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The Interpretation of Fairy Tales

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  855 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Of the various types of mythological literature, fairy tales are the simplest and purest expressions of the collective unconscious and thus offer the clearest understanding of the basic patterns of the human psyche. Every people or nation has its own way of experiencing this psychic reality, and so a study of the world's fairy tales yields a wealth of insights into the arc ...more
Paperback, Revised Edition, 208 pages
Published July 9th 1996 by Shambhala (first published 1970)
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Jul 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fabulists and other folklore enthusiasts
Von Franz was apparently Jung's chief disciple, and her work on fairy tales and folklore was central to her continuation of his work. This volume is, mostly, more centered on the act of interpreting than on the big Jungian worldview, and thus is interesting even if you don't entirely buy into Jungianism. It discusses the importance of tale-telling and fairy tales and demonstrates Jungian folklore analysis by dissecting individual tales in depth.

I enjoyed the way von Franz uses multiple versions
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fairy-tales
I have collected fairy tales for many years. If I had to rate the #1 person who has provided the most insight into these tales it is Marie-Louise Von Franz. These books, and there are a number of them, are fabulously insightful. Each one is hard to put down. I am sad that she has passed on and there will be no more.
May 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A great book applying Jungian psychology and the ideas of the Self/ego/anima/animus/shadow to fairy tales.
Katherine Sas
An interesting and useful introduction to the Jungian analysis of fairy tales.
John Kulm
Jul 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing

Marie Louise von Franz is my favorite Jungian author, and I’m finding she’s particularly popular with writers and artists. Here are some quotes from the book:

“All fairy tales endeavor to describe one and the same psychic fact, but a fact so complex and far-reaching and so difficult for us to realize in all its different aspects that hundreds of tales and thousands of repetitions with a musician’s variations are needed until this unknown fact is delivered into consciousness; and even then the th
Damien Brunetto
Oct 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
Honestly, I was not tremendously impressed with this book. I am very interested in the interpretation of fairy tales and mythologies and I think that there is something valuable to learn in doing so. But I am not convinced that this book will really help anyone. All the evidence that von Franz provides is very circumstantial and not particularly well backed up. She often says that such and such part of the fairy tale obviously means this or that and expects you to just accept that it is clear an ...more
Daniel Lieberman
Jun 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Marie-Louise von Franz was a Jungian scholar, and this book seems like it was written for her peers who had the same in-depth knowledge of Jung's writings. It's fascinating material, and worth the read if your wiling to spend a significant amount of time on Wikipedia reading about things like Anima and Shadow. Probably a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

This book is the indirect inspiration for a number of films. Among the best examples are Star Wars and the Lion King. The Hero’s Journey is
Mar 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
As I read, I am considering the implicate order and the explicate order from the work of the a theoretical physicist David Bohm. What I have in mind is the Appendix 'The enfolding-unfolding universe and consciousness' in Wholeness and the Implicate Order, by David Bohm. Perhaps the collective unconscious (archetypes, symbols) and collective conscious (stories, individuation) are constituents of the implicate and explicate order.

I gather from Marie-Louise von Franze that the grizzly bear in my d
Tamara Agha-Jaffar
I’ve been a big fan of the works of Marie-Louise Von Franz ever since I read The Feminine in Fairy Tales. In The Interpretation of Fairy Tales, Von Franz does what she does best: she performs a Jungian interpretation of fairy tales. Von Franz deconstructs the tales by delving deeper and deeper into the significance of each character, object, and event. She compares and contrasts different versions of the same tale to offer a more expansive interpretation. Her discussion provides insights into hu ...more
Qing Wang
Jul 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book clearly shows me that my prejudices were a result of my own ignorance.

On the other hand, while this book certainly helps a lot when it comes to European fairy tales, it invites the question of to what extent the same principle could apply to other culture. There are some common symbols, maybe from the collective unconscious, more from the pagan side. In China we do not have the problem brought by Enlightenment, though certainly there are some other issues. maybe need to explore more ab
Riju Ganguly
Feb 29, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book is considered to be one of the most important works in the study and interpretation of fairy tales. Unfortunately, the book turned out to be completely useless, as far as my needs were concerned.
What were those needs or requirements?
I was trying to understand how the history and psyche of the people gets retained through fairy tales, even if they are not exactly favoured by the rulers or the clergy.
What did I get?
Jungian analysis of European fairy tales, which were almost entirely occu
Daniel Wolpin
May 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Von Franz inspires the reader to dig so much deeper into the world of fairy tales and at the same time self-discovery in relation to the collective unconscious, shadow, anima and animus. The ideas and analysis are well thought out but at the same time hold a feeling of spontaneity. It is a short, somewhat easy but profound read and highly recommended to anyone interested in Jungian psychology and ancient fairy tales. The subject matter, although steeped in the past feels vibrant, vital and timel ...more
Nov 05, 2018 marked it as to-read
Found this a bit of a 'tuff read'...although, von Franz makes an excellent case that 'fairy tales/myths' seem 'foolish to the intellect'...but, if 'engaged' at the 'emotional''s a 'another story'. Have shelved for another time...

"To the intellect, all my mythologizing is futile speculation. To the emotions, however, it is a healing and valid activity; it gives existence a glamour which we would not like to do without. Nor is there any good reason why we should." ~ CG Jung
Tim Capps
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Piercing Insights Into the Anima

The writing style is clear and sometimes humorous. Through a small selection of fairy tales light is shed on the personal psyche. For me, the treatment of the anima was the best I have found so far. It may be impossible to completely explain the anima, because I was left with many questions. However, I found many answers, or perhaps insights on a subject that may defy clear explanation for the lay person.
Maan Kawas
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent book by Marie-Louise von Franz about the interpretation of the fairy tales using the Jungian approach. She applies the Principles of the Jungian approach to some fairy tales, demonstrating how to spot and understand the implicit key archetypes, such as the shadow, anima, animus, even the symbolism of numbers. The language is readable and clear! I highly recommend it!!
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: academic-reading
Oh my god. I have no words. This book is hard, perhaps on par with Freud's writing when it comes to how difficult it is to follow. But, oh my god, I have learnt so much and I will revisit it s many times.
Arthur Gailes
Feb 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Some really interesting fundamentals, and it's a quick, breezy read. Nonetheless, I found it a bit narrow - it focuses on a few fairy tale examples to demonstrate von Franz's method of deconstructing fairy tales, but it's difficult to generalize from such a limited (and male-focus) set of examples.
May 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Von Franz is proving to be a lot more useful than Bettelheim, probably because Bettelheim's theories are built on Freud while von Franz is of the Jungian school.
Elissa Davis
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful and brilliant explication of fairy tales, from the Jungian perspective.
I have read this book for my master thesis and I think it is a perfect psychological interpretation for most fairy tales.
Sarah Koz
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: scholarly
This is amazing – very clearly thought out and articulated, with profound insights. Very complex ideas are expressed in simple language.
Jun 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Really interesting book about what fairy tales that explains theories behind them and how they came to be. Maybe not quite so good as zipes but still an interesting read.
Jun 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Actually, I have a few pages left but close enough to know how much I like it.
Interesting to read the Jungian view on fairy tales as useful for gaining insight into the collective unconscious. Not so much a "self-help" book, although I felt I gained insights into myself and others as individuals, von Franz tells us that these tales and their motifs, coming as they do through the filters of generations of tellers in particular cultures, can help us reflect on and learn about ourselves at a cult
Marian Willeke
Jul 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Two years later, I have learned the valuable lesson of thinking twice before picking up a book that is recommended by somebody earning his doctorate in psychology. That is the first clue that it may require some serious thinking combined with a certain resignation that you cannot possibly understand everything being presented. This book was fascinating in the sense that I inhaled fairy tales as a child and still adore them. There was always a suspicion that these tales were far deeper than just ...more
May 26, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was an interesting read until we started exploring animus possession by our lady friends in fairy tales. The misogyny caused my eyes to roll back so far they almost stuck. Needed the boyfriend to whack me with an iron rod to put me back in place. He's happy to oblige, as my animus really gets the troll skin going like a pesky psychosomatic eczema- a good beating is the only cure.

In addition, nearly threw the book out the window when Von Franz alluded to Hitler's problem as being just a bit o
Eleanor Cowan
Jul 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What a brave woman was Marie Louise Von France. She never discounted her thoughts or ideas, but traveled deeper and deeper in her passion to understand life - both her own and the collective.

Her insights into meanings are extraordinary and compassionate.
Von France insists that what YOU think matters most of all and she gives us thoughtful tools to understand ourselves.

I was richly rewarded for reading The Interpretation of Fairy Tales.

Eleanor Cowan, author of : A History of a Pedophile's Wife
Oct 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Somehow, I expected the book to give a more general introduction to fairy tale analysis, but what I ended up reading was a very complex Jungian analysis of archetypes and their depictions in fairy tales. The language in which it is written is fairly sophisticated and the fairy tales aren't very well known which sometimes makes it harder to understand what the author is talking about or referring to. Nevertheless, there is a lot of wonderful information in this book that could be of use to anyone ...more
Feb 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Van Franz is one of my favorite analytical psychology authors. Not only is she adroit at being able to explicate difficult theoretical notion’s, but she was in CG Jung’s inner circle and often has a lot to offer about not only Theory but his project. This book is no different, but unlike some of her other reads, this one is rather slow in that some of the mythology that is provided can go on a little too long and sometimes be overly told to the extent that she loses what she is trying to ground ...more
Sep 14, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: mythology
As it started out, this book was so interesting, however, it got more and more incomprehensible as it went on. Although a good introduction to a Jungian perspective of the fairy tale, it was full of concepts and language that were not for the begining jungian. I admit, i gave up a mere thirty pages before the end because all stories are the story of the self transforming, so going through different tales to review the role of the anima just got to be too much.
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Marie-Louise von Franz was a Swiss Jungian psychologist and scholar.
Von Franz worked with Carl Jung, whom she met in 1933 and knew until his death in 1961. Jung believed in the unity of the psychological and material worlds, i.e., they are one and the same, just different manifestations. He also believed that this concept of the unus mundus could be investigated through research on the archetypes

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33 likes · 10 comments
“Jung said that to be in a situation where there is no way out or to be in a conflict where there is no solution is the classical beginning of the process of individuation. It is meant to be a situation without solution; the unconscious wants the hopeless conflict in order to put ego consciousness up against the wall, so that the man has to realize that whatever he does is wrong, whichever way he decides will be wrong. This is meant to knock out the superiority of the ego, which always acts from the illusion that it has the responsibility of decision. . . If he is ethical enough to suffer to the core of his personality, then generally, because of the insolubility of the conscious situation, the Self manifests. In religious language you could say that the situation without issue is meant to force the man to rely on an act of God.” 12 likes
“Jung has said that to be in a situation where there is no way out, or to be in a conflict where there is no solution, is the classical beginning of the process of individuation. It is meant to be a situation without solution: the unconscious wants the hopeless conflict in order to put ego-consciousness up against the wall, so that the man has to realise that whatever he does is wrong, whichever way he decides will be wrong. This is meant to knock out the superiority of the ego, which always acts from the illusion that it has the responsibility of decision. Naturally, if a man says, "Oh well, then I shall just let everything go and make no decision, but just protract and wriggle out of [it]," the whole thing is equally wrong, for then naturally nothing happens. But if he is ethical enough to suffer to the core of his personality, then generally because of the insolubility of the conscious situation, the Self manifests. In religious language you could say that the situation without issue is meant to force the man to rely on an act of God. In psychological language the situation without issue, which the anima arranges with great skill in a man's life, is meant to drive him into a condition in which he is capable of experiencing the Self. When thinking of the anima as the soul guide, we are apt to think of Beatrice leading Dante up to Paradise, but we should not forget that he experienced that only after he had gone through Hell. Normally, the anima does not take a man by the hand and lead him right up to Paradise; she puts him first into a hot cauldron where he is nicely roasted for a while.” 6 likes
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