Fairy Tales 4: Archetypes, Meanings and Metaphors

A ripe turnip ready sits in its bed, ripe for harvesting.

The turnip in the Grimm Brothers’ Fairy Tale may represent the earthy Self or may be a symbol for the Mother archetype or the Feminine Principle.

My recent reading has been so uplifting it must be shared. The first book is called Healing the Sacred Divide  by Jean Raffa  and has some wonderful insights on the significance of archetypes in our psychic life. Next is Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment, an out and out classic that reminds us how captivated we were by the stories of our childhood and the truly immense importance of fantasy and archetypal figures in a child’s developing psyche. Another text brought me to the realisation that every single fairy tale is crammed with archetypal figures and meanings. Marie-Louise von Franz provides a stunning description of many possible layers of meaning in a couple of intriguing tales of old European origin. After reading it I found myself desperate to read more Fairy Tales! So I turned to my faithful Kindle version of original tales from the Brothers Grimm.  One in particular made an impression as I couldn’t figure it out at first but after going back to Bettelheim and von Franz it started to make sense. Regarding interpretation, both authors stress that it is the meaning for the reader or listener that works the magic and that meaning flows from where we are at in our own lives and what it is exactly that we need to relate to in the tale. Now for my take on The Turnip.

Two brothers, one poor and the other rich, are de-mobbed from the army and need to decide what to do. The poor brother, we are told, decides to make a living. He pulls off his red army coat and goes off to sow some turnip seeds, which grow successfully, one in particular reaching gigantic proportions. Thinking this would make the King happy, he gifts it to him. Delighted, the King bestows rich rewards of land, flocks and gold upon the poor man. Brother Rich was envious and thought to impress the King even more with a lavish gift of gold and horses. His reasoning went that if his poor brother got such a reward for a mere turnip, he himself was bound to get far more, given his generous offering. Not so! When the King surveyed the rich brother’s gift, accepting it graciously but puzzled as to how to reward him….the Turnip! Yes, that was exactly what he needed so that was what he got!

Further episodes ensue, which I will not go into now. Let me speculate on the possible meanings that spring to mind. Firstly, the brothers are two archetyapal figures, each one is incomplete in some way but who will each take very different paths. One sheds the ego (the red coat), delves deep into the unconscious (the earth), sows seeds and patiently harvests its fruits (the turnip – a root vegetable, a mother symbol, nourishing, bringing its earthy gifts). When the poor brother (the immature but awakening self) gives the gift to the King (a wise old man figure, the young man’s future integrated self) he appreciates it because of the work (soulwork) that went into producing it and because it is wholesome and life-sustaining (soulfood). So the poor brother is rewarded with riches (an abundant selfhood). The rich brother is all surface and ego. He, we assume, kept his coat (ego) and lolled around in his materially (superficially abundant) world. With skewed reasoning, he tries to get what the brother got (individuation) by superficial means and what does he get? A dose of the fruits of the earth – the giant turnip! In other words, the unconscious erupts and overwhelms him.

Let me know if any other meanings are bursting to be heard! In the meantime, here’s a link to The Rolling Stones – You can’t always get what you want, (but you find sometimes, you get what you need!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9dySmseOPo

Image reference – wiki commons: commons.wikimedia.org : http://www.google.co.uk/search?as_st=y&tbm=isch&hl=en&as_q=The+turnip+fairy+tale&as_epq=&as_oq=&as_eq=&cr=&as_sitesearch=&safe=images&tbs=sur:f&biw=1366&bih=653&sei=q-d6UZCsIOKy0QXqyIGYDQ#as_st=y&hl=en&tbs=sur:f&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=The+turnip&oq=The+turnip&gs_l=img.12..0l4j0i10l2j0j0i24l3.3967.7151.10.15083.23.15.0.0.0.4.113.1101.13j2.15.0…0.0…1c.1.11.img.l3ZRwwtT33w&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.45645796,d.d2k&fp=8f1d6dd638b63d84&biw=1366&bih=653&imgrc=q8wXOBqzcnDVNM%3A%3BUaat_oTnc0QK-M%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fupload.wikimedia.org%252Fwikipedia%252Fcommons%252Fe%252Feb%252FTurnip_J3.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fcommons.wikimedia.org%252Fwiki%252FFile%253ATurnip_J3.jpg%3B3940%3B2750

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A Very British Blog Tour

Thanks to Viv (author and blogger of the re-blogged post above) for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour. Viv’s nominator Roz is linked into her post as well and from there you can also track back to others in the chain and read their responses. So here’s my contribution – not sure if I’m going about it the right way but here goes anyway!
Q: where were your born and where do you live now?
I was born in Belfast and still live there with my husband and children. Being connected with both sides of the border, there is a kind of multi-layered quality to living in Northern Ireland. I personally feel enriched by both cultures and have difficulty accepting attitudes that exclude rather then include and celebrate diversity. There’s an interesting slide show and a stimulating piece on Belfast on Sinus Sister blog,  Here’s a view from our back door on the outer rim of South Belfast 

Q Have you always lived and worked in Britain or are you based elsewhere?

Most of my working life has been based in Belfast where I trained as a mental health nurse, with a short stint working as an agency nurse in London in the eighties. As a family we spent some time living in Galway in the west of Ireland which was a fascinating experience as I was doing fieldwork research for my PhD. I spent several years as a mature student at Queen’s University studying psychology and social anthropology and have been writing fiction, poetry and non-fiction for a number of years now.
Q Have you highlighted or showcased any particular part of Britain in your books, a town, a city, a county, a monument, well-known place or event?
When I branched into fiction I had a short story published in The University of Ulster literary magazine Reflexion. It was called Clashed and told of a young man on the brink of suicide, living on the outer perimeter of a housing estate in west Belfast beside Black Mountain, who is brought back from the edge by a group of friends who inspire him with tales of the punk rock music scene in London (late seventies). My interests are growing in this relationship between the centre and the periphery, NI and London, indeed the whole of Ireland and the ongoing exchange of ideas, people and labour. This relationship between post-colonial societies and the individual lives who are negotiating the shifting identities to be found therein is a source of inspiration for several projects on which I am currently working.

Q. There is an illusion – or myth if you wish- about British people that I would like to discuss. Many see Brits as ‘stiff upper lip’. Is this correct?
I really don’t like to generalise about cultures and people. There are reserved people everywhere and flamboyant people too, though I do suspect that both British and Irish people treat children with a certain degree of ‘should be seen but not heard’. Needless to say this is a practice I would personally challenge. I love the way our societies are becoming more diversified – we are all enriched by each other in my experience.
Q: Tell us about one of your recent books.
Up to now my work has been published only in journals- academic mental health titles and then recently literary magazines (poems, shorts). Here is a link to my first poem The Front Room published online in Mused.
Q: What are you currently working on?
I am completing my first book based on a review of service users’ views and other research on the role of creativity and social support in mental health recovery, for Palgrave UK, to be released later this year. I also plan to complete my first novel about a mental health nurse suffering her own breakdown and the consequences of that for herself, her family and friends. At first I located her in London but changed the setting to Belfast for a number of reasons – they say write about what you know, plus Will Self’s book Umbrella was set in London and located in a mental health hospital so I was worried my story might look too familiar.
Q: How do you spend your leisure time?

Reading, painting old furniture and devising quirky uses for it ( I just created two book nooks from old drawers and used the cabinet section to create a standing table for my laptop – sitting is not good for dodgy back!). Cinema and family life, walking when I get the chance and browsing Pinterest.
Q Do you write for a local audience or a global audience?

Global. The issues I try to weave into my work are universal ones like sanity, emotional well being and the complexity of relationships.

Q: Who’s next?
Since I’m not sure how to operate this section of the exercise, I am hoping for volunteers so feel free to join in if you meet the criteria- just link back to the previous bloggers through the chain in Viv’s post I have re-blogged here. Thanks in advance for looking in.

Zen and the Art of Tightrope Walking

A Very British Writer blog tour

I’m quite a reserved sort and it always discombobulates me to be asked to participate in various events. I’m the wallflower, standing at the side hoping no one asks me to dance. But this one intrigued me because on several occasions it has been remarked upon how much I clearly love my country and how it influences my work. So when Roz Morrisnominated me, I stammered my thanks, took a deep breath and started to think about the questions.

http://nailyournovel.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/a-very-british-blog-tour-post-at-authors-electric/?replytocom=17531#respond

YOu can see the previous post here: http://authorselectric.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/a-very-british-blog-tour.html

Q: where were your born and where do you live now?

A: I was born in a small village about fifteen miles from Cambridge. I’ve lived all over Britain but about six months ago I moved to a small, quintessentially English market town in Norfolk. My family is originally a mix of Welsh and…

View original post 727 more words

Good Vibrations Trailer

Sorted the glitches at last – enjoy- and hope you can get to see the movie!

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Roger Dormer (Terri in the movie) too and the production team. Then go see the film – its a treat 🙂

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