Fairy tales seem to be innocent stories, yet they contain profound lessons for those who would dive deep into their waters of meaning. In this book, Marie-Louise von Franz uncovers some of the important lessons concealed in tales from around the world, drawing on the wealth of her knowledge of folklore, her experience as a psychoanalyst and a collaborator with Jung, and her great personal wisdom. Among the many topics discussed in relation to the dark side of life and human psychology, both individual and collective, are:
- How different aspects of the "shadow"—all the affects and attitudes that are unconscious to the ego personality—are personified in the giants and monsters, ghosts, and demons, evil kings and wicked witches of fairy tales
- How problems of the shadow manifest differently in men and women
- What fairy tales say about the kinds of behavior and attitudes that invite evil
- How Jung's technique of Active imagination can be used to overcome overwhelming negative emotions
- How ghost stories and superstitions reflect the psychology of grieving
- What fairy tales advise us about whether to struggle against evil or turn the other cheek
Dr. von Franz concludes that ever rule of behavior that we can learn from the unconscious through fairy tales and dreams is usually a paradox: sometimes there must be a physical struggle against evil and sometimes a contest of wits, sometimes a display of strength or magic and sometimes a retreat. Above all, she shows the importance of relying on the central, authentic core of our being—the innermost Self, which is beyond the struggle between the opposites of good and evil.