he found himself lying underneath the bed clothes beside the queen and the men who would run him through on that account could not stir a limb, they were transfixed until the queen cried to them: "Hey, put out the lights, put up your swords, and do not strike now for he is, with his fiddle, on a journey in my beautiful garden."

The following morning Finnur was enthroned beside the queen and a magnificent wedding celebrated.

The last quoted portion shows how rich in imagery the fairy-tale sexuality is. Garden and flowers are in general preferred figures in the fairy tales, for representing or concealing, to indicate the human sexual organs.

The fairy tale "The Proud Queen" (Rittershaus, XLVII, p. 198) deals with the oft recurring motive found in fairy tales, that the unmarried, haughty queen mocks her suitors, has them shaved bald and their clothes covered with white spots until one of the ugliest men conquers her and afterwards in his true shape becomes her husband.

Rittershaus cites a number of parallels to this story. The close cropped head probably signifies here, as in the biblical tale of Samson and Delilah, a sort of castration, a deprivation of masculine strength (in Samson it becomes the invincible magic strength). When hair is mentioned in the fairy tale (especially the hair of men) we can probably almost always interpret it in its significance as a sign of sexual strength.

In "Elesa and Bogi" (Rittershaus, LVIII) the princess behaves in the same manner; in her need her foster-brother, who had wooed her, but had been scorned, comes to her help against a giant Berserker and then marries her.

In "King Throstle-Beard" the motive is similar. The proud, haughty princess has to marry the previously scorned king Throstle-Beard disguised as a beggar with whom she is happy after she has been humbled.

The peasant's son who married the queen is a wish-fulfilling construction; from the standpoint of the peasant's son, he overcomes the proud princess. In "King Throstle-Beard" there is still a sort of revenge motive added.

In the fairy tale "The White Snake" (Grimm, 17) a young man is consumed with love for a proud princess. She sought a husband but let it be known that whoever wished to woo her must accomplish a difficult task. If he was not able to do it his life would be forfeit. Many had already fruitlessly risked their lives. The young man, however, succeeded in solving three such tasks with the help of grateful animals. The third task, for example, was that he should fetch her a golden apple from the tree of life. They then share the apple of life and eat it together (sexual transposition symbol); then her heart is filled with love for him!

In the fairy tale "The Riddle" (Grimm, 22) the hero came to a city wherein dwelt a beautiful but haughty princess who had made it known that whoever should ask her a riddle that she could not guess should be her husband: if she guessed it, however, he would have his head cut off. The hero succeeded in giving her a riddle that she could not guess, whereupon she was compelled to become his wife.

The history of the young Tobias ("Book of Tobias," 3 to 8) contains in somewhat different form the same fundamental theme, that is in close relation with some of the following examples where the same characteristics appear transferred to the male.

A spell or curse lay on Sarah that every man who was to marry her perished on the wedding night. Through the magic means of the intestines of a fish which were procured for him by a benevolent being—here in the form of an angel—Tobias was delivered from this spell on his wedding night. The Biblical tale gives to this content throughout a not fully corresponding moralizing form:

The old, blind Tobias prays God to allow him to die after all the affliction and the abuses he endured through his friends: "Oh Lord, grant me mercy and take my spirit in peace; for I would much rather be dead than to live" (Tob., III, VI).

And it came to pass in these days that Sarah, a daughter of Ragnel, in the Medean city Rags was also evilly slandered and rebuked by a servant of her father's.

There had been seven men given, one after another, and an evil spirit, named Asmodi, had killed them all as soon as they lay with her. Thereupon her father's servant rebuked her and said: "God grant that we will never see a son or daughter of thine on earth thou murderess of men" (Tob., III, 7–10).

After these words she went into an upper chamber in the house and neither ate nor drank for three days and three nights and continued to pray and lament and begged God that he would free her from the disgrace.

In the same hour these two prayers were both heard by the Lord in Heaven.

And the holy Raphael, the angel of the Lord, was sent, to help both because their prayers were offered at the same time to the Lord.

The old Tobias cried out in the belief that he would soon die and to his son, the young Tobias, he gave admonitions and disclosed to him that Ragnel in the city of Rags in Medea still owed him ten pounds of silver which he should collect.

The old Tobias advised him also to take a companion on his journey.

Then the young Tobias went out and found a fine young fellow who had dressed himself and was ready to travel.

It was the angel Raphael who passed for an Israelite and knew Ragnel and Rags well.

He promised the young Tobias to accompany him there (compare Tob., V). The following Tob., VI, VII, 16–20, VIII.

And Tobias went along and a little dog ran with him. The first day's journey brought them to the river, Tigus, and he went in to bathe his feet; and he saw a great fish rush to devour him. The terrified Tobias cried in a loud voice: "O, Lord, it will devour me." And the angel spoke to him: "Grasp him by the fins and pull him out." And he pulled him up on the land; there it struggled before his feet. Then spoke the angel: "Cut the fish in pieces, the heart, the gall and the liver keep yourself, for they are very good for medicines."

And some pieces of the fish they cooked and took them with them on their journey; the others they salted so that they might have them on the way until they came to the city of Rags in Medea.

Then Tobias spoke to the angel and asked him: "I beg you, Azaria (this name the angel had adopted for himself) my brother, that you will tell me what kind of remedies can be made of the pieces that you commanded should be kept?"

Then said the angel: "If you lay a piece of the heart in glowing coals the smoke from it will drive away all sorts of bad spirits of man and woman, so that no harm can come through them (Tob., VI, 1–10).

They then went to Ragnel and the angel advised Tobias to sue for the hand of Ragnel's only daughter Sarah. Tobias delayed, for he knew that already seven men had perished on their wedding night with Sarah. The angel directed him to stay and to pray with her for three days and to lay the fish liver on glowing coals whereby the devil would be driven away. Tobias wooed Sarah; he made a marriage contract and ate with her; the bridal chamber was made ready into which they led the weeping Sarah and then Tobias.

Thereupon he took a piece of the liver out of the sack and lay it upon glowing coals. The angel Raphael took the spirit prisoner and bound him in the wilderness far away in Egypt.

At midnight Ragnel called his servants to make a grave; for they suspected it might go with Tobias as with the other seven who had trusted her. Then a maid was sent to the chamber in order to see.

She found both of them well and fresh and sleeping by one another. The grave was filled up before daybreak. Thereupon there was again celebrated a great feast (Tob., VI, VII, VIII).

This tale, in the Bible, is garnished with moral and religious language which in many places absolutely does not suit the story.

Notwithstanding the whole fairy-tale structure is very transparent; the salient point, according to my view, is the disenchantment of Sarah at the marriage (freeing from a bad spirit; these two things are indeed not wholly identical, they indicate, however, fundamentally the same thing), which the young Tobias, after seven men have lost their lives, obtains by means of magic, supplied by a helpful being, here an angel.

Those fairy tales with a cruelty motive, where a savage dragon who rules in a neighboring kingdom daily or yearly desires the sacrifice of a maiden, are now understandable to us.

The solution consists in that the dragon is thought of as the rival of a hero who frees the princess and vanquishes the dragon. In place of the dragon another cruel, masculine principle may appear.

Nikita the Tanner (Afanassiew, No. 30).—In the neighborhood of Kiew there appeared a dragon. He desired from everyone a beautiful maiden to eat. It came finally to the daughter of the Czar, However, the dragon did not eat her, she was too beautiful. He dragged her to his cave and made her his wife. By means of a little dog which had followed her she was able to send a letter back home and get an answer which ran: "Try and find out someone who is stronger than the dragon." Through cajolery she got the dragon to tell her that Nikita the tanner in Kiew was stronger than he. Nikita was induced by the Czar to go against the dragon whom he vanquished and finally drowned in the sea.

From "The Two Soldier's Sons Ivan" (Afanassiew, No. 33). One Ivan, who had turned to the left at the crossroads, rode day and night for three months, then he came to a strange land where grief reigned. In the capital city he learned that every day a twelve-headed dragon rose out of the sea and each time devoured a man. Today the oldest of the three beautiful daughters of the Czar would be led to the sea to serve as food for the dragon. Ivan rode to the sea. The beautiful Czarina warned him. He had, however, enormous strength. As the dragon rose raging from the sea he killed him. A water carrier of the king's found the rescued one and brought her to her father. He threatened, on the way, to kill her if she did not say he was her rescuer.

A second dragon demanded (by means of a note attached to an arrow which was let fly through a window into the hall when the Czar and the nobles were assembled) in the same way the second daughter. Ivan again went through the same adventure. The water carrier demanded that she say to her father what he wished.

Then, in the same manner exactly, it came the turn of the youngest daughter, the best beloved of the father, Ivan carried through this third conflict successfully, and killed also the third dragon.

Before the water carrier could celebrate his wedding with her Ivan came to the palace and the Czarina knew him and declared him to be her saviour who should take her to wife, and the water carrier was hung.

At the close of the fairy tale "Ivan Czarevitch and Bjely Poljanin" (Afanassiew, No. 36) the hero came in the three times ninth land and three times tenth kingdom where a princess lived with a dragon Czar. He killed the dragon, freed the princess from captivity, and married her.

In the fairy tale "The Two Brothers" (Grimm, 60) a hunter comes to a city where sadness reigns. Outside the city is a high mountain on which lives a dragon who, every year, must have a pure young maiden, otherwise he lays waste the land. Now only the king's daughter is left who is to be sacrificed on the following day. The hero receives superhuman strength by drinking from a magic goblet, kills the dragon and marries the princess.

The motive of sexual cruelty is contained in typical form in the history set forth in the fairy tales of the "Thousand and One Nights."

The king swore (so that no one could be untrue to him) that each night he would choose a different young maiden whom he would have put to death in the morning; for there was, in the whole world, no virtuous woman. Each evening his vizier procured for him a new daughter of a prince of the country whom in the morning he had killed. Throughout the land fathers and mothers lamented and finally there were no more maidens left except the two daughters of the chief vizier himself. The older wished to be conducted to the sultan. By means of the fairy tales which she spun out to him nightly—a thousand and one—she held his interest so that each time he put off her execution until she had finished.

Schehersad bore him, during this time, three sons. At the close of her story telling, she begged him for permission to present the children, and he spared her life for their sake.

"The Prudent Princess" is somewhat related to the previous fairytale (Rittershaus, XLIX).

It is not the motive of sexual cruelty but the insatiableness which, however, is usually bound up in the fairy tales with the first motive.

An Emperor has a very fierce son. He took the daughters of the treasurers of his father for himself, slept three nights with them and then sent them back home. Not one could escape his desire.

A little daughter was born to one of the treasurers and he had, on this account, great anxiety. He spread the news that the child was dead and had her brought up in secrecy. At twelve years she insisted on having a tower for herself like other princesses. The father considered her lost, as in this manner her existence became known.

The son of the Emperor had also noticed her and this year he will personally collect the taxes with the treasurer. He is dazzled by the beauty of the daughter and wishes to sleep with her.

She then gives him a sleeping draught, packs him in a chest and sends it to the Emperor. On awaking the prince is furious and plots revenge. She, however, once again plays him a trick and shuts him in the tower which the prince had intended as a prison for her. He is found sitting fast on a spiked stool. The princess appears as an Egyptian physician at the palace, sets him free and heals him. She is suspected as being the originator of the trouble but all ruses to trap her prove ineffectual.

Thereupon the king and his son prepare a war of vengeance against the treasurer and his daughter. According to a promise previously given the doctor they must at once stop the fight when the physician appears with the flag of peace. Then there is a cessation of hostilities and the marriage of both.

In B. Schmidt ("Das Volksleben der Neugriechen," p. 171) we find the following case from Pausanius (VI, 6, 7–10) interesting to us on account of its associations.

A companion of Odysseus had committed rape on a maiden in Temesa and was stoned. As a spirit (vampire) he killed everything until they erected a temple to him and yearly sacrificed the most beautiful virgin. Finally he was vanquished by Enthymos and escaped.

To conclude I would like to mention that group of beautiful fairy tales in which the motive of the persecuted beauty is dealt with, a motive, the erotic basis of which is very clear. One can hardly go wrong if one conceives of the persecution as a sexual rivalry; the persecutor will do some harm to the heroine with the object of preventing her marriage with a prince.

"Little Snow-White" is probably the best known fairy tale of this kind.

Rittershaus (XXVIII) mentions some Icelandic and other settings of the theme. Sometimes the stepmother, sometimes the mother is the persecutor.[5] It is interesting that among the evil charms which the persecutor of the heroine uses (in other versions spells are used) is a belt which kills the heroine unless the king of Germany comes and loosens it and thereby marries the heroine, or unless gold of the same quality is held to it. In this case it is the gold ring, of the fairy prince, which is made of the same gold through which the heroine is delivered and married.

Apuleius[6] has treated the theme of the persecuted beauty in the fairy tale of "Amor and Psyche" in incomparably beautiful language and so offered the greatest art material for presentation.

It is well worth while to consider it somewhat in detail.

A king and a queen had three daughters of great beauty. The youngest, however, was of incomparable beauty.[7] She was admired like the beautiful Venus, the Goddess of love.[8] Psyche finds, however, only admirers but no husband and her sorrowing father receives the following answer from the oracle:

     Place the maiden high on the rocky crag of the mountain,
     Adorned in the sorrowful garb of marital woe.
     Do not hope for a son-in-law of mortal birth
     A terrible one will arise from the dragon's tribe
     Then flying through the air he pursues them all
     And brings them all woe with fire and sword,
     Job trembles before him, all the gods fear him,
     The sea shudders before him: even the Stygian night.[9]

Instead of to her wedding, Psyche was conducted, in obedience to the Oracle, up the mountain in her bridal attire.

In characteristic manner she herself (like other fairy-tale princesses in similar sagas) is less troubled than those about her and urges herself to the fulfillment of the Oracle's command. (One is tempted to say: She just knows that nothing evil will befall her!)

Above, the anxious, trembling Psyche was seized by the soft zephyrs and wafted to a valley and placed on a bed of flowers.[10]

On awaking she found herself in a fairy grove and sees before her a house built by godly skill (a magic castle) from the richest and most splendid material. Within everything was considered and she heard servants' voices[11] which invited her to a most pleasing repose and to a most excellent table.[12] Also, afterwards, the most beautiful music was sung. In the evening she lay down to rest; by a soft sound she was frightened, she trembled, fearing something undefined. Already there is an unknown mate there who marries Psyche before daybreak, yet again hastens away.[13] He warns her later of her sisters who visit her and wish to tear from her the secret of her marriage to a god.[14] Unfortunately without success. The envious sisters who were carried by like zephyrs into the magic fields, persuaded her, until at last she finally looked at her divine spouse by the aid of a lamp and awakened him by incautiously spilling oil upon him.

They had represented to her, that her husband was perhaps, as the oracle proclaimed, a hideous dragon, who would yet devour her. Amor, however, makes his escape.[15] Psyche revenged herself on her sisters by telling them that Amor was her lover, and declared that he had run away from her because of the exposure of his secret, but that he was now going to woo one of the sisters. They hastened to the mountain, threw themselves, without the help of the zephyrs, into the air, and were most miserably dashed to pieces.

Psyche wandered, full of misery, through all countries seeking Amor, while Venus, who had learned besides of the adventure of Amor, in renewed anger sought her rival in order to punish her.

Finally Psyche voluntarily gave herself up to the wrathful goddess, was naturally badly treated and was required to fulfill three difficult tasks.[16] First, like Cinderella, she must separate the different kinds of seeds from a pile. Helpful ants quickly executed the task. Venus believed that Amor had helped her and charged her to bring her a lock of the golden fleece. Psyche, who frequently wished to end her life, was instructed by the nymph Arundo how she could solve this problem. Third she must bring water from a spring, guarded by dragons, which supplied the Stygian swamps and the waters of Cocytus. Jupiter's eagle helped her this time.

Finally Venus wishes a box full of the beauty of Proserpine. As Psyche in despair would throw herself from a tower, it speaks in an encouraging and counseling voice,[17] telling her in what manner she can carry out this most difficult task and safely enter the under world. She came near forfeiting her life by being overcome with sleep emanating from the box which she had opened in her curiosity in order to take for herself some of the underworld beauty. The recovered Amor, escaping from the bondage of his mother, comes to her assistance and turns back the sleep into the box, and Psyche delivers the present of Proserpine. Amor—instead of, as in other tales, vanquishing the persecutrix as the hero—now goes to Zeus in order, as his favorite, to procure deliverance from the difficulties.

Zeus charges him with having, in various ways, wounded his heart and stained it by earthly passion and brought the customs into disrepute through an objectionable love affair and spoiled his reputation and authority, when he had induced him to be changed into serpents and flames, into a bull and a swan.[18] However, he promises to help him; the mortal Psyche receives the nectar of immortality[19] and is united forever with the godly Amor.

The author concludes this study with a feeling of great incompleteness. Unfortunately he has taken only a very little from the rich treasures of the fairy tales—perhaps more, however, than has been taken formerly from these beautiful creations, thanks to the Freudian psychological discoveries. There remains yet very much, much fine material, that has escaped this somewhat crude work. Compared with the results of dream investigations and psychoanalysis, however, the results are of significance in so far that one will hardly be able to say that they have been arbitrarily adapted to the point of view. The material appears, however, to speak for itself and corroborate our views. Also it appears to me that they represent another step taken on the way of comparative psychology.


  1. The death of the mother is probably an infantile wish-thought of the daughter; the father is the first sweetheart and comes later to be rival and persecutor.
  2. Also here this alternative rôle the father (besides the singing teacher). Therefore he appears first as persecutor where he becomes the outspoken, hostile rival of the young man.
  3. Compare Freud, "Bruchstück einer Hysterieanalyse."
  4. Perhaps it is not a transference; such errors also occur in nature.
  5. This fits splendidly into the theory that the stepmother signifies the true mother, as a rival.
  6. "Amor und Psyche," a fairy tale of Apuleius. From the Latin of Reinhold Bachmann, Leipzig, Phil. Reclam.
  7. The number three has, as usual in fairy tales, the object to make fittingly prominent the heroine, even as the fairy tale, often awkwardly so, creates a contrast figure to the hero, who spoils everything and comes to a bad end.
  8. Here Venus, the later mother-in-law, the rôle of persecutor just as in other fairy tales a witch, a giantess, or stepmother.
  9. This verse reminds one of the fairy tale in which the insatiable dragon demands the virgin sacrifice. Also the following funeral procession (= wedding procession) to the mountain corresponds to it and speaks for the correct interpretation of the dragon figure in the fairy tale.
  10. Here Psyche enters the magic sphere. This instant corresponds to the appearance of the magic mist, in the Icelandic fairy tales, the going astray in the forest in the German, etc. Zephyr corresponds at the same time to what is frequently demonstrated in the fairy tales, the magic cloak or other similar wish means of translation through the air. It is unfortunate that we to-day with our imperfect balloons are not so far advanced.

    Here begins the production of a wish structure which improves upon the preceding and rather unpleasant position of Psyche. Why does it resemble so strikingly a dream and the wish phantasies of the psychotic?
  11. As expressed in psychoses.
  12. A "little table sets itself."
  13. It has already been mentioned that certain psychotics experience a quite identical nocturnal embrace of an invisible spouse.
  14. This mystic union with the god as a higher being occurs as a psychic, sexual wish structure again and again. The Christian mystic has created wonderful cases of this sort. The painting of Coreggio, "The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine," in the Louvre, has represented such an event in a charming manner. A comical counterpart suggests itself to me in a similar hallucinatory experience of a patient. She invested the Lord with checkered trousers. These trousers betrayed and led to the track of the youth who in the wish structure of the patient had become God.
  15. We have already met this motive in different fairy tales.
  16. Difficulties, which interfere with the attainment of the goal. See earlier.
  17. Similarity with a teleological hallucination.
  18. What a beautiful collection of masculine sex symbols!
  19. Compare the fruit of the tree of life.