FINDING NEVERLAND : READING FAIRY TALES Piku Chowdhury Lecturer[ English ], Satyapriya Roy College of Education

“Deeper meaning lies in the fairy tales of my childhood than in the truth that life teaches” - Schiller A fairy tale is a little snippet of life. It can be said to be a fantasized stray portraying the goodness and evil in life. It is often told in a manner in which children can relate and understand. We adults have forgotten what it was to be a child. But the fairy tales appeal to our imagination as we focus on the hard facts of reality with a relaxed and positive attitude. However the sediments of classic fairy tales continue to be implicated in contemporary discourses of gender, power and consumption, reflecting and shaping of deeper ideological tendencies. In fact juvenile literature is very much a cultural construct that continues to evolve over time. The boundaries between children’s literature and adult literature are surprisingly fluid. John Rowe Townsend once argued that the only practical definition of a children’s book is one that appears on the children’s list by a publisher. J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series is a good example. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, fairy and folk tales were considered inappropriate reading material for children, especially among the middle class. Puritans viewed them as a form of witchcraft, and both Locke and Rousseau warned against their frightening aspects, preferring stories of daily life. Mary Sherwood was the most strict writer of the moral tale and the author of the popular The History of the Fairchild Family (1818–1847), which was intended to provide the reader with religious education. At one point in the book, after the Fairchild children quarrel, to teach them a lesson their father shows them a decaying body of a man who was executed for killing his brother. Sarah Trimmer's Fabulous Histories (1786) is a tale in which a family of robins teaches moral values. Trimmer also edited The Guardian of Education (1802–1806), a journal for parents and tutors, which was one of the first to evaluate children's books and to attempt a history of children's literature. Attitudes toward fairy tales as children's literature changed during the nineteenth century when Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published their two-volume collection Kinderund Hausmärchen (1812–1815) in Germany. The Grimms were part of the German romantic movement and, with other writers for adults–including Ludwig Bechstein, Clemens Brentano, and E. T. A. Hoffmann– championed the folk tale and the literary fairy tale. The Grimms were attempting to collect and preserve German folklore for other scholars, but when Edgar Taylor translated the tales into English as German Popular Stories (1823–1826), he revised and redirected the tales for children. George Cruikshank illustrated the volumes, and his humorous designs were praised by John Ruskin. The popularity of the Grimm's fairy tales as children's literature was heightened by the publication of Charles Perrault's Histories. His artful and moral collection of eight fairy tales was translated as Histories, or Tales of Past Times in 1729 by Robert Samber. The literary fairy tales written by Perrault are often referred to as The Tales of Mother Goose or simply Mother Goose's Tales.

Fairy tales became fashionable among adults in the French court at the end of the seventeenth century as a result of Perrault's publication and of Marie-Catherine Aulnoy's publication in the same year of Stories of the fairies. Aulnoy's collection of literary fairy tales was translated into English in 1699 as The History of Tales of the Fairies. Another influential French writer of literary fairy tales was Marie Beaumont, who immigrated to England in 1745, where she published The Young Misses Magazine (1757). The work features the conversations of a governess with her pupils and includes a number of fairy tales, the best known being her version of "Beauty and the Beast." Perrault's fairy tales gradually were adopted as children's texts known collectively as tales of Mother Goose. Aulnoy's fairy tales were identified as the tales of Mother Bunch and became the basis for many pantomines, a Victorian family theatrical entertainment. Henry Cole, under the pseudonym Felix Summerly, edited the influential series of children's books, The Home Treasury (1843–1847), which helped rehabilitate the reputation of fairy tales as appropriate children's fare. Cole wanted the series to develop imagination in children and also to counteract the attacks on fairy tales by writers such as Trimmer and Sherwood. Moreover, the series was intended as an alternative to the enormously popular information books written by Peter Parley. Parley was the pen name of Samuel Goodrich, a prolific American writer of information books who considered fairy tales and nursery rhymes coarse and vulgar. The Home Treasury, with its numerous fairy tales and works of imaginative literature, was conceived by Cole as anti-Peter Parleyism. The constant battle over fairy tales, an impulse that pits the value of stories of ordinary life against imaginative and fantastical texts, is a debate that regularly appears in the history of children's literature. With the publication of HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN's Eventyr, fortalte for bo § rn (Tales, told for children; 1835, 1843, 1858, 1861) into English in 1848, the triumph of the fairy tale as legitimate children's literature was complete. Beginning with the fathers of the field, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, psychoanalysts have turned to fairy tales in an effort to understand the human mind. This is accomplished in two ways—either by studying the psychology and needs of the creators of these stories or by examining the characters in the stories. Just as many fairy tales hinge upon a revelation of the truth about those who have been somehow disguised, so too, fairy tales cut to the essence of the human psyche. Freud suspected that dreams and fairy tales stem from the same place, and the relaxation of inhibition that occurs in the dream state is also true of many story tellers. So fairy tales might prove, like dreams, windows into the unconscious. (Indeed, many fairy tales include dream-states as important plot points.) For Freud fairy tales are rife with wish fulfillment fantasies and complicated sexual undercurrents. Fairy tales are inextricably linked to the work of Carl Jung. The “collective unconscious” that lies at the core of his work, and which he believed is shared by all human beings, is revealed through archetypes, forms and symbols found in ample evidence in fairy tales. Some Jungians argue that one reason fairy tales appeal to children is that they are in a stage of their development only slightly removed from deeper layers of the collective unconscious. Jungian therapists study fairy tales to help analyze the dreams of their patients. Jung’s disciples have gone on to interpret fairy tales as lives in miniature, suggesting, for example, that each character within a tale may represent an aspect of personality. More recently, perhaps the best known and certainly the most widely quoted psychologist to incorporate fairy tales into his practice is Bruno Bettelheim, who published Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and

Importance of Fairy Tales in 1976. Bettelheim argued that fairy tales are an important tool for children learning to navigate reality and survive in a world ruled by adults. The family conflicts and moral education of the protagonists (conveniently often children themselves) could provide models of coping. “Fairy tales are loved by the child…because—despite all the angry, anxious thoughts in his mind to which the fairy tale gives body and specific context—these stories always result in a happy outcome, which the child cannot imagine on his own.” Others have disputed aspects of this interpretation. The German cultural critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin notes that the morality of fairy tales is very complicated, with protagonists known to lie, cheat, steal and torture villains. But there remains something empowering and psychologically insightful in these stories that, fairy tale scholar Maria Tatar writes, demonstrate the “triumph of small and weak over tall and powerful.” A fairytale is a narrative that transforms consciousness. The hero is that aspect of the psyche that functions in accordance with the Self, often the inferior function of the personality, to build up the ego, keep it going, and enlarging it. The hero is also a model and pattern for the right kind of behavior. The psyche is composed of two parts-conscious and unconscious. The transcendent function is that property of the psyche that strives to bring the two parts together. It is a symbol - a combination of rational (conscious) and irrational (unconscious) material. The transcendent function transforms both conscious and unconscious. The alchemists called it the “tertium non datur” and said “for those who have a symbol, the transformation is easier.” The transcendent function can be any image that connects both conscious and unconscious realms. For example, a bridge, a ferryman, messenger, rainbow, or an “ah ha!” moment. The transcendent function comes into play only when the two opposing positions are equally strong and the ego is strong enough to hold the tension. When one integrates the symbol into consciousness the energy that is blocked can flow again. The fairy tale also leads to an elevation or transcendence like Dante’s lover who climbs a hill and is aided in reaching the top by Beatrice, his lady love. The ugly duckling, the match girl, the frog prince are all tales of arduous journeys through trials and tribulations upto a certain point beyond which they can strive no more and their hands rise in yearning and supplication whence their prayer is answered in form of magical metamorphosis or suggestions of divine assistance. Hans Christian Anderson’s little boy who is much abused ,sits in a shabby hut , wishfully looking at the moon through a hole in the roof and one day the moon beam becomes a staircase which he climbs to reach a realm of eternal tranquility and joy. There is one effect-evil, and one affect-anger, which, because of the ethical issues they raise, ask us to examine them carefully. In her book, Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales, Marie-Louise von Franz explored the nature of evil and the collective knowledge about how to deal it with it. Von Franz demonstrated that fairytales differentiate between cold evil and hot evil. Cold evil is the penultimate, an icy state, where emotion is frozen, rigid, and petrified. There is a kind of destruction that is so senseless, unconscionable, so evil, that the visceral emotion surpasses fear and anger and numbs into horror. In the face of this experience one is paralyzed, immobile, unable to protect oneself, either temporarily or permanently. Hot evil, although repressed, is smoldering, unquenched, infectious emotional affect. Von Franz likens hot evil to the emotionality, rage, and aggressiveness. He believed that to early humans, evil was “simply the appearance of something demonic or abnormal, a kind of overpowering nature phenomenon, which does not pose any ethical problem but the purely practical one of how to either

overcome or successfully escape it.” Evil in nature is supernatural, numinous, fascinating, exciting, frightening. As terrifying as it is attractive, because it is in nature, it is divine.” Evil has the power to possess, to assimilate one into a numinous archetypal image, to sweep one away by one tune in the melody of one's inner possibilities, to overpower with affect.

When faced with an immediate threat of evil in nature, escape is usually the most viable alternative. However, when the evil is in human behavior, dealing with it raises issues of ethics. Von Franz optimistically explored fairy tales in search of rules or ethical principles for dealing with the evil in human nature. She was surprised to find that folk wisdom is replete with opposites and contradictions: • Stand and fight. Run without fighting. • Suffer without hitting back. • Lie to escape it. • Tell the truth. Von Franz, as Jung before her, found that in fairytales as well as dreams, evil may appear as compensation to the outer life. Such a dream or “fairytale contains a shocking truth which has to be recalled to consciousness.” She believed that acceptance of one’s own evil can have a positive effect and reinforce the desire to live. Von Franz maintained that being conscious of the evil within oneself imparted the strength to recognize and deal with the evil that is part of human nature. The more one knows about one's own wickedness, the more one is able to protect oneself against other people. In some sense, the evil within oneself recognizes evil outside. One thus can avoid evil, but only by knowing how evil one is oneself, for only then one has an immediate and instinctive awareness and recognition. Those who have integrated much of their own darkness have a kind of invisible authority. The fairy tale, thus, is a complicated but apparently simplistic story that serves as a microcosm of society and presents a rich subtext, read in innumerable ways, with feminist, psychological, sociological ,economical, political and many other approaches unraveling layers of connotations that deeply impress and disturb the adult mind.

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