Thanks to everyone who stopped by this week to read and comment on “Tales of the Dummling” after it was freshly pressed. I’ve been getting over a cold – fortunately not the nasty flu that’s going around, but bad enough that I was too tired to thank everyone who liked the post or signed up to follow thefirstgates. Thank you now if I missed you then!
I’m grateful to the good folks at WordPress who singled out this particular post. I was freshly pressed before, in 2011, which was exciting and encouraging, but this time the post truly mattered to me. I won’t say I was, “Following my bliss,” because that phrase has been so over-used. How about, “Following my feather?” I didn’t think this kind of work would have that wide an appeal, but I’m happy to see that it does.
Your comments this week gave me many things to mull over. Just like the very best stories, you raised questions I cannot easily answer. Questions about the various goals that folktale characters pursue. Questions about which attributes lead to success. How and even whether to try to interpret fairytales – this is a topic I plan to address very soon.
Meanwhile, here is part of a post I started in December on what the stories tell us we need to do on a quest. (Aren’t we are always on some kind of a quest?).
I called it, “What fairytales have to say about living in difficult times,” and though I don’t plan to finish it in its present form, I offer this portion of it as kind of an online journal entry, that’s bound to resurface later in some other form:
Dec. 12, 2012
In my previous post, I outlined a US intelligence report, Global Trends 2030, that listed factors likely to speed up the rate of change in our already fast moving world. I ended with a question: can fairytales tell us anything about living in difficult times?
I believe the answer is yes. As James Hillman put it, “If we had more fairy tales when we were young, we’d need less therapy as adults.” Fairytales always deal with crisis times. Your father will die if you don’t find the water of life. Your stepmother wants to kill you. The king will cut off your head if you fail to capture the firebird.
Lives are on the line in fairytales, and sometimes the characters don’t survive. When they do, we find they share certain characteristics which can be stated as guidelines for people on a quest, in the otherworld or in this one.
1. Never travel alone – successful quests demand allies. Sometimes the hero or heroine assembles a group of companions with strange skills that prove to be essential. At other times, a single helper is enough. In longer tales the guide may change; a shaggy horse will become a spirit brother. One of my psych professors claimed that the best chance of success in folklore belongs to those who win the help of an animal guide. For Jung, such totem animals symbolize the “Self,” the center of our being, as well as our instincts, which get submerged in modern life. On this point, all the world’s stories agree – our ordinary habits, ideas, and ways of doing things are never up to the most important tasks in life.
Help often comes from people and places that “wise” people avoid. The hideous hag or the strange man by the side of the road may hold the key to happiness and survival itself. They reveal their secrets only to those who see and hear with the heart and their deepest wisdom.
2. Be kind, but keep your wits about you: In one story, a girl is kind to an ugly old hag and is rewarded. Her step sisters mouth off, and forever after, toads fall from their mouths when they try to speak. Kindness, respect, and compassion matter, yet some creatures are evil and we have to know the difference. In the original version, Snow White falls for the witches tricks repeatedly (despite the dwarves warnings) before she finally takes a bite of the poison apple. “Fool me twice, shame on me,” as the saying goes. If strange little men give you shelter when you’re lost in the woods, you might want to heed their advice!
3. Be Flexible:
4. Trust Yourself and your instincts:
I cannot now remember what I was going to say about 3 and 4 – I’ll let you know when I figure it out, so please stay tuned!