Daily Archives: January 7, 2011
Posted by LizzyBeth
“I have been a lover of fairy-stories since I learned to read, and have at times thought about them, I have not studied them professionally. I have been hardly more than a wandering explorer (or trespasser) in the land; full of wonder” J.R.R Tolkien “On Faerie” (33).
I suppose that since I am writing a thesis on fairy tales and myth, I cannot say that I have not studied them professionally, because at this point I am immersed in the study of them and how they differ from one another. However, I am still just an explorer. I think that any and every writer or reader of fantasy (which in this case will also mean science fiction, science fantasy and fairytales themselves) are merely wanderers in the land of Faerie. It is a world of wonder, delight, suspense, discovery, hope, and enchantment that can never be fully explored or revealed.
In my studies I have come across some interesting tidbits about this wonderful world of Faerie and what makes fairytales and myths different even though they flow from the same marvelous source of all fantasy. And I have an overwhelming desire to share these truffles with you. Hopefully they will either inspire your own writing or expound your horizons, encouraging you to read different genres.
Marie von Franz is a well known literary critic, who I must warn you is a feminist and a Jungian. Don’t let her personal persuasions affect what you think of her. These things do not necessarily make her a bad critic; nevertheless, it helps to understand where she comes from and what sort of bias she is going to present. I actually have found much of her criticism to be insightful (like what I am about to share).
Franz talks about the psyche or the soul in some of her criticism (this would be her psychology background coming through); however, characters that are done well and truly will have “psyches”. This is part of what makes good stories enjoyable, when a character is believable because he has personality, psychosis (good or bad), and responds to his circumstances, learning and growing through the process.
However, this is not true for the fairytale character. In fairytales the hero and heroine “are much less human, that is, they have no inner humane life of the psyche” (Franz, The Psychological Meaning, 9). Franz explains that the characters in a fairytale are rather like “black and white shapes, they are like clichés, with a very characteristic trend such as cleverness, capacity for suffering, loyalty, etc., and the figures stay so to the end of the story” (10).
This is a type of stagnation to a fairytale character, where there is no growth, only suffering, waiting, and rescue, none of which actual develop the nature or soul of the character. An example of this is Snow White, who must work at mothering tasks for the dwarves merely waiting for her prince to come. She does not do anything to find him or to encourage him; he simple shows up, kisses her (depending on which version: drops her or any various other actions that force himself on her), and then she wakes up. Snow White spends her entire life reacting to actions done upon her, never taking the initiative because initiative would require choice and choice forces personal growth and learning. This is most accusatorially portrayed in Disney’s version, when Snow White sings her anthem “Someday My Prince Will Come.”
Yet, this is the part that fairytale heroines and heroes must play. Their stories are meant to teach the reader. This is what makes a fairytale a fairytale.
I hope that is little jaunt into the more technical aspect of fantasy has been useful. I have enjoyed learning the subtle differences and learning why some stories are told better in the form of a fairytale as opposed to a straight fantasy or science fiction novel.