Theories of Psychology in Fairy Tales
Many parents read fairy tales to their children. Young people are able to use their imaginations while listening to these fantastical stories. Filled with dragons, witches, damsels in distress, and heroes, these tales stay in the mind children for years to come. However, these young listeners are getting much more than a happy ending. Fairy tales such as "The Goose Girl", "The Three Little Pigs", "Cinderella", and "Snow White" one can find theories of psychology. Erik Erikson's theories of social development as well as Sigmund Freud's theory of the map of the mind and his controversial Oedipal complex can be found in many fairy tales. Within every fairy tale there lies a hidden lesson in psychology.
In 1963, psychoanalyst Erik Erikson developed one of the most comprehensive theories of social development. The theory centers around eight stages of psychological development. One of the stages, autonomy versus shame and doubt, occurs between the ages of one and a half and three years old. In this stage toddlers develop independence if freedom and exploration are encouraged. Autonomy itself means having control over oneself. "At any given moment, our behavior, including this sense [autonomy], is influenced by the outer environment and our inner psychological state" (Restak 268). If they are overly restricted and protected they develop shame. "Shame is the estrangement of being exposed and conscious of being looked at disapprovingly, of wishing to 'bury one's face' or 'sink into the ground.'" (Blake 115). The key to developing autonomy over shame and doubt lies in the amount of control. If parents control their children too much the children will not be able to develop their own sense of control in the environment around them. However, if the parents provide too little control the children will become overly demanding.
Gaining autonomy from one's parents is the topic of a once famous Brother's Grimm story, "The Goose Girl." The story is of a beautiful princess who is to be married to a prince chosen by her mother. The girl along with her maid was sent to the castle of the prince. On the way the princess gave her maid a golden cup and asked for a drink. The maid took the cup and told the princess she would no longer be her servant. Again this happened and this time the maid realized her power over the princes and forced her to switch horses and dresses and to tell no one. Upon arrival at the castle the maid was married while the true princess was forced to tend to the geese in a pasture. In the pasture while tending geese with a boy she let her pure gold hair down. The boy wished to grab it. However, the princess summoned the winds and would not allow the boy to touch her hair. The boy calls the king to witness this daily event. This reveals the truth and the maid is killed. The true princess marries her prince and they rule their kingdom in peace.
This tale shows the...