Of all the Beauty and the Beast type stories presented by Tatar, perhaps the most similar to the story of Cupid and Psyche is the Japanese tale “Urashima the Fisherman.” To begin with both tales contain characters which are of the divine. In the tale of Urashima, the turtle captured in the beginning is soon revealed to be a divine immortal when she transforms into a beautiful woman. In the tale of Cupid and Psyche, we are aware from the start that Cupid is the son of the goddess Venus, and as such is a god himself. The two stories also share the common theme that no character can really be considered a beast. Neither the fact that we first encounter Turtle in the “Urashima” tale as an animal, nor the fact that Cupid has animal like wings seems to detract from either of their inner or outer beauties. The power that each mortal lover has in both tales is another commonality between the two stories. Neither Urashima nor Psyche is given much control over the relationship; a power that in many other tales is given to the non-beast character. Take for example the classic “Beauty and the Beast” story by De Beaumont where Beauty in the end has the power to affect the Beast’s transformation back into a man, or the story of “The Swan Maiden” where the “young hunter” is able to control the “maiden’s” transformation back into a swan by withholding her feather garbs. Not only do Urashima and Psyche not have the power to change or control the physical nature of their lovers, neither seems concerned with it. Instead the inherent hindrance to their relationships is not that one is too beautiful or ugly for the other, but that one is divine and the other mortal.
Artist: Antonio Canova
Description: “Psyche revived by the kiss of Love.” Marble, 1793.
Artist: Edmund Dulac
Description: Illustration for the story “Urashima Taro,” from Edmund Dulac’s Fairy-Book (New York: G.H. Doran Co., 1916). This story has a slightly different twist to it but has the same basic themes, characters, and structure.
An organization known as Besame Radio in 2009 apparently published an image of the popular fairy tale character Little Red Riding Hood carving the words “The Wolf & Me” inside of a heart on a tree, while listening to a radio in a basket at her feet. The cartoon, while seemingly innocent may actually have some interesting underlying sexual implications. In analyzing it however there are a few things that need to be broken down first. To begin, it is nearly impossible to tell for sure which version of LRRH the artist had in mind when he created it, whether it was Charles Perrault’s version, the Brothers Grimm version, or otherwise. We can safely assume that the artist was not working with either Italo Calvino’s “The False Grandmother” version and the Chiang Mi “Goldflower and the Bear” version because they include an ogress and bear in their stories respectively. This cartoon clearly identifies the wolf as a character. Working further under the assumption that the LRRH in the cartoon is in the same woods as in the tale, we might be able to exclude the version known as “The Story of Grandmother” based on the fact that it contains a path of needles and a path of pins, neither of which seems to make up the path in the cartoon. That leaves the versions by Perrault and the Brothers Grimm as the most common, and therefore most likely, versions of the tale through which the cartoon can be understood. Working then with our frame of reference resting with the Grimm and Perrault versions and ignoring the radio at LRRH’s feet (which it is safe to assume is an addition purely for the purpose of advertisement), the most telling detail of the cartoon is the carving and message on the tree. The fact that LRRH is seen carving this message herself implies that she is in some way romantically or sexually attracted to the wolf, a concept also held by many psychoanalytical studies of Perrault’s version including Bettleheim’s. In Bettleheim’s interpretation of Perrault’s LRRH, LRRH is seduced or possibly raped by the wolf (male figure) as a result of her unconscious desire for sex. It is interesting that in the carving on the tree in the cartoon, LRRH leaves her message relatively ambiguous, writing “The Wolf & Me” and leaving the identity of “me” open ended. Perhaps this is a reflection of the artists Jungian understanding of the tale and is meant to reflect his belief in a universal unconscious female desire for sex and seduction. Whatever the artists intended message, I would have to say that based off of the physical properties of the path (not pins and needles), the inclusion of “the wolf” (not an ogress or bear), and the seemingly sexual or romantic nature of the message on the tree in the cartoon that the artist has likely created his work based off his understanding of Perrault’s version of the classic LRRH tale.
Advertising Agency: Ade, Bogota, Colombia; Creative Director: Nacho Martinez
Art Directors: Leonardo Silva, Cristian Borrero, Tomas Casallas
Copywriter: Eduardo Vargas; Illustrator: Miguel Ang; Published: October 2009
As mentioned in my last post fairy tails contain themes and archetypes that access human psychology on an unconscious level. Like dreams, these themes/symbols are really expressions of our unconscious mind, which in some cases represent unconscious thought that is shared by all humans through the universality of certain human experiences and feelings. This is the reason that fairy tales can have such a profound and helpful effect on the psychology of children in particular. Children identify with characters in fairy tales and assign personal significance to the actions which the character performs throughout the tale, sometimes allowing them to work through unconscious phycological struggles. It was not however until the early 1900’s that the psychological connection between the human mind and fairy tales was thoroughly explored. Most of our understanding of this connection has grown out of and is based on the work of Freud and Jung. One outcome of this development is seen in the treatment of fairy tales as by Thury and Devinney whose analysis treats them as though they are dreams, by identifying archetypes and breaking the tales into stages. Such archetypes include the evil step mother, the wise father, the woods, and many others. Bettelheim points out several instances in which fairy tales have unconsciously aided children in overcoming psychological fears. In one example Bettelheim tells that the tale Hansel and Gretel helped a girl overcome her dependence on her brother by seeing Gretel as a heroine figure in the tale.
At first thought defining a fairy tale or folk tale seems as though it would be an easy thing. After all, everyone knows what fairy tales are right? When you sit down to write your definition however the task becomes slightly more daunting. What is it that really separates fairy tales from the rest of fantastic tales and stories such as myths, legends, or fantasy fiction? At their core it is the nature of fairy and folk tales universality that really define them. Whereas myths and legends are saturated with local and cultural references that limit their effective frame of reference, fairy tales are the bare essentials of a story, a frame so to speak, upon which the reader or interpretation can add details as he or she sees fit. Despite the constant reinvention of folk and fairy tales every time they are told they retain this essential frame of a story in which are buried themes and archetypes that access human psychology on an unconscious level. For children particularly the themes and archetypes are so profoundly influential as to offer methods of coping with real life situations. As a result of the universality of human emotion and experience, true folk and fairy tales are not bound by any time or culture and therefore speak in someway to ever person’s unconcious self.