Analysis of Archetypes
Once there was a woman who told a story. However, she had more than just an entertaining tale to tell. She chose common images that everyone would understand, and she wrapped her story around them, and in this way she was able to teach the people . . .
The traditions of storytelling have long been used as a means to impart wisdom and life lessons to others. One of the most effective ways in which this is done is through the use of archetypes. While it is possible to look at these images in a general way, one may also focus an analysis on a single tale. In this way it is possible to explore the particular images used and their significance in a given situation, (often a coming of age rite of
passage). One such tale is “Rapunzel”.
A general outline of this type of folktale is the introduction of a task, leading to a journey which concludes in the completion into maturity. Here the task is inverted, as it is not the child who must complete it, but her father. However, this undertaking influences the child directly. The father is told he must fetch some rapunzel lettuce from a witch’s garden to satisfy his pregnant wife’s cravings. His wife then eats this rapunzel, effectively tying her unborn child to the witch who has provided the lettuce. Food is often used as a symbol of transformation, and in this instance it allows the witch to claim possession of the baby girl before she is even born. Through the consumption of the rapunzel that belongs to the witch, the child becomes a sort of extension of her. Naming the baby Rapunzel for the very thing that connects them shows this. After this initial task, the father is never mentioned. He has completed his part in the child’s life, and disappears to allow the mother-daughter relationship to progress.
The witch effectively replaces the birth mother, and is in fact another (less pleasant) aspect of her. She attempts to control Rapunzel and keep her from reaching maturity, and thus independence. The moment Rapunzel reaches the age of puberty, (at age 12), the witch confines her to a tower in the forest. The forest is a symbol of transformation, a place where Rapunzel must discover her growing maturity. The tower may be similar to the idea of the attic: a metaphor for the mind and some part of her life yet to be explored, as well as being a phallic symbol. It has no doors or stairs, only a single high window.
The window is her only entryway to begin her rite of passage, but at this point in her life she has no means to access it on her own. Once another few years have passed, (placing Rapunzel’s age now at that of a young woman), the prince is introduced. He is a symbol of a possible reward for Rapunzel should she successfully complete her journey, a vague ideal represented in royalty for which to strive. However, he is also just a young man who must complete his own rite of passage before he and Rapunzel may be united.
The fact that he is first drawn to her...