Fairytales from B to Z

thurber-774936I know the alphabet starts from A [Afanasyev springs to mind] but I am thinking of the two contrasting interpretative methods represented by Bruno Bettelheim and Jack Zipes. Put simply, they are the psycho-analytical and the socio-historical. Why are there so many stepmothers? Zipes says, because real mothers often died in childbirth in the period when the stories were being formed. Bettelheim says, because children can’t face the idea that it’s their real mother who is a rival for their father’s affection. In The Uses of Enchantment Bettelheim analyses various fairytales as ways of working through developmental crises. Zipes sees them more as ways of coming to terms with problems in the external world [though in the discussion of the first edition mentioned on my Grimm Brothers page, he has adopted a bit of the Bettelheim position].

Early researchers [like the Grimms] often saw these tales as distorted reminiscences of ancient mythologies and religions, re-enactments of the Aryan horse-sacrifice, or the rebirth of the sun every morning [after it’s been eaten by the wolf of night] or calendar mysteries [twelve princesses mean the twelve months, for instance].

Robert Graves offers [in The White Goddess and the notes to The Greek 


Myths] the idea that most myths are re-tellings of all or part of The Great Myth: the Goddess [or Queen] takes a new King to herself as the year is re-born at the Winter Solstice. At the Summer Solstice, this King is killed by his rival, the King of the Waning Year, and he, in turn, is killed at the Winter Solstice, by the New King of the Waxing Year. Sometimes, the myths result from a mis-reading of pcitures of the events of the Great Myth. Best example of this is the Creation of Eve by God from Adam’s Rib [I think this appears in King Jesus]. The original image showed the New King stabbing the Old King while the Goddess looked on… not God removing a rib to turn into Eve… At some point, the male Kings decided they wouldn’t be sacrificed, and killed the Queen instead…

And if you want to make sense of The Mabinogion


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